E, L. (2022) The Why, What, and How of Future Education Governance: A Review of Literature in FuturEducation Course

Author: Liyuan E, PhD researcher, Doctoral Programme in Cognition, Learning, Instruction and Communication, University of Helsinki.

The Why, What, and How of Future Education Governance: A Review of Literature in FuturEducation Course


To organize the seven studies that were recommended in future education course, this study examined and synthesized the why, what, and how of future education governance, resulting in four overarching categories: 1) contexts of research, 2) key concepts in future education governance, 3) research design (methods), and 4) results related to future education governance. Key findings include that future education governance was provoked by “crisis” issues in education, education governance and education research with companied by new concepts in future education (e.g., learning and teaching). In addition, varying research design was applied to different studies, although most of researcher prefer to use qualitative method. Finally, there are different influences and cautions of future education governance which should be emphasized by educators. However, the research in future education governance is still in a beginning phase, and therefore more research are needed to explore it. Additionally, future studies are recommended to conduct a systematic literature review on future education governance, use quantitative method (e.g., survey) and deeply examine the education philosophy questions concerning research educational value and purpose.


 Education currently faces multiple pressures to meet the new demands (Collins & Halverson, 2018; Plank, 2006). Across the globe, many countries embraced new actors and strategies to education governance for better education (Anderson & Donchik, 2016; Pons, 2017). Some researchers conceptualized these new changes in education future education governance and suggested precision education governance to combine different lines of changing governance of education, including global, national and local education assemblages, digitalization and marketisation in education, and behavioral and life sciences in education (Mertanen, Vainio, & Brunila, 2021). The rapid growth of future education governance suggests the need for educators to systematically understand the context, concepts, methods and results about future education governance in the present and what the continued rapid growth of future education governance might mean in the future.

As a consequence, future education governance has the potential to understand new value and knowledge of education and help educational researchers to consider education research and prepare them to conduct research in the context of future education governance. Although more researchers start focusing on future education governance, it still lacks a review study of the main themes of future education governance. Accordingly, this study began reviewing recommended studies in future education course to take the initial step concerning this area. The following questions guided the literature review:

  1. Why have researchers investigated future education governance?
  2. What are the key concepts in future education governance?
  3. How have researchers investigated future education governance?
  4. What are the findings on future education governance?


 In order to review literatures systematically, Cooper (2010) has addressed a seven-step of research synthesis aimed to integrates past research and develop conclusions. I used four steps in this study: 1) formulating the problem, 2) gathering information from studies, 3) interpreting the evidence, and 4) presenting the results.

My review included a total of 7 articles that recommended to read in FuturEducation course. I analyzed each of these articles by using the following dimensions: 1) contexts of research, 2) key concepts in future education governance, 3) research design (methods), and 4) results related to future education governance.


 The Appendix A is a descriptive chart of findings from the 7 articles reviewed, organized by the aforementioned dimensions. In the following sections, I present the review findings. The first section is the research context, mainly answered the question “why have researchers investigated future education governance”. After that, the multiple key concepts in future education governance were reviewed, which means how researchers define and use these terms in articles. Next, I turn to the question of the methods in which researchers examine future education governance in studies. Finally, the results related to future education governance were analyzed.

Why have researchers investigated future education governance?

Across the studied reviewed, I noted that researchers recognized the crisis at different levels (e.g., education governance, education, and education research).

The largest number of studies (N = 4) identified the new roles in education governance, including global organizations (global actors), eduprenuers (commercial actors), data infrastructures (digital actors), and references (scientific actors) (Gulson & Sellar, 2019; Mertanen, Vainio, & Brunila, 2021; Ideland, Jobér, & Axelsson, 2021; Steiner-Khamsi, 2021). Specifically, education governance shift from strong state toward multi-actor network (Gulson & Sellar, 2019). Take Sweden as an example, Swedish education system proceed to a strong connection among school, industry and the development of “enterprising spirit” (Ideland, Jobér, & Axelsson, 2021). Also, Australian has integrated datafication in policy analysis to open new possibilities to education studies (Sellar & Gulson, 2021).

