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Education Culture and Sport Committee

6th Report 2003

Report on Inquiry into the Purposes of Scottish Education
Volume 2 - Evidence


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SP Paper 815

Session 1 (2003)


ANNEX C - Oral and Associated Written Evidence

Tuesday 11 June 2002 (18th meeting 2002 (Session1)), Written Evidence


1 Preamble

1.1 We welcome the opportunity to respond to this Inquiry of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee of the Parliament. We believe that it is a mark of the strength both of the Parliament and of Scottish education that such an Inquiry can be launched confidently while the Executive promotes a National Debate on the future of school education. Such discussion and investigation presumes the existence of a strong and confident education system which is already disposed to develop and improve. We note as evidence of this, not only the published performance indicators within Scotland, but also the outcomes of international comparisons, most recently the OECD PISA report Knowledge and Skills for Life which demonstrates the success of Scotland's schools in preparing young people for a range of roles in adult life through the successful development of critical and problem solving skills.

1.2 In addressing the future it is appropriate firstly to recognise publicly and without hesitation the successes of Scotland's comprehensive school system, secondly to acknowledge clearly the contribution of such recent developments as the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act and the introduction of National Priorities to developing our education system to meet the needs of the future and thirdly to recognise the existence of an active culture of critical reflection within our education system.

1.3 While we recognise that this Inquiry and our response focus on school education, it is our strong belief that school education cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of life and from learning for life. This has implications for schools not only in terms of curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and internal organisation but also in terms of community relationships and of the contribution of schools to community leadership.

2 Introduction

Is there a need in a rapidly changing world for radical change in the education system?

2.1 We agree in general with the argument developed in the Context statement within the Introduction to this discussion paper. While we recognise and accept that the education system must continue to develop in ways which take account of the changes taking place in society, we would argue strongly that change in the education system should take the form of an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process. This does not imply that change should be slow but rather that it should be based on existing good practice. We believe that this approach is essential if the education system is to be capable of playing successfully the role which we seek, of assisting our pupils and the communities which we serve in developing the skills to be capable of meeting the changes in their lives - including changes still to be met. Our view is based partly on our belief that Scottish education when afforded the opportunity and resources has demonstrated the ability to change and develop and partly because we believe that change cannot be imposed but must incorporate the views of stakeholders.

3 Theme 1: Coping with Change and Uncertainty

How can the education system help children and young people to cope with high levels of uncertainty and the rapid pace of change?

3.1 We believe that the education system must do more than help children and young people to cope with change: the word `cope' carries connotations of `getting by', `just managing' or `muddling through'; rather we believe that children and young people must be encouraged and supported to participate in change and to contribute to planning and developing their own futures and the future of our society. Schools must be resourced and staffed adequately both to allow for more effective teaching and learning and to provide pastoral support for all pupils.

3.2 Resilience is a powerful concept which we believe merits further examination: resilience on the part of young people faced by difficulties; resilience in the sense of preparing young people to live in a world of change; and resilience on the part of teachers when faced by the pressures of change.

3.3 In relation to learning, schools will have to move beyond any restriction of the concept of learning to the inculcation of knowledge. Schools will require to move further to develop critical thinking, emotional intelligence and pupils' sense of self-efficacy. We are aware that populist versions of such concepts (sometimes motivated by commercialism) have led to some lack of credibility but we acknowledge the need to develop thinking and practice in these areas.

3.4 Creativity is a concept that allows us to move on from debates about education for work through employability to broader themes such as critical thinking, the Arts, emotional intelligence and Science & Technology. Again fostering creativity is applicable not only in the case of pupils but also in the case of teachers and other education workers who merit support in this area rather than being constrained by bureaucracy as has been the case in recent years.

3.5 Developments of the type proposed within the discussion paper and the need to deal with change require learning schools in a learning system. In such a system research will inform policy. All too often in the recent past research in Scottish education has been limited to playing one of a small number of roles:

(i) evaluations of policies already decided upon and likely to be extended regardless of the outcomes of the evaluation

(ii) research centred on focus groups and/or carefully limited questionnaires which has sometimes been little more than PR

(iii) over inflating the importance of small pieces of research (including that alleged to underpin commercial packages) which have been heralded as providing a populist and allegedly definitive answer to some long-standing issue.

There is a need for a more imaginative use of research and a more open approach to planning, funding and supporting research in Scottish education and schools. This is certainly the case for complex and far-reaching issues, such as ICT, which gives rise to potentially serious problems as well as to potentially enormous benefits for the education service.

3.6 In a learning education system all of those involved in education, whether as teachers or managers or as parents will be encouraged and supported in reading, researching and coming to their own conclusions. Within this system schools themselves become learning organisations; while this phrase can be used in vacuous ways it does refer to a key aspect of the life of any organisation in a period of change; in a learning organisation all members are able to initiate, support and inform the development of the establishment. Development Planning is a step, though a limited one, towards this process. It is regrettable, therefore, that even that limited step continues to be resisted in parts of the education system (or has not yet been universally achieved).

3.7 A necessary prerequisite of any fundamental change is the creation and maintenance of a culture of mutual respect and support.

3.8 While there are possibilities for new means of funding, managing and governing education, we believe that any changes in this field must recognise that education in our society and in the sort of inclusive society we would wish to promote in Scotland must recognise that education is a public good the provision of which cannot be determined primarily by market forces or by the desires or interests of any single individual. An inclusive society requires an inclusive education system. In this context we would point to the discussion within the OECD Schooling for Tomorrow programme, the accompanying report "Schooling for Tomorrow: What Schools for the Future?" and the clear concerns demonstrated there regarding privatisation and marketisation; we would also point up the work of Harry Brighouse of London University Institute of Education on the falsity of the premises which underlie Westminster privatisation policies in education.

4 Theme 2: Engaging with Ideas

How far should education encourage children and young people to be capable of engaging with existing knowledge and developing innovative ideas as the basis for questioning authority and social conventions?

4.1 The concept of education for citizenship as articulated in Scotland (eg in the Learning and Teaching Scotland Paper for Discussion and Development) recognises explicitly that young people are not only citizens of the future or citizens in training but are currently citizens. It is evident that many young people have strongly held views about the society in which they live and about the immediate environments, including schools, in which they live. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to regard initial education simply or merely as a period of apprenticeship.

4.2 It is essential that individuals contribute to society on the basis of well-informed thoughts. However it is self-evident that no single individual, group or institution can hold or control all the necessary, far less all the desirable information on some issue. While schools will seek to ensure that young people are provided with some knowledge, their more important tasks will be to ensure that young people have the means of accessing information from a wide range of sources (friends, the local community, other individuals, books, ICT sources) and that, in considering that information, young people will exercise a range of skills which could be described as critical.

4.3 Schools will therefore have to encourage and foster the development of a range of skills and, equally importantly, encourage and foster the ability of young people to recognise, appreciate and evaluate their personal attitudes and values. For some in our society this will be perceived as threatening in that schools will not pass on uncritically the views of any particular group; the questioning of authority may not be welcome to those who have traditionally exercised authority. While the implications for teachers will often be immediately evident, it is necessary to recognise that this will be equally true for many parents, for many in positions of official authority and for many cultural organisations and communities of interest.

4.4 Schools are capable of becoming more democratic and we would argue that in many cases, but not yet all, this process has been underway in recent years. This has influenced the situation within the classroom where young people may have a greater say in teaching and learning and where pupils now expect to have the rationale for decisions explained to them even if they cannot directly affect them. It is also true in such recent procedures as the determination of the school's educational priorities (in the development planning process) and the financial priorities (in the allocation of the devolved school budget). It is vital that these welcome trends should continue and should flourish, for we believe strongly that commitment and motivation are greatly enhanced if a genuine sense of partnership and involvement is generated.

5 Theme 3: Keeping Everyone involved with Learning

Is what we are currently doing in schools an adequate proxy for what we think education ought to do?

5.1 We consider the phrase `adequate proxy' a strange choice in that it suggests that what is done in schools is unrelated to what education ought to do. The EIS does not accept that merely "adequate" is acceptable. The context also suggests that there is some confusion as to what education ought to do.

5.2 Schools must not, and indeed do not, simply mirror and reproduce the structures of society. Scottish education and schools already seek to promote a more inclusive and just society. An inclusive system must be defined not only in terms of the inclusion of individual pupils whose learning needs are greater than those of most of their peers but also in terms of social inclusion. Ministers have described this in straightforward terms as reducing the gap in attainment between the most and the least advantaged. While the comprehensive education system in Scotland has indeed demonstrated that this is possible, we recognise that much remains to be done in reducing the gap in attainment between the most and least advantaged young people in terms of socio-economic status in our schools. While schools can take steps to reduce this inequality, the international evidence is incontrovertible: societies with a high level of socio-economic inequality are marked by high levels of inequality in educational attainment. Since the UK in general and Scotland in particular is marked by some of the highest levels of inequality within the European Union it will not be possible wholly to reduce this attainment gap without financial and economic policies which promote much greater income equality. This requires a range of economic, taxation and social policies which go beyond the limited action taken by successive governments.

5.3 However, schools seek to model a more inclusive society through other means than addressing the raising of attainment. As a trade union organisation we are committed to contributing to the building of a more equitable society. We agree with the proposal in the paper that issues of gender and race must be addressed in so doing.

5.4 While we recognise that some boys and young men are involved in a culture of `laddism', we would not wish policy to be driven by media headlines and stereotyping. We would point out that many boys and young men are not active participants in this culture and that there is evidence that some who are influenced by this regret it; it is necessary to develop our knowledge and understanding of how young people become socialised in this way and of how conformity to this stereotyping can be prevented. It is evident that while schools can make a significant contribution to reducing both the causes and the effects of this stereotyping, other agencies and the community in general must contribute to this process. We note that this culture is widely promoted by commercial interests which have no interest in the welfare of young people and that little action has been taken to counter their promotion. In making their contribution, schools should be seeking to reduce the culture of "laddism" rather than adopting strategies which reinforce it and stereotyping in general. We note that this emphasis on the underachievement of boys ignores the effects of deprivation on girls and the effects of institutional sexism on girls as a group. Some strategies which schools are being encouraged to use to address the underachievement of boys may further disadvantage girls.

5.5 We believe that there is no strong evidence that congenital differences between males and females contribute to inequity in the educational experiences of girls and boys. Many schools have demonstrated their ability to take action to promote equity between male and female pupils; but to be fully effective schools and the education system requires the support of society. This requires action and commitment by the UK government, by the Scottish Executive, and the empowerment of women through a wide range of organisations, including the trade union movement.

5.6 Considerable work has been done both to recognise cultural diversity and to combat racism. However, we agree that the full variety of Scotland's multi-cultural society is not yet being addressed nor reflected within schools but we would argue that the work that has begun by Scotland's schools has often been constrained by lack of resources. Actions and statements by the UK Government have often had a negative effect, particularly in its treatment of asylum seekers.

5.7 An inclusive system will also recognise the roles of stakeholders in contributing to determining the direction of the school system in Scotland; in particular it will develop and sustain the consultative culture introduced within the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act and within A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century. Further if a school system is to provide a model of a more just society, it will also require the recognition of the rights of other workers within the education system including the right to dignity within employment through fair levels of pay, security of employment and the recognitions of the right to trade union membership and activity.

6 Theme 4: Promoting a Sense of Identity

Is there something distinctive and special about the way that Scotland should respond to change?

6.1 Education for citizenship is a key issue in Scotland: in terms of promoting a more inclusive society, in terms of policies on disability, race, gender and sexuality, in terms of developing relevant skills and dispositions among pupils, in terms of relationships among pupils and between pupils and staff, and in terms of developing democracy and social solidarity.

6.2 We believe that considerable work has been done within Scotland (by Learning and Teaching Scotland and its predecessor the SCCC, by the Equal Opportunities Commission and by the Commission for Racial Equality) on the issues referred to in this section. This work can be built upon in developing practice in this area.

7 Theme 5: Developing Necessary Skills

What skills are needed to make sense of large amounts of information, and to bring them together into a coherent response to change?

7.1 In responding to the questions posed in this section we would direct attention to points raised explicitly and implicitly elsewhere within our response, particularly in sections 3 and 4.

7.2 We agree with the fundamental assumptions underpinning the statements within this section. We believe that many of Scotland's schools have already begun to consider the means of addressing the questions posed within this section.

7.3 We have been concerned that the target setting regimes imposed by previous administrations have encouraged schools to concentrate on a very limited range of easily assessed skills at the expense of a much wider range of skills such as creative and critical thinking, practical and craft skills and skills in the performing arts, many of which are becoming ever more important.

8 Theme 6: Fitting Structure to Purpose

Are schools the right places for all young people?

8.1 This question is posed in a simplistic way which does not reflect the bullet points that develop the argument. Given the central roles that schools play in our society, given the level of expenditure and investment that schools require and given the existence of universal schooling in all comparable societies, it is unlikely that enrolment and attendance at schools is simply the result of social inertia as this question might imply. Schools carry out important roles in our society.

8.2 However, it has to be recognised that not all pupils integrated within mainstream classes will readily benefit from the process, nor work constructively with other children in the class. For many teachers (as evidenced by the recent research commissioned from SCRE by the EIS) the perspective is that the price being paid for policies of social inclusion/integration is increased pupil disruption. Social inclusion must be supported fully so that the additional burden of disruption is avoided. And where disruption does occur this must be dealt with directly and immediately, if necessary by identifying alternative forms of education for pupils who cause that disruption. Policies of social inclusion are not cost free.

8.3 Having re-stated the central function of the school in education provision, we recognise also that young people also learn in a wide range of contexts and from a wide range of other people. This has always been true but, while avoiding the simplistic views of some on, for example, the likely roles of ICT, we recognise that we have available a much wider range of resources which will support a wider range of ways of learning than has been the custom in the past and that young people will display a wider range of learning behaviour than we have allowed in classroom in the past.

8.4 Learning is not constrained within the walls of the schools. Out of school learning in the limited sense of the phrase can be promoted by or provided by schools through a variety of schemes whether run by the school itself or in cooperation with other agencies; these have included a wide range of residential experiences, homework groups, clubs or teams. In a wider sense of the phrase, schools do recognise the positive roles that parents, peers and the community play in the education of young people; and schools also recognise that they do not control or manage all of this learning. If schools acknowledge this then so also must those in authority who have sought to constrain learning within easily measurable performance indicators based on targets.

8.5 We recognise that the curriculum and the range of learning experiences of young people cannot be limited solely to the formal curriculum of the school. This plays a central role in developing pupils' learning. Considerable work has been done within Scotland in seeking to develop curricular structures which recognise that knowledge and understanding are only part of what schools seek to foster; equally important are skills and attitudes. Traditional subject areas must be considered in the light of the need to include a wide range of skills and dispositions.

8.6 We believe that the development of specialist schools is likely to be inimical to the development of the culture and practice of inclusion. This is already strongly manifest in England where there is clear evidence that the promotion of diversity has permitted schools to select overtly or covertly those pupils who are likely to be to the benefit of the school and exclude those who are likely in one way or another to provide challenges to the system.

8.7 We believe that the mainstream school is suitable for the vast majority of young people. A small number will receive part or all of their education in alternative provision such as outreach centres and on site education provision for travellers. Some adolescents may find a further education college more appropriate to providing the opportunities which they require. Some pupils with special educational needs should be educated in special schools. This has tended to focus on pupils with behavioural problems (see also paragraph 8.2); however, special schools have a major positive contribution to make to the education of other pupils with particular needs. Certain pre-vocational courses will require education outwith the mainstream. However, alternatives to school should never mean alternatives to education provision. There should be planned education provision for all young people, whatever their needs.



The Association of University Teachers (Scotland) represents nearly 6,000 academic and academic-related staff in Scottish higher education institutions. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Inquiry into the Purposes of Scottish Education.

Overall key question

Is there a need in a rapidly changing world for radical change in the education system?

