Children going to school now, will likely be retiring sometime around the year 2075 (if the concept of retirement still exists).    As Ken Robinson points out, the world is changing so fast that we have a hard time predicting what it will look like in 7 years, let alone 70 years.  All of this makes adequately preparing our children, current workers, and future workers a challenge.  With this challenge, with this change, comes great opportunity.

If you are interested in what the future of education looks like, and the impact that it may have on your business,  family, and our society, then you may be interested in following, and possibly even contributing to our Future of Education research initiative.

– Articles delivered as part of this series include the following. (Click on image to access.) –

I. Initiative Overview
II. Conceptual Frameworks
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III. Intent
IV. Current Landscape
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V. Future Trends
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VI.  Other Curated References



VII.  Closing Post


– – –

Initiative Overview


Specifically, we seek to explore the following questions:

  1. What is the intent of the education ‘system(s)’?  Past?  Future? 
  2. What is the current landscape? 
  3. What are the future trends?
  4. How does the above vary by geography?
  5. What does this mean for each of us? 
  6. What does this mean for SAP’s customers?
  7. What does this mean for SAP (from both an enabler and an operational perspective)?

Our focal point is 10 years in the future, although we expect to uncover opportunities from which we can all benefit today.

Our initiative will result in a series of articles in which we publish our perspectives about the above questions in SCN, Forbes, and other relevant communities[1], and result in a ‘curated set’ of reference materials[2].  A link to each new article that we write will be added as tiles to this blog.  We’ve published over a dozen articles to date.

We’ll attempt to take a global perspective, but we’ll unavoidably speak from the point of view of the geographies that we know best.   We already have contributors from the US, Canada, France, Germany, China, India, and are in the process of recruiting contributors from Africa and Brazil.

For the first half of this project, at a minimum, we will not focus on one age segment (elementary, secondary, higher, professional, post-professional, etc), but will look at the elements, patterns, and trends in education that transcend, or have meaning for, all age groups (primary through lifelong).    This initial broad pattern recognition will hopefully yield the best insights.


Educational researchers, academics, futurists and reformers are legion.  What value do we seek to provide above and beyond the body of work that they are producing?’   We seek  to learn, curate, synthesize, provide insights, share, and provoke a dialog, around each of the general questions above.   We expect to provide unique value in response to the questions ‘What does this mean for SAP’s customers?’ and ‘What does this mean for SAP as an enabler?’.    This initiative is a journey of discovery and insight that will hopefully influence product SAP’s road maps and will eventually result in code.


The future of education is clearly relevant for SAP’s customers, partners, and employees.    Contributors in, and consumers of, this initiative are passionate about the topic, and are coming together to learn, provoke thought, facilitate progress, and ultimately have product impact.   SAP internal stakeholders on the product side are as diverse as SAP Education, Success Factors Social Learning, the Education and Public Sector industry business solutions units, the Technology | Innovation | Platform group, University Relations, and SAP Community Networks.   On the operations side at SAP, there is relevance for stakeholders as diverse as HR, Recruiting, Employee Development, and each individual employee (largely based on the premise that employees ultimately need to be responsible for their own lifelong learning).  External contributors include teachers, parents, academics,  reformers, and NGOs.


  1. Once we reach critical mass, we will organize our articles into an ebook, and produce other relevant artifacts (radio panel, live event, and perhaps video).
  2. Our process of gathering and digesting material in various forms, and sharing insights will continue throughout the run of this initiative during 2012.   The materials that we gather include books, articles, videos, research papers, and dialogues with leading educators and researchers.  We’re already sharing noteworthy materials that we collect using   As you look through the articles that we’ve gathered, be sure to look beyond the basic content, and deeper into the implications and patterns.   For example, the articles about Code Academy and the game Code Hero were not included, because they are ways that one can learn java script.  We included them, because they are representative of new ways that people seek knowledge and deliver content (process).  The success of Code Academy, Coursera, and Khan Academy are proof that the ‘marketplace’ of students is hungry for access, control, and knowledge.  The TED Talk about introverts wasn’t necessarily included, because we’re introverts.  It was included, because it has implications for design of schools, and other learning and creative environments.     At you’ll find articles, insights, and evidence from others organized with tags such as  content (development, discovery, standards, artifacts), curriculum (standards, management, other), delivery (learning networks, physical system design, virtual system design), assessment, certification, audit, intent, gamification, infrastructure, policy, learning styles, teaching paradigms, etc.   There are also a number of book recommendations that we’ve posted well in time for your summer vacation reading.   Expect more.  Two books that I encourage you to start with are Disrupting Class by Christensen, Horn, and Curtis and Stop Stealing Dreams by Godin
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  1. Sebastian Wieczorek

    This is a massive statement of intent – and I don’t just mean the pure size of this post 😉

    I did not quite get, why you would care about challenges of 75 y.o. people. I guess that any child education system tries to prepare kids for their first career step, effectively looking at challenges 10 years ahead, while for adult education the timespan usually is much smaller.

