Scenarios for the future. What would education look like in 2025?

Earlier this year Goodison Group in Scotland and Scotland’s Futures Forum published a report “By 2025, Scotland will be regarded as a world-leading learning nation: Scenarios for the future”. The report is based on the evidence the authors collected through desk research, seminars, discussions, workshops and talks. The results show four possible scenarios of what our education system will look like in 2025.


Each of the above shows an extreme version of what could be our education system if we focus on a certain aspect of it. All scenarios show what the society looks like and how this affects the education – and how the education affects the society. Positives and negatives can be found in all possible futures… and the question remains –  what is the learning society Scotland is aiming for?

In each version of 2025 we can find a discussion on what schools, colleges and universities look like and how they respond to their learning societies. Looking at the report closer, we can also see where MOOCs fit in the picture.

Market-Driven Learning Society

Education is largely employer focused, universities have become private organisations responsible to shareholders, the focus is on transferrable skills and training in this is given from early education to University. The college sector has become redundant, no national strategy for vocational education which has led to it being operated by employers. There is no support for adult learners – part-time or full-time. Universities have become globally competitive and their reputation is built by the quality of the distance learning courses.

So – how would MOOCs look in a world like this? This is the only scenario that actually mentions MOOCs. In 2025 MOOCs are used as a marketing tool, allowing students to get a feel of what a course looks like before they enrol. However, in a society like this one, MOOCs can allow Scotland to restore its Access to HE agenda and provide people who would otherwise be unable to go to University continue to acquire knowledge in an area. If by 2025 MOOCs offered qualifications as well, they would have become a very big competition to the private Universities. However… would MOOCs remain free and how would the qualifications they offer compete in the market?

Local Learning Society

The focus is on equality and social justice. Lifelong learning and support for people who want to be in education are available to all. Scotland is not focused on what the rest of the world are doing, and is concerned only with how the education system serves the local community. Access to education is widely available with many links to Higher Education through colleges and learning hubs opened. Employers are supportive of lifelong learning initiatives and encourage employees to participate in such.

MOOCs are not mentioned in this scenario. In this possible future, student mobility and global awareness are not considered to be important. With so many opportunities for lifelong learning, perhaps MOOCs are not a necessity, although they could strengthen the initiatives and allow another way for the society to continuously develop. What MOOCs also bring is a huge international community – which might allow Scotland to open up slightly to the rest of the world as well.

Global Learning Society

In this extreme, the government is building the learning society. There is a big focus on research and lifelong learning is looked on as a way to boosting economy growth. Funding has been continuously targeted towards early years education and deprived areas, the college sector has close relationships with schools and HE and entrepreneurship is fostered. Scotland is recognised internationally for its education values.

In this society, concerns are being raised for social isolation because of the wider use of technology to deliver education. Although MOOCs are not mentioned at all in the scenario, they could also be one of the factors that has contributed to this. However, it is also possible that as Scotland has become internationally recognised for its provision, Scottish Universities can be also leading in their provision of Massive Open Online Courses and thus maintain and increase their profile, foster exchange and contribute to the global economy.

Divided Learning Society

This is the most gloom of all the proposed futures. In this society, there is a huge social divide and this has been accepted by both communities. There is a significant inequality existing in educational aspirations and opportunities between the rich and the poor. Support is offered locally, rather than nationally and there is a huge increase of health and mental issues in deprived areas. Education is often not an aspiration within the deprived communities.

As in the previous scenarios, MOOCs have the potential to help the society through an increased education provision. However, the unavailability of resources in deprived communities is a huge issue and the ones that would need this provision the most will not be able to take advantage of it.

Which of these futures do you think we are going towards? You can read about each one in more detail through the link provided at the top of this post.


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