Who are you? What do you do? Who are your loved ones? What kind of relationships do you have with different people? How do you communicate? What different technologies do you use? What does your typical day look like? What is important to you? What is important to other people? What do you need to know, be aware of, be skilled at? How do you learn? How do children learn in 2040?
With these and similar questions, we started our workshops with children and adults at various sites in Slovakia. Together, we thought about different forms of education, and we deliberately moved our minds 25 years into the future. We wanted to break away from the problems and shortcomings of the current education system. Not that we consider them unimportant, but we wanted to avoid the habitual tendency to look for those to blame, or to avoid responsibility for the current condition of our education system.
We already know enough about what does not work in education in Slovakia. Analyses, statistics, and various reports on the current condition of education are available. There are also a number of visions and forecasts for the development of our society as a whole, including outlines of how education may be shaped in the future.
What we miss when we think about education is a link between what the data and forecasts indicate and what people really want.
Therefore, we have decided to introduce the perspectives of those who live by education every day – children, parents and teachers – as well anyone else who may influence and shape education. With the campaign, we want to know more about the future of education in Slovakia and we want to give the voice in public discussions back to people.
Every society is diverse. No education system can really function if it only fulfills the expectations of a certain cohort of the population while requiring acceptance by all. Such a society is not free, democratic, or modern, as it keeps some citizens on the sidelines.
The purpose of our campaign was to show that it is legitimate to have diverse learning requirements, and that the education system should account for them. It should be open and flexible enough to draw positive inspiration from new impulses while having solid grounds and simple rules to withstand these inner dynamics without difficulties.
A truly good education system is not one that is resistant to outside influences, but one that counts with them and uses them for its continuous improvement.
In many ways, the Slovak education system is the opposite – it is robust in rules and fragile in fundamentals. Past attempts to change it have neither strengthened the fundamentals nor simplified the rules. Numerous top-down measures have not been tested well enough in practice to observe any real improvement in education processes or their results. Indeed, change will not happen unless those who work in education every day identify with it a change also that respects their demands and needs.
Education in Slovakia lacks vision. Minor flaws are constantly corrected while fundamental problems are not addressed. If any suggestions for change are to really work, they cannot only be derived from "hard data", but must also take into account the variety of opinions and value preferences of people. The lack of understanding of this necessity is the reason why even the best intended education reform is doomed to fail.
We need to talk about this right now, so that we have a better grounding about the notoriously known facts and less known forecasts in our lives and in our thinking. Only after having mapped what people really care about in life and what they expect from education is it possible to search for ways to reconcile diverse views and look for solutions beneficial to all.
Education needs to be discussed from a higher perspective with our sights set on the future. Besides listening to the views of experts, it is necessary to hear about experiences of non-experts as well. To break away from the issues of the day, we need a mental shift in time and an expansion of perspective.
We need to know about the development trends of our society and the challenges we face as a result. We need to examine the roots of people’s values, their lifestyles, the changing forms of family and working life, and the blending of private and public activities. We need to anticipate what children and adults will need to know to be successful in life, and under what conditions and in what ways they can best learn it. Our Atlas brings it all – the trends, the challenges, the facts, the research findings, and the expectations of people.
Naturally, the views of people on the same issue differ. Even one person can have frequently diverse or contradictory ideas. In the Atlas, we work with this in two ways.
We respect the authenticity of the statements made by different people while looking for their deeper context and thinking about possible consequences.
The Atlas deliberately creates a tension between what people expect in terms of already recognizable trends, what they may consider as a negative direction in the development of society, and what they articulate as desirable for the future. This takes place against the backdrop of three "model-based" futures, which are there to help us combine various ideas into a coherent context.
The models of the future are not scientific forecasts, but do incorporate their essence, freely retold. They may be useful in uncovering the values and ideas every one of us prefers regarding the functioning of our society. They should also encourage us to make comparisons and combine various available options.
