What are Education Futures?

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Currently among teacher organizations the stated commitment to advocacy for public education through strategic foresight and research is often challenged by a seemingly endless chain of internally and externally driven short-term concerns (McCollow, 2017). The initial impetus of the network two years ago in the initial Sydney Summit was the growing recognition by key union leaders and researchers from Australia, Norway, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom that the current episodic approach to research partnerships was falling short on several points. These concerns included not only the frequency and complexity of the public policy issues teacher unions and scholars encounter, but the recognition that resources and support for research were becoming increasingly scarce. The academy is under siege in many respects as neoliberal and accountability-driven culture encloses the parameters of what constitutes academic excellence and research and evidence informed policy making (Spooner & McNinch, 2018; Espleland & Sauder, 2016). 

The ongoing efforts to sustain the summit conversations initiated in Sydney then through to Manchester this past November, hopes to build on the growing international interest in futures thinking evinced by UNESCO (Miller, 2018). In this regard the partnership takes up the compelling cautionary note that, “whoever gets to name the future, owns the future” (Niedzviecki). Specifically, the November, 2019 Manchester summit included an effort to imagine possibilities for teacher organizations to reimagine their responses to international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) and in particular identify opportunities to collaborate in exploring the future of large-scale assessments. As well, a key element of the summit was to broaden the base of the network including the Global South. 

The partnership seeks leverage points for nudging the academic community and teacher organizations into strategic partnerships concerned with the increasingly complex issues such as growing commercialization of public education, tectonic developments in artificial intelligence and the neurological sciences, the future of large-scale assessments – all against the backdrop of growing inequity and looming environmental collapse.


Espeland, W., and M. Sauder. 2016. Engines of Anxiety: Academic rankings, reputation and accountability. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 

McCollow, J. 2017.  Teacher Unions. Online Publication. September. https://oxfordre.com/education/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.001.0001/acr efore-9780190264093-e-201?rskey=kMTGaJ&result=2

Miller, R. (ed). 2018. Transforming the Future—Anticipation in the 21st Century. New York: Routledge & UNESCO.

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