Radical imagination for a new social contract for education

Shandell Houlden, George Veletsianos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In UNESCO’s 2021 report, Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education, futures emerge as a key orientation for establishing not just improved educational systems but for creating liberatory worlds for everyone. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, social and economic instability, and the climate crisis, the future of education, especially higher education, has become highly uncertain. Dominated by “elite futurism”, education futures are often dictated by powerful institutions, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations, failing to account for the diverse perspectives and needs of communities. This lack of inclusivity perpetuates conditions of uncertainty and instability worldwide. To address these challenges and foster education futures that prioritize justice and liberation, this article explores the role of radical imagination. While conventional imagination is constrained by discursive enclosures and powerful affective economies, hindering transformative and diverse visions of the future, radical imagination challenges the status quo, seeking to address the root problems of societal norms and ideologies. This article emphasizes the importance of collective processes in radical imagination, promoting inclusivity and diverse perspectives. Importantly, this work isn’t simply for students, but must include researchers, educators, and policymakers, challenging their complicity in systems of oppression and divesting from harmful structures. By incorporating “depth pedagogies” that prioritize caring relationships with the natural world and contextual understanding of histories of oppression, education can empower learners to envision and act on alternative futures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) under exclusive licence to UNESCO International Bureau of Education 2024.


  • Depth pedagogy
  • Education futures
  • Elite futurism
  • Radical imagination


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