The goals of agriculture are to manage efficiently the resources (land, water, vegetation, animals, humans and money) used in the production of food and fibre, and to achieve a balance between the production, environmental, economic and social goals of the broader community. The resolution of these imperatives involves complex ideological, monetary and power 'struggles' between: 1. The landowners who make the day to day management decisions and who wear the consequences 2. People in the community who are concerned about sustainable production and environmental/protection/restoration 3. Research groups that develop approaches to industry problems 4. Public and private stakeholders who develop and provide information packages and marketing services for the industry; and 5. Policy makers and managers who develop, manage and apply economic/educational/social services for the industry and its people. Hence, the education of 'agricultural professionals' - men and women who will work within the web of the industry - is a complex task, one that potentially involves many disciplines and approaches. The first problem for educators is to attract and retain students who are not only interested in rural life but also capable of handling the complexity of modern agriculture. Then the core matter of educating our future agriculturalists involves choices about the mix of topics that could be included in a relevant course, how these topics might be taught and how students might be given an interdisciplinary appreciation of these topics. Finally, there is a need to consider the product - have we produced trained technicians who cling to their educational past, or professionals who continue to learn and adapt flexibly to the changing environment of agribusiness? (Candy 1995). In this paper, we explore the complexity of agriculture and outline some of the past and current approaches to the education of agricultural professionals. We consider the demand for graduates,the availability of student places within the network of institutions that provide education and training to the industry, and the 'fit' of education supply to industry demand. We proceed on to a discussion of the main principles that underpin the construct of agricultural courses, including our own experiences when teaching 'hard' and 'soft' systems subjects and managing the Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) course at Charles Sturt University (CSU). Following a consideration of current problems in presenting this course. we indicate a number of issues that may determine the role of universities in agricultural education.
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - 2001|