Education itself has to move with the rapidly changing world and adapt to the changes in technology. The structures for delivering education should allow for seamless changes in curriculum to reflect this rapid change.

Theme 1: Coping with Change and Uncertainty

Key question

How can the education system help children and young people to cope with high levels of uncertainty and the rapid pace of change?

Pupils require an education that prepares them to deal with civic Scotland and a culture of lifelong learning. It should allow them to apply knowledge learnt at School to work or further study. Education should prepare pupils for an environment where self motivation and discipline are important. Students studying in higher education will have less formal teaching and will have to study alone outside the formal lectures. Although teachers have to apply discipline and formal methods in classrooms, we note that this may not be the best preparation for post compulsory study and the work environment.

School education is just the beginning of education and as such should be about developing basic skills and knowledge leaving work based training or further and higher education to apply the advanced and specialist skills. In a modern age these basic skills will include use of computers.

Theme 2: Engaging with Ideas

Key question

How far should education encourage children and young people to be capable of engaging with existing knowledge and developing innovative ideas as the basis for questioning authority and social conventions?

In the new era of technology, knowledge is easily available. Hence, pupils may not need to learn facts to simply reproduce them in examinations. Schools should teach pupils to gather knowledge from all forms of media and to think about the knowledge.

Theme 3: Keeping Everyone Involved with Learning

Key question

Is what we are currently doing in schools an adequate proxy for what we think education ought to do?

Schools cannot be expected to alleviate society's ills. Young people, in areas of low employment and deprivation, see education as irrelevant. Only increasing employment and raising aspiration will solve this problem.

Teachers manage to educate pupils despite the lack of resources. This is the best education possible and schools are not a proxy for education.

Extensive research has been performed on many of the issues behind the alienation of pupils and of health issues including the concept of health promoting schools. The committee should consult this research and take evidence from the experts in these fields.

Theme 4: Promoting a Sense of Identity

Key question

Is there something distinctive and special about the way that Scotland should respond to change?

Scottish education has always been different, and we would say better, than the rest of the UK in offering diversity to a higher level of study in Schools. This diversity is continued in the first years of Scottish degrees. However, Scotland's education is similar to that in mainland Europe and should resist moving towards the outmoded and separatist British model. With devolution there is a greater Scottish identity which should be reflected in its education. The Scottish Parliament puts a greater emphasis than the rest of the UK on lifelong learning and the knowledge economy and this should be reflected in school education.

Schools should also promote a multitude of cultures and tolerance for other ethnic groups. We believe that separate religious schools increase prejudice and should be phased out rather than increased.

Theme 5: Developing Necessary Skills

Key question

What skills are needed to make sense of large amounts of information, and to bring them together into a coherent response to change?

Pupils should be taught to think not just learn facts and should be encouraged to use and develop their imagination. The great Scottish inventions are due to imaginative solutions rather than hard work and application of knowledge.

Theme 6: Fitting Structure to Purpose

Key question

Are schools the right places for all young people?

We believe that the formal structures of schools prepare pupils for work and further study. It also allows for social skills to be developed. Professional expertise over a broad range of subjects is only available in schools.

Dr Tony L Axon

Research Officer



The Structure

1. General

2. Our Children

3. Our Teacher Force

4. The Curriculum

5. Raising attainment

6. Social Inclusion

7. The School Environment

8. The School In The Community

9. Conclusion

1. General

It is appropriate that informed debate takes place on all facets of Education in any society and so the Minister for Children is to be congratulated on launching this debate at this time. It is also appropriate that HAS, representing 74% of Senior Managers in our secondary schools should have a major input to this debate. The importance of education must also be reflected in the value placed upon it by all sectors of our society. It must be reflected in the allocation of resourcing given to it by the government of that society and so it is our hope that the paths followed and the conclusions reached in this paper, if deemed acceptable to that society, will attract the inevitable resource requirements from government. Debate without subsequent action may come to be regarded as a sterile exercise and not helpful to society's perception of government itself. While a pathway into this debate was indicated by the series of six key questions posed in the Minister's introductory paper we believe that a more relevant approach from our perspective is to follow the route mapped out at the beginning of this paper.

2. Our Children

It is self-evident, but not always appreciated, that the quality of education available to our children represents the future of our country. With the demise of heavy industry, globalisation of economies and a requirement for a skilled and flexible labour force to permit us to compete, it is essential that the following factors are met.

·an ability to reason

·an ability to assimilate and use knowledge

·an ability to evaluate

·an ability to recognise rights

·an ability to accept responsibilities

In addition there is a need to ensure that our educational system allows our children to recognise the strengths and weaknesses to be found in a modern multi-cultural society and to learn to work to promote a culture of equality and opportunity.

3. Our Teacher Force

To ensure that our educational system meets its requirements as set out above, it will be necessary to meet the following conditions

·a highly trained and motivated teacher workforce

·a profession attractive to new recruits

·a profession which demonstrates a clear and broad career progression to permit teachers to move to the highest levels if proved capable and if desired by the practitioner

·a profession which will encourage practitioners to develop their skills to offer the highest quality of teaching and learning

·a profession which is structured to permit the acquisition and use of continually updated management skills both in the classroom situation and in establishments

·a profession which sees its members recognised and rewarded on a scale which reflects the value of the service they provide a profession supported but not replaced by a strong force of paraprofessionals

·a profession which is well resourced by both local and national government

The resource requirements and career paths require to be addressed in an age where a professional footballer can earn more in one week than the head of one of our largest schools in one year.

4. The Curriculum

To meet the requirements of our society of the future the curriculum on offer in our schools will have to-

·reflect the needs of society including industry.

·give the opportunity to our children to acquire all the skills as listed before.

·offer an educational experience which gives an insight into the structures and needs of our society.

·promote toleration and understanding.

·be suitable to meet the needs of all of our children.

·be structured to maximise individual opportunities for learning including on-line resources.

·be structured to decentralise control and allow establishments to tailor a broad national curriculum to meet the needs of the individual learner,

·free from the artificial and often meaningless barriers of imposed targets.

·be funded in a fair, consistent and transparent manner which permits regular investment on both a short and long term basis

·be adaptable to meet the question of curricular flexibility and maximise

·opportunity for all

Once again the needs of an advanced technological age will require heavy and appropriate investment and commitment on the part of local and national government

5. Raising Attainment

The ongoing momentum to raise attainment will remain a priority for our education system. To do this will require a recognition of the importance of maintaining an appropriate direction and evaluation of the learning and teaching process. As stated above, this should be seen as supportive of the learning process and neither an adjunct to nor, in the worst scenario, a set of obstacles to impede progress. In this respect the improvement agenda should no be restricted to academic achievement but should also include issues of sport, cultural and citizenship.

ICT provision, a flexible curriculum, new technologies and communication systems to provide educational bridges within and across establishments will all require investment, maintenance and a suitable replacement programme to address these needs.

6. Social Inclusion

The school of the future must be capable of meeting the needs of every pupil. This should range from meeting the specific needs of those with learning difficulties or physical disability through learning plans for all ranges of ability to recognising and encouraging the development of the exceptionally able. It would also be appropriate to consider issues relating to parental responsibilities in the provision of quality education to our children.

Social exclusion should continue to be fought and suitable investment of all kinds given to minimising the destructive effects of a society divided into haves and have nots. All forms of discrimination should be discouraged and levels of conduct appropriate to illustrate a society acceptable to all should be actively promoted.

The current trend towards the one-stop shop supporting our children through the combined efforts of teachers, social workers and medical support services may be less than successful in embryonic form but the concept is worthy of investment and development to make it work, with the requirement to provide the highest level of learning and teaching paramount.

Again this will require a heavy level of investment by local and national government to provide the levels of support in schools necessary to attain this ideal. Conversely, failure to recognise and act upon social exclusion may destroy the very fabric of our society itself.

7. The School Environment

Too often the physical environment of 20th century schools has reflected the lack of investment made by national and local government. The clear message to our children must be that the physical condition of the school where they are educated indicates a lack of importance in the educational process.

The environment of the school of the future must reflect the value placed on education by our society. Safe, warm, bright, dry, well-heated (or cooled), well equipped, welcoming are all adjectives which should apply to our schools to encourage involvement and commitment on the part of the pupils of the future.

Services on offer should include attractive learning areas, leisure areas, food courts, sports and cultural facilities, medical facilities and study areas with good ICT facilities. The requirements of resourcing are self-evident in this respect.

In addition, main holiday periods could be standardised across the country to remove the strange variations within a relatively small geographic area which prove so troublesome.

8. The School in its Community

One of the growing strengths and recognised successes of present schools has been the rapidly expanding links between the school and its community. Areas such as EIL, enterprise, charity works, support to the very young and the elderly have all come to be recognised as essential and desirable parts of the life o! the school.

Traditional barriers between the different sectors of education have been attacked and breached.

The school of the future may well be part of a learning community which provides a seamless path from pre-5 to Higher and Further Education. The phrase Learning for Life should be reflected in the new combined structures in education.


Current levels of investment in education are unlikely to meet the requirement to provide the educational structure of the future as set out above. The duty to do this rests unequivocally with our government systems.

Present recruitment, training and support mechanisms for teachers fail to address the difficulties of workload and morale present in the profession. The conditions of the so-called McCrone Settlement have failed to resolve these difficulties.

A professional organisation such as the Headteachers¹ Association of Scotland (HAS) is essential to the success of the school of the future in providing leadership, professional expertise and management skills.

The opportunity given by the Minister to debate these issues is to be welcomed. The need for action following the debate is imperative.

Let us hope that the National Debate leads to acceptable action on the part of the organs of government in Scotland. Failure to do so might well prove

disastrous for the future of our children


Coping with Change and Uncertainty

We deceive ourselves if we believe that change is either more dramatic or at a greater relative speed than that faced by previous generations. The new millennium has made us more sensitive to change, but has not altered the amount of change. Coping with change is simply part of the human condition. Mankind is very adaptable. Moreover, new generations born into new environments simply absorb that new environment as normal vide the way children are born knowing how to programme a video whilst older generations had to wait for video plus to be developed.

Within this context of change, education is a stable part of the environment. Of some 85 European institutions that have survived from the 16th century, fulfilling a recognisable and sustained function, 75 are Universities. The others are bodies such as the Papacy, the British Monarchy and the Bank of Sienna. Education is at the cutting edge of change, indeed it is often the starting point, and so it is most adaptable. In contrast manufacturing and industry have relatively short lives as new and better products constantly come on stream.

We have regularly to update skills but knowledge is more durable and can be built upon. To paraphrase Einstein, we see further because we stand on the shoulders of giants. So, the theory of electromagnetism, developed by James Clark Maxwell in the 19th century, is fundamental to the subsequent development of modern ICT.

With the basis for ICT, cloning and space travel already established, it is hard to anticipate what discoveries will revolutionise the 21st century in the way that the 20th century was revolutionised. It has been suggested that if the 20th century was dominated by physics, the 21st will be the age of life sciences. However, one likely change is already apparent - population decline. In 1964 there were just over 104,000 live births in Scotland. In 2001 this was down to 51,000. On current birth rates, this will fall to 40,000 within 25 years. The first effect of this is an ageing population. The next step will be population decline.

Key Question How can the education system help children and young people to cope with high levels of uncertainty and the rapid pace of change?

In many respects education has to offer youngsters the constants both in terms of knowledge and values. It then has to teach youngsters to assess these critically so that they can apply them appropriately.

The role of ICT offers an interesting exemplar. ICT enables information to be transferred more quickly and more completely than ever before. It provides the user with more access to more resources. It enables us to handle vastly more data efficiently and accurately. However, like all technological advances it has limitations. The technology has to work. The information entered has to be accurate. There is a tendency to do unnecessary tasks simply because they can be done quickly and easily. Such unnecessary tasks are often made into requirements but do not significantly add anything. However, because tasks are effortless, produce reams of data, their value is not subjected to critical analysis. It is not clear how much the whole audit industry has contributed to efficiency or progress, although it has been a very good middle class job creation scheme. Moreover, dependence on data processing undermines people's ability to make decisions. For example, in the past doctors were able to diagnose patients' illness on the basis of their professional judgement. Now they are dependent on a battery of tests often to come to the same conclusion.

Education has not been "transformed" by ICT in the way that banking and financial services have, because the nature of the knowledge and skills that are transferred in education is different from the nature of the data and information used in the key area of banking that has most benefited from the use of ICT. In our meetings for the national debate, parents have constantly stressed the importance of the pupil/teacher and pupil to pupil links to the learning process. They see ICT as providing back-up in terms of information exchange, but not replacing the important pupil/teacher relationship. Recent studies have shown that when the best computer learning is compared to the best teacher-pupil learning, the computer learning is less efficient.

Key Question How far should education encourage children and young people to be capable of engaging with existing knowledge and developing innovative ideas as the basis for questioning authority and social conventions.

It is the nature of childhood to question authority. We use education to generate conformity. It is not clear that we really want too many people to question authority and social conventions. We only want this to happen when we can control the level of challenge. For example the amazing spirit of enterprise and inventiveness that is a feature of the whole drugs trade is not one which society wishes to encourage. Recent studies have shown that truants have the greatest entrepreneurial spirit and yet we invest much energy into ending truancy.

However, education has become more conformist as it has been required more and more to meet centrally imposed targets. The Executive measures schools by league tables so exam results have become critical and education focuses on getting children through exams. Initiative, innovation and challenge are squeezed out of the system by the drive to raise standards because those standards are only interpreted in one way.

The new theme is for diversity, but if we are to have real diversity, we have to remove the trappings of conformity - league tables, measurable targets etc. We have to return to a system of trusting professionals to educate. One of the themes emerging from our parents' meetings is that parents want to see an end to this focus on league tables and examination results. All meetings have produced the same message - parents want the school week expanded, with the extra time given to Art, Music, PE and Drama taught by specialists.

Citizenship is a term used very loosely. On the one hand there is the concept of a good member of society who does his/her duty and picks up the litter. On the other hand citizenship is about people engaging in the democratic process. However, those with power in the democratic process do not actually wish citizens to engage and change the course of an action. They merely want the appearance of engagement. Politicians regard people voting as being good but people rebelling against policy as being bad. On the other hand, we have a representative democracy, which means that politicians have to make decisions on behalf of people, based on their better understanding of the facts. What is necessary for this form of democracy to work is for politicians to explain their actions openly and honestly, not distorted through ubiquitous spin.

In truth citizens have to be

·critics of the state

·able to stop its excesses

·able to exercise judgement between clearly different courses of action

When the state merely responds to popularity polls, and all parties fight for the middle ground, there is no choice for the citizen to make and so engagement is pointless.

Key Question Is what we are currently doing in schools an adequate proxy for what we think education ought to do?

It is frequently said that a teacher of forty years ago could walk into a class and take up as though there had been no change. In fact, the education children receive today is very different from that offered forty years ago.

·The curriculum has changed both in terms of subjects on offer and the content of subjects.

·The style of teaching has changed. There is more student participation.

·There is more inclusion. Youngsters are not put into different categories and taught separately.

·Children are less deferential and more challenging.

·Although as a society people are much healthier and live longer, children are less fit and more obese.

·The gender gap has been reversed.

·Female characteristics of diligence and care for details are now more valued than the traditional male characteristics of strength and co-ordination. If this is a problem, it is for society as a whole, not just for education.

Education has become a positional good. The prevailing wisdom is that there is only one route to succeed - through continuing or higher education. We have a very middle class desk bound view of the world whilst bemoaning the shortage of good plumbers, joiners or long distance lorry drivers. We need to get the balance right in society at large and not place so much emphasis on one type of activity.

Key Question Is there something distinctive and special about the way that Scotland should respond to change?

