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The future of education: What will it look like in 500 years?

It’s easy to imagine what the world might look like in ten or even fifty years time, but what will New Zealand’s biggest sectors look like in 500 years’ time? Thanks to our friends at Tech Futures Lab, we went out to some of New Zealand’s most inspiring business leaders and asked them to imagine a far, far away future. Here is what Claire Amos had to say about the future of education.


  1. Relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
    “we’ve become a major force of nature in this new Anthropocene epoch”.


  1. The current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
    “some geologists argue that the Anthropocene began with the Industrial Revolution”.

Aotearoa 2520. Humans have realised many things. The need to live in harmony with the planet. The need to live in harmony with technology. The need to live in harmony with each other. 

With the enviro-reckoning taking place at the close of the 21st century, the world in which people live has radically changed. Humans finally recognised that how we co-exist with the planet had to do things differently if we were to have a planet to live on at all. 2100 marked the beginning of what was to be recognised as ‘C age’ where humans attempted to actively undo the devastating impact they had on planet earth. This also marked the beginnings of global decolonisation, as humankind recognised the need to move from globalisation and controlling other countries to localisation and leaving others be. In Aotearoa, established values and ways of being in Te Ao Māori flourished. Economic growth was recognised as a damaging concept and linear economies soon became replaced by circular ones. With the rise of solar and anti-solar technologies, humans no longer relied on non-renewable resources to survive. 

Schools and universities ceased to exist in the 2100s. For a period, it was thought that the notion of bricks-and-mortar spaces for education would become a thing of the past as young people discovered, in being tethered to their devices they could indeed learn anytime, anywhere. However, it did not take long for humans to realise that with the dissolution of physical learning spaces, the loss of teachers and the rise of online schooling, this radically personalised learning led to isolated learning, which in turn compounded ongoing issues around generations of hyperconnected youths feeling increasing disconnected. From the 2200s onwards, social learning spaces were re-established in the form of community co-learning hubs. These co-learning hubs once again provided shared spaces to engage in learning, unlearning and relearning which humans engaged in throughout their lives, as and when they needed it. 

Over the next few hundred years, co-learning hubs became known as co-hubs which in turn became the heart of reconnected collaborative communities. Co-hubs were many things, not unlike marae of yesteryear: whakawhanaungatanga, manaakitanga and enabling a sense of belonging and connectedness.  They provided communal food labs, green spaces, makerspaces, activation spaces, museums, libraries, hospitals, wellbeing centres, co-working and co-learning spaces. They were spaces that celebrated the past whilst preparing humans for the future. Co-hubs provided education that was neither organised by age nor subject but was instead a place where humans came together to co-design learning experiences as and when they need to, dipping in and out throughout their lives. Concepts of linear schooling faded away, as did the concept of qualifications. Over the years, degrees were replaced by microcredentials, which were replaced by nanocredentials, which were in turn replaced by the picocredential until it was determined that these ever reducing credentials were a needless notion and that you could, in fact, simply learn.  

Concepts of knowledge and knowing changed radically over the centuries. As neural implants became normalised so to did the notion of ‘augmented memory’, with humans able to simply recall any facts or figures, calling upon knowledge as they would a memory. Augmented memory was soon combined with augmented vision, as smart retina implants meant virtual reality and external paraphernalia was a distant quaint memory. With information and immersive experiences so readily available the concept of learning and gaining experience changed irrevocably. The idea of rote-learning and recall was, of course, redundant and most hard skills could be mastered quickly.

Soft skills and developing empathy became the markers of success. Whilst most learning could be accessed independently through augmented memory, it was recognised that coming together to learn with  human mentors was also important to guide self and others through learning and life. Human mentors were supported by the now ubiquitous personal Soul Machines AI mentor which could be accessed via neural implants or pocket hologram, if that’s what you prefer. The three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) were redundant and instead education tended to focus on the three S’s – survival, sustainability and social action and the three C’s – community, compassion and care. 

In 2520, the concept of schooling, education and success has changed forever. It’s less about personal learning, personal excellence, gaining knowledge and qualifications and more about community learning, communal good, gaining empathy and developing the skills we collectively need to survive. 

About the writer

Claire is principal at Albany Senior High School in Auckland, New Zealand. She was also one of the three foundation deputy principals at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Claire was a founding member of the Education Council of Aotearoa and is a board member of NetSafeNZ and 21C Skills Lab.

About Tech Futures Lab

Are you looking to explore a digital or technical future for your career? The Master of Technological Futures at Tech Futures Lab immerses you in a world of new knowledge and insight, letting you explore how people and technology can solve what the world needs, and work on a venture, idea or project that excites you.

There are a few spots left for our January 2020 intake, find out more on our website or book a coffee and chat with the team.

One of the talented Idealog Team Content Producers made this post happen.

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