The first model indicates how a society could look like if its core value is freedom. We referred to such a society simplistically as 'individualistic'. For the second type of society, the most important value is solidarity, and we referred to it as 'communitarian'. Finally, the third type of society is 'collectivist’ and its core principle is equality.
Each model has its strengths and also carries risks. None can be put in practice in their entirety, if only because this will not be generally accepted in a pluralistic society.
We did not introduce our own values or personal preferences into the three models. In each one, we can identify some aspects we actively encourage, those we can identify with only to some extent, and others that we consider to be problematic or absolutely unacceptable.
The single, yet fundamental, principle that we purposefully introduced in the Atlas and the entire campaign is to look at the education system from the perspective of children, through the lens of their needs and expectations.
Through this perspective, we sorted out the available facts, findings, and possible future scenarios. We did so precisely because the perspective of children is extrinsic to the Slovak education system. We do not have a suitable Slovak translation for the English-language term well-being. The best interest of the child is often replaced in our country by assumptions of adults who "know" what is good for children even without asking them. It is one of the reasons why education, social work, or youth work is often more reflective of the needs of institutions than the children in them.
In schools, this perspective is reflected in the blind application of the one-size-fits-all approach and the fictional concept of an "ordinary student" who manages everything according to the prescribed content, extent, time, pace, and quality. Our education system is not ready for the diversity of children and does not even offer sufficient support to those who must deal with it on a daily basis – the teachers and the parents.
In the Atlas, we formulated the three models of the future with a primary focus on children. The core value of each model views well-being from a different perspective. Freedom enables us to perceive the uniqueness of each child and his or her individual needs. Equality guarantees that every child is taken into consideration, regardless of their background, opportunities, and capabilities, and that all children have equal access to quality education. Solidarity is the value that helps cultivate good relations, promotes cooperation and mutual assistance that society could not exist without.
The Atlas is a tool for collaborative thinking about the future of education. Its purpose can be best fulfilled if it encourages discussion, raises arguments, and enriches the proposals for necessary change. Therefore, it links the known facts with the observed or predicted trends, possible challenges, and mapped expectations of people.
The Atlas does not offer ready-made solutions or recipes; it is rather a set of mind maps that allow us to think from perspectives different to our own.
Atlases are not books for a single reading. They show the topography of the land, with altitude being indicated by spot heights and contour lines, and the grid helps to determine the location. Atlases do not set a specific direction.
In our Atlas, the reference points are the different types of texts readers can choose from for themselves, deciding what to focus on and which direction to take.
Each model of the future can be read in one flow from its beginning to the end. However, it is also possible to focus only on selected parts and read horizontally to compare how different aspects are addressed in the other models of the future.
After reading about the models, one might revert back to the trends and challenges and consider how well different models respond to them. You can also skip to the research findings, and observe whether there is an inclination towards one of the models in how people in Slovakia live, what they think, and how they imagine their future.
In addition, one may reflect on the statements made by various people, both experts and laymen, and to observe whether their ideas match with or are opposed to a particular school of thought. Finally, inspiration can be found in the Good to Know parts, including the examples of practice in Slovakia and abroad.
Every place in the Atlas is therefore a kind of crossroads from which one can head in their own direction and at their own speed. During the process of discovery, one can leave the Atlas, delve into a deeper investigation of the documented sources, and then come back to the Atlas at any time.
Heated debates about the future of education are underway in many countries. People and policy makers in education have realized it is no longer enough to keep on fixing a system that was created for a different age and a different society.
We need to rethink education and set it up to suit the needs of people and the requirements of societies in the 21st century.
Major changes took place 25 years ago in Slovakia, but they did not bring about significant improvements in education. If we don’t continue to procrastinate in the next 25 years, we might be able to say that we have managed to make education more meaningful and useful by 2040. Therefore, today we need to vigorously debate and seek common ground on what educational system we actually want and how we can create it.