One product of improved communication links is the globalisation of culture. Throughout the world people can enjoy the same music, have the same idols. Scottish youngsters participate in this global culture. However, Scotland still has its own distinctive culture which is the product of its history and the population movements that have characterised that history. Scotland has been more successful than many countries in exporting its culture and thereby contributing to the global culture. This change is inevitable, but it its highly likely that local differences will continue so that the global culture enjoyed in Thailand will be different from the global culture enjoyed in Scotland. Culture changes as it is passed from generation to generation, with myth often replacing truth and being a more powerful influence. Culture is dynamic. Artificial culture has little meaning. It is not possible to preserve that which is not relevant to the next generation, therefore if there are some aspects of Scottishness which seem particularly important, they will only continue if youngsters are convinced of them.

Key Question What skills are needed to make sense of large amounts of information and to bring them together into a coherent response?

As learning to talk and count are early and essential human skills, so literacy and numeracy are central as they form the basis for communication and the exchange of ideas.

Thinking skills and analytical skills are essential if we are to make sense of the information which is available to us in the 21st century and if we are not to get swamped by minutiae. However, the practical skills needed are constantly changing. The headline that "grey surfing is increasing" shows how able and willing people are to adopt new skills when they see their relevance.

Key Question Are schools the right places for all young people?

In our public meetings, parents made it clear that they thought that schools were very important because they gave a social context to education. However, there was a recognition that some youngsters at some stages did not fit easily into the school environment. ICT was seen as valuable in supporting home learning if youngsters by reason of health - both physical and mental - could not attend school.

There was no support for streaming but there was support for more diversity, in particular recognition that not all youngsters thrive with a conventional curriculum. We have already mentioned the call for an extended school week to incorporate more Art, Sport, Music and Drama. The idea of modern apprenticeships being offered in secondary school was also supported. For some youngsters there is a need to link education more directly with work opportunities in order to make it seem relevant. The converse of this was also stated strongly - that university was neither a desirable nor necessary route for all youngsters or for all work.

In terms of the links between primary and secondary, there was no support for having all-through education but there was an interesting discussion on whether the secondary system of subject lessons should be introduced into P6 and P7 or whether the topic-focused teaching of primary should be used in S1 and S2.

Finally, in terms of life-long learning, recognition should be given to all the informal learning that takes place outwith the educational system. This starts for children in the home where parents play a critical role. People were keen that school did not intrude or take over this role. This informal learning continues through life as individuals learn from each other. It is important to recognise that learning does not always need to be certificated in order to happen.

Judith Gillespie

Development Manager




The Association welcomes the decision of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee to set up an inquiry into purposes of Scottish education, this to run in parallel with the Executive's National Debate on the Future of School Education but to have a longer `middle distance' perspective. We would also like to commend the Committee on the quality of the discussion paper that it has produced and the key questions it raises.

Firstly may we comment on the Introduction to your paper. We are very glad to note the `plurality' of the word `Purposes'. This holds promise that no `current orthodoxy' is likely to emerge as a result of the Committee's side of the partnership of consultation with the Executive's simultaneous National Debate. What this means for a parental organisation such as SSBA is that, in the changing climate originating from the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000, the views of School Boards and parents will rank alongside those of professionals, industrialists, universities, teachers, students and others. It also implies that the academic, the value added, the economic, and the political aspects will all be regarded as worthy of discussion.

Also welcome is the undertaking to have scrutiny of all education issues - which for us implies a thorough airing of issues of curriculum, policy, learning and teaching, partnership with all other stakeholders in an integrated and shared self evaluation of the individual school and the whole system. We agree that there is a wide range of positive thinking about all of these. What must surely come out of this consultation is the networking of these views from all to all, so that the situation in the next 5/10/20 years is not one of compartmentalisation and faulty communication, but an automatic and systematic teamwork among all parties. In particular we are anxious that others should know and realise fully the way in which parents, through their School Boards, are now a force to be reckoned with in terms of the contribution they can make at all levels from school to cluster, to education authority to Scottish Executive.

The Association, which recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of its foundation, currently represents 1969 School Boards. 24 of the 32 education authorities support and participate in the Association's group membership scheme, which facilitates the adherence of Boards to the Association without making this obligatory. As well as acting as the collective voice of School Boards, the SSBA is the principal provider of training for School Board members and Headteachers in regard to their working with School Boards. The Association is also the main publisher of handbooks, newsletters and information packs on the subject of School Board procedures.

School Boards all have a majority of elected parents, though they also contain elected staff members and members co-opted to represent the wider school community. They are statutory bodies, set up under the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988, with later amendments to their constitutions and powers in terms of the Education (Scotland) Act 1996 and the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000. Therefore they are the only statutory bodies representing parents. They are also under a legal obligation to encourage the formation of parent associations or parent-teacher associations. Many School Boards now encourage the setting up of sub-committees to encourage social inclusion amongst their parent body and their communities.

SSBA Comment

May we now turn to the six Themes and respond to each. Since many others will have their own angles of view on this, we shall attempt to select those areas which have a special bearing on the stance of School Boards and parents.

`Change' is a settled characteristic of life for children and young people in the 21st Century, so that an enhanced ability in parents to support, counsel and advise their families is an urgent need. Flexibility in the provision of education, eg to allow individuals to move at appropriate speeds towards their own particular potential has been and will continue to be a welcome characteristic. This ought to mean that in the future, parents should not have traditional tunnel vision about their own offspring only, but be able corporately to focus on the larger horizons for all the children in at least their own school.

The issue of Children's rights has become prominent in recent years. There needs to be a conscious rebalancing of this with emphasis during this new century on RESPONSIBILITIES too, so that education for citizenship becomes a healthy preparation for life in a society where one hopes effective relationships will be coloured by both elements. Leadership of the school and the education system is not and should not be a purely teacher-professional matter, but something which parents can support. The foundation for this idea has been laid in Section 26 of the 2000 Act.

Theme 1 - Coping with change and uncertainty

Here the issue is the need to help young people to cope with uncertainty. Since they spend 85% of their lives in the home, it seems evident that parents should be fully recognised as a prime source of such support. Education will, one hopes, in the next decades recognise this and ensure that communication with parents is a priority. If parents understand the curriculum, the school's policy, the ethos and the culture/subcultures of the school and the pressures of the peer group upon their youngsters, they will be enabled to deal with problems more effectively in the home context, and by implication, help to create an effective learning environment.

In 1996 SSBA carried out a consultation exercise with its member Boards. This showed a 98% support for local authorities to run schools. In 2001 SSBA repeated this exercise. The level of support had fallen to 88%. It isn't likely that Scottish parents will ever wish for power and control in schools, but rather for partnership, in areas to be identified with the school as potentially fruitful. SSBA welcomes the ongoing review of Devolved School Management. The 2000 Act places a responsibility on School Boards to raise the standard of education in their schools. It is hoped that the review of Devolved School Management will encourage the linking of responsibilities with School Development Plans in order that School Boards, teachers and the wider community can play a greater part in the life and understanding of school management system. SSBA's extensive research into the training and funding of School Boards shows that there is a great deal of difference in the amount of support given to Boards. The Ministerial Review group of the level of support to School Boards is currently underway. The group consists of members of SSBA, SEED, HMIE, ADES and a consultant has been appointed by SEED to produce a report on this issue before schools return in August.

It is logical that parents should have an increasing voice at cluster, education authority and national levels as well as in one school. ... via membership of Education Committees, on national education agencies and as members of the SSBA Executive Board. (SSBA Executive Board is made up of 33 Directors - 1 from each of the 32 local authorities and 1 representing Special Educational Needs schools. All Directors are elected by School Boards in their own areas).

Theme 2 - Engaging with ideas

Socialisation is something which must have carefully balanced definition, since it must inevitably concentrate both on preparing effective citizens of a cohesive, inclusive and democratic society, but also must have an ability to `produce' the kind of innovative and inventive individuals that society needs to remain politically healthy, to develop technologically, to cater for all needs and to thrive. Parents need to be helped by schools to understand fully this `wider than academic' agenda and to realise they have a part to play in `growing' youngsters who have these personal and professional attributes. Our schools ARE becoming more democratic, and should certainly continue to develop in that direction for a long time ahead.

Once again, there is a dearth of information available to parents, particularly on how to help their children learn. The old Strathclyde `Parents Prompts' were an extremely good tool for helping parents become involved in their children's curriculum, especially those parents who were hard to reach, those who felt they couldn't help because they weren't clever enough and those who felt they simply didn't have the time. These should be reviewed and made available to parents and schools.

Theme 3 - Keeping Everyone Involved with Learning

As far as poverty, alienation, drugs, racism and gender issues are concerned, firstly we recognise that in these areas there is a hard core minority of parents who do not or cannot for good reasons pull their weight in a partnership between home and school. Education or rather teachers alone cannot be expected to deal with this kind of situation. For this reason we welcome the growing use of `New Community School' approaches, the role of multi-professional teams, of mentoring, buddy systems, chaplaincy, after school clubs, study clubs, and the like.

However, this alienation is not only happening outside the classroom it is also impinging on the life of the teacher in the classroom. Better support must be instigated to ensure that teacher morale does not drop any further due to the increase of violence towards them both in and out of the classroom by pupils and their parents.

Theme 4 - Promoting a Sense of Identity

Heritage is something which should in the discernible future have an increasing role to play. In general Scottish children are fairly ignorant of their own history, the part that Scotland has played in fostering change, development, technology, commerce, the environment and similar in many, many parts of the world. It can only do good for young Scots to achieve a sense of their international role in the past, and logically how it could continue in the future. The template for a successful curriculum in the future is a set of concentric circles which focus national identity, role within the UK, and a global awareness of world issues. In the context of national identity, this must move inexorably away from any sense of a `wha's like us' mentality to a sense of Scotland as a new and fascinating multiculture within which there is huge scope for the development in school curricula of the relationships which are needed by such a society. Emphasis must grow on eradicating the attitudinal weaknesses of Scottish society, eg bigotry, lack of self confidence, and the insistence on narrowing the definition of excellence to an academic one. School Boards and parents have a future role to play in such an agenda.

Theme 5 - Developing Necessary Skills

Areas which stand out here as of significance within the school/home partnership might arguably include: the shared concern which will inevitably grow as technology develops about the ethical aspects of ICT, and in particular the content of the Internet to which future generations of highly computer literate young people have access and the need to educate parents who come from an earlier pre ICT generation about the problem. The recognized core skills as set out in the document are supported by SSBA.

Basic skills in literacy and numeracy must be prioritized in primary schools. The basic grounding in these `core skills' will ensure that our young people will be able to progress. Class numbers will also require to be lowered. SSBA policy on class numbers is currently 25 and 20 as opposed to present standards of 33 and 25. (single age and composite classes respectively).

Theme 6 - Fitting Structure to Purpose

Out first response to the question `Are schools the right places for all young people?' is to forecast that the coming years may see a growth in Home Education as parents become increasingly sophisticated in their awareness of the possibility of such an alternative to school.

As to the possible reappraisal of the comprehensive school itself, there will in all probability be a growing realisation that, although research has shown the success of the idea and practice in Scotland over the last 40 years in boosting the attainment of the vast mass of its students, attention will need to be focussed both on those of the highest ability and those with the most intense learning difficulties. In the case of the former, much debate will focus on the implications of realising the existence of many kinds of ability and the need to cater in some form for them, and in the latter, the issue may well be whether the principle of social inclusion (in the case of severe learning difficulties) means mainstreaming or special schools to ensure social justice and equality of opportunity.

We hope that these points may constitute a useful contribution to the ongoing debate.

Ann Hill

Chief Executive


Tuesday 11 June 2002 (18th meeting 2002, Session 1) Oral Evidence

Tuesday 18 June 2002 (19th meeting 2002 (Session1)), Written Evidence


Executive Summary

This paper provides an answer to the question "Why educational futures?", providing necessary background in terms of the main trends and pressure facing education in an age of globalisation which has meant significant changes in the production and legitimation of knowledge. It provides a discussion of the question also in terms of the knowledge economy and discourses that focus on futures. In a separate appendice the paper puts up a model for The Centre for Educational Futures.


1. Theoretical Preamble: Why Educational Futures?

2. The Knowledge Economy and the Discourse of Futurology

3. Futurology, Futures Research, Forecasting and Foresight

4. References


1. Main Trends & Pressures Facing Education

2. Globalisation as World Economic Integration

3. Shifts in the production and Legitimation of Knowledge

Appendix: Proposal for a Centre for Educational Futures

1. Organisation

2. Aims of the Centre

3. Possible Research Themes

4. Some Futures Resources

5. Futures Websites

6. References for Educational Futures

Educational Futures

Miranda: "Oh brave new world that has such people in it".

Shakespeare, The Tempest (ca. 1611)

Theoretical Preamble: Why Educational Futures?

There is always the temptation to think that the point, which we occupy historically, is a period of transformation and unprecedented change. This prevailing ethos, since Baudelaire, at least in aesthetic terms, is a self-constituting moment of modernity. Yet there are some signs that there are some very powerful forces at work reshaping advanced liberal societies - our normative orientations, our subjectivities and our institutions. These forces have been encapsulated in handy slogans such as `postmodernity', `globalisation', `reflexive modernisation', `postindustialisation', `postmodernisation' and the like. Many of these developments focus on the importance of changes to the organisation of knowledge, the development of new forms of communication, and the centrality of knowledge institutions to an emerging info-capitalism. Often these epithets are conceptualised in metaphors such as the `information society', `learning society' or the `knowledge economy' and often work as official policy metanarratives to both prescribe and describe futures.

What is clear from these various theoretical descriptions of the futures we face is that `knowledge' and `learning' are central both to modes of production and social organisation. `Knowledge' and `learning' also have undergone certain technical and social transformations as advanced societies enter the networked global knowledge economy and the same forces of change have begun to transform traditional `knowledge institutions' such as universities and schools.

Fundamental to understanding the new global economy has been a rediscovery of the economic importance of education (Papadopoulos, 1994: 170). The OECD and the World Bank have stressed the significance of education and training for the development of "human resources", for upskilling and increasing the competencies of workers, and for the production of research and scientific knowledge, as keys to participation in the new global economy. Both Peter Drucker (1993) and Michael Porter (1990) emphasise the importance of knowledge - its economics and productivity - as the basis for national competition within the international marketplace. Lester Thurow (1996: 68) suggests "a technological shift to an era dominated by man-made brainpower industries" is one of five economic tectonic plates, which constitute a new game with new rules: "Today knowledge and skills now stand alone as the only source of comparative advantage. They have become the key ingredient in the late twentieth century's location of economic activity."

Equipped with this central understanding and guided by theories of human capital, public choice, and new public management, western governments have begun the process of restructuring universities, obliterating the distinction between education and training in the development of a massified system of education designed for the twenty-first century.

Today the traditional liberal ideal of education is undergoing radical change. In short, as the knowledge functions have become even more important economically, external pressures and forces have seriously impinged upon its structural protections and traditional freedoms. Increasingly, the emphasis in reforming educational institutions has fallen upon two main issues: the resourcing of research and teaching, with a demand from central government to reduce unit costs while accommodating further expansion of the system, on the one hand; and changes in the nature of governance and enhanced accountability, on the other.

In the post-war period, and especially since the 1980s, national education systems have experienced a huge growth in both participation and demand, leading to the phenomenon of "massification". This growth is, in part, the result of demographic changes, but also of deliberate policies designed to recognise and harness the economic and social importance of "second chance" education and "lifelong" education. In a competitive global economy the accent has fallen on the development of human capital. Educational institutions have become more market-oriented and consumer-driven as a consequence of funding policies designed to encourage access at the same time as containing government expenditure. As a result, the costs of education in many countries has been transferred to the students themselves or their parents and governments have moved away from the premises of universal provision to favour targeting as a means of addressing questions of equity of access.

In some OECD countries there have been strong moves to change both the size and composition of governing bodies, from a fully representative stakeholders or "democratic" model to one based upon a board of directors, modelled on the private corporation. Enhanced accountability arrangements, influenced by managerialism, have followed the principles of New Public Management, designed not only to improve allocative and productive efficiency but also to create incentives to pass costs on to government and consumers.

