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Thoughts on the future

This collection of work explores the future of education in an AI world. What skills will students need to thrive in the 21st century?

Image of four academics and authors
Leading authors and academics have considered what students will need in the future. Pictured (clockwise from top left): Marc Tucker, Richard Watson, Rose Luckin, Toby Walsh.

Occasional paper series

This series brings together essays commissioned by the department from distinguished Australian and international authors to stimulate debate and discussion about artificial intelligence (AI), education and 21st century skill needs.

The views expressed in these essays are solely those of the authors.

The AI Revolution

Toby Walsh is a leading researcher and Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Data61, University of New South Wales, and was named as one of the Knowledge Nation 100 "rock stars" of Australia's digital revolution in 2015.

This paper outlines the rapid advances in AI and robotics, the societal and political challenges that arise from them and the historical lessons to be understood. It includes reflections on how education can be a powerful tool to enable us to adapt to the changes just over the horizon.

Educating for a Digital Future – The Challenge

Marc Tucker is President of the US-based National Centre on Education and the Economy and Visiting Distinguished Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The Challenge describes how AI, automation, robotics, natural language processing and related disciplines are evolving and the significant consequences for work, jobs and the distribution of income.

Educating for a Digital Future – Notes on the Curriculum

This second paper from Marc Tucker follows The Challenge with an exploration of the implications for what young people will need to know and be able to do to cope with this world, and the challenges that this presents to education systems worldwide.

On Education in the 21st Century

UK futurist Richard Watson is the author of Digital vs Human and Future Files. This broad ranging essay reflects on the purpose and value of education in a rapidly changing world where young people are facing accelerating technological change.

On Critical Thinking and Collaborative Inquiry

Peter Ellerton is a lecturer in critical thinking at the University of Queensland and is the founding director of the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project. This paper explores the importance of critical thinking - what it is, why young people need it as part of their 21st century skill-set, and how education can support its development.

Transforming School Education for the Smart Machine Age

Edward D. Hess is Professor of Business Administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. This paper considers business management research into adaptive organisations and its potential application to education systems

A Look at Complex Problem Solving in the 21st Century

Thiemo Kunze is a doctoral student, Dr. Matthias Stadler is a postdoctoral researcher and Prof. Samuel Greiff is head of Computer-Based Assessment research group at the University of Luxembourg. This paper examines the concept and assessment of complex problem solving skills.


Speeches related to the Education for a Changing World project.

Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's World

Delivered on 29 June 2017 to the Trans Tasman Business Circle by Mark Scott, Secretary, NSW Department of Education:


What will life look like in the future? What jobs will people have? What could robots do? Our students share their thoughts

What will schools look like in 20 years time? Would there be holographic tables? Virtual reality? Robotic assistants? See what our students think

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