Whole post.I wish that the ISU had simply separated figures and freeskating into separate competitive disciplines in 1990-91, when there were still lots of active skaters who had trained them to a high level and rink schedules were still planned around offering patch sessions.
It would have continued as an obscure sport for only those who love and can afford it with little audience appeal, and also practiced by some freestyle skaters with even more money to enhance their basic skating skills. Maybe it would have lost Olympic status and faded out gradually over the past 20 years, but there would have been continuity.
But now it would be impossible to bring back at that level. Without figures being required for freestylers, there isn't enough interest to make the dedicated ice time available, except at a few large training centers, or at facilities with studio rinks, sympathetic managers, and just a few dedicated figures enthusiasts.
There is no standardized international testing system. Those federations (US and Canada at least) who did keep figures in their testing systems for several years into the 1990s ended up dropping them eventually as requirements for freestylers.
The US kept them for several more years as a separate competitive discipline, and the tests are still on the books. But the interest just wasn't there.
If USFS, or any other national federation, went back to requiring neatly traced figures with judges checking the traces on the ice, for middle and advanced levels where the skills require a lot of practice, they would lose a lot of skaters who find them too boring or too expensive to train.
Possibly a compromise could be to have more lenient figures tests as prerequisites for competition but not for passing the moves or freestyle or pairs tests. E.g., you could have the same novice MITF test for everyone, and then skaters who wanted to enter qualifying competitions at the novice level would need to demonstrate one loop figure, one bracket figure, and one change double three, (to be randomly chosen from the four possible starting edges so skaters would have to train all of them? or of the skater's choice?), traced only twice and judged from a distance.
But each federation would have their own requirements, so they wouldn't be standardized internationally. I'm sure many smaller federations would not require them at all.
OR, starting at the international level, the ISU could introduce something like "school figures variation" as an optional leveled element for points to be included in (a slow section of) freeskate programs.
These wouldn't be straight school figures -- not only including more advanced skills but also including different combinations of turns and edge changes and variations of body position could earn higher levels. And they would be performed in the middle of a program, so obviously judges aren't going to get out on the ice and check tracings. But accuracy and control as seen from a distance would be necessary for positive GOE, so it would offer an incentive for skaters to train those skills, which could also have positive effects on other areas of their skating.