KHOBAR: The Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd (PMU) campus looked to the future when it hosted its very first International Conference in Futures Studies on Dec. 7-8 at the campus headquarters in Khobar. The conference was organized in collaboration with the university’s partner, the World Futures Studies Federation.
Dr. Faisal Yousif Al-Anezi, vice president of academic affairs at PMU, told Arab News about the importance of the event.
“As the title indicates, ‘live in the future and beyond the now,’ PMU always tries to be proactive in all aspects, in terms of technology, education, research and other solutions or scenarios we can provide for the university — and the region,” Al-Anezi told Arab News.
“Such conferences can enable us to travel to a new era of different majors, to help people to network and come up with the scenarios that help us in the future. Now, things are changing by the minute, so it’s good to be proactive. This will enable us to be ahead of other universities or education agencies,” Al-Anezi added.
The in-person event combined plenary sessions, guest speakers, panels and workshops, and presented award-winning scientific papers. The organizers curated a “living the future” exhibition with artifacts developed both at PMU and externally.
The conference aimed to explore various emerging future-focused topics, challenges and visions. It demonstrates and discusses the diverse, multifaceted approaches, processes, methods and techniques used to imagine and shape a progressive future. Topics ranged from the future of global governance and sustainable growth to the world of transdisciplinary education and transformative social, economic and technological developments in areas such as work, sustainability, health, education and built space.
Over the two days, the campus looked to the future and invited experts, speakers and researchers to come together, network and engage in dialogue and meaningful conversations.
Dr. Patricia Davies, associate professor in the College of Science and Human Studies at PMU, offered insights in two sessions; one which explored the relationship between teacher instructional practices and student understanding in secondary schools in Saudi Arabia and another on a futures approach to student participation in leadership brought on from cases in Saudi Arabia and the UK.
She is one of a dozen experts committed to linking the future to Saudi Arabia and beyond.
Dr. Derek Woodgate, president of The Futures Lab, Inc. known as a “foresight consultancy” specializing in creating future potential for major corporations and institutions, including academia, governments and NGOs, told Arab News about PMU’s landmark participation this year.
“Much of what I’ve been doing in the last few years is really bringing together multimedia futures-based learning and new pedagogical systems. I’m the adviser to the vice president of academic affairs; working with him on the future of PMU but also in developing new programs, particularly transdisciplinary programs, and building up our center for futuristic studies,” Woodgate told Arab News.
He helped create a future skills class, a brand new offering which just started this fall and one that he said was going “very well.”
The center itself, created in 2019, has already established platforms in line with Saudi Vision 2030 plans. It also helps support industry development to aid students in understanding the future — preparing them for future jobs. It covers the skills that are vital to learn in a fast-changing world, with a focus on technology.
“The idea of principle is to ensure that we’re developing students for the future, rather than purely the present,” Woodgate told Arab News.
One of the issues addressed was that many schools appear to avoid teaching students skills for the future.
Dr. Christin Pfeiffer, head of Futures Literacy and Foresight, Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO, gave a keynote speech on the event’s opening day. She has worked in the role since September, but has overseen significant progress in just a few months.
“We were asking ourselves: ‘what is the resource or the real added value of humankind today?’ And it’s not data — because there is no data from the future. It is not gold, it is not oil, it is ‘meaning.’ This is the central part of it. Meaning you can develop only together in a society in a group, in a community, or as global citizens as we are today because we are actually facing challenges — the COVID-19 pandemic is one example, but more urgent even would be the climate crisis,” Pfeiffer told Arab News.
For more information about the conference or the program at PMU, visit the PMU website.