After two years of our campaign, we thank to all the children and adults who engaged in the discussions, workshops, and surveys. Also, thanks to them, we now know more about the future of education and can bring some of it to you in this Atlas.
|IMAGINE A FUTURE WITH FREEDOM AS A CORE VALUE||IMAGINE A FUTURE WITH SOLIDARITY AS A CORE VALUE||IMAGINE A FUTURE WITH EQUALITY AS A CORE VALUE|
People rely mostly on themselves and on their families. Individualism is a widely accepted social value. The success of individuals depends on their skills, hard work, and ambitions. Society achieves progress thanks to exceptional individuals and it is held together by solutions generated by the most competent and used by all.
Every child has the right to develop their unique potential. Free space needs to be created for children to fulfill their needs and interests. Education and care are the responsibility of parents and the core family. These are based on the held values so, naturally, methods of education differ across families. Since children come into the world when their parents are fully engaged in work, laissez-faire” parenting is somewhat encouraged. Children are led to independence and responsibility very early on in life. They learn to identify and promote their interests.
Early care is also in the hands of the extended family and private providers. The smallest children may be taken care of full time by economically inactive members of the family, whether they are mothers, fathers (or both), grandparents or great-grandparents. Affluent families hire professional agencies to provide early care. Kindergartens are used only by the poorest families and children are placed there only if at least one parent works. The government only pays for basic healthcare. Preventive examinations and vaccination are not obligatory, but are at the discretion of each family.
Learning is first and foremost a lifetime investment. Decisions about the scale and focus of education are made by individuals themselves. What is appreciated is originality and achievement, with as much encouragement as possible given to individual exploration and self-study. Every child has the opportunity to try different things and see what he or she is best at. Difficulties arise with those children whose families do not create an adequate learning environment. A child who is not ambitious enough and does not strive to achieve will face difficulties in adulthood.
In education, the government requires that only a common minimum standard is met – over the course of a few years. It is done primarily online, can be completed from home, and ends with a standard test of basic literacy and competencies. The remainder of primary education is carried out in the family or in the form of a contract between legal guardians and private providers. Management, organizations, and the control of education are matters for agreement between providers and clients. The quality of educational services increases thanks to competition and comparison through independent audits and rankings.
The central government only checks compliance with standards for the common core and their results. With further education, it only monitors whether contractual relations are respected between providers and clients. Education is a matter of supply and demand. There is a wide variety of commercial providers that customize education to the needs of their clients. Public institutions continue to educate only those individuals who cannot afford anything else. Brick-and-mortar schools common in 2015 have been replaced by digital classrooms for those who do not have other ways to access the necessary technology.
After the completion of compulsory foundations, the educational track of each individual becomes open. Support is given to creativity, inventiveness, and ingenuity. There is a network of private tutors, mentors, and HR agencies that help individuals to set optimal educational and career paths. Consideration is given to learners’ individual needs, preferred learning styles, social background, personal profile, and cultural and family particularities.
Individuals at a productive age begin to work for their own benefit. Professional training is seen as preparation for independent and flexible economic activity. Prior to entering the labor market, it is important to create a portfolio of the demanded knowledge and skills at any given time. For this reason, specialized studies take a variety of forms and are provided by a number of private secondary schools and higher education institutions, as well as commercial agencies offering career advice and coaching. Such educational institutions have only reporting obligations to the central government and licenses are required only in highly specialized industries. Tuition is paid directly by families, investors, or by clients through loans payable back at the beginning of economic activity. Educational infrastructures of national importance and support of strategic innovations are built through public-private partnerships.
Work is a tool of self-expression; value is ascribed to entrepreneurship and ferocity. Individuals become employed after they prove what they know and can do. In most professions, it is not sufficient to have a formal document about one’s qualification. School leaving examinations have turned into a presentation of individual portfolios and a practical demonstration of skills. Individuals build their portfolios and references throughout their life and demonstrate them whenever applying for a new position. Employees are selected through open competition. The basic models of economic operation are self-employment and start-up. Many individuals combine work for different employers. Individual, flexible, and self-managed forms of now work dominate as many people work from home and online.