National education systems in the western world have had to face external pressures, which come with increased access, "lifelong learning", continuing reductions in the level of state resourcing (on a per capita basis), and greater competition both nationally and internationally. Both tertiary and secondary education systems in some OECD countries have been incrementally privatised: a regime of competitive neutrality has increasingly blurred the distinction between public and private ownership; the introduction user-pays policies has created a consumer-driven system; and recourse has been made to various forms of contract including "contracting out" and the institution of performance contracting. Privatisation has involved reductions in state subsidy (and a parallel move to private subsidy), reductions in state provision, and reductions in state regulation.

In addition, educational institutions like other parts of society and economy, face the challenges inherent in the new communications and information technologies (C&IT) which, effecting a shift from "knowledge" to "information" and from teaching to learning, threaten to further commercialise and commodify the university, substituting technology-based learning systems for the traditional forms of the lecture, tutorial and seminar. The introduction of technology-based learning systems is blurring the boundaries between on-site and distance learning. It is transforming the nature of scholarship and research, and brings in its wake many problems for reconceptualising academic labour. Some policy-makers see C&IT as the means by which the problem of growth and expansion in age of steadily reducing state subsidy (and unit costs) can be overcome. The virtual university, the virtual classroom and the virtual laboratory are heralded by what we shall call the techno-utopians as the answer.

Some of the main trends facing education, together with the pressures they bring to bear, are summarised in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Main Trends and Pressures Facing Education

1. Globalisation and increasing competition

·Increased globalisation (as world economic integration).

·Increased levels of national and international competition.

·Increased power and importance of global and multinational corporations.

·Increased importance of research to global multinationals.

·Importance of regional and international trade and investment agreements.

·The growing economic and political importance of the Asian economies, including China.

2. Public sector changes

·Declining socio-political priority of education as an entirely state-funded activity.

·Corporatisation and privatisation of the public sector.

·Greater interpenetration of public and private enterprises.

·Growth of managerialism (New Public Management) and new contractualism.

·Localisation and autonomy: Decentralisation, devolution and delegation of authority to local communities and government agencies.

·Demands for increased efficiency and accountability.

3. Increasing importance of knowledge

·Increasing economic, social and cultural importance of knowledge.

·Commodification and mecantilisation of knowledge.

·Increasing role and importance of telecommunications and information technologies.

·New political, legal and ethical problems of "information economy" (e.g., intellectual property, copyright, plagiarism).

4. Employment

·Changing nature of advanced economies to knowledge-based industries.

·Changing structure of labour market (e.g., casualisation, feminisation of workforce).

·Demand for highly skilled technically competent workforce with an emphasis on generic and transferable `core' skills.

5. Education policy

·Increasing multicultural and international nature of societies and education institutions.

·Increased demand from a highly diversified, "massified", student population.

·Need for lifelong learning and "second chance" education.

·The vocationalisation of education through partnerships with business and the promotion of entrepreneurial culture.

·Erosion of State education by non-traditional providers.

·Individualisation and customisation of programmes for learners.

These trends are, of course, very much-interrelated phenomena and each one by itself represents a significant level of political-economic complexity. Considered together, the whole is both uncertain and unpredictable. Certainly, one can say the future has not been "written upon" or determined. To briefly illustrate the level of complexity I will schematically review the way the UK review of tertiary education - the Dearing Report (1997) (named after its chairman, Lord Dearing) - elaborates the implications of globalisation for higher education.

Figure 2

Globalisation as World Economic Integration

Main Causes

·technological changes in telecommunications, information and transport

·the (political) promotion of free trade and the reduction in trade protection

Main Elements

·the organisation of production on a global scale

·the acquisition of inputs and services from around the world which reduces costs

·the formation of cross-border alliances and ventures, enabling companies to combine assets, share their costs and penetrate new markets

·integration of world capital markets

·availability of information on international benchmarking of commercial performance

·better consumer knowledge and more spending power, hence, more discriminating choices

·greater competition from outside the established industrial centres

Consequences for the Labour Market

·downward pressure on pay, particularly for unskilled labour

·upward pressure on the quality of labour input

·competition is increasingly based on quality rather than price

·people and ideas assume greater significance in economic success because they are less mobile than other investments such as capital, information and technology

·unemployment rates of unskilled workers relative to skilled workers have increased

·more, probably smaller, companies whose business is knowledge and ways of handling knowledge and information are needed

Implications for Higher Education

·high quality, relevant higher education provision will be a key factor in attracting and anchoring the operations of global corporations

·institutions will need to be at the forefront in offering opportunities for lifelong learning

·institutions will need to meet the aspirations of individuals to re-equip themselves for a succession of jobs over a working lifetime

·higher education must continue to provide a steady stream of technically skilled people to meet needs of global corporations

·higher education will become a global international service and tradable commodity

·higher education institutions, organisationally, may need to emulate private sector enterprises in order to flourish in a fast-changing global economy

·the new economic order will place a premium on knowledge and institutions, therefore, will need to recognise the knowledge, skills and understanding which individuals can use as a basis to secure further knowledge and skills

·the development of a research base to provide new knowledge, understanding and ideas to attract high technology companies

·(Source: Compiled from Dearing (1997), "The Wider Context". Available at:


Clearly, the Dearing Report recognises globalisation as a major influence upon the UK economy and the labour market with strong implications for higher education. Analysing the Dearing Report it is possible to talk of the globalisation of tertiary or higher education, according to three interrelated functions: the knowledge function, the labour function, and the institutional function. We can talk of the primacy of the knowledge function and its globalisation, which has a number of dimensions: knowledge, its production and transmission or acquisition, is still primary as it was with the idea of the modern university, but now its value is legitimated increasingly in terms of its attraction to and service of, global corporations. The globalisation of the labour function is formulated in terms of both the production of technically skilled people to meet the needs of global corporations and the ideology of lifelong learning, where individuals can "re-equip themselves for a succession of jobs over a working lifetime". The institutional function is summed up in the phrase "higher education will become a global international service and tradable commodity". The coqmpetitive survival of institutions is tied to the globalisation of its organisational form (emulating private sector enterprises) and the globalisation of its "services". Clearly, with this function there are possibilities for the emergence of both a closer alliance between global corporations and universities, especially in terms of the funding of research and development, and, in some cases, the university as a global corporation. The latter is a likely development with the world integration and convergence of media, telecommunications and publishing industries.

The developments described here under the banner of globalisation which accentuate the primacy of knowledge, are further underwritten by recent advances in so-called "growth theory". Neoclassical economics does not specify how knowledge accumulation occurs. As a result there is no mention of human capital and there is no direct role for education. Further, in the neoclassical model there is no income "left over" (all output is paid to either capital or labour) to act as a reward or incentive for knowledge accumulation. Accordingly, there are no externalities to knowledge accumulation. By contrast, new growth theory has highlighted the role of education in the creation of human capital and in the production of new knowledge. On this basis it has explored the possibilities of education-related externalities. In short, while the evidence is far from conclusive at this stage there is a consensus emerging that (i) education is important for successful research activities (e.g., by producing scientists and engineers), which are, in turn, important for productivity growth, and (ii) education creates human capital, which directly affects knowledge accumulation and therefore productivity growth (see Report 8, "Externalities in Higher Education", Dearing, 1997).

2. The Knowledge Economy and the Discourse of Futurology

In the attempt to re-position and structurally adjust their national economies to take advantage of the main global trends, British, Australian and New Zealand governments have begun to recognise the importance of education, and especially higher education, as an "industry" of the future. There is an emerging understanding of the way in which education is now central to economic (post)modernisation and the key to competing successfully within the global economy. This understanding has emerged from the shifts that are purportedly taking place in the production and consumption of knowledge which are impacting on traditional knowledge institutions like universities.

Figure 3

Shifts in the Production and Legitimation of Knowledge

The role of the university is undergoing a transition in late modernity as a result of structural shifts in the production and legitimation of knowledge. The older goal of the democratisation of the university has now been superseded by new challenges arising from the dual processes of the globalisation and fragmentation of knowledge cultures. These arise from the following developments:

·the separation of knowledge (research) from the post-sovereign state that no longer exclusively supports Big Science;

·the rise of new regulatory regimes that impose an "audit society" on the previously autonomous society;

·a separation of research from teaching (education);

·the decoupling of knowledge from society and the replacement of the public by target constituencies;

·the functional contradiction between science and economy in the increasing specialisation of knowledge and the decline in occupational opportunities;

·the de-territorialisation of knowledge as a result of new communication technologies and knowledge flows;

·the crisis of scientific rationality under conditions of the "risk society", reflexivity and the new demands for the legitimation of knowledge.

Source: Delanty (1998)

Senior managers and policy analysts have begun to develop over-arching concepts or visions of the future as a method of picturing these changes. Thus, the terms "information society" (which has been around since the late 1960s) and "global information economy" abound in policy documents. More recently, the terms "knowledge" and "learning" have been moved to centre stage by those reviewing higher education. Thus, the Dearing Report uses the central concept of the "learning society" to interpret the likely impact of imminent global trends on the national economy and, accordingly, to reform higher education.

The discourses of the knowledge economy and other futurist discourses are often given a certain shape in relation to education, science and technology planning and policy through the development of what I shall call futures research.

3. Futurology, Futures Research, Forecasting & Foresight

This is a relatively new constellation of fields and disciplines that address the impact of world trends and develop visions of the future with the idea of bridging business, science and technology and government. This new area has had a strong impact recently on policy.

Foresight planning is often conceived as a future-oriented public discussion designed to encourage a consensus among various sector groups concerning a "desirable future". The exercise is based on a notion of foresight which is neither a form of prediction or planning but rather an analysis of global trends, how they will affect us and how (given our resources) we might take advantage of them.

Foresight planning tends to link government investment with development towards becoming a knowledge society or economy. Typically, the path by which this will be achieved is seen as an active process that recognises four key imperatives:

·The focus on the future must not be constrained by what we have been doing in the past.

·Technology (in its broadest sense) is a key driver for the knowledge revolution. It will have wide-ranging implications for the structure of society and the way in which we deal with environmental issues.

·A globalised economy requires us to be internationally competitive.

·The Government's strategic investment in public good science and technology must be used effectively to underpin development as a knowledge society ·(The Foresight Project,

Foresight planning is used to underpin the comprehensive review of the priorities for public good science and technology. It is claimed that while the future is not entirely predictable, there are trends, which are presently unfolding that, must be taken into the foresight process. The Foresight Project in New Zealand ( specifies seven such trends, including: The Knowledge Revolution; Globalisation; Global Science and Technology Trends; Changing Consumer Behaviours and Preferences; Industry Convergence; Environmental Issues; and, Social Organisation. We are informed that the "knowledge revolution" constitutes a significant global paradigm shift, which is changing the structure of New Zealand's economy and society. Knowledge is the key to the future because it, rather than capital or labour, drives productivity and economic growth and, unlike either capital or labour, it cannot lose its value which may even increase with future applications. Knowledge, we are informed, "includes information in any form, but also includes know-how and know-why, and involves the way we interact as individuals and as a community" (MoRST, 1998: 8).

The UK Foresight programme was launched in 1994 ( ). It states:

The UK's Government-led Foresight programme brings people, knowledge and ideas together to look ahead and prepare for the future. Business, the science base, Government, the voluntary sector and others work through thirteen Foresight panels to think about what might happen in the future and what we can do about it now to increase prosperity and enhance the quality of life for all.

Education, Training and Skills is one of two underpinning themes which all the Panels have been asked to consider. It is vital that people are given every chance through education, training and work to realise their full potential and thus build an inclusive and fair society and a competitive economy.

The Foresight Education and Training Strategy Group (FETS) is the primary interface between Foresight Panels and the DfEE and their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its terms of reference are:

·Establish a network of education, skills and training experts on Foresight Panels;

·Co-ordinate briefing for Government and Foresights particiapnts on areas of common interest, both to assist the induction of Panels and on a continuing basis as the Foresight Programme evolve;

·Establish and co-ordinate education, skills and training activities across Foresight panels so that they build on, are informed by, and inform, developments in Government policy;

·Periodically convene a Forum of education and training experts from the Foresights programme to discuss progress and maintain a common agenda;

·Contribute to the development of Foresight findings in education, skills and training and promote their implementation, and;

·Monitor and evaluate the impact of Foresights on education, skills and training.

One of the earliest futures study was Alvin Toffler's 1972 collection The Futurists. His subsequent work, which is well known. (See also my University Futures, Peters & Roberts 1999, on which this preamble draws.)

In an excellent collection entitled Global Futures Jan Nederveen Pieterse (2000) distinguishes among the mainstream managerial approach to futures based on forecasting and risk analysis contrasting it with critical approaches to futures that are critical of dominant futures reflecting institutional vested interests, and with alternative futures, which seeks to be inclusive without being alarmist. He asserts that there have been many critiques but few constructive proposals, which reflects the political and ideological malaise that has existed since the 1980s. He states:

It would be exciting to see an ensemble of forward-looking and affirmative programmes for futures of social policy, gender, culture, human rights, cities, in a context of proposals for transformation of the world economy, global politics, development politics, international financial institutions and ecological economics (p. xvii).

I agree with Pieterse, yet it is strange to see no mention of education and knowledge in the various proposals and approaches in his collection. Arguably, transformations to education and the organisation of knowledge are at the centre of global futures for many of the reasons mentioned above. The changing relationship between education and knowledge, on the one hand and the economy on the other, has received much attention in official and academic discourse. It has been subject to mainstream managerial approach to futures.

In a separate Appendix to this paper I discuss a concrete proposal for The Centre for Educational Futures which would not be wedded to any particular methodology, theory or approach but would encourage a pragmatic diversity, with an accent on critical and alternative futures.


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Information Technology Advisory Group NZ (1999) The knowledge economy. available at:

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Lyotard, J.-F. (1994) Political Writings, trans. Bill Readings & Paul Griemas,

Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MoRST) NZ (1998) Building tomorrow's success: guidelines for thinking beyond today. The foresight project. MoRST, Wellington. See the Ministry's web site at:

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Peters, M. (1995) (Ed.) Education and the postmodern condition. Foreword by Jean-François Lyotard. Westport, CT. & London: Bergin & Garvey.

Peters, M. & Roberts, P. (1999) University futures and the politics of reform. Palmerston North, NZ: Dunmore Press.

Peters, M. (1996) Poststructuralism, politics and education. Westport, CT. & London: Bergin and Garvey.

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Proposal for The Centre for Educational Futures

The Centre for Educational Futures (CEF)

The Centre for Educational Futures is conceived as both a teaching and research centre. It would provide the opportunity both to experiment with innovative pedagogies, curricula, programmes and modules, as well as provide political analyses and practical policy-related research on educational futures.

1. Organisation

A Centre with half-time director and interdisciplinary membership with a home on Crichton campus. The Centre would encourage the appointment of research fellows and visiting professors.

The Centre would aim at being self-funding within three years.

2. Aims of the Centre

The aim of such a centre would be:

·to evaluate and critically assess future perspectives in education at the national, regional, institutional and programme level;

·to develop curriculum futures through a range of new approaches in teaching and learning;

·to critically appraise the range of current and anticipated issues and concerns for educational futures;

·to encourage new theoretical approaches in studying and developing educational futures;

· to provide links with government agencies and other educational futures centres, national and internationational.

3. Possible Research Themes

I have identified six possible research themes that require refinement and revision. These research themes may also become the basis for a taught MA interdisciplinary programme.

3.1 Why Educational Futures? Studying and Preparing for Educational Futures

·The different purposes of Futures -- to predict, to foresee, to manage, to create.

·Different approaches: Foresight, Forecasting, Futures Research, Futures Studies, Futurology, Futurism, Future Generations, Futuribles, La Prospective.

·Theoretical perspectives on the future: systems theory, chaos, theory, catastrophe theory, complexity theory; globalisation, postmodernity, postmodernism.