In addition, two studies argued “education in crisis” discourse require changing education and embracing new actors in education governance to meet new challenges and demands as well as solving the problems (Ideland, Jobér, & Axelsson, 2021; Mertanen, Vainio, & Brunila, 2021). For example, Mertanen et al. (2021) suggested that some organizations like OECD emphasize the outdatedness of education and transform it to a new one which can realize everyone’s potential. The same “critique” can also be found in educational research. Youdell et al. (2020) found that the definitions and elements of learning are partial and fragmented across different sub-fields of education. In other words, researcher in varied sub-fields (e.g., curriculum, educational psychology, and education sociology and policy sociology) focus on different aspects and questions of learning (ibid.).

What are the key concepts in future education governance?

Researchers has introduced varied key concepts in future education governance, which consist of the definition of education, learning, competent teachers, and ideal learning subjectivity.

In the review, the most important concept is learning, researchers shared the view about a call for new understanding of learning. Scholars captured learning as a process. Youdell et al. (2020) conceptualized learning as a phenomenon that is multi-faceted and in-process. Also, learning is translated into measurable processes to make measurable changes of outcome in one’s brain (Mertanen et al., 2021). Surprisingly, machine learning, a distinctive form of knowing which reasons through and with uncertainty, was introduced to think new possibilities (Sellar & Gulson, 2021). In this way of learning, learning subjects are produced to look for continually increase their values and become a sum of measurable values that can be controlled, improved, calculated and predicted (ibid.).

The concept of education was not explicitly defined in all these studies, but the picture of future education can be painted by readers who may have different understanding, like measurable, effective, visible, individualized, behavioral, qualified, emotional, digital and predictable. One study provided a clear definition for precision education. Precision education can be defined as an effort to collect, integrate and analyze several sources of data, using methods of big data analysis and machine learning, to develop insights on education, teaching and learning tailoring to individual (Mertanen et al., 2021). This kind of education demand high qualified teachers who are able to achieve outstanding results with all pupils, to plan for cohesion and understanding, to lead learning persistently, to conduct visible learning, to give every pupil a voice, to build a classroom environment for hard work, and to cherish all pupils’ rights toward good education (Ideland, Jobér, & Axelsson, 2021).

Furthermore, the concept of governance itself actually reflect the new forms of government in education. For example, Gulson & Sellar (2019) suggested governance refers to the transformation from hierarchical and centralized model of government to distributed and multi-actor mode of government which has a co-ordinating function. In terms of precision education governance (PEG), it refers to the arrangement of governance in education policy and policy implementation and the rationalities, discourses and values operating within them (Mertanen, Vainio, & Brunila, 2021). Therefore, PEG represent the emerging dynamic between education policy, education practices, education knowledge, education agency and the choices of citizenship definition and exploration in education management (Mertanen et al., 2021).

How have researchers investigated future education governance?

Researchers used different research designs in these studies that are in this review. The most common research design across the studies was qualitative techniques. Some studies specified a variety of qualitative methods including ethnography, netnography, and case study. For example, (Ideland, Jobér, & Axelsson, 2021) used netnography to examine how a growing role of eduprenuers provide solutions for school crisis and how these edupreneurial actors be taken for granted in public education system.

One study used quantitative technique naming bibliometric network analysis, while one study used mixed method design which combine education, neuroscience and biology. As an example of mixed study, Youdell et al. (2020) used ethnography, wireless electroencephalography (brain oscillations) and mobile mass spectrometry (biochemical processes) to investigate how knowledge being created in bioscience may be integrated into sociology of education, they looked for new ways of researching educational issues. They noted that the transdisciplinary research has its potentialities to generate new knowledge by transdisciplinary collaborations.

What are the findings on future education governance?


In our review, scholars noted specific influences that occurred from these future education governance lines. Although different across studies, understanding how the initiatives of future education governance would make impacts on current and future education is very critical in advancing research and practices within this topic. The following themes were found across future education governance related studies.

