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School communities around the world exchange views on the futures of education

ASPNet - Futures of Education

Nearly 500 people from over 85 countries came together to listen to perspectives and ideas from school communities on the futures of education, marking the culmination of a collaboration between UNESCO’s Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) and the Futures of Education initiative. Members of school communities shared the outcomes and experiences from focus group discussions held among teachers, students and parents, which were organized between September 2020 and January 2021. 

Each webinar was moderated by a member of the International Commission on the Futures of Education: Abdelbasset Ben Hassen, President of the Arab Institute for Human Rights, or Fernando Reimers, Professor of International Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The commission members dialogued with the panelists and listened attentively to their concerns and innovative ideas. Combined, the three webinars featured perspectives from fourteen countries: Angola, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Finland, Greece, Haiti, Indonesia, Lebanon, Republic of Korea, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovenia and Spain. 

Presentation of global findings

Each session began with a presentation of the global findings from all focus group discussions, which to-date include over 150 focus groups convening 2500 participants from 26 countries and representing all world regions. More than half of the discussions involved students, with the remainder bringing together educators, school leaders and parents. The discussions were centered around education for more just, peaceful and sustainable societies and topics discussed were equally distributed around Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED) with many groups discussing both.

The analysis first provided a summary of focus group participants’ collective hopes and fears for the future, visualized through word clouds. The top wishes for the future could be categorized into five key areas. Environmental sustainability was most prominent, followed by diversity and equality, human rights, belonging, and moral values. The analysis also uncovered three core themes that emerged from discussions on how education can promote more just, peaceful and sustainable societies: education beyond the classroom; people-driven learning; and social and emotional well-being. Importantly, a large portion of focus groups identified applied and experiential learning as essential, involving learning in the community, internationally and outdoors. They also highlighted that students should play a central role in the learning process and that education systems must integrate student, collective and environmental well-being. 

Dialogue and testimonials on best practices and reflections for the future

Moving to the panelist portion of the webinar, the commission member invited panelists to react to the word clouds of hopes and fears for the future and share whether they reflected the outcomes from their respective countries. This question elicited a range of responses, with some countries aligned with the top themes and others sharing additional priorities that emerged from their discussions. The dialogue continued as panelists shared outcomes and best practices from their respective countries on how education can promote sustainable development or global citizenship with a future-oriented perspective. Panelists also exchanged reflections on the impact and takeaways from these discussions. They shared videos and testimonials of students and educators sharing best practices, views on the future and individual reflections on how these discussions made an impact. Panelists and attendees alike emphasized the immense inspiration and learning obtained from this event, as the session closed with a song and video project from a UNESCO Associated School, the Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, First Nation, Nova Scotia, which showcased reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

UNESCO thanks all participants for their dedicated efforts in making the focus group discussions and this global dialogue possible. The perspectives shared have been and will continue to be considered by the International Commission for the development of the global report to be released in November 2021. 

The discussion held on 26 March (English), 31 March (French/English) and 01 April (English/Spanish) will inform the work of the International Commission and the report forthcoming in November 2021. If you would like to learn more about this discussion, we invite you to watch the recordings of the events, available here in multiple languages. 


UNESCO Headquarters

7 Place de Fontenoy
75007 Paris, France

Division of the Future of Learning and Innovation


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