·Major Futures thinkers, e.g. Wells, Kahn, Godet, Capra, Henderson, Meadows, Clarke, Boulding, Toffler, Macini, Marien, Bell, Handy, Slaughter.

·Different cultural perspectives on the future and education; cultural attitudes to the future; non-western approaches.

·Concepts of time (linear, cyclical, relative) and history; the nature of change; determinants of change (social, cultural, environmental, social, technological).

·Ethics of educational futures; responsibility for future generations.

3.2 Pedagogy, Curriculum Futures and the Organisation of Knowledge

·Curriculum models; construction of national curricula; curricula and programme experiments.

·New pedagogies; critical pedagogies; alternative pedagogies.

·The changing structure and organisation of knowledge; epistemes; the legitimation of knowledge.

·Formation of disciplines; emergence of cultural studies, media studies, development studies, etc.

·The concepts of disciplinarity & interdisciplinarity.

3.3 Aesthetics and Educational Futures

·Educational futures in history, literature and the media.

·Images and metaphors of educational futures.

·Educational utopias and dystopias.

·Education and science fiction.


3.4 Education Futures, the Future of Work and the Knowledge Economy

·Models of educational modernisation and postmodernisation; `change' and `progress' in history;

·The role of education in modernization theory; human capital theory; education and new growth theory; education as an investment in the self; self-entrepreneurship.

·The changing notion of work; education as preparation for work; skills and key competencies; work and employment; changing patterns of employment, sectorally, internationally. Scenarios for the future of work.

·Work-based learning. Home-learning.

·Restructuring the economy; the knowledge economy; internationalisation and globalisation; national education policies.

·The history of education rights; education and the value of emancipation in Enlightenment thought.

3.5 The Future of Educational Governance and Administration

·International comparisons of experiments in educational administration and governance;

·Decentralisation, devolution and delegation of educational administration;

·charter schools;

·ways of increasing school democracy; increasing parental participation and involvement;

·New Public Management; school vouchers;

·New partnerships with business; competition from non-traditional providers;

·Abolition of local authorities.

3.6 Globalisation and the Future of Education

·The impact of globalisation on education;

·citizenship education;

·education programmes in the EU;

·Competition from non-traditional providers; the future of private schooling

·Education and cultures of consumption; development of post-war youth cultures; sex education; drug education;

·International schools

3.7 Educational Futures and the Environment

·Environmental education;

·The global futures debate, limits to growth versus the resourceful earth, environmental issues, global warming, ozone depletion and pollution, resource shortages and conflicts, energy, water, population,

·Education for sustainability; sustainable development, the gaia hypothesis;

·Education and the built environment;

·Educational architectures.

3.8 Educational Futures and the New Information Technologies

·On-line learning and education;

·Difference between `knowledge' and `information' - the shift from knowledge to information; performative epistemologies;

·Education in a digital age;

·Media philosophy and education;

·Promises of access and inclusion; feminist webzines;

·Electronic texts and libraries; electronic writing; web publishing; electronic pedagogies;

·Virtual technologies and academic labour; the political economy of the virtual university; virtual knowledge institutions;

·The politics of cyberspace; scholarly life in virtual universities; digital multimedia; electronic networks;

·New geographies of learning; distributed learning.

4. Some Futures Resources

Bell, W. (1997) Foundations of Futures Studies, 2 volumes, Transaction Publishers,

Blumenfeld, Y. (1999) Scanning the Future: 20 eminent thinkers on the world of tomorrow, Thames and Hudson, London

Brand, S. (1999) The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Brown, L. (2000) The State of the World 2000, World Watch Institute, http://www.

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of Network Society, Basil Blackwell

Coates, J., Mahaffie, J. B. & Hines, A. (1999) 2025: Scenarios of the US and Global Society reshaped by science and technology, Oakhill Press.

Drucker, P. 1959. Landmarks of Tomorrow. New York: Harper.

Drucker, P. 1993. Post-Capitalist Society. New York: Harper.

Fowles, J. (1978) Handbook of Futures Research, Greenwood, Connecticut

Grantham, C. (2000) The Future of Work: The promise of the new digital work society, McGraw Hill, New York

May, G. (1996) The Future is Ours: Foreseeing, Managing and Creating the Future, Part 1 Adamantine, London

Mitchell, W. (1999) e-topia: Urban life, Jim, but not as we know it, MIT Press

Slaughter, R. (Ed.) (1996) The Knowledge Base of Future Studies Volume 1, DDM Media, Melbourne

Wallace, P. (1999) Agequake: Riding the demographic rollercoaster shaking business, finance and the world, Nicholas Brealey.

Bell, Daniel. 1974. The Coming of the Postindustrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. New York: Basic Books.

5. Futures Websites

Strategic Futures International

World Future Society

Pearson I

The Foresight Project (NZ)

The UK Foresight Institute

See also the list of futures websites at:

6. References for Educational Futures

Alba, A., Gonzales, E. Lankshear, C. & Peters, M.A., (2000) Curriculum in the Postmodern Condition, New York, Peter Lang.

Aronowitz, Stanley & Giroux , Henry (1991) Postmodern Education: Politics, Culure and Social Criticism, Minneapolis & London, University of Minnesota Press.

Ball, Stephen (ed.) (1990) Foucault and Education: Disciplines and Knowledge, London, Routledge.

Ball, Stephen, Education Reform: A Critical and Post-Structural Approach, Buckingham & Philadelphia, Open University Press.

Davies, Bronwyn (1989) Frogs and Snails and Feminist Tales, Sydney, Allen & Unwin.

Davies, Bronwyn (1993) Shards of Glass: Children Reading and Writing beyond Gendered Identities, Sydney.

de Alba, Alicia (1995) Postmodernidad y Educación, Mexico, Grupo Editorial.

Doll, William (1993) A Post-modern Perspective on Curriculum, New York, Teachers College Press.

Doll, William (1993) A Post-Modern Perspective on Curriculum, New York, Teachers College Press.

Doll, William. 1989. "Foundations for a Post-Modern Curriculum." Journal of Curriculum Studies 21, no. 3: 245-253.

Giroux, H., Lankshear, C., McLaren, P. & Peters, M. (1996) Counternarratives: Cultural Studies and Critical Pedagogies in Postmodern Spaces, London, Routledge.

Giroux, Henry, Lankshear, Colin, McLaren, Peter & Peters, Michael 1996) Counternarratives: Cultural Studies and Critical Pedagogies in Postmodern Spaces, London & New York, Routledge.

Hunter, Ian (1994) Rethinking the School: Subjectivity, Bureaucracy, Criticism, St Leonards, N.S.W., Allen & Unwin.

Kerr, Clark (1994) Higher Education Cannot Escape History: Issues for the Twenty-First Century, New York, State University of New York Press.

Lankshear, Colin and McLaren, Peter (eds.) (1993) Critical Literacy: Politics, Praxis and the Postmodern.

Lather, Patti (1991) Getting Smart: Feminist research and Pedagogy with/in the Postmodern, London, Routledge.

Marshall, James (1996) Michel Foucault: Personal Autonomy and Education, Dordretch, Kluwer.

McLaren, Peter (ed.) (1995) Postmodernism, Postccolonialism and Pedagogy, Somerville, Aust., James Nicholas.

McWilliam, Erica & Taylor, Peter (eds.) (1998) Pedagogy, Technology and the Body, New York, Peter Lang.

Middleton, Sue (1998) Disciplining Sexuality: Foucault, Life Histories and Education, New York, Teachers' College Press.

Parker, Stuart (1997) Reflective Teaching in the Postmodern World: A Manifesto for Education in Postmodernity, Buckingham & Philadelphia, Open University Press.

Peters, M.A. & Roberts, Peter (1999) University Futures and the Politics of Reform, Palmerston North, NZ, Dunmore Press.

Peters, M.A. (1995) (Ed.) Education and the Postmodern Condition, Foreword by Jean-François Lyotard, Westport, CT. & London, Bergin & Garvey. Paperback edition, 1997.

Peters, M.A. (1997) (Ed.), Cultural Politics and the University, Palmerston North (NZ), Dunmore Press.

Peters, M.A. (1999) (Ed.) After the Disciplines? The Emergence of Cultural Studies, Westport, CT. & London, Bergin & Garvey.

Peters, M.A. and Marginson, S. (2000) (Eds.) Universities in the Twentieth-First Century. Special Issue, Access: Critical Perspectives on Cultural and Policy Studies in Education, 18 (2), 1999.

Peters, M.A., Marshall, J.D., Smeyers, P. (2000) (Eds.) Past and Present Values: Nietzsche's Legacy for Education, Westport, CT. and London, Bergin and Garvey.

Peters, Michael and Marshall, James (1996) Individualism and Community: Education and Social Policy in the Postmodern Condition, London, Falmer.

Pinar, William, W. Reynolds, P. Slattery, & P Taubman. (1995). Understanding Curriculum: An Introduction to the Study of Historical and Contemporary Curriculum Discourses. Peter Lang: New York.

Poster, Mark (1993) The Mode of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Poster, Mark (1995) The Second Media Age, Cambridge, Ma.: Polity Press.

Shane, Harold (1977) Curriculum Change: Toward the 21st Century, Washington, NEA.

Stehr, Nico (1994) Knowledge Societies, London, Sage Publications.

Usher, Robin & Edwards, Richard (1994) Postmodernism and Education, London, Routledge.

Walkerdine, V. (1990) School Girl Fictions, London, Verso.

Walkerdine, V. (ed.) (1989) Counting Girls Out, London, Virago Press.

Professor Michael Peters

Research Professor of Education

University of Glasgow


It is to be hoped that the debate about the future of education in Scotland currently under way will be wide-ranging, and will deal with content, quality, objectives, standards, general philosophy as well as with examination systems, pedagogic methods, payment of teachers and financing of buildings. It seems that, unlike our predecessors, we no longer have any shared philosophy of the objectives of education. Fear of elitism or acceptance of `inclusiveness' is not an adequate substitute.

Can I state that I am an educator, that I have no claim to be regarded as an educationist, and do not claim to have the familiarity with the surveys, graphs, statistics, ledgers which could make up `research?' My contribution is based on my experience and that of colleagues.


·It is to be regretted that it has become an article of faith, shared across the spectrum of political opinion, that the success of an educational system should be judged by its economic return or contribution to industry or employment. Investment in education, in this view, should be geared towards a financial return, perhaps in the long term, but in any case some measurable return should be expected. No one would express him/herself in quite such crude terms, but this belief lies behind both the criteria laid down for the funding of much university research and behind reforms in the school system. It also provides the rationale for the linking by the Scottish Executive of responsibility for the Scottish universities and for industry in the one Department, rather than keeping responsibility for all education inside the same ministry.

It is possible to object to this style of thought, and to the administrative arrangements which accompany it, without falling into the opposite extreme. It is not reasonable to object to the proposition that the industrial, economic and financial needs of Scottish society have to be borne in mind in any educational system, but it is reasonable to suggest that the currently dominant outlook is skewed and unbalanced, in that it gives an inadequate role to the humanities, to the arts as well as to the sciences and to engineering. The improvement in an individual which is brought about by education is not limited to the role that a student will later make to industrial society or to the economic prosperity of society. If the Committee genuinely wishes to `promote a sense of identity,' to support an educational system in which the development of innovative concepts and of critical thinking is fostered, the mechanistic idea of education which has underlain many recent policy documents should itself be subjected to critical rethinking.

·The assessment of quality, in an age in which accountability is demanded of all those who hold authority or who perform public functions, has become an integral part of public policy. In education, the judgement of standards is a sensitive subject, whose criteria are open to debate and to objection. It has been easy to point to rising grades in state examinations as a sign of ever improving standards, but this can hardly be adequate as a basis for a deeper judgement of the level of knowledge which candidates doing such exams have attained. In tertiary education, the growing number of degrees at First class or Upper Second class level awarded by the universities is not more satisfactory as a criterion. These are tests or surveys carried on inside the system, by people who, perhaps unconsciously, adjust their standards to match current expectations.

The most recent statistics (March 2002) produced by the SQA indicated a six per cent increase in the number of entries for National Qualifications. In his comments on the results, Deputy Education Minister, Nicol Stephen, emphasised the `increase in the number of passes, especially at Intermediate 2 and Standard Grade credit level.' It remains to be established whether this improvement in grades corresponded to an improvement in skills and an enlargement of knowledge over previous years.

I would like to plead for the opinions of teachers at every level to be taken seriously, and not dismissed as unreliable, merely `anecdotal' evidence.

·Can I suggest that the question of the attainment of knowledge and the level of knowledge which our students currently attain under prevailing conditions should be at the centre of our debate? There is no need to align oneself with Right-wing denunciations of `trendy teaching methods' or with condemnation from the same source of the Sixties as the root of all evil to be concerned at current standards. I believe that our practices and underlying - often unexamined - philosophy are imbued with an unnecessary and self-fulfilling pessimism over the capacity of our students. We ask little of them, and are producing an undereducated generation, less equipped with knowledge than their continental counterparts.

·No reasonable individual can question the value of the drive to eliminate privilege and elitism from the education system, but it appears that when elitism and knowledge showed themselves to be in conflict, it was the knowledge that was jettisoned and not the elitism. We have ended up with a profound, unintended shift in sensibility and culture, which has produced an alienated population, bereft of critical sense, dependent on an entertainment culture. We have not produced the improvement in individuals which should be the main function of an educational system.

When the study of history showed itself to be demanding, it was replaced by projects, so we have ended up with minds marooned in the present with so sense of the past. When grammar required effort, it was replaced by free expression. When it turned out that the learning of other languages was not all beer and skittles, languages were downgraded from having a compulsory place on the syllabus to occupying an more anodyne position as an `entitlement.' The suggestion is often advanced that there has been, among young people, an advance in self-confidence, in articulacy or in the acquisition of other skills, and that these gains should more than compensate for any loss entailed by these changes. This supposed gain is not evident, and is scarcely amenable to empirical examination.

·It would be valuable to set the debate on the future of education in Scotland in a European context. It is not merely that Europe will provide many of the competitors in a future `knowledge economy' but also that it still provides worthwhile standards against which we can gauge our own performance.

There are reasons for concern over our recent performance in the educational field, and these become more apparent if we make comparisons in the international arena. The universities have, with the various Erasmus and Socrates schemes organised from Brussels, become European institutions who will routinely have students from several countries in the one class. It is a disconcerting experience for Scottish lecturers to note the gulf, not in innate ability, but in skills, knowledge and cultural awareness between products of Scottish schools and products of other systems. It is in this context that I would ask the Committee to give credence to the experience of people involved in the teaching of classes which now contain people from different European educational systems. I fear that we are now doing badly in this European context, that our young people underachieve.


I would like to restrict any further remarks to Theme 5 in the Discussion Paper, where it is suggested that the basic questions still concern the fundamental skills of literacy, numeracy and the newer skills relating to IT. I would like to address specifically questions relating to the teaching of Modern Languages.

·As regards literacy, the curriculum and the reduced requirements made by the Higher Still system are at the core of the problem.

·We have done a disservice to our students at every level, and to citizens, by depriving them of the opportunity of gaining an understanding of how their own language works. It is an act of self-deception to believe that clear expression can be achieved by students who are bereft of a good knowledge of syntax, or for whom grammar is a closed book. The conviction that a knowledge of the structure of one's own language, or grammar, is indispensable is common in European countries. It is a loss that we have jettisoned that belief. There are no advantages to depriving pupils of a firm grounding in their own language, as de facto we have done.

·It is common ground among defenders of the status quo that there should be no return to rote learning. The anomaly is that in the current system of Language exams at Standard grade, 50% of the mark is awarded for a piece of oral work, while exercises in `guided writing,' which involve the reproduction of passages which have been corrected by the teacher are also part of the examination. It is not clear what skills such exercises are intended to impart, or even whose skills are being examined. The consequences are felt throughout the education system. While it is the case that the school system should never again be obliged to cater only for the needs of the minority who will proceed to university, it is true that universities have been obliged to tailor their teaching to the impoverished knowledge which students, even those who have seemingly high grades in Higher examinations, now have.