The first theme concerns the core of education including the meanings in terms of learning, teaching, governing and infrastructure as well as the ways we perceive what it means to educate/ to be a teacher or a student (Ideland, Jobér, & Axelsson, 2021; Mertanen, Vainio, & Brunila, 2021). For example, it has been suggested that when look at education as a business opportunity, students and teachers are regarded as resources (Mertanen et al., 2021). This means the value and purpose of education being future profits rather than cultivating democratic citizens (ibid.).

The second theme is the changing role and power of state in education governing. For instance, Ideland et al. (2021) take Sweden as an example to describe a fundamental transformation in the traditional government-dominated educational systems to a market-driven system through problematizing schools in crisis and embracing edupreneurial actors to provide solutions to the problem. Specifically, state played a central role in education governing and have a power to define good education, however, businesses enter education market, and even become a critical actor and major provider.

The third theme is the new challenges and possibilities about transdisciplinary research. Youdell et al. (2020) has already noted the call from varied organizations (e.g., UNESCO) for new knowledge that require cooperation to be produced. Although their research is an experimentation, it is needed for researchers in education field to be aware of and carefully consider these new ways of conducting research and collaborating with scholars in other disciplines.


Future education experimentations offer new possibilities, at the same time, offer new uncertainties. It is like “walking in the dark, we cannot know if we move forward or not”. For example, Sellar and Gulson (2021) argued that the capacity of automated thinking in data science and machine learning exceed what is already known. Meanwhile, this new thinking arises critical questions regarding the values that are being changed, namely, the interests driving the development of data science methods and new platforms as well as the risks of these methodologies for teachers, students and society (ibid.). The new concepts seem very optimistic and promising, like personalized education. However, we should especially be vigilant these “happy words” and realize the silence behind them.

More importantly, these changes may limit the meaning of certain terms. One study showed the limitation of school commodification on ‘research base’ for schooling (Ideland et al., 2021). To be specific, in spite of optimistic tone, the commodification of education limits and excludes like what can be considered as useful research and practices for school enhancement. Another example is the concept of future, which should be open and surprising and be limited its uncertainties by the efforts of governance of education (Mertanen, Vainio, & Brunila, 2021).

Summary of the findings

The review contributes to a new dialogue concerning future education governance, particularly focused on the research context, key terms, methodological design and findings of future education governance. In the first category of research context of future education governance, I examined crisis in education governance, education, and education research. Consistent with the previous studies drew a picture of school in crisis and therefore offered various solutions to solve the problems (Player-Koro and Beach, 2017; Reimers and Martinsson, 2017; Rönnberg, 2017; Verger et al., 2016).

Additionally, researchers examined the key concepts of future education governance. The same concept in different studies is not always same, which means they define the same concepts in varying ways. Take learning as an example, Sellar and Gulson (2021) addressed machine learning referring learn by reasoning through and with uncertainty. In contrast of the above study, Youdell et al. (2020) suggested to understand learning as a phenomenon which is multi-faceted and in-process. While, Mertanen et al. (2021) introduced individualized personalized learning, which learn basing on pre-set exercised allocated to pupils basing on their assumed history, grade, etc. These studies consider learning in different perspective, and reflect that the concept of learning in future education governance is a contested, partial and fragmented.

These core concepts are closely related to the category of findings of future education governance (influences and cautions of future education). By introducing new understanding to the long-standing core concepts of education (e.g., learning and teaching), the reviewed studies provided a variety of possibilities and potentials to develop education, education governance and education research. It is clear that these changes have already happened in different ways and seems becoming irresistible trends in education governance. In these studies, researchers illustrated the core concepts, influences and cautions of future education governance and helped to deeper understanding of what new perspectives researcher use in future education governance, what are the impacts and cautions of the above perspectives. As educational researchers, we need to know and learn these new ways of conceptualizing like teaching and learning and new methods of conducting education research. At the same time, it is very important to reflect what is the nature and purpose of education, which is the essential questions for researchers to think under the current situation.

The third category, research design, referred to the approaches used to investigate future education governance. Most of the studies used qualitative methods (case study and ethnography), one study used quantitative method basing on references, and one study used mixed method by combining ethnography and methods in other disciplines. This finding is somehow interesting, a reason for this may be the research on future education governance is still in an early phase. Researchers need to first capture the main aspects of future education governance to construct theories, since there are few theories in the field.