    My theory is that education is mainly driven by the demand of employers. In Germany for example some industries are currently starting a campaign for including grades for diligence and mannor in students certificates and they are taken very serious. Kids (actually their parents) want to get what it takes to successfully attract employers.

    1. John Mayerhofer Post author

      The posts might even get longer 🙂

      To clarify:   We’re looking at the nature of the system 10 years out:  intent, content, curriculum, process, assessment, certification, tools, technology, players, etc.;   Like I said, 10 years out is a long time, and will be hard enough to predict.

      I think the statement of intent is not so massive.   We’re just writing a series of informed blog posts designed to address a set of (mostly) pre-defined questions, and will also collaborate with those who can use any insights we bring (produced by ourselves and others) to influence ‘product direction’ or operational best practices.

    2. Mark Finnern

      Sebastian Wieczorek wrote:

      My theory is that education is mainly driven by the demand of employers. In Germany for example some industries are currently starting a campaign for including grades for diligence and mannor in students certificates and they are taken very serious. Kids (actually their parents) want to get what it takes to successfully attract employers.


      I predict that there will be fewer and fewer jobs that traditional employers will be able to offer.

      The future belongs to the ones that are thriving on massive change and able to adapt and create their own niche to put food on the table of their families. It will be more like a cottage industrie.

    3. Susan Martin

      Thanks John – a very interesting subject indeed! And yes I do absolutely think that the education culture we experience in our childhood and youth is hugely important and I did some research a few years ago on exactly that correlation and compared the impact of various education system models in different European countries and the adoption of life long learning, testing etc. Believe me – it pans out.

      But is education in Germany really driven by the needs of industry or the skills market going forward Sebastian ? I know we can all name sporadic initiatives that aim towards this goal but on the whole my years as a highly involved parent on tons of committees, etc. have served to repeatedly highlight some huge alignment gaps between secondary education and the needs of an adult working life. To Sunil’s very valid point around the parent’s responsibility I also feel that this is not necessarily always the responsibility of the schools. Often in such discussions it is apparent that the schools are under pressure from parents who vehemently oppose some of the initiatives as they are perceived as additional pressure ” to perform” for their children. But on the other hand I had to smile when I broached the subject of using more technology ( online learning, online practice tests, language labs,etc.) in one of my sons’ schools ( a Gymnasium) a couple of years ago and got the raised eyberow response from one of the teachers ” You do realize that many of us are challenged with using the photocopier don’t you?”. I think this hits the crux of a lot of the issues 🙂

  2. Sunil Aghi

    This is a very broad topic, interesting to see a post on education. As a parent of school children, the real education happens 24×7, with the children observing the environment and consuming what is available, within the guidance of parents and the education system. As a busy consultant, just a few hours of guidance to a receptive student (child) proved valuable, but I certainly could not do the same in all topics myself.

    1. John Mayerhofer Post author

      I agree with you, this could potentially be a very broad topic indeed.  Potentially very political as well.  Given the potential scope is so broad, I felt the need to define the limited scope for our initiative in the above post.  (Write a series of informed blog posts designed to address a set of (mostly) pre-defined questions, and  collaborate with those who can use any insights we bring (produced by ourselves and others) to influence ‘product direction’ or operational best practices at SAP.)

      I think your insight that real education happens 24×7 is something that we need to adequately capture / fully consider.  (It’s a reality and  a frame condition to consider when looking at the design of any educational system, and the role that any one party plays.)

  3. Anne Hardy

    Just read a Whole New Mind from Daniel Pink. I love his perspective about the skills we and our children will need to develop in order to be successful: Story, Relationships, Empathy, Play, Symphony, Design. Such skills are so far from our general education system, although it seems that some schools/universities have made steps in the right direction. It would be interesting to also look at the different cultures around the world. I love the topic!

  4. Susan Martin

    At the risk of opening up a wasp’s nest 🙂 there was some very interesting  – and I find highly encouraging – research done a few years ago with children in Indian slums. In a nutshell it shows that if children understand the value of learning, have access to content, have the possibility to collaborate with peers, they don’t necessarily need teachers and schools are not the only privileged sites of learning. For anyone interested in reading more about the so called “hole in the wall” project which gave PC and Internet access to slum children who had little or no classical education it’s interesting reading and poses more questions than it probably answers 🙂


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