·The inescapable conclusion is that in a globalised economy, and in a Europe which is becoming ever more closely integrated, Scotland is not making progress in learning to communicate in other languages. For reasons which can be described as cultural and historical - the dominance of English in the British Empire and the current dominance of the USA - the need to learn other languages has never been regarded as a priority. If we wish that to change, policy will have to reflect that wish. Britain, not Scotland alone, is isolated on this point.

·Current policies of the Executive on Modern Language teaching are neither clear nor helpful. The move from compulsion to entitlement was twinned, if the response to the report Citizens of a Multilingual World is to be believed, with a wish to see an increase in the provision for language teaching and in the number of pupils who take languages. Recent surveys from England indicate that following the phasing out compulsion, almost one third of schools are planning to drop language teaching for pupils over 14. This is not a helpful precedent.

Joseph Farrell

Professor of Italian Studies

University of Strathclyde


The following notes are provided as a starter for the provision of evidence to the Committee on 18 June 02 by the Chairman of LT Scotland, Professor Tom Wilson OBE, its Chief Executive, Mr Mike Baughan, and its Assistant Chief Executive: Educational Development, Dr Denis Stewart. The notes are based on work currently in progress on drafting an initial response from the Advisory Council of LT Scotland to the Scottish Executive's invitation to participate in the parallel national debate on the future of school education in Scotland. The Advisory Council will be discussing its draft response on 21 June.

In giving oral evidence to the Committee, the LT Scotland delegation will be happy to comment on any/all of the six themes in the Discussion Paper provided.

Section 1 Some key contextual features and issues

There are various features of the current educational landscape, and issues related to these, which are indicative of where we are in Scottish education and, by implication, where we may need to get to in the coming decades.

1.1 Internationally, these features and issues include:

·Political, social, economic and cultural trends, together with developments in technology, not least ICT, and science across the world and within Scotland.

·International trends in the development of state education systems, including:

widespread concerns over standards and, importantly, educational purposes, goals and outcomes

attempts to find ways of meeting both the needs of individuals and of society and to address related issues about the valuing and recognition of learning

widespread concerns over values in education, not least moral values and dealing with ethical issues and dilemmas, in a relativistic and post-modern world

considerable interest and research into effective schooling and the nature and role of the teaching profession in a changing world substantial developments in understandings of `intelligence' and learning and exploration of what these understandings imply for the curriculum and learning

exploration of alternative ways of framing and organising `curriculum'

widespread concerns with issues related to inclusion and equity in education

widespread exploration of the potential and limitations of ICT as a tool for learning, teaching and management and the implications of this for the future of structured learning in both formal and informal settings

considerable interest and research into ways of encouraging and managing change towards improved provision for formal education.

1.2 In Scotland, key features and issues include:

·Issues focused on in the [current] National Priorities for Education and emerging from these, for example:

the relative importance of, and relationships between, the five NPs

the pursuit of improved standards vs the nature and underlying purposes of standards

notions of `achievement' vs notions of `attainment'

evaluation of progress through `measurement' In relation to targets vs evaluation through more qualitative indications

the creation of a more responsive/effective framework for professional learning and development by teachers [and other professional educators]

concerns about the extent of indiscipline and anti-social behaviour within and beyond/around schools

·The interaction between national and local regarding the what and how of [school] education and to its outcomes, for example, in relation to:

provision of national guidelines/frameworks, reflecting [some] consensus vs local diversity/flexibility/creativity

accountability and standards vs professional autonomy and leadership

entitlements for learners and their communities

ideas of attainment vs notions of achievement

·Challenges to/for schooling - especially in the post-primary stages - related, for example, to:

the growing emphasis on generic dispositions and skills as key outcomes of learning in schools [and elsewhere]

disaffection [young people, ... teachers? others?]

perceptions of the power of ICT in learning

issues of scale [size of schools, class-size, ...]

understandings of the nature of `intelligence', learning, ...

ways or organising opportunities for learning

Section 2 Some key features of a vision for the future of school education

2.1 First, there needs to be clarity re purposes of education among professional educators, parents, business people, the general public, ...

Schools, parents and society care that young people succeed in terms of attaining the knowledge, skills and qualifications required for a personally rewarding life, productive employment and effective citizenship.

From `Rationale for the Secondary Curriculum', in Curriculum Design for the Secondary Stages - Guidelines for Schools, Scottish CCC, 1999

In the last few years the focus in much national guidance has been on three overarching and inter-connected educational purposes. School education, it is asserted, should be about enabling young people:

·to grow and develop as individual persons, aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, morally, physically, spiritually, ...

·to lead productive and enterprising working lives, in whatever capacity

·to participate effectively and responsibly as citizens, locally and globally

In a nutshell, education should be for personal growth, for work and for citizenship - purposes which should, arguably, be seen as essential ingredients in any future vision for Scottish education. In other words, `being well' within oneself, `living well' in communities and and in sustainable relationship with the natural environment, and `doing well' in work, both paid employment and voluntary, and life-long learning could be taken as summing up what school education should aspire to achieve for every young person in each succeeding generation.

2.1 Secondly, schools should continue to play a key role in Scottish society, supporting and extending the learning that goes on in families and communities and conveying a sense of social cohesion and shared culture, rich in its diversity.

Specifically, future schools should be inclusive centres for learning in their communities, manifesting a caring, collaborative, participative and critically self-evaluative ethos and culture and operating as places where:

-young people and adults see themselves as learners, with young people learning how to learn and to enjoy doing so and adults [teachers, managers and others] engaged in `continuing personal/professional learning'

-the social and physical environment is stimulating and conducive to various types and styles of learning

-ICT resources, in sufficient quantity and of appropriate quality, are used to good effect as tools for learning, teaching and management, e.g. to facilitate collaborative learning among students within and across schools

-creativity and enterprise can flourish

-values and values issues are an explicit focus for learning as well as outcomes of learning [e.g. helping young people to engage with ethical issues and develop their own `morality']

-there is variety and flexibility in the ways in which the expertise of `teaching

-professionals', along with other forms of expertise and experience, are deployed and used to good effect (eg social and health care professionals, business people, parents, ...)

-young peoples' voices- and, indeed, teachers' voices - are heard and heeded

-young people are enabled to participate thoughtfully and responsibly in decisions about their learning [what? .. how? ... when? .. where?]

-young people are encouraged to engage in self-assessment and peer-assessment and to offer their assessment of the teachers who work with them

-there are effective links and interactions between young people's learning in school and their learning at home and elsewhere ...

-there is good balance of qualitative along with quantitative approaches to assessment of learning and evaluation of `provision'

-there is well-managed integration of various public services and agencies in response to the needs of young people and families

2.1 Thirdly, schools are not, of themselves sufficient to the provision of appropriate and relevant education for young people. Other organisations, local and national, public and private, also play key roles in supporting the work of schools (eg local authorities, HMIE, LT Scotland, SQA, Career Scotland, business organisations, ...).

A vision of the future of school education should include the idea of Scotland as a `learning society' or, more specifically, a Scottish educational system which is a learning organisation, where:

-there is continuity and clear interconnection across phases and between school-based learning, community-based learning and life-long learning - including, in the latter, the `continuing -------

-professional and personal learning' of teachers and other educators [e.g. learners, of whatever age, are able to learn at/from home, local libraries, community centres, local business locations, ...]

-critically constructive reflection, individually and collectively, are an accepted and highly valued part of the process of seeking to provide the best for current generations of students which also -seeking to improve on this for those who come later

-teaching professionals' - school teachers, school managers and other educators - are recognised and highly valued as leaders in learning and agents of educational change and are well supported in their work

-the role of schools includes both provision of structured, well-managed opportunities for learning and provision of a brokerage service in relation to opportunities for learning provided by others [e.g. businesses providing work experience placements; FE colleges; community-based sporting or artistic activities; ...]

-[national] systems for evaluation of provision and assessment and accreditation of learning are well matched to the declared purposes and goals of school education

Professor Tom Wilson (Chairman and Chief Executive)

Mike Baughan (Assiatant Chief Executive)

Dr Denis Stewart (Educational Development)

Learning and Teaching Scotland


Universities Scotland is the representative body of Scotland's 13 universities, the Open University in Scotland, and six colleges of higher education (Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Queen Margaret University College, Bell College and the UHI Millennium Institute). The Scottish Agricultural College is an associate member. Collectively and individually, our members have very good links with the School sector. While the proportion of full-time undergraduate students coming straight from school has declined a bit, this group still constitutes a majority of full-time students.

Universities Scotland if grateful for the opportunity to feed into the Committee's inquiry into the purposes of education. In this short submission we will restrict ourselves to considering the purposes of school level education and its impact and implications on higher education. Universities Scotland is currently preparing a more substantial submission to the Scottish Executive's National Education Debate. However, this will not be ready for a few weeks and this short paper simply identifies a few key issues. It is not a comprehensive statement of official Universities Scotland policy.

At this stage there are three key points Universities Scotland would like to raise:

Breadth of experience

There is a feeling among many university teachers that the school curriculum has become too narrow, and that too much of it is focused on passing exams rather than giving pupils a wide taste of potential learning opportunities. This has two effects. The first is that pupils are more likely to develop a negative attitude to learning in this way because it can feel very `functional' rather than interesting and enlightening. The second is that they have insufficient exposure to the breadth of options - for example, some people believe that the reason for the lack of interest in engineering is that students don't get a proper taster of engineering as a subject.

Learning to think

The `assembly line' approach (as it has been called) has another consequence: academics are noting a clear drop in the ability to undertake abstract thought. Because many teachers are under pressure to deliver good exam results rather than the best learning, there may be too much `box ticking' and not enough learning to think. Abstract thought is essential to a successful higher education (and to the world of work); often there are no simple routes which can be followed to single `correct' answers, and this approach has become more prevalent as exams have become ever more important indicators. There is also a feeling that focusing on `preparing for work' has (incorrectly) emphasised the routine skills at the expense of core skills such as problem solving and communication. Creativity should be put back at the heart of education. This does not only mean an expansion in creative and expressive subjects such as art, music and creative writing, but also increasing the amount of problem solving and discovery contained in all subjects.

Core skills

There is also some doubt about core skills. While there has been a focus on literacy, some in higher education think there hasn't been a proper focus on `real-world' skills - i.e. pupils can read but they don't know how to express themselves or to write letters or reports. Better communication skills rather than simple indicators of literacy would help students adapt to higher education better. The same goes for skills such as time management and self management.

David Caldwell

Universities Scotland



Universities Scotland is the representative body of Scotland's 21 universities and colleges of higher education. Although alternative routes into higher education have been developed over the last two decades in particular, the majority of the sector's new students still come directly from school. In addition, we train new teachers and are the main focus for research into education in Scotland. For all these reasons, we welcome the opportunity to respond to the National Education Debate.

The submission is based on the experience of a range of people from within the higher education sector. It reflects the experience of those who have been studying the issues affecting school education in Scotland, but it also reflects the experience of those who are teaching those who have come through the system. While it does raise concerns, it does so in the context of an education system which we see as being successful. Most of the indicators show that Scotland's education performance at most levels is at least respectable and often very good by international comparisons. Nothing in this submission is intended to be alarmist; the aim is to propose ways in which Scotland can build upon a solid foundation. Equally, the criticisms are not of teachers - who perform well - but of some of the structures in which they have to work.

Inevitably, experiences differ widely, from subject to subject, from university to university and from school to school. However, there are some clearly identifiable trends, and some key points upon which there is universal agreement.

Learning to think, learning to learn

There are two key roles which school education should perform in preparing pupils for higher education. The first is to give them a grounding in knowledge and core skills. The second is to equip them to think and to learn on their own. Where the higher education sector has the greater concerns is with the latter (although there are some concerns about core skills, as discussed below).

Everyone who fed into this submission put forward the same view - that pupils do not have sufficient ability to undertake abstract thought, to take individual responsibility for learning and its management, or to motivate themselves in their study. The successful results that the higher education sector produces in Scotland demonstrates that where these problems occur they are surmountable. However, students would get more out of the learning experience if they were better prepared.

There has been more emphasis of late on the `tick box' approach to school education; the ability to follow an established route to a correct answer rather than the ability to find personal routes. While this is effective in passing school-level exams, it is not effective in enabling problem-solving or change-management, both skills essential to higher study (and to life more generally). There is a general feeling that the pressure on schools to do well in league tables is a key factor in this trend, and that the focus is purely on exam results.

Another result of this (although this has always largely been the case) is that teaching is highly didactic and that pupils do not experience much control or responsibility in the learning process. Clearly, university students are required to have this control and responsibility. This in turn has an impact on motivation. There is anecdotal evidence that school pupils develop assessment-driven motivation in which their only motivation is an approaching deadline for individual pieces of work. This is not conducive to effective self-managed study. It also reduces the development of intellectual curiosity - pupils do the work they have to, and anything which is not directly related to an assessment is viewed as `a waste of time'. Again, this has obvious drawbacks for those entering an education system where a `bare minimum' approach will not work. Some lecturers are coming under pressure from new students to `make everything count' - "I read a book - how much does that count towards my degree?"

All of these aspects are harming the intellectual development of pupils. There has to be more emphasis of responsibility for learning and there has to be an embedded experience of self-management, control and responsibility. And this has to be reflected in a creative approach to all subject teaching. Reducing the fear of `failure' for schools and reconsidering how the curriculum and its assessment interact would help.

Breadth of experience

School should also provide pupils with a wide-ranging taste of the breadth of areas of study. The mapping from school subject to university subject shows that where a subject is taught in school, there is a greater likelihood of direct progression from school to university in that subject. There is a much closer mapping between the subjects physical science graduates study in school than there is of social science graduates, for example. Students often find out about some subjects only once they are in university - for example sociology, philosophy and psychology.

This is even more pronounced in certain subjects where the defining factors in whether you study a subject at university are very largely exterior to school education - law, medicine and architecture are influenced by factors such as parental occupation and in these subjects it is much less likely to find students who made this choice on the basis of school education alone.

The school curriculum has to balance breadth and depth carefully. There has to be specialisation to ensure that students have a good grounding in a subject at the outset of study, but there also has to be a breadth of exposure to different disciplines.

The other important factor in helping pupils to make the right choice of course is careers guidance, but this is patchy in schools. Universities do a lot of work with schools to inform pupils of the opportunities open to them, but it is not well funded and varies greatly from school to school.

But in some subject areas the problem is chronic. For example, in Glasgow there are only five full-time music teachers for 213 primary schools. Setting aside the cultural implications this has for a generation of Scots, the chances of developing pupils with the ability to study music later in life is being irreparably harmed.

It is essential to ensure that every school pupil has the opportunity to experience as broad a range of learning as possible, and that they are provided with effective guidance to inform their choices at every stage.

Some essentials

There are some more specific core skills that must also be addressed. In preparing this submission, every single response from the sector raised concerns about literacy and numeracy. And, worryingly, the problems also seemed to apply to students with (on paper) good school qualifications in these areas.

In the area of literacy, two specific problems are identified. One was in the straightforward use of grammar and punctuation. This can be overcome, but it is discouraging to find basic mistakes in work submitted at higher education level. The second is perhaps more concerning. There seems to be a regular problem in producing extended writing. The ability to develop arguments, structure essays and maintain the momentum of writing appears to have declined. The view of many in the sector is that this is due to an increasing emphasis on short response assessment and the filling in of worksheets for assessment in schools.

It is not that we are producing illiterate school pupils - their reading and comprehension skills can be good. Equally, this is not an issue to be alarmist about, because it can be easily addressed from the solid literacy base pupils are given. It is the use of literacy that is the problem. Pupils do not seem to have enough practical experience of writing `real world' exercises - letters, reports, essays and other sorts of extended writing. However, there is also a view that Advanced Highers are beginning to improve these sorts of communication and presentation skills.