This literature review encompassed seven articles recommended as references in the course of future education. Hence, the review has several limitations. Firstly, the review only consisted of seven studies, in other words, the number of studies is small and may not include all research related to future education governance. I sought to establish an initial picture of understanding future education governance for further deep, thorough, and systematic review of literature of this work. Accordingly, many studies were excluded in the present study because they were not recommended as references in the course. Also, the number of the studies limits the ability to follow all seven steps of systematic review of Cooper (2010), and therefore only four steps were used to conduct this literature review.

Another limitation could be perceived organization and the focus upon the four categories of the research context, key terms, methodological design and findings of future education governance. Since other categories may also be found from the excluded studies, and it is necessary to acknowledge the reasoning of other organizational patterns.

In addition, it is significant to emphasize the span of years for current study. The present study only addresses the studies from 2019 to 2021, which means the most recent three years research. Studies before 2019 may also contribute to our understanding of future education governance.

Finally, the current study only included studies that was conducted in some of the western countries including European countries and Australia. The research in North American and beyond western countries may also provide new insights on future education governance.

Directions for future research

This literature review contributes to initial knowledge in future education governance, since I seek to characterize the what, why and how questions concerning future education governance, which revealed the following areas for further study.

First, the current literature review only highlighted the articles in future education course, while did not address other studies. Thus, future studies can conduct a systematic review on this emerging area on future education to reveal a whole picture of future education governance.

Second, I observed a qualitative trend in methodology of these research designs, and few research in this area was investigated in quantitative research design. For example, survey studies may devote to understand stakeholders like perception of teachers and students in the context of future education changes. It might be more interesting to conduct longitudinal survey studies, in order to capture the development of perceptions and emotions of teachers or students in the situation.


 I used literature review to analyze and evaluate varying kinds of research on the research context, key terms, methodological design and findings of future education governance. As a consequence, this synthesized research study can show the creation of preliminary understanding on future education governance.

In this review, I found that future education governance has played a role in education research and practices. This means researchers may face today’s challenges in future education governance, understanding future education and related concepts of future education governance is an important task from now and in the future. Actually, it is not only concerning curriculum and pedagogy, but also about carefully think the values and purpose of education. For instance, questions on what kind of citizens the society aim to cultivate and what types of value do we believe in future society?

This research was embarked a literature review on future education governance spanning 2019 to 2021. The research reported here was my next step in this area: to move beyond reviewing literatures recommended in future education course and toward including all other related literature in future education governance with the goal of building an integrated analysis of future education governance.

Future education governance is still a new and interesting area and need to continuously examine and discuss. Researchers need to move forward by emphasizing critical themes and initiate new approaches to investigate these themes in future education governance. Furthermore, the research about facilitating teachers’ competence to promote students’ outcomes and school development are also needed.

The study revealed that there are influences and cautions of future education governance. This means that more attention should be paid to deeply examine, and policy makers may focus on new research outcomes and apply those results to policy making to avoid the risks of future education governance. Since the future education governance was provoked by problematize education, education governance and education research, the pessimistic view is to move from current problems to new ones.



Anderson, G. L., & Donchik, L. M. (2016). Privatizing schooling and policy making: The American Legislative Exchange Council and new political and discursive strategies of education governance. Educational Policy, 30(2), 322-364.

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2018). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. Teachers College Press.

Cooper, H. (2010). Research synthesis and meta-analysis: A step-by-step approach (4th

ed.). SAGE.

Gulson, K. N., & Sellar, S. (2019). Emerging data infrastructures and the new topologies of education policy. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 37(2), 350-366.

Ideland, M., Jobér, A., & Axelsson, T. (2021). Problem solved! How eduprenuers enact a school crisis as business possibilities. European Educational Research Journal, 20(1), 83-101.

Mertanen, K., Mäkelä, K., & Brunila, K. (2020). What’s the problem (represented to be) in Finnish youth policies and youth support systems? International Studies in Sociology of Education, 1-20.

Mertanen, K., Vainio, S. E., & Brunila, K. (2021). Educating for the Future? Mapping the Emerging Lines of Precision Education Governance. Policy Futures in Education.