Individual income is essential to making one’s own living and for achieving prosperity. Many businesses provide their employees with a variety of services, like healthcare, corporate pension saving schemes, and even pensions after their retirement. Low tax and social security collection is used to finance only the key functions of government, to support people with disabilities, and to ensure a minimal network of social welfare. The provision of social assistance is conditional upon continuing one’s education, raising qualifications, or performing a publicly beneficial activity. The basic condition for receiving assistance is to be active. Everyone is the master of their own destiny and assistance needs to be provided only to those not to blame for their unfavorable conditions and those who are trying to get out of them.
Good citizens stand on their own feet. Participation in elections is voluntary and issues of public interest reflect individual interests. Civil society is characterized by pluralism, open competition, and pragmatic links between the interests of individuals, private companies, and various advocacy groups. The government only regulates essential legislation, guarantees human rights, ensures safety, and enforces compliance with the set rules. Taxation is low and there is a flat rate for all. The effectiveness of public administration and the level of administrative burden imposed on citizens and companies are subject to systematic evaluation. Market mechanisms have been adopted to manage public affairs, with the central government performing as an efficiently managed company.
People primarily trust their individual abilities and their family; they do not generally trust institutions or attempts to widely regulate social and economic relationships with enforced rules. Socially-oriented schools of thought and initiatives have become a minority. Egalitarianism and reliance on the state are matters of the past. The society is liberal, and predominantly urban and secular. Young people usually rebel against taking responsibility for their own lives, the pressure to achieve, and living a life based on consumerism. There are plenty of alternative subcultures; almost every young person has their own virtual avatars. To be "in" means to be exceptional. To be "out" means to avoid competition.
People live in communities that provide support and opportunities for fulfillment. A household may be identical with the family or not. Households are the beneficiaries of community services and also receive partial support from the government. Society is moving forward thanks to the self-sufficiency of communities, and is bonded together through a search for balance among the interests of various communities.
Every child has the right to belong. Every child should be given a chance to find a way to make a difference in their own community. Education and care are a shared responsibility of the community into which children were born. Parenting is not an obstacle to both parents being at least partly economically active. Parents of small children often join forces and take turns in the provision of care. Early care is an important investment in the community because helping children develop from an early age contributes to communal sustainability. In larger communities, common kindergartens are created that care strongly about identifying educational needs and strengths of children. Basic healthcare is also provided, whereby the extent of preventive examinations and vaccination is recommended by the government, but is not binding for communities.
Learning is first and foremost about creating relationships and socializing within the community. It is based on the values embraced by the community where everyone is able to find their place. Value is ascribed to adaptability and specialization, group learning with people of different ages is encouraged. Both children and adults spend a lot of time together to communicate and collaborate. Children are led to practice solidarity and a willingness to help. Children who do not feel comfortable in their group or enjoy solitude face difficulties. A child who does not pay attention to others and does not care about their surroundings will experience issues in adulthood.
Compulsory education consists of several years of practical learning provided directly in communities, usually until early adolescence. The common core in education is based on a contract between the central government and the communities, and the communities are free to extend it according to local specificities. Education is meant to combine individual interests with the needs of the wider community. Therefore, participation is encouraged, and so are common problem solving and peer learning skills. Management, organization, and control of education are subject to agreement between the central government and representatives of the communities. The content and quality of education are monitored by regional school boards and the government guarantees that education complies with the applicable legislation and respects the rights of the child.
The common core in education is focused on developing basic literacy and life skills. Special emphasis is put on learners' flexibility and cooperation. Beyond compulsory education, communities provide a variety of practical courses. In many communities, the transition between primary education and specialized studies is smooth and its duration and content depend on local customs. In addition, there are various informal groups of students learning under the guidance of coaches and mentors, who strive for a common set of educational objectives and contents. In most communities, commercial online courses are also available. Brick-and-mortar schools from 2015 have been converted into multi-purpose community centers, which provide compulsory education along with a wide range of educational and social services for all age groups.