The numeracy problem is more specific. Many departments which rely on good levels of numeracy from the outset of a course are reporting that they are having to offer `remedial' support for many students, even where they have good school qualifications. There needs to be urgent dialogue between these departments and those developing the school curriculum.

Another specific area where problems have been reported is in languages. There is a fear that this situation is worsening as less emphasis is placed on languages in schools. Again, urgent dialogue is required.

There are three other `essential skills' which have been raised as lacking. The first is that there is little evidence of pupils having developed effective self- and time-management skills. The second is that pupils have not learned to argue dispassionately from an evidence base, but often develop arguments purely in the subjective and emotional style of an American talk show. And the third is that pupils leave school with very little understanding of the tenets and mechanism of civil society, which handicaps all students in coping with the independent life they lead at university and many in their subject areas.

All of these core skills must be considered when revising the curriculum.

Managing the transition

There is a large jump in the learning environment from school to university. From a highly structured learning environment students are plunged into a learning environment which is very largely self-managed. While this has always been the case, the ability of universities to manage this transition has been affected by the great expansion in student numbers and the resulting deterioration in staff student ratios. It is simply the case that lecturers no longer have the one-to-one contact they had with students in the past, particularly in first year where class sizes are large, which greatly reduces the academic support they can provide.

The first thing to point out is that people mature at a different age. Before the `skills' which enable transition are considered, it must be remembered that the maturity of higher education entrants is important. Higher education is no longer a once-only opportunity, and maintaining flexible entry opportunities throughout life will provide ongoing opportunities for those who do not decide to go straight from school to university. The further education route is also one which has expanded to good effect, although an integrated four-year degree programme is still the best option. However, there is no systematic problem with the age or lifecycle stage at which people enter higher education.

Some of the skills which make transition easier have been mentioned above - time management, motivation, abstract thought, intellectual curiosity. These could be better embedded in the school curriculum. Also, many pupils appear to use sixth year as an opportunity to `potter' rather than develop skills. While this does enable them to mature, it is a wasted opportunity. Advanced Highers should be used to address this problem. Unfortunately, many students see Advanced Highers as a burden with little benefit. Universities Scotland is in discussions with the Headteachers Association of Scotland to explore how Advanced Highers might be better incentivised for those going to higher education.

Universities themselves are doing much to ease this transition. Many offer `supplemental instruction' or study skills to help students adapt. Many also offer `general skills' training which will help with study. Other initiatives such as summer schools or evening classes for new students are also well received. However, the higher education sector is not funded for any of this work, and it is therefore not available to every student. There should be further discussion about how this kind of work at the school/university interface can be developed, on both sides.

Learning teachers

In every occupation there is an increasing acceptance that education and training does not stop with employment. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is becoming common in most workplaces. In the education sector it is better developed than in most, and the CPD elements of the McCrone settlement are very much a step in the right direction. Teachers must continue to learn about the latest developments throughout their careers.

There are some changes taking place in this area. The expansion of e-learning and work-based learning are enabling more CPD with less disruption - teachers can train without leaving their schools.

However, there is a risk that CPD may become too closely linked with `system need', i.e. training might become seen as something that has to be done to meet simple clear needs of the schools rather than something to be done to broaden the skills base of a teacher generally. While training to meet the needs of specific initiatives is of course important, CPD which develops the adaptability, change management skills and ability to reflect on personal practice are very important. Teachers must learn not only how to implement new initiative, but how to develop what is happening in all aspects of the classroom.

This should be linked to the latest educational research (see below). Dialogue between teachers and those exploring education issues should be continual, and they should inform each others' actions. In this way, teachers will learn not only how to teach a new module, but also gain an insight into the latest thinking about how children learn. The goal of this is to create schools which are communities of learning - not just for the pupils but also for the teachers. Ideally, each school should become a centre of inquiry in which teachers continually evaluate the effectiveness of their work. Indeed, a system of sabbaticals for teachers in which they are able to carry out some reflective development work might be valuable.

Understanding learning

The Scottish higher education sector is the focus of thinking on Scottish education. It is essential that we make the most of this research base and use it as a resource to improve all levels of education in Scotland. Scotland has a strong education research base, but that is not to say there are no gaps, and there is scope to further build upon it.

The benefits of this research base are now being recognised. Initiatives such as the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and Scottish Executive Education Department resources for applied education research are much appreciated. This must be backed up with a more effective dialogue between researchers and policy-makers. But there is some risk that education research will be skewed towards a focus on implementation. Education research can offer views, can make proposals and can assess possible impact, but it is not an easy source of straightforward answers. In the end, it can provide evidence to inform decisions, but these must be made by the policy-makers. Research must be broad based and forward thinking, and restricting it to consideration of short-term issues will damage its capacity to continue shaping Scottish education.

There are ways in which the structure of the research communities might be improved. Effective fora and networks of researchers will enhance practice and improve understanding. Equally there needs to be better links between the practice and research communities. This means more dialogue between policy-makers and researchers as suggested above, but also the greater involvement of teachers and higher education administrators. As discussed in the section on CPD, teachers have to inform research as well as be informed by it. It has to be a two-way process.

Finally, research must be effective disseminated through schools. These practitioner/researcher connections will help, but it is also worth exploring the possibility of full-time officers to disseminate the latest research and good practice more generally between Scotland's schools.

Social inclusion

Schools also have an important role to play in social inclusion, significantly in widening access to higher education. Universities are working hard to increase participation among groups which have not traditionally entered the sector. Some of the initiatives in this area have involved working with schools, for example the GOALS project in Glasgow, the University for Children and Communities in Aberdeen, the Turning Heads project in Dundee and the LEAPS project in the Lothians. These projects links primary and secondary schools with higher education institutions and consists of everything from mentoring schemes and institutional visits to careers advice and study skills. It is proving an effective models and might valuably be replicated elsewhere.

However, the ratio of schools to higher education institutions makes extensive collaboration more difficult, particularly in areas which do not have a local university. Equally, `parachuting' university staff into schools may not always be the best option. An effective approach might be to empower schools (particularly in areas of low participation) to promote higher education as a positive and realistic option to their pupils, and to resource those school to provide the careers advice and study skills training which would help more of their pupils get to university. Universities Scotland and the Headteachers Association of Scotland are currently exploring the possibility of having officers in schools to do exactly this kind of work.

Finally, it is important to recognise that these are very important aims but that they have associated costs. If we are to make a real difference in creating a socially inclusive Scotland, the education sectors have an enormously important role to play, collectively and individually. But it cannot be done without cost.

Tuesday 18 June 2002 (19th meeting 2002, Session 1), Oral Evidence

Supplementary Evidence


Scenario Planning and the Future of the Curriculum

Executive Summary

This paper locates the future of the curriculum in the postmodern condition and using scenario planning identifies seven snapshots of the curriculum as a basis for future studies. The paper discusses the meaning of postmodernism and postmodernity in relation to the concept of globalisation. It concludes by offering a curriculum of alternative globalisations and discusses some prospects for a research programme of the future of the curriculum in relation to the seven snapshots.

Scenario Planning and the Future of the Curriculum

Michael Peters


To talk of the curriculum in the postmodern condition is to locate it within its appropriate contemporary historical and philosophical contexts. Attempts to characterize these contexts have, however, been fraught with all kinds of difficulty. Any such attempts to provide narratives of world history, or non-ideological descriptions of the emergence of a distinct philosophical ethos are contestable and open to interpretation. Nonetheless, it is important that conceptions of the curriculum be related to their historical and philosophical contexts. Indeed, such "reflexive contextualization" is especially important in an age of rapid and ongoing space-time compressions (see Harvey 1989), in which space annihilates time. It is crucial that the curriculum both reflects its cultural age--its socio-historical context--and at the same time provides some critical purchase on these developments. These statements sound like the formulation of the truism: when it comes to curriculum philosophy, always historicize!

The problem with historicizing curriculum is that it almost inevitably generates attempts to narrativize world history, to tell stories about "progress," "development," and "change." Typically, these stories have their own built-in ends or teleologies, which change according to who is telling the story, to whom, and for what political purpose. Even so, philosophers, sociologists, and historians widely agree that highly significant social, technological, economic and political change has occurred since the end of World War II. Moreover, they agree that this change in some way or other bespeaks a new sensibility and worldview: that these technological and socio-political transformations amount to a sea change. The terms "postmodernism" and "the postmodern" have, albeit grudgingly in many cases, become widely accepted as catchwords indicating this new sensibility, style, ethos, or disposition. Foreshadowing our argument, we will argue that "postmodernism," by contrast, is not concerned with venerating the old because it is closer to the sacred (religious origins and texts)--traditionalism--or with valorizing the present simply because it is newer. Indeed, postmodernism is both critical of attitudes to time as human creations and agonistic in relation to its sources.


Philosophers generally define "postmodernism" by reference to its parent term, "modernism." Modernism has two uses. The first is aesthetic, referring to movements in the arts from around the end of the nineteenth century. The second use is historical and philosophical. Here it refers to "the modern" in the sense of "modernity": the age or period following the medieval period. The relationship between these two senses can be expressed simply by saying talk of modernism and the modern involves a self-conscious break with the old, the classical, and the traditional; asserting instead an emphasis on the new or the present. Furthermore, we might say it also involves the general belief or underlying assumption--contrary to classicalism or traditionalism--that the modern is in some sense better than the old since, in the sequence of historical development, it comes later. From a philosophical standpoint, then, modernism in philosophy begins with the Renaissance--with the thought of Francis Bacon in England and René Descartes in France.

In the first sense referring to developments in the arts from the end of the nineteenth-century, modernism is typically used to characterize the methods, style, or attitude of modern artists and, in particular, a style in which the artist deliberately breaks away from classical and traditional methods of expression based on realism and naturalism. Silverman describes modernism as follows:

[M]odernism in art, literature, and philosophy involved novelty, break with tradition, progress, continuos development, knowledge derived from either the position of the subject or from claims to objectivity. . . [It] involved a shift . . . to the stream of consciousness, lived and internal time-consciousness, transcendental subjectivity, narrated remembrance and awareness (1996, 353).

In philosophy (and theology), modernism can be seen as a movement sustained by a belief in the advancement of knowledge and human progress premised on experience and scientific method. It is epitomized, perhaps, by Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy and by the idea that advancement in knowledge comes with subjecting traditional beliefs to criticism.

"Postmodernism" likewise has two broad meanings, related to these specific senses of modernism. It is used in an aesthetic sense to refer to developments in the arts occurring subsequently or in reaction to modernism. Secondly, it is used in a historical and/or philosophical sense to refer to a period ("postmodernity") or an ethos ("the postmodern"). It could be argued that in its second sense postmodernism represents a transformation of modernity or a radical shift in the system of values and practices underlying modernity. This is, in fact, the way the Oxford English Dictionary defines postmodernism, giving its root meaning and etymology as follows:

post-modern, a. Also post-Modern. Etymology: post- B. 1 b.

Subsequent to, or later than, what is `modern'; spec. in the arts, esp. Archit., applied to a movement in reaction against that designated `modern' (cf. modern a. 2 h). Hence post-modernism, post-modernist a. and sb.

Speaking of the application of the term postmodern to the human sciences, Ermarth suggests that:

[P]ostmodernism can be recognized by two key assumptions. First, the assumption that there is no common denominator--in "nature" or "truth" or "God" or "the future"--that guarantees either the One-ness of the world or the possibility of natural or objective thought. Second, the assumption that all human systems operate like language, being self-reflexive rather than referential systems--systems of differential function which are powerful but finite, and which construct and maintain meaning and value (1998: 587).

Discussing its relevance to political philosophy, Lilly claims that postmodernism

aims at exposing how, in modern, liberal democracies, the construction of political identity and the operationalization of basic values take place through the deployment of conceptual binaries such as we/them, responsible/irresponsible, rational/irrational, legitimate/illegitimate, normal/abnormal, and so on. . . [P]ostmodernists draw attention to the ways in which the boundary between . . . [these] terms is socially reproduced and policed (1998, 591).

These scholars reflect the tendency--which has become a common strategy--to treat postmodernism synonymously with poststructuralism, or to use postmodernism as the all-embracing term. Yet this is not a position we would endorse. We believe that poststructuralism should be distinguished both from postmodernism and from its predecessor movement, structuralism. Although there are philosophical and historical overlaps between the two movements, it is important to distinguish between the two in order to appreciate their respective intellectual and cultural genealogies, their theoretical trajectories and applications.

Poststructuralism has often been confused with its kinship term, postmodernism, and indeed some critics have argued that the latter term, through patterns of established usage, has come to subsume poststructuralism. We maintain there is an important set of differences that can be most easily understood by recognizing the difference between their theoretical objects of study. Poststructuralism takes as it theoretical object "structuralism," whereas postmodernism takes as its theoretical object "modernism." What is often confusing is that some poststructuralist thinkers, such as Jean-François Lyotard, actively engage with the term postmodernism, while others, such as Michel Foucault, pretend they do not know to what it refers. Lyotard is, perhaps, the most famous of contemporary philosophers who refers to postmodernism in both an aesthetic and historical/philosophical sense. Jean-François Lyotard is considered by most commentators, justly or not, as the pre-eminent non-Marxist philosopher of "the postmodern condition" (sometimes referred to as "postmodernity"). His The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1984), originally published in Paris in 1979, became an instant cause célèbre. The book crystallized in an original interpretation a study of the status and development of knowledge, science, and technology in advanced capitalist societies. Arguably, no contemporary work in curriculum philosophy that aims at teasing out the significance of the "postmodern condition" can afford to ignore Lyotard's work, and it is to his analysis of the "postmodern condition" that we now briefly turn.


The Postmodern Condition was important for a number of reasons. It developed a philosophical interpretation of the changing state of knowledge, science, and education in the most highly developed societies, reviewing and synthesizing research on contemporary science within the broader context of the sociology of postindustrial society and studies of postmodern culture. Lyotard brought together for the first time diverse threads and previously separate literatures in an analysis that many commentators and critics believed signaled an epochal break not only with the so-called modern era but also with various traditionally modern ways of viewing the world.

The strength and originality of The Postmodern Condition, considered in its own right and on its own merits, is reason enough for educators to devote time and effort to understanding and analyzing Lyotard's major working hypothesis: "[T]he status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age" (1984, 3). He uses the term postmodern condition to describe the state of knowledge and the problem of its legitimation in the most highly developed societies. In this he follows sociologists and critics who have used the term to designate the state of Western culture "following the transformations which, since the end of the nineteenth century, have altered the game rules for science, literature and the arts" (Lyotard 1984, 3). Lyotard places these transformations within the context of the crisis of narratives, especially those Enlightenment metanarratives concerning meaning, truth, and emancipation that have been used to legitimate both the rules of knowledge of the sciences and the foundations of modern institutions.

By "transformations" Lyotard is referring to the effects of the new technologies since the 1950s and their combined impact on the two principal functions of knowledge--research and the transmission of learning. Significantly, he maintains, the leading sciences and technologies have all been based on language-related developments--theories of linguistics, cybernetics, informatics, computer languages, telematics, theories of algebra--and their miniaturization and commercialization. In this context, Lyotard argues that the status of knowledge is permanently altered: Its availability as an international commodity becomes the basis for national and commercial advantage within the global economy; its computerized use in the military is the basis for enhanced state security and international monitoring. Knowledge, as he acknowledges, has already become the principal force of production, changing the composition of the work force in developed countries. The commercialization of knowledge and its new forms of media circulation, he suggests, will raise new ethico-legal problems between the nation-state and the information-rich multinationals, and will widen the gap between the so-called developed and Third Worlds.

Here is a critical account theorizing the status of knowledge and education in the postmodern condition that focuses upon the most highly developed societies. It constitutes a seminal contribution and important point of departure to what has become known--in part due to Lyotard's work--as the modernity/postmodernity debate, a debate that has involved many of the most prominent contemporary philosophers and social theorists (see Peters 1995a and Peters 1996a for illustrative examples).

