Recently, Huachiew Chalermprakiet University (HCU) was awarded the third prize in the 2nd National Best Practice of the Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy Contest (Sufficiency Economy Contest) in the Large Businesses category, which was organised by the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board.
Asst Prof Uraipan Janvanichyanont, HCU’s vice-president
The prize caps a year-long effort by the university to operate itself in accordance with HM the King's sufficiency economy philosophy as well as to produce graduates that are imprinted with the concept.
Among the several tools the university deploys to foster the concept, the most significant one seems to be the process of inculcating the idea in its students. This is done through a unique mandatory course called "Life and Sufficiency Economy".
Focus on sufficiency
"This subject really teaches us things that we usually overlook," said Sukroetai Boonyaim, a second-year law student at HCU who studied the subject last semester.
The course was initiated by Asst Prof Uraipan Janvanichyanont, HCU's vice-president, and was included in the curriculum in 2005. This two-credit subject is part of general education studies and is compulsory for all students entering the first or second year.
"Our main aim is to provide all our students with an appreciation of the sufficiency philosophy and let them realise the value of it, so that they can apply the principles in their daily life," said the professor. "Another objective is that these students are expected to spread the philosophy among their family, friends and community members," she added.
During the course, students learn the theory, and practical aspects, of the sufficiency economy concept and its application in various contexts. Learners are assessed by means of examination and hands-on activities.
"In order to understand the sufficiency economy philosophy, the students need to understand themselves first," said the professor, explaining the core foundation of the programme.
The course activities include self-exploration and self-improvement tasks such as maintaining a detailed expense list and a timetable.
Students at HCU participate in the energy-saving campaign during the ‘Sufficiency Economy Philosophy Week.’ One of the signs reads ‘‘Let’s join our hearts to reduce energy usage.’’ COURTESY OF HCU
"The students are assigned to create such a list on a monthly basis, and then they analyse the list themselves and try to improve on it the following month. This enables the students to become aware of their unimportant expenses [that can be eliminated to produce savings]. This activity was born from research of students' spending habits, which showed that they tended to spend money and time recklessly," said Prof Uraipan.
"Previously, I didn't realise how extravagant I was with my money. After I was required to list all my daily and monthly expenses, the total amount I paid out was quite shocking," Sukroetai said. "The activity has made me aware of my spending habits and whether I am improvident or not. I am now able to restrain myself from buying unnecessary items," the future lawyer added.
As a major assignment, students have to initiate their own projects that deploy the sufficiency economy philosophy and then showcase and implement them during the "Sufficiency Economy Philosophy Week".
Projects developed and put into practice by students in the past include a campaign to reduce energy usage, a movement to use fabric bags instead of plastic ones, and exhibitions, debates and speeches on sufficiency economy.
"Such activities enable the students to understand the philosophy and apply it in their daily life," said Prof Uraipan.
Last semester, instead of taking part in the "Sufficiency Economy Philosophy Week", students had to conduct field research. The research topics ranged from surveying the application of the philosophy among HCU students to going out to visit communities, organisations and the homes of local academics and scholars to study their lifestyles and practices. Students had to analyse the data to determine how real-life practices followed the principles of the sufficiency economy philosophy and then submit a written report with recommendations on how to promote the concept more widely.
Sukroetai's group went to Nakhon Ratchasima province to meet and study the life of Chantee Prathumpa, a local scholar who had won first prize in the "New Theory of Agriculture" category of the Sufficiency Economy Contest.
"In the future, we expect our students to conduct their own activities to expand the adoption of the concept in communities as well as in schools in our network," said Prof Uraipan, adding that the subject might also be taught to foreign students who are majoring in the Thai language.
For Sukroetai, even though she completed the course several months ago, she still keeps a close watch over her expenses.
She said that although she could not implement some of the practices that are part of the sufficiency economy philosophy at the present time, she was determined to apply them to her daily life as soon as possible.
In the meantime, she is very keen to spread the concept to others for the benefit of Thai society as a whole.
More information on HCU is available at http://www.hcu.ac.th.
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