OECD Education 2030 Workgroup Recap: Foresight as a 21st Century Skill

I’ve spent the last two years focused mostly on Teach the Future’s “bottom-up” activities, directly addressing educators who want to teach the future. We’ve assembled our Library of teaching materials for foresight educators, offering activities, lessons, units and whole courses which teachers can use freely. We’ve worked with students across the country, facilitating workshops that introduce them to futures thinking.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work at our mission from the "top down.” We’ve consulted with the Policy and Planning Unit at UNICEF, which is creating a soon-to-be-released toolkit for their country offices to engage adolescents in foresight.  I also contributed to an OECD project called Education2030, whose objective is to compile a research base for competencies that students will need to be successful in the future, commonly referred to as ‘21st Century Skills.’ I was one of 14 experts to begin the process of compiling the OECD list. Because as a futurist, I believe we need to look to the past before we can look to the future, I consulted as many other lists of 21st Century Skills as I could find. Much to my dismay, after having spent a career in foresight education, I found that foresight did not appear even once on any of the existing lists.

After making the case that we must teach the future explicitly in order to prepare young people for the future, foresight did appear on the list of cognitive competencies discussed at the 2nd Informal Working Group meeting for Education2030 held in Japan in December 2015. Having put it on the list, the Education2030 staff then asked me to elaborate on what foresight is for the final report. I also appeared at the 4th Informal Working Group meeting in Beijing in November 2016 to give a brief presentation on foresight and discuss its implications in breakout sessions with the participants.

The OECD is still working on their report so it is not available yet.  But when it is, we trust that it will give educators a rationale to approach their curriculum developers to include foresight among the competencies and learning objectives for their schools.