To me the future focus principle has two meanings, and the first one is learning for the future - which I think is a way that most people would interpret it, but I think also what’s really important is that it’s learning about the future. We don’t think about what the future might be like, that the future is a place that we’re all going to but we’re also a part of developing what the future might look like. So although it mentions those four elements of sustainability, globalisation, citizenship, and enterprise it says “such as” so it doesn’t only mean those four areas. So I think there’s time to explore more deeply the meaning of that and what other areas might be incorporated within that principle.
I think the future focus principle means that you take whatever topic of study that you’re doing and think how it could be used in future scenarios. So looking realistically at where we are today, projecting where we may be in say 20 years time or how far in the future we want to be, realistically, and actually use that to determine whether we want to be there. So the kids can really use that in every aspect of their thinking.
It’s easy to have a superficial overview of the meaning of those areas of future focus. And I think that’s something that’s happened with the whole curriculum. We’ve had to come on board with the whole new curriculum and we’ve looked at it at a surface level and now we’re ready to dig deeper and find out what that really looks like. So to me there are two elements here - there is looking at it from the point of view of the administration, because it does say that the principles underpin all the decisions that are made in schools. So when people are making decisions they should be considering that future focus and how it impacts on what’s going to happen in that school in the future. But it also should underpin curriculum in the classroom and it’s very exciting when you start exploring the future with the kids. I think it’s a great motivator and it’s really authentic and makes the kids really buzz when you hit the nail on the head with the future focus. So it’s going beyond saying “oh it’s alright, we do sustainability because we do environmental ed.” That’s part of sustainability but there’s a much bigger picture than that. So I think that we need to all be looking at, in depth, what does this look like? And how can we actually incorporate futures learning and futures thinking into almost everything that we’re doing in the classroom?
I think one of the problems with learning about the future is that people tend to think that it’s tied up with predictions and that, but we can predict trends and that’s what’s really important because when we look at the way something’s happening now we can say in the future these are the trends that might happen in this particular area. And a strategy that I’ve used actually is developed by the kids in my class when I was teaching year eights and we called it the theory of multiple futures. And the thing was, we were actually at the time studying rainforests and we had done all this work around rainforests and we’d looked at what it’s like in the past. I see it as being like a rope and the rope is already woven in the past and we can’t change that - there’s a knot in the rope and that’s what’s happening now - and then the different strands of the rope that haven’t yet been woven in the future are all the possible futures for that particular area of study. So what we did with the rainforest was they came up with - based on all this research that we’ve done and the observation - what are the possible futures for the rainforests. And they wrote a list of those and then they categorised them in several ways, they looked at, ranked them several ways, and they said, “so what is the most likely ranking of those futures and which ones would be the best?” Then they looked at their two lists and saw that in order to have the best outcomes, rather than the likely outcomes, certain actions had to take place.
We’ve got to consider the past to consider the future and vice versa. And we learn from our mistakes. If we can look towards and think of potential mistakes that we might make and potential situations (that we’ll become) that we will be in before we come to them, then we can overcome them much more easily and much more effectively, and we can deal with them better.