Promoting Futures Literacy Using Skills of Tomorrow to Create a Better Today
Chula joins hands with Unesco to nurture tomorrow’s leaders with Futures Literacy skills to create a better world for today emphasizing the prime position as an educational institution that brings about changes in sustainable learning in the 21st century.
As Albert Einstein famously said almost a hundred years ago, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Nowadays, the world is talking so much about Futures Literacy as a vital skill in the 21st century that emphasizes “imagination” for an improved and better future.
“We use the future to innovate the present. Once we can foresee the future then we can bring about new creations and build a better present since it is imagination that nurtures hope in the hearts of human beings. The hope to be able to enjoy a better quality of life and better health are the motivating forces that enable the creation of various things. Therefore, creativity is always there at the start of various inventions or innovations.” Associate Professor Natcha Thawesaengskulthai, Global Chief Innovation Officer of Chulalongkorn University discussed this at the “Futures Literacy in a Post-COVID-19 Asia: Solidarity and Transformative Learning” international academic online conference that Chulalongkorn University recently co-hosted with the Thai National Commission for Unesco.
Futures Literacy is a vital skill to get us through the world’s crisis
Today we are experiencing tremendous turmoil and confusion.
The situation has been exacerbated by the post-Covid-19 situation in a world that is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic whether in terms of public health, the economy, travel, and logistics, food security, and politics.
Other than that, we are also faced with climate variability problems that have been the cause of various calamities, political strife, racism, oppression, etc.
These have put human beings into a state of fear and hopelessness and left them with the inability to imagine their future.
According to Reil Miller of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), an expert on ideas and imagination for the future, “Human beings still need to envision hope. The Futures Literacy skill is therefore a learning skill of the 21st century. It helps to endow us with the power of imagination and to increase the ability to be prepared for whatever changes may take place.”
This has resulted in the initiative to create projects like the Unesco Futures Literacy and Unesco Global Futures Literacy Network in several countries.
In the case of Thailand, Chulalongkorn University has been part of this network since 2020 during which time it has consistently worked on promoting a better understanding of Futures Literacy in the Chula community.
What is Futures Literacy?
Unesco has defined Futures Literacy as the skill related to the use of our thinking and imagination to anticipate various opportunities, options, and possibilities that might happen in the future based on knowledge and reality.
“We can all undergo training and achieve this competence. As a skill, it is no different from learning to read or write since thinking and imagination are human capabilities. Such skills will enable us to anticipate future events and occurrences to be prepared with the strategies to better deal with them, prioritize and make the necessary decisions," Natcha explained.
Those who have this awareness and practice this skill will adopt the potential to see diverse forms of options. They will have the hope and inspiration to effect positive change in the present.
How is Chula instilling Futures Literacy in its students?
Natcha described how Futures Literacy is being instilled and emphasized that empowering and extending human imagination requires “new methods” and “cooperation beyond differences” in terms of disciplines, cultures, age, occupation, etc.
For this reason, the CU Innovation Hub and CU Social Innovation Hub have been established to serve as a cross-disciplinary platform for students and researchers from different faculties and disciplines to come together with their creativity, forming new problems of the present and the future to solve through various methods or innovations.
“Learning through a performance of actual tasks gives students diverse ways of thinking and perspectives. As long as the university prepares a conducive environment for students’ trials and experiments without any fear of whether the results will come out well since failure isn’t necessarily bad since it can serve as a lesson to prevent it from happening again in the future.”
The atmosphere that promotes creativity while supporting the initiative to take on various tasks and accepting mistakes as part of the learning process gives birth to numerous creative ideas and innovations.
In the past year, for example, the university has supported over 304 creative teams for social innovations like Covid-19 vaccines by Baiya Phytopharm Co., Ltd., the ViaBus application for real-time tracking of transport, Tann:D protein egg-white noodles, low in calories without starch and gluten, and SOPet, an online veterinary clinic.
Recognizing Futures Literacy as a crucial skill of the 21st century, Chulalongkorn University has made sure that the students and members of this community be prepared to use their imagination of the future to create a better present.
Chula has also employed learning paradigms of the 21st century, for example, critical thinking, collaborative efforts, and entrepreneurship to support lifelong education for its students, the Chula community, and the general public with the strategic goal of creating leaders of the future who will bring about change in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Chula has been successful in transitioning to a Research University that provides instruction and support in creating a sustainable society through innovation companies, research projects, and the kind of education that tackles problems at both the local and global levels,” Natcha concluded.