A higher education institution in Bangkok has adopted a uniquely Thai approach to teaching development economics and environmental management based on concepts derived from Buddhist philosophy and introduced by the late King Bhumibhol Adulyadej.
Often known as the ‘development king’ during his 70-year reign, which ended with his death in 2016, King Bhumibhol presided over some 4,000 development projects initiated by the monarchy throughout the kingdom. As the 21st century dawned, his development strategy known as Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) became the hallmark of sustainable development efforts in the country.
SEP uses knowledge drawn mainly from Buddhist teachings but is applicable in a secular setting. Under this philosophy, sustainable development can be achieved only when there is economic, social, environmental and cultural balance.
A pathway to sustainability
“SEP is a pathway to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyanut Dharmapiya, former executive director of the Sustainable Development and Sufficiency Economy Studies Center at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) in Bangkok.
“At NIDA it is normal that SEP is integrated into our thinking,” Dharmapiya told University World News. “NIDA was established by King Rama IX [King Bhumibol] so we have established the Sufficiency Economy Studies Centre from the time the king started talking about it.
“For all our students, during the prep programme, one of the subjects they have to take is Sufficiency Economy Philosophy,” she said, referring to the preparatory phase for postgraduate studies.
According to NIDA’s definition, SEP has three guiding principles: moderation, logical thinking and prudence.