The Flemish Minister of Education wanted to develop a new guiding vision and corresponding concepts for education. A strong and attractive image for the future that would also offer solutions to current problems. And that could serve as a North star: setting the course for shaping concrete improvements and innovations in the entire field of education.
The benchmark was set for 2030. And the central question was: what future do we see for education in our society if we look that far ahead?
The project, which started in 2012, had four phases: analysis, design, participation and dissemination. We supported the first three phases.
During the analysis phase a scientific essay on the future of Flemish education was written with nationally renowned professor Joseph Kessels. This paper served as a starting point for over 40 in-depth interviews on education with 'thinkers' in society: artists, journalists, politicians, business leaders, religious leaders... In addition, focus groups were held with teachers, parents and pupils. A report with the outcome of this phase was presented to the minister.
For the design phase we organized a five-day Design Lab. We asked a diverse and international team of twelve people to work out prototypes for the school as an attractive learning and working environment, based on the input from the analysis phase. The working methods were a mixture of the Helsinki Design Lab with 'rapid prototyping' and Appreciatve Inquiry. The team gave their prototypes an overarching title: 'What if schools become a learning park (as an attractive and effective alternative for the post-industrial way our schools now mainly are organized)'.
The design week lead to inspiring concepts. On this basis, we designed and supervised a participatory congress for over 300 stakeholders representing the entire field of education. Here, the prototypes were enriched and strengthened.
The proceedings were bundled in a document that was submitted to the Minister of Education and the official participative organisations. It served as input for a conference and various memoranda and is still used internationally today as future concepts for educational innovation.
A substantive vision on education was not the only result of this process. In many ways, the project had demonstrated the value of a broad social dialogue about the place and future of education in a society for those involved. Various initiatives were taken to continue this dialogue. One of these is an online platform where concrete stories of innovation in education are collected and shared (www.veranderwijs.nu.). An initiative which we also helped realise. To this very day, many stories and ideas are exchanged on this platform, driving innovation in Flemish and Dutch schools.