school of the future

What will a classroom in 2050 look like?

Imagine a school of the future that meets the challenges of the present. The impact of artificial intelligence on learning methods, the need for new digital and environmental skills, the promotion of education for sustainability, empathy and social inclusion. These are some of the ideas that emerged during the panel at the Torino International Book Fair – “Europe Day 2024. Imagining the school of the future: a day in the classroom in 2050. The role of the European Union and international organisations", – organised by the City of Torino together with the European Training Foundation (ETF) and the European Parliament Representation in Milan. 

We celebrated Europe Day by discussing the role of the European Union in the rapid changes taking place today. This is an objective that the ETF is addressing in its area of expertise, education and skill development, where many innovations and paradigm shifts will soon become a revolution. 

"The city of Torino has always been at the crossroads of cultures, ideas and innovation," said Daniela Silvi, Head of International Relations in the Mayor's Cabinet. "Europe Day reminds us that, despite our cultural and linguistic differences, we share common values and a common desire for progress. In this context, school is not only a place of learning, but also a bridge to the world."  

What better context, then, to co-imagine the future than the annual book fair in Turin, for "the ability of writers to imagine the world of tomorrow, the alternative futures that books open up to us", said Pilvi Torsti, ETF Director, opening the debate and quoting the director of the book fair in Helsinki, Ville Blåfield.

"Today it is useful to reflect together on how the way we learn is changing and how education and skills play and will continue to play an increasingly important role in the global era, which requires a 'glocal' approach," said Torsti. "The recently concluded European Year of Skills gave a clear signal of the importance the EU attaches to this area, highlighting that skills are the real currency of the 21st century," she concluded. 

The theme of the 2024 edition of the Torino International Book Fair is "Imaginary Life", which is why "we are gathered here today to imagine a school day in 2050, just 26 years from now. A shorter time than the advent of the internet, to be precise," added the event's moderator, Daria Santucci, ETF Communication Specialist, before reading extracts from a "Memo from the future" – the message of a vocational education assistant to her replacement in 2050, written by a professor from the fictional town of Skillsville to immerse participants in the theme of the event. 

"Before I start imagining, I would start with a question. What will be the experiences in the school of the future?" asked Alessia Messuti, Technology Enhanced Learning Cluster Lead at the ITCILO. "The approach must therefore be experiential, along three fundamental elements: people, learning spaces and technologies as a bridge between people and spaces. Bearing in mind that 'people need other people to learn', as the English saying goes. The role of the teacher of the future will therefore be that of a guide, a facilitator of the learning process. 

The future of education is inevitably linked to that of the labour market.

"Today, it is the school that adapts to the needs of the labour market, a view that I personally do not share, but which is prevalent today," said Giorgio Vernoni, researcher in labour economics at IRES Piemonte.   

In particular, the relationship between work itself and technologies has "almost always been accompanied by both dystopian and utopian visions, both of which are simultaneously true and false in reality," Vernoni continues. "In retrospect, however, the dystopia of the disappearance of work has always turned out to be false, even in recent years in relation to Industry 4.0," meaning that it is therefore important to take concrete steps towards change, "such as the recent Artificial Intelligence Act" adopted by the European Union. 

An adjustment that will inevitably have to be accompanied by the development of new skills, according to Francesca Rosso, ETF Human Capital Development Expert and Coordinator for Skills Demand Analysis.  

"The trend is to have about one million fewer workers per year in the EU single market. When it comes to skills, this is a key issue," said Rosso. "And while the skills mix will necessarily have to change and go beyond purely technical skills, some pillars will remain. For example, one of our studies in Egypt shows that having tertiary education means having 13 times more opportunities than those with only secondary education." 

What will certainly change is the affirmation of a perspective that guides "learning within learning": proactivity and curiosity will be the basis of education and work in the future.  

The final words of the event took the form of a letter written by Maurizio Molinari, Head of the European Parliament Office in Milan, to the students of 2050.

"As you know, the school of 2024 – the year from which I am writing to you – is much more like that of the 1920s than that of 2050," Molinari's letter read. "It is wonderful to see the way you learn today compared to the notional system we are used to. To see you studying one week in Italy, the next in Finland, another in Portugal, and then during the year visiting all the Member States of the European Union is exciting, as is simulating what it is like to be a Member of the European Parliament or a European Commissioner. What is normal for you was not normal for us 26 years ago.” 

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