A person at a productive age works to benefit the wider community. Preparation for any profession is understood as obtaining qualifications in specific activities. Young people with the help of their mentors and supervisors perform a variety of activities to foster their self-awareness and identify their interests and qualities. Intergenerational learning is promoted. People use a variety of distance learning programs while some courses are funded by authorities for a number of neighboring communities. An education infrastructure of supra-regional significance is built by consortia of communities, regions, employers, and public agencies.
Work is a contribution to the community; appreciation is given to usefulness and mutual benefits. People become employed when they are able to actively engage in the economic and social life of their community. In most positions, a proof of qualification is not critical to start working. School graduation has changed into a symbolic act of entry into the world of work after the individual has demonstrated sufficient skills to perform specific activities. Job offers are based on community needs and preference is given to their own ranks when filling the positions. Many individuals flexibly combine work for their community with the provision of services to other communities and the state. The basic models of economic operation are shared businesses, social enterprises, and cooperatives. A large part of labor is carried out and managed by multigenerational teams.
Income from economic activity is not essential for the survival of individuals because a number of goods and services are produced and provided directly within the community. Many communities also have their own local currency.
Communities provide their members with housing, social, and health services. Community revenues are also used to finance social care after retirement. The level of taxation and social security depends on the size of the communities, their specialization, and the nature and quantity of goods and services they provide to the outside world. The government uses income tax to finance a portion of educational services and provide communities with material and investment assistance in the initial stage of their development or to overcome the consequences of economic crises. The premise for providing assistance is merit-based. Everyone can contribute and assistance should be provided to those who deserve it.
Good citizens are loyal members of their communities who are contributing to their development. Individuals are active politically and involved in civic life, particularly in their communities, where they vote and participate in referenda and assemblies. Civil society is characterized by a high representation of regional associations and local interest and business-based initiatives. The government is thoroughly decentralized and only regulates basic conditions for the operation of communities. At the same time, the government guarantees its citizens the freedom to choose their community. Taxation is low, and communities themselves regulate their revenues. The degree of economic self-sufficiency of communities is systematically monitored. Decision-making by local governments has prevailed in the management of public affairs; the central government only administrates national property and guarantees the protection of fundamental rights.
People trust in their communities and leaders above all; in general, they do not trust uprooted individuals or communities that try to impose their own standards and rules at a national level. Cosmopolitan and liberal schools of thought represent the minority. Centralism and individualism have been overcome; society is socially conservative, mostly rural, and pluralistic in its values. Young people usually rebel against making contributions to their community, participating in joint activities, and the obstacles they face to access services outside their community. Access to alternative cultures is mostly virtual – almost every young person belongs to some virtual community. To be "in" means to be useful. To be "out" means to avoid contributing.
People rely on developed institutions of the welfare state. Collective well-being is a widely accepted social value and is preferred to private interests. Society is moving forward thanks to the active participation of people and is bonded together by jointly planned and successfully accomplished goals.
Every child has the right to be taken care of. Children must be given equal opportunities to find their way to make a contribution to society. Early childhood education and care is a part of the extensive social system. Parenting is supported by the government that provides comprehensive, fully-funded services, and ensures the fulfillment of children's health, social, and educational needs. This allows parents to entrust their children into the hands of specialized institutions from an early age. Many children of diverse backgrounds grow up in peer groups and are taken care of by professional teams. The government determines the extent of preventive examinations and mandatory vaccination.
Learning is an obligation to the society. The scope and content of various educational paths are developed in great detail. Versatility and cooperation are valued; joint learning and project teamwork are encouraged. Children are led to learn socially preferred skills from an early age. Children who have exceptional talents or want to do something different to others face challenges. A child who is not able to fit into society will experience difficulties in adulthood.
