Futures of Education

Futures of Education: UNESCO Initiative to Reimagine Knowledge and Learning

Arjun Appadurai, Karen Mundy, and Fernando M. Reimers, with Sobhi Tawil and Noah W. Sobe as moderators

March 24, 2020 [unofficial transcript]

UNESCO’s Futures of Education: Learning to Become initiative aims to catalyze a global debate on how knowledge, education and learning need to be reimagined in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and precarity.   With accelerated climate change the fragility of our planet is becoming more and more apparent. Persistent inequalities, social fragmentation, and political extremism are bringing many societies to a point of crisis. Advances in digital communication, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology have great potential but also raise serious ethical and governance concerns, especially as promises of innovation and technological change have an uneven record of contributing to human flourishing.  This initiative will mobilize the many rich ways of being and knowing in order to leverage humanity’s collective intelligence. It relies on a broad, open consultative process that involves youth, educators, civil society, governments, business and other stakeholders. The work is being guided by a high-level International Commission of thought-leaders from diverse fields and different regions of the world. In November 2021 the Commission will publish a report designed to share a forward-looking vision of what education and learning might yet become and offer a policy agenda.  The CIES 2020 session will include as panelists several members of the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education who are active in and well known to the comparative and international education community. They will share their perspectives and also engage with the audience on how knowledge and learning can shape the future of humanity and the planet.

Arjun Appadurai is Professor of Anthropology and Globalization at The Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University.  He is a leading analyst of the cultural dynamics of globalization. His scholarship addresses diversity, migration, violence and cities. His most recent book (with Neta Alexander) is Failure (Polity Press, 2019).

Karen Mundy is Professor of International and Comparative Education at the University of Toronto. She is a leading expert on education in the developing world and former Chief Technical Officer at the Global Partnership for Education.  She has held positions as Canada Research Chair, Associate Dean of Research and Innovation and President of the Comparative and International Education Society. She is the author of 6 books and dozens of articles, book chapters and policy papers dealing with education reform, policy and civil society.

Fernando M. Reimers is the Professor of International Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative at Harvard.   An expert in the field of global citizenship education, his work focuses on understanding how to educate children and youth so they can thrive in the 21st century. He has written and edited or co-edited 26 academic books and published over 100 articles and book chapters focusing on the relevance of education for a changing world.

Sobhi Tawil (moderator) currently heads the Education Research and Foresight programme at UNESCO. In addition to the Futures of Education initiative, the ERF programme also released Rethinking Education in 2015, and subsequent research has focused on a range of issues, including large-scale learning assessments, with the recent publication of ‘The Promise of Large-Scale Learning Assessments: Acknowledging Limits to Unlock Opportunities’.

Noah W. Sobe (moderator) is senior program officer in the Education Research and Foresight programme at UNESCO while on leave from his position as Professor of Cultural and Educational Policy Studies in the School of Education at Loyola University Chicago.