The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 threw the world into an unexpected turmoil; schools were closed, exams cancelled, and educational systems were forced to react to deep and unexpected changes. In educational policy, however, the idea that we should prepare for an unknown, uncontrollable and risky future has been widely accepted long before the outbreak. Building on insights from complexity theory and the study of dynamic systems, the article critically examines how the standard educational response to future unpredictability, which focuses on enhancing adaptability, fares in a time of crisis. It is argued that the emphasis on adaptability in response to a world that is increasingly becoming volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous is often uncritically embraced in educational policy. We suggest that furthering adaptability through education could be suited for tackling everyday uncertainty, yet is an ill-suited response to crisis situations because it hinders transformative change. The article also points to some additional difficulties with striving to further adaptability. Instead, it is argued that developing a vision might prove to be instrumental in guiding an adequate educational response. It is acknowledged that relying on a vision might raise some difficulties, but it is maintained that these can be, at least partially, avoided.
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We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of this article for their comments that helped us improve the article and make it clearer.
© 2021 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.
- COVID 19
- Complexity theory
- educational policy
- educational theory