It is a book that directly addresses the concerns of education, perhaps more so than any other single poststructuralist text. It does so in a way that bears on the future status and role of education and knowledge in what has proved to be a stunningly prophetic analysis. Many of the features of Lyotard's analysis of the "postmodern condition"--an analysis now twenty years old-- appear today to be accepted aspects of our experiences in Western societies.

He writes in a now famous formulation of the modern:

I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse . . . making explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of the Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth (Lyotard 1984, xxii).

By contrast, he defines postmodern simply as "incredulity toward metanarratives" (xxiv). In The Postmodern Condition, Lyotard was concerned with the grand narratives that had grown out of the Enlightenment and had come to mark modernity. In The Postmodern Explained to Children, Lyotard mentions specifically the progressive emancipation of reason and freedom, the progressive or catastrophic emancipation of labour . . ., the enrichment of all through the progress of capitalist technoscience, and even . . . the salvation of creatures through the conversion of souls to the Christian narrative of martyred love (1992, 29).

Grand narratives, then, are the stories that cultures tell themselves about their own practices and beliefs in order to legitimate them. They function as a unified single story that purports to legitimate or found a set of practices, a cultural self-image, discourse, or institution (see Peters 1995a).

Lyotard (1984), in his very first footnote, acknowledges the sources for his notion of "the postmodern": the sociology of postindustrial society (mentioning the work of Daniel Bell and Alain Touraine, the literary criticism of Ihab Hassan, studies of "performance" in postmodern culture by Michel Benamou and Charles Caramello, and M. Köhler's essay). These are useful sources to note because, taken together, they combine elements of the changing mode of economic and social organization of advanced societies with certain changes in culture. Lyotard suggests that the status of knowledge is altered as societies enter the postindustrial age and cultures enter the postmodern age. Some sociologists have begun to talk of this transition in terms of "postmodernization," similar to the way that sociologists of a previous generation analyzed the transition from the traditional to the modern in terms of "modernization."

If we take the definition Lyotard provided in his essay "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" (appended to the English translation of The Postmodern Condition) we would be driven to accept that postmodernism is "not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant. I have said and will say again the postmodern signifies not the end of modernism, but another relation to modernism" (1984, 79). What he is suggesting is that postmodernism as a movement in the arts is a continuation of modernism by other means--the search for the new and the avant-garde experimentalism remain. That is, postmodernism entertains an ambivalent relation to modernism, considered as a category in aesthetics, and that it defines a style, an attitude, or an ethos rather than a period (that is, something that comes after modernism). In this sense, there are clearly many postmodernisms in the sense of defining a style in the arts, and although they may come and go, the postmodern, as an episteme, a philosophical stance, or historical periodization, like the modern, is here to stay.


This account of the postmodern, although brief, nonetheless provides a basis for considering curriculum in the postmodern condition. We need to put some flesh on the bones of our account, however. We begin this task by characterizing the philosophical changes referred to by "the postmodern condition" presented as a cluster of concepts. These concepts are then related briefly to the curriculum.

Table 1

The Cluster Concepts of Postmodern Philosophy


Suspicion of transcendental arguments and viewpoints

Suspicion of metanarratives

Rejection of canonical descriptions and final vocabularies

Perspectivism and multiplicity

Post-epistemological standpoint

Rejection of the picture of knowledge as accurate representation

Rejection of truth as correspondence to reality

Standpoint, nonfoundational, or "ecological" epistemology

Anti-naive realism

Anti-realism about meaning and reference

The non referentiality of language

The naturalizing tendency in language

The diagnosis and critique of binarism

Anti-essentialism and the self

The critique of the metaphysics of presence

Questioning of the problematic of the humanist subject

Substitution of genealogical narratives for ontology

The cultural construction of subjectivity

The discursive production of the self

Analysis of technologies of self

Analysis of power/knowledge

Exposure of technologies of domination

Power is productive, dispersed, and related to knowledge

Power is often exercised through control of the body

Panopticum and the institutional "gaze"

"Modern" institutions as spaces of enclosure

The open network and "the surveillance society"

Boundary crossings

Erasure of boundaries between literature and philosophy

Interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity

If we approach curriculum in a conventional way, we can think of programs of study in terms of dimensions such as content and skills, or bodies of knowledge and processes of knowing. Any curriculum statement or theory must refer to what students are (expected) to learn and how they are expected to go about learning, what teachers are to teach and how they are to teach it. From a slightly different perspective, we may think in terms of curriculum as having to deal with both the structure and content of knowledge. In addition, of course, curriculum theory and curriculum planning must include a normative dimension, which provides reasons for what is included and excluded and for the kinds of approaches and processes to be taken. The key point to be made about the cluster concepts of postmodern philosophy we have identified is that they issue profound challenges to the ways educators have typically thought in the past and, to a disconcerting extent, continue to think about curriculum.

Formal educational theory, policy, and practice with respect to curricular content and processes, skills, and knowledge is comprehensively outdated. It assumes and builds upon categories and modus operandi that no longer apply. Although approximations to elements of postmodern philosophical insight are occasionally touched upon in notions of prioritizing "learning how to learn" over "fixed bodies of content," the ways in which such ideas are taken up in curriculum development and classroom practice are typically superficial and under-informed. For example, the idea that information has somehow displaced knowledge all too frequently degenerates into flaccid forms of relativism or is reduced to inane cliched formulae such as the idea that the teacher's role has evolved from that of "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side." Although such notions have a basis in very real and significant conditions of change, they are less than adequate responses, and may well play into the hands of those who would do away with teachers and schools altogether (see Perelman 1992) or otherwise whittle away at access to education as a vital dimension of the social wage.

Deep contradictions exist in curriculum planning and policy right now that demand attention. For instance, at a time when knowledge and skills seem genuinely to be up for grabs in radical ways, much policy and planning seems intent on screwing them down more tightly and defining them more narrowly than has been common in recent times. The postmodern world simultaneously demands and delivers increased "meta-knowledge"--often in ways that elude us. For instance, diminished welfare bureaucracies demand that users possess a meta-knowledge of how services and institutions are organized in order to be able to access services and "opportunities." Powerful ways of operating new technologies presuppose that users can relegate "basic skills" of operation to relatively subordinate positions in order to get on with "the real business" of their application: symbolic manipulation, innovation, design, and so on. Yet our curricula are becoming overwhelmed by practices of diagnosis, intervention, and remediation grounded not merely in "basic skills," but in old and outmoded forms of basic skills--and developers and producers of "quick-fix" programs for remedial education and professional development are experiencing a boom. Although it remains important for today's learners to master "basic" forms of skill and acquire a sound base of "cultural literacy," this curriculum is predicated on the grounds that it genuinely offers bases of and pathways to "metalevel" planes of understanding and performance (Gee 1996; Gee, Hull, and Lankshear 1996; Rogoff 1990; Rogoff 1995). The problem here, of course, is that what is genuinely "basic" in these terms has undergone major changes, yet prevailing curriculum theory, policy, and practice insist on preserving a misguided investment in old ways and old frameworks.

We find curriculum still being construed very much in terms of "packages" of skills and content at a time when a metaphor like "platforms" seems much more apposite (this idea was developed in conversation with Richard Smith). In "techspeak" a platform refers to an undergirding operating logic or operating system upon which diverse more immediate computing applications are based. In this sense, DOS, Mac, UNIX and so on provide examples of different platforms. The postmodern philosophical concepts of anti-foundationalism and post-epistemological standpoint invoke logics and sensibilities that privilege active pursuit of ways of looking at the world rather than absorbing predefined content and skills grounded in extant worldviews. The learner who masters "platforms" can proactively generate interpretations and frame designs that in turn generate their own learning and innovation agendas and, ultimately, worldviews.

Such approaches do not eliminate standards and criteria. Far from it. Some platforms work better than others. The educational question for curriculum is how to distinguish between these platforms and how to understand their underlying principles. "Off the shelf" and "one size fits all" approaches to curriculum policy and design, although they have some scope for flexibility, subvert an understanding of the underlying principles of skills "platforms." The problem is that if teachers are to become oriented toward platform logic and away from packages they need to understand and grasp the characteristically postmodern structure of knowledge. This possibility is systematically undermined by approaches that favor more of the same.

Parallel points could be developed for each of the concepts of postmodern philosophy we have identified above. But that would be secondary to our main point, which is to grasp that the concepts of postmodern philosophy that were developed as a means for understanding that the temperament of the times inhabit different categorical space and categorically different space from modernist mindsets and categories.

Our cluster concepts provide a sense of how far our current ways of engaging with curriculum in theory, policy, and practice conflict categorically with the age. Educationists still widely think in terms of subject territories and continue to frame academic and professional training in such terms. Curriculum planning, policy development, and curriculum resourcing continue to be undertaken within familiar subject domains rather than in forms of collaboration and reciprocal informing that transcend traditional disciplinary parameters in fruitful and timely ways. A recent study (Lankshear et al. 1997 Vol. 1) found curriculum and resourcing policies for technology being developed mainly in isolation from literacy. On what possible grounds, one wonders, could this be justified--at any time, let alone under present conditions? Likewise, what grounds are there in the so-called information age for continuing to stipulate subject content ranges for school year levels as closely as we typically do? Would it not make altogether more sense to encourage approaches that have learners, teachers, and other relevant experts work together to generate information, organize and analyze this information, compile reliable databases, and the like on a model of the school as an information base for its community? (Chris Bigum, personal communication). This would involve learners being apprenticed to expert--mature, "insider"--approaches to gathering, compiling, organizing, analyzing, storing, and disseminating information rather than "learning" from pre-packaged content.

The definition of curriculum as a structured series of learning opportunities highlights the constructed nature of the curriculum based on a conception of knowledge--its organization into disciplines--and learning theory (Cherryholmes 1988, 133). It also serves to draw attention to the curriculum as a values-driven selection of material or course content that operates to both include and exclude certain traditions of knowledge, particular perspectives, and sets of values.

The cluster concepts of postmodern philosophy outlined above cut across modernist epistemological assumptions and learning theory based on these assumptions. They provide grounds for questioning the foundationalist conception of knowledge (inherited from Descartes and the Enlightenment) as well as the organization and structure of knowledge as disciplines. The non foundationalist, post-epistemological, and non representational view, then, contains a deep-seated critique of modern views of knowledge and curriculum. Together with the cluster we call anti-essentialism, postmodern philosophy provides grounds for challenging humanist constructions of the self as a unified entity that is transparent to itself and as the fount of all knowledge and moral action. Just as it sows radical doubt--where there had existed for so long certainty and total faith--in the ideal of the sovereign subject, postmodern philosophy at the same time also creates doubt around the reality of the learning subject: the child, the toddler, the pupil, the student. This adds weight to the importance of genealogical investigation of subjectivities and representations of students, youth, and adult learners.

The postmodern critique of the modern constitution of the curriculum in terms of non foundationalism and anti-essentialism, and the ways in which we recognize the curriculum as particular historical constructions of power/knowledge, raise profound challenges to mainstream curriculum theory, policy, and practice. In the chapters that follow we begin to explore the significance of these curriculum challenges in relation to notions of science, technology and environment, as well as to conventional wisdom about literacy.


Attempting to present a historical narrative of postmodernity is, perhaps, even more difficult than characterizing the postmodern ethos in philosophical terms. In this case, rather than providing a narrative we will construct what we have called snapshot scenarios. These scenarios are based on what now are commonly thought to be some of the most important changes as societies shift from industrial to postindustrial, and then to information societies/economies.

Scenario planning has emerged during the past forty to fifty years as a generic technique to stimulate thinking about the future in the context of strategic planning (Cowan 1998). It was initially used in military planning, and was subsequently adapted for use in business environments (Wack 1985a; Wack 1985b; Schwartz 1991; van der Heijden 1996) and, most recently, for planning political futures in such countries as post-apartheid South Africa, Colombia, Japan, Canada, and Cyprus (Cowan 1998). We offer a modified version here as a way of thinking about curriculum in the postmodern condition.

Scenarios are succinct narratives that describe possible futures and alternative paths toward the future based on plausible hypotheses and assumptions. The idea behind scenarios is to start thinking about the future now in order to be better prepared for what comes later. Proponents of scenario planning make it very clear that scenarios are not predictions. Rather, they aim to perceive futures in the present. In Rowan and Bigum's words they are a

means for rehearsing a number of possible futures. Building scenarios is a way of asking important "what if" questions: a means of helping groups of people change the way they think about a problem. In other words, they are a means of learning (1997, 73).

If we take the issue of curriculum the question is What kinds of things should we be learning and teaching now in order to prepare learners as well as possible for handling what comes in the future, and to be able to act better now as well as later in order to create more viable futures? When we look at much current educational policy, planning, and curriculum development it is easy to see a lot of the past enshrined in guidelines and plans and a lot of unwarranted certainty assumed and expressed about things relevant to the world in which today's learners will live--an assuredness and taken-for-grantedness about the relevance of particular forms of content, skills, worldviews, etc., that are at odds with what we know and don't know about the future worlds of students (74).

Scenario planning is very much about challenging the kinds of mindsets that underwrite such certainty and assuredness and is about "reperceiving the world" (76) and promoting more open, flexible, proactive stances toward the future. As Cowan and colleagues put it, the process and activity of scenario planning is designed to facilitate conversation about what is going on and what might occur in the world around us so that we might "make better decisions about what we ought to do or avoid doing" (1998, 8). Developing scenarios that perceive possible futures in the present can help us "avoid situations in which events take us by surprise." They encourage us to question "conventional predictions of the future," help us to recognize "signs of change" when they occur, and establish standards for evaluating "continued use of different strategies under different conditions." Most important, they provide a means of organizing our knowledge and understanding of future environments within which the decisions we take today will be played out (Rowan and Bigum 1998, 76).

Within typical approaches to scenario planning a key goal is to aim for making policies and decisions now that are likely to prove sufficiently robust when they are played out across several possible futures. Rather than predicting the future, a range of possible futures are entertained and policies and decisions in the "now" are framed that will optimize options and outcomes no matter which of the anticipated futures eventually pans out (most approximately).

Hence, scenarios must narrate particular and credible worlds given forces and influences currently evident and known to us that are likely to steer the future in one direction or another. A popular way of doing this is to bring together participants to the present policymaking or decision-making exercise and have them frame a focusing question or theme within the area they are concerned with. If, for instance, our concern is with designing current courses in literacy education and technology for in-service teachers in training, we might frame the question of what learning and teaching of literacy and technology might look like in educational settings for elementary school-age children fifteen years hence.

Once the question is framed, participants try to identify driving forces they see as operating and as being important in terms of their question or theme. When these have been thought through participants identify those forces or influences that seem more or less predetermined: that will play out in more or less known ways. Participants then identify less predictable influences, or uncertainties: key variables in shaping the future that could play out in quite different ways, but ones for which we genuinely can't be confident one way or another about how they will play out. From this latter set, one or two are selected as "critical uncertainties" (Rowan and Bigum 1997, 81). These are forces or influences that seem especially important in terms of the focusing question or theme but that are genuinely up for grabs and unpredictable. The critical uncertainties are then dimensionalized by plotting credible poles: between possibilities that, at one pole are not too bland and, at the other, not too off the wall. These become raw materials for building scenarios: accessible, catchy, but punchy and fruitful stories about which we can think in ways that suggest decisions and policy directions now.

Although the scenario snapshots we offer here are not strictly like this--they have not been framed as closely or by participants within formal and focused scenario planning forums--they nonetheless provide a standpoint for thinking about curriculum in the postmodern condition in relation to current curriculum policies, directions, decisions, guidelines, and classroom implementations. Our point here is that there currently exists a lot of information and understanding about postmodernity that is not being taken seriously into account in curriculum development and planning; but that ought to be taken thus into account. Indeed, it is very easy to read from the following snapshot scenarios the extent to which much current curriculum work is oblivious to the possibilities and implications of even these partially framed and underdeveloped scenarios.


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