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UNESCO's Futures of Education report

By Danny Harrington, MD ITS Education Asia

Late in 2021, UNESCO published a new report called Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education. [open access – read here] It is 2 years of work which consulted with over a million people. Its premise is that education can be seen in terms of a social contract – an implicit agreement among members of a society to cooperate for shared benefit. It sees the old contract as being nationally focused but now we need collective endeavours and to provide the knowledge and innovation needed to shape sustainable and peaceful futures for all anchored in social, economic, and environmental justice. The report highlights:


  • Assuring the right to quality education throughout life. It must also encompass the right to information, culture and science – as well as the right to access and contribute to the knowledge commons, the collective knowledge resources of humanity that have been accumulated over generations and are continuously transforming.
  • Strengthening education as a public common good. As a shared societal endeavour, education builds common purposes and enables individuals and communities to flourish together. A new social contract for education must not only ensure public funding for education, but also include a society-wide commitment to include everyone in public discussions about education.



  • The planet is in peril but decarbonization and the greening of economies are underway. Here children and youth already lead the way, calling for meaningful action and delivering a harsh rebuke to those who refuse to face the urgency of the situation.
  • Over the past decade the world has seen a backsliding in democratic governance and a rise in identity-driven populist sentiment. At the same time, there has been a flourishing of increasingly active citizen participation and activism that is challenging discrimination and injustice worldwide.
  • There is tremendous transformative potential in digital technologies, but we have not yet figured out how to deliver on these many promises.
  • The challenge of creating decent human-centred work is about to get much harder as Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and structural transformations remake employment landscapes around the globe. At the same time, more people and communities are recognizing the value of care work and the multiple ways that economic security needs to be provisioned.



  • Pedagogy needs to move from a focus on teacher-driven lessons centred on individual accomplishment to instead emphasize cooperation, collaboration and solidarity.
  • Curricula are often organized as a grid of subjects and need to shift to emphasize ecological, intercultural and interdisciplinary learning.
  • Teaching needs to move from being considered an individual practice to becoming further professionalized as a collaborative endeavour.
  • Schools are necessary global institutions that need to be safeguarded. However, we should move from the imposition of universal models and reimagine schools, including architectures, spaces, times, timetables, and student groupings in diverse ways.
  • In all times and spaces of learning we should move from thinking of education as mostly occurring in schools and at certain ages, and instead welcome and expand educational opportunities everywhere for everyone.

Dulwich College Singapore

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