Leaders of European student unions contribute perspectives on the futures of education
The Futures of Education initiative aims to spark conversations among a wide range of stakeholders to reflect collectively on how education should be rethought in the light of current and future challenges and opportunities.
The perspectives of students are an essential component of this process which is why the UNESCO Futures of Education initiative recently collaborated with the European Students Union. In the framework of a 90-minute dialogue, UNESCO and ESU brought together representatives of national students unions from 40 different European countries. Participants were divided into several groups of discussion in order to explore the following four core areas identified by the International Commission on the Futures of Education:
Human and Planetary Sustainability: How does education both support and undermine sustainability? What role can education play in generating the creativity, imagination and the commitment to action that is necessary to move sustainability forward? Multiple reflections came out of this discussion, such as the observation education can offer many possibilities to physically move around the world but that we do not often pay attention to the environmental consequences of mobility. Another issue discussed was the need for public information about sustainability that is based on science rather than on fake news and misinformation.
Knowledge Production, Access and Governance: What are the most serious threats to knowledge becoming more of a global common good? How can education protect/support knowledge becoming more of a global public good? Many remarks focused on the very nature of knowledge. Participants expressed the view that learners should be able to make curricular choices and that they often need skills not covered in traditional curricula (such as intercultural skills). Threats to the freedom of expression and the lack of diverse perspectives were also flagged as key points to be treated.
Citizenship and Participation: How should education strengthen capacities for collective action? How can knowledge and learning deepen commitments to democratic values, including respect for pluralism, intellectual emancipation and freedom of expression? The group discussed the importance of enabling participation for all, something has taken on added importance given the serious threats to active citizenship tha we see in the context of COVID-19. Participants urged that diverse stakeholders be involved in decision-making processes.
Work and Economic Security: How can education help to support work being human-centered and supportive of human flourishing? What threatens such principle VS what encourages such direction? Participants reflected upon the changes that Artificial Intelligence technologies are driving in the world of work and prioritized the role of a human-centered education. Many pointed out that ethical questions need to be directly tackled in schools but also in the fields of learning and knowledge more broadly.