ACS Distance Education UK
Most educators today need to be results driven, rather than driven by the urge to teach - this is because the amount of students that pass courses often directly affects further funding. If your school or training organisation shows low pass rates, you may not receive further funding. This may seem like a sound approach at first glance, but there are two immediate problems associated with this:
This is a ‘catch 22’ situation:
For the horticulture industry though the worst scenario is:
Pass your students indiscriminately (irrelevant of their results or attendance records), do all your administration and bureaucratic tasks competently and retain your funding - however you have produced mediocre employees as a result! All losses are absorbed by the students and the industry in general – skilled workers become even scarcer.
Today, a diploma is awarded (in many cases, by many government-funded institutions or organisations) after just 6–12 months study (often comprising no more than 700 hours - or sometimes even less) with little hands-on experience and backed up with very little science, but often accompanied very high expectations of the students upon graduation!
This trend is not helping the industry. The horticulture industry is undergoing a revolution, it needs employees that are able to meet the challenges; people that can grow and develop as the industry does and become the developers and leaders of the future. It needs people that are passionate about horticulture and very knowledgeable - those that can meet the demands of the industry and drive it forward. It does not need people that have been forced into studying horticulture to meet social service demands (e.g. in order to retain their social security payments) or through parental pressure. Horticultural education should not be seen as a ‘place of last resort’!
Although education is a great foundation to starting a career, don’t expect a course to teach you everything! Good education should only ever be seen as a foundation. You cannot retain everything you learn in a course. You also do not learn everything you need to know by doing a course – this takes time and experience as well as education. However, a good course will provide you with underpinning knowledge and skills and should help you to develop research skills i.e. ways to find out the things you need to know in the future - once you have finished your course.
If you have thorough learning in the fundamentals of horticulture, you will have the ability to adapt those fundamentals when you encounter a new plant, product or process. The plants we grow and the way we grow and market them is changing faster than ever. It is impossible to predict what cultivars or products will be most popular in 5 years’ time. However, a person who has ALL the fundamentals will encounter new things and have the ability to understand them and remember them faster than someone who has not acquired the same foundation. Staff who have broader based and more in-depth foundations will see the possibilities (and be more likely to rise to the challenge) every time something changes in the workplace. Good education makes the employee more productive and adaptable - whilst qualifications may be little more than something to put in a frame on the wall, rather than a grounding to build on for a future in this career area.
Things You May or May Not Have Thought Of or Realised About Education
Good education goes into long-term memory.
Politically motivated education can sometimes be abused by testing short-term memory.
You cannot fast-track learning. Most people only retain and properly understand things by encountering them repeatedly, and in different ways, over a period of time.
You can show someone something, test them and declare them competent all on the same day, in a short space of time, and that may be all that is required to award someone an accredited training package qualification.
The traditional way of planning for and providing education is fundamentally flawed.
Traditional education (e.g. Vocational colleges and Universities) commonly take many years from identifying a need for training to when they commence delivering on that need. Commonly, after determining the need, committees are set up, research is conducted, funding is sought, curriculum is written, tenders are called, course notes are written and finally funding is arranged to deliver a course and students are recruited. Often the course being delivered is based upon a need that was seen many years earlier. Does this make any sense in today’s rapidly changing world.
Distance education is more cost effective and flexible than classroom based education.
Although this wasn’t always the case – consider the following:
Traditional horticultural education is in crisis, but other alternatives are growing.