Compulsory education is a longtime educational process that generally follows pre-set curricula. At the beginning, it focuses on the comprehensive development of personality and a mastery of basic literacy skills. Special emphasis is placed on voluntary activities and active citizenship. The preferred methods of learning are the transfer of knowledge and the development of social skills. A variety of practices is used to account for diverse needs and the uneven progress of children who learn in flexible groups.
The school is an important institution for education and socialization from an early age to adulthood. Mandatory school attendance has been extended to the age of 18. Primary education is provided based on a contractual relationship between educational institutions and the legal representatives of children. The management, organization, and control of education are exercised by the state. The quality of education increases due to expert supervision and standardized testing. The admission of individuals into mandatory specialized studies is based on centrally assessed tests, projections of labor market development, labor mobility, and the ability of graduates to find employment. Educational results are stored in a central registry. Brick-and-mortar schools from 2015 have been transformed into complex institutions and are usually residential.
The government subsidizes educational and change-of-qualification programs for adults as a part of the developed lifelong learning system. The government also decides on strategic investments in education and intelligent specialization of selected industrial sectors. It also supports civic education programs aimed at strengthening solidarity between various social groups and the people who need assistance. Private initiatives serve to complement the generally accessible educational standard, and their provision is regulated by the central government.
People at a productive age work to benefit the whole society. Preparation for a profession is understood as an integral part of compulsory education. Young people verify their abilities and chances for employment through skills audits and compulsory practical learning. Personal and career advice is provided from a young age. Economically active citizens may also take advantage of the state-funded vocational, post-secondary and change-of-qualification programs, internships, second-chance schooling, universities, and lifelong learning programs. Authorities strive to apply active measures to reduce educational disparities stemming from varied social backgrounds or the health condition of learners. The government also supports social and spatial mobility.
Work is a service to society; taking initiative, being engaged and showing solidarity is appreciated. One is employed after submitting a proof of qualification and choosing from the offered list of job vacancies. Thanks to standardized education, any certificate and proof of qualification is trustworthy evidence of competence to perform well in a particular profession. The government operates an information system, which links the current and projected needs of the labor market with the system of education and vocational training. Thanks to the registry, the public administration is able to fill available positions with new graduates and other economically active individuals. Many individuals work for various employers and in different teams. Work is flexible; it is both assigned and evaluated by teams. The basic models of economic operation are shared job positions, state-run enterprises, and public institutions.
Individual income consists of an unconditional basic income from the state, a salary from economic activity, and a civic premium for nonprofit activity. Social and health services are widely accessible and fully funded from social and health security payments. High taxation and social security payments are progressive and are used to balance out social disparities. This allows the government to provide comprehensive services to the whole population, create new jobs, actively support the mobility of the workforce, and provide services to the elderly. The social security net is intended for all people who find themselves in distress and assistance is granted unconditionally. Support must be provided to all those who need it.
Good citizens use their potential for the benefit and well-being of the whole collective. Individuals are active in day-to-day life and engage in democratic processes at local and national levels. Participation in elections is compulsory. Civil society is characterized by the diversity and high level of organization at the national level. Every branch of industry has its professional and union associations at both central and regional levels. The taxation is high, generally accepted, and translated into a wide variety of public services that are free of charge. These are systematically monitored and used to balance out social differences. The government does not guarantee solely security and adherence to human rights, but also ensures a dignified standard of living. It is perceived as a responsible parent that takes care of its children.
People trust public institutions and distrust commercial entities and groups advocating for narrow causes. Economically liberal and socially conservative schools of thought represent a minority. Individualism and the belief in a free market have been overcome. Society is social-liberal, predominantly urban, and secular. Young people usually rebel against the limited opportunities for study and the pressure to be engaged citizens. There are many opportunities for creative or sporting activities; almost every young person spends a lot of time doing them. To be "in" means to be able to conform. To be "out" means to avoid helping others.