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5 Lessons learned and recommendations

On technician education in Africa

1. Governments need to review their decisions regarding support for training technicians in forestry. It is necessary in this consideration to link such a review with decisions on technician training in agriculture, so that a broader strategy for natural resources management on farm and in forestry areas can be articulated. It is considered that technician training in these areas should be integrated and coordinated to clearly define the role of agricultural and natural resource technicians in rural development, as well as natural resource conservation and utilization.

2. Considering that women contribute enormously to farming productivity in Africa, it is necessary to take a pro-active step by training more female technicians.

3. The role of NGOs and the private sector in technician training should be identified and encouraged.

4. There is a need to develop policies that will help to control the ratio of professionals to technicians to avoid the trend developing now, where the number of professionals is going to be disproportionately high.

On professional education in Africa

1. Forestry education needs are not properly identified, and therefore forestry education plans are poorly articulated. Much is left to the teaching institutions to lobby with their governments and operate according to resources obtained. There is a need to improve forestry education planning. Forestry authorities, the private sector and schools of forestry should engage in a multi-partner dialogue towards this end. International institutions like FAO, CIFOR, ICRAF, UNEP and IUFRO should assist in this effort. Networks such as AFORNET, ANAFE and FORNESSA should be involved.

2. A strategic plan is needed to make better use of forestry training capacity already available in some countries. The rush to have national schools of forestry needs to be controlled. A regional and subregional approach to forestry education is essential.

3. There is a need to evaluate and help to standardize forestry curricula in Africa. There is a tremendous variation in the content and depth of coverage among the schools. There may also be a need to develop an accreditation system for forestry education. This would help to establish and maintain minimum teaching and learning standards.

4. There is a need to establish the graduate training needs, especially the requirements of research institutes, universities and colleges, the private sector and NGOs, as well as policy-making bodies. From this it would be possible to develop a strategy for meeting the needs from both regional and extra-regional resources.

5. It is necessary to monitor the content and quality of postgraduate education in Africa, with a view to improving the capacity to deliver it and opportunities for regional collaboration.

On forestry education in Southeast Asia

1. The roles of foresters are changing in all countries in the region, and these changes are being incorporated in curricula, but often this is done on an ad hoc basis, as new areas are squeezed into an already cramped curriculum. Therefore, curriculum development remains the highest priority among surveyed institutions, and needs further support from governments, other investors and education specialists.

2. Forestry education institutions in both Africa and Southeast Asia have insufficient teaching materials and resources such as transport facilities and funding. These deficiencies affect the quality of the teaching and learning process negatively. A common example is that classroom work is replacing field-level learning. Students do not get sufficient practice in using participatory tools and methods at farm/community level. Government and donor support, as well as national, regional and international collaboration could help mitigate these problems, by providing materials, resources and supporting on-the-job training (both re-learning and de-learning).

3. In a situation where the forest cover in the region continues to decrease, all countries except the Philippines reported increasing graduation and enrolment at first degree and master degrees. There is a need to evaluate job opportunities for forestry graduates, especially given that forestry is strongly dominated by the public sector, which is facing tight fiscal realities. There are indications that unemployment and under-employment of forestry graduates is significant. There is urgent need to carry out further studies on job markets for forestry graduates, including the extent to which they enter non-traditional forestry jobs.

4. Technical level forestry education is decreasing in most countries (Laos being an exception). As in the African survey, this raises two concerns: first, about future availability of personnel for field-level work in the forestry sector; and, second, about the competence related to new job demands among those who graduate. Further studies are needed.

5. The sharply increased enrolment in higher education in Laos seriously affects education quality. It puts great pressure on already limited educational resources. The institutions are not equipped for, nor have the staff to handle, the influx of new students. Stakeholders should take note and assist the development of forestry education in Laos.

6. There seems to be an un-tapped potential to increase the presence of foresters in the non-traditional sectors of society, where competence in natural resource management is an advantage. This could be private as well as public. Such development would also help bridge a perceived gap between foresters and society at large. This survey suggested increased focus on wood processing, ecotourism and entrepreneurship, among others. Other possible non-traditional areas include the financial sector, and media and environmental impact assessment, to mention a few. Concerted efforts should be made to lobby for a broadening of the ‘forestry’ profession.

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