Plank, D. (2006). Unsettling the State—How ‘Demand’Challenges the Education System in the US. European journal of education, 41(1), 13-27.

Player-Koro C and Beach D (2017) The influence of private actors on the education of teachers in Sweden: A networked ethnography study of education policy mobility. Acta Paedagogica Vilnensia 39: 83-96.

Pons, X. (2017). Fifteen years of research on PISA effects on education governance: A critical review. European Journal of Education, 52(2), 131-144.

Sellar, S., & Gulson, K. N. (2021). Becoming information centric: the emergence of new cognitive infrastructures in education policy. Journal of Education Policy, 36(3), 309-326.

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2021). What is a reference? Theoretically understanding the uses of evidence in education policy. Evidence and Expertise in Nordic Education Policies: A Comparative Network Analysis from the Nordic Region.

Reimers E and Martinsson L (eds) (2017) Education and Political Subjectivities in Neoliberal Times and Places: Emergences of Norms and Possibilities. London: Routledge.

Rönnberg L (2017) From national policy-making to global edu-business: Swedish edu-preneurs on the move. Journal of Education Policy 32(2): 234-249.

Verger A, Fontdevila C and Zancajo A (2016) The Privatization of Education: A Political Economy of Global Education Reform. New York: Teachers College Press.

Youdell, D., Lindley, M., Shapiro, K., Sun, Y., & Leng, Y. (2020). From science wars to transdisciplinarity: the inescapability of the neuroscience, biology and sociology of learning. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(6), 881-899.


Appendix A.

Publication Key concepts Research context Research design Influences Cautions


Ideland, M., Jobér, A., & Axelsson, T. (2021) statework Sweden schools in crisis

Swedish welfare model became the focus of growing criticism



Netnography: ethnographic research marketization of the educational system is not only about making and transferring

Money but also discourses and narratives, as in, it concerns the meanings, practices and the statework of education.

The commodification and marketization of school limits the research base for schooling.
Sellar, S. & Gulson, K.N. (2021) cognition



new modes of accountability

new Public Management

new forms of data-driven decision making in policy analysis

case study: four semi-structured interviews with five senior policy makers, technical staff and data scientists.


new possibilities in education governance


new sources of value.

Undermine the values and purposes of humanist education.

Automated thinking beyond what is already known

Preserves uncertainty

Negative effects of datafication

Gulson, K. N., & Sellar, S. (2019) governance

data infrastructure

Australian SIF


case study: six interviews with government and commercial actors changed policy topology

move from government to governance

privacy concerns
Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2021) evidence

policy documents




bibliometric network analysis


crisis of expertise

inclusion of nonstate

actors and international actors as policy advisors

restrict role of the state in the education sector

surplus of evidence

Conflicted values

Youdell, D., Lindley, M., Shapiro, K., Sun, Y., & Leng, Y. (2020) learning


cooled science wars

traditional disciplines are unable individually to understand current transformations of life

new critical biosocial turn in education


wireless electroencephalography

mobile mass


New understandings of learning


and potentialities for new knowledge

usefulness of collaborative transdisciplinary critical

biosocial research.



Mertanen, K., Vainio, S. E., & Brunila, K. (2021) learning


new science of learning


precision education

precision education governance

ideal learning subjectivity

outdatedness of traditional education

crisis in education

marketisation, privatisation and commercialisation of education

Do not mention  large impact on local

policy-making, local future visions for education, and for the local governance of


changes of ways understanding what it means to be a teacher or a student

enabling education to become more calculable, predictable, efficient, and individualised

changes in purpose of education

education is considered as neutral and objective techniques

de-personalises students and teachers

new ways for privatisation and


self-realising fictions

ignore some discourses

reducing the evident uncertainties in the future.



Mertanen, K., Mäkelä, K. P., & Brunila, M. K. (2020) Governing


global financial

Finnish youth policies and their implementations

market-oriented thinking


policy documents analysis




problematize young people

purpose of policies

tensions between the Nordic welfare model and neoliberal marketized


control and governing of the Finnish state