3 Ways Strategic Foresight in Education Help Prepare Students for Future Changes
How can education anticipate and adapt to the needs of a constantly changing, increasingly unpredictable world?
July 30, 2020, Gökce Sandal
Amidst the face of technological advances and evolving business needs, the skills and knowledge students acquire in their education can become rapidly outdated, and even the most hyped skills of today can become obsolete within the next few years. For example, a report on the future of work by World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children who have started school in 2016 will work in positions that don’t yet exist today. So, how can education prepare students for a world not yet known?
What are the benefits of using strategic foresight in education?
In an increasingly interconnected world, the traditional education model that categorizes knowledge into specialized fields and degrees is no longer suited to today’s multifaceted realities. The complex challenges of today call for a different, more holistic and cross-disciplinary way of thinking. As a broad, comprehensive and long-term approach, strategic foresight is well-suited to prepare students for future changes, challenges and opportunities.
As today’s youth more than ever needs the ability to comprehend, navigate and adapt to a world of uncertainty and rapid change, practising foresight can provide them with an early understanding of the continuous change in the world. Having grown up amidst an economic recession, climate change and a pandemic; Gen Z is already a resilient generation that has learnt to live with uncertainty at a young age. Practising strategic foresight in education can further equip them with the necessary tools to navigate complexity and ambiguity in an agile, resilient manner.
Moreover, with robots taking over manual tasks, soft skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and empathy rise in importance. Teaching strategic foresight in education can help students develop these competencies at an early age and provide them with the transferable skills to meet the demands and challenges of tomorrow that are not yet known.
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Using Foresight Tools to Engage Students
Futures is an abstract and multifaceted concept, and it can be difficult to grasp for children and adults alike. Moreover, being the first digital-native generation who grew up with technology, seamless user experiences are crucial to keep today’s students engaged and motivated to learn.
Using digital foresight tools for education can help bring structure to the intangible concept of futures, and the interactive components of these tools can engage students to explore different aspects of futures. A visual mapping of the future will also give students a holistic view and help them see the connections between various future changes and trends.
Digital foresight tools also enable participatory and collaborative learning by facilitating effective communication. Students can, for example, create their own radars to communicate their plausible futures to their classmates, or discuss their views on futures phenomena by commenting or voting on their relevance and importance. Learning in groups with an interactive foresight tool will introduce students to different perspectives and enhance their scope of learning.
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Developing Critical Future Thinking Skills
In an era where knowledge is abundant and easily available at the click of a button, students need critical thinking skills to be able to navigate the vast amount of information available online and to critically assess its accuracy and relevancy. This also transforms the traditional role of the teacher from a lecturer into a facilitator who encourages students to build the necessary critical thinking skills to become lifelong learners.
Practising strategic foresight helps students build critical thinking skills primarily by inviting them to consider a diversity of perspectives and to question the status quo. Reflecting on their values, expectations and vision of the future will invite students to think critically about what they would want to change in the present and why.
Sharing and discussing their visions of the future with their classmates will further develop students’ critical thinking abilities, and building a shared vision together will also help them build empathy skills. Given that the most pressing problems of today are globally interconnected, encouraging students to listen to others’ perspectives and think about the wider implications of their actions is particularly crucial.
Scenario Building to Prepare Students for Future Changes
Using scenario building exercises in the classroom comes with multiple perks. First of all, it will encourage students to look beyond the immediate future and think on a long-term scale. This will, in turn, help prepare students for future changes by giving them the ability to make conscious choices in building their futures.
Creating alternative future scenarios also empowers students, as it helps them discover their agency to influence the future and equips them with the strategic tools to work towards their desirable futures. Moreover, scenario building also gives students a sneak-peak into real-world decision-making by making them more aware of the complex relationships between different variables and the possibility of different outcomes.
Last but not least, creating alternative future scenarios is a fun activity for the classroom. Imagining alternative futures not only improves the students’ storytelling abilities but it also fosters their creativity by encouraging them to think in new ways and make new connections. It promotes a culture of experimentation and thinking outside the box, and helps them arrive at innovative breakthrough solutions to meet the challenges of the future.
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