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Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

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Subject index
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Organic Agriculture: Only Another Discipline in Higher Agricultural Education? S9

Knickel, Karlheinz

Institut für ländliche Strukturforschung, Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universitaet D-60325 Frankfurt/Main

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The expansion of organic farming is becoming a key element of more integrated rural development concepts. In consideration of what organic agriculture has to offer as a model of agricultural development that encompasses economic, environmental and socio-cultural responsibility, and of the key role of education in determining »future«, it is important to ask how agricultural universities have responded to the new demands and chances put forward by society.

In order to shed more light on present situation and reform processes, the German agricultural faculties are examined with respect to the teaching of organic agriculture. Has »only« a new, more or less technical discipline been added to the existing mainstream subject matter teaching or was it tried to develop a more integrated, modern curriculum?

Overall, and in spite of the inflation of new »green« labels attached to old disciplines, higher agricultural education still is characterised by single-discipline structures, reductionist concepts, and one-way lectures.Focus remained on disciplinary depth and analytical skills, both being completely insufficient in view of the intricate complexity and interrelatedness of technological innovation and social reorganisation processes. Usually production-oriented subjects are hardly integrated with social and environmental domains, and linkages between education, research and practical application are weak. The better knowledge about learning, communication and development which we have today, is hardly been taken into account. Particularly relevant for curricular reforms is systems thinking because it stresses the complexity of systems, the importance of interdisciplinarity, the significance of applicability, and the crucial role of communication and participative collaboration in development. Considerable experience with systemsoriented initiatives in agricultural education exists at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where it is tried to teach in a way that relates to application, and to sequence subject matteroriented learning and practical project work accordingly. Students are expected to learn by contributing to the resolution of »real« fieldlevel problems through active participation. The overriding principleis to create an inspiring and multidisciplinary learning environment promoting synthesising capabilities, practical competence, creativity, communication skills and receptivity.

Bawden, R. J. (1992): Systems approaches to agricultural development: the Hawkesbury experience. In: Agricultural Systems, 40, p.153-176

Knickel, K. (1994): Application of systems thinking to the improvement of higher education in agricultural sciences. In: Systems-Oriented Research inAgriculture and Rural Development, CIRAD, Montpellier, p.796-802