Education in Forest Science
The objective of the Task Force is an improved practice of Education in Forest Sciences worldwide. TF therefore aims at contributing to development of standards of Education in Forest Sciences, which meet the requirements of today, using experiences and examples of good practice in the IUFRO community and cooperation with higher education experts.
Activities of the TF in the attempt to reach this objective will be worked on in the course of the establishment of the TF and will include:
- Survey of forest curricula ("state of practice") and an attempt at a comprehensive analysis of challenges and opportunities facing Higher Education in Forest Sciences in different parts of the world.
- Development of a framework on required competences of graduates of education in forest sciences, to be characterized in terms of skill dimension, context, and level of mastery.
- Development of a standard curriculum assessment for higher forest education through workshops and a IUFRO Learning Initiative (Summer Schools) with the idea and the opportunity to check and to test new programmes and solutions in education at the university level and also integrate students from different parts of the world under the IUFRO umbrella, in joint operations with the IFSA.
- Curriculum assessment with the participation of young teachers and employers in workshops.
- Publication of findings in scientific articles and books
More details can be found in the Task Force's Terms of Reference.
Education in Forest Sciences has a long tradition and undergone fundamental changes: after aiming at preparation on occupations in forest management in a traditional stage today in many countries of the world in a relationship stage it is about managing natural resources for valued people and ecosystem relationships.
The need to explore new fields of education stems not only from the requirement to find answers to the questions posed by our civilization, but also from accumulated research knowledge and practical achievements of forestry that should be properly utilized. Forest knowledge is the basis for understanding the relationship between people and forests and the principles of management of forests regardless of regional disparities.
The system of higher education has been facing fundamental changes, triggered by globalization and global change, altering expectations of stakeholders and society from university graduates and novel insights of educational sciences - from teaching to learning.
We should also take into account that the competence profiles of forestry graduates do not always comply with the requirements posed by potential employers, while emphasizing that the professional attractiveness of the forestry sector for graduates is decreasing. Also many of the graduates will find employment outside of the forestry sector, some in NGOs and still others will work self-employed
As a response education in forest sciences has to focus more on methodical competences, and knowledge integration and communication across disciplinary borders. The development of skills, enabling graduates to tackle novel, complex problems, has been widely missing and focus was on contents instead of generic skills and methodical competences. Other developments include the growing role of universities in continuing education, new approaches to distance education including technology and didactics of e-Learning, and the movement towards Open Education Resources (OER).
Programmes of higher forest education have been challenged even more by changing societal demands, such as climate change, changing patterns of demands for ecosystem services, and novel resource governance systems. The development of forest sciences as well as of forestry curricula should adapt to or even anticipate those trends.
Account should also be taken of elements of traditional knowledge, forming strong cultural, religious and ethical links and promoting historical and generational continuity. Sustainable Forest Management requires knowledge of the uncertainties and risks on a global scale not only identified as "risk management", but also of the consequences to forests and forestry caused, for example, by aging of populations in developed countries.
Consequently development of forest sciences curricula should move towards:
- Focusing on generic and methodical competences instead of contents and descriptive approaches, enabling graduates to tackle novel, complex problems;
- Competences to integrate and communicate knowledge across disciplinary boarders and to analyze the existing interactions;
- New learning units addressing challenges such as climate change, adaptive ecosystem management, governance systems, gender issues, forests as source of energy, role of forests and forest products in rural development and poverty alleviation as well as the assessment of other environmental and social impacts.
IUFRO TF EFS is also an attempt to answer to the growing demand for coordination of research based knowledge and education at university level.