3.2 Broad training versus specialization

The early colleges of agriculture offered broad training in general agriculture to prepare farmers and extension officers for their occupations. With the changes in agriculture and the increasing number and type of jobs, the universal trend towards professional specialization did not exclude agricultural colleges, and today easily 8 or 10, sometimes rather narrow curricula are offered. To a certain extent, this is a logical consequence of the ever increasing differentiation in workplaces and requirements. Food technology and plant breeding have little in common, and an agricultural economist will hardly work in a plant pathology laboratory. A general training may not accomplish anything in many cases because of insufficient depth. This has, however, limitations. The extreme specialization in our times requires a certain introduction to the problems of agriculture as a whole to enable the graduate in his leadership role to understand his place and his contribution so that specialization will not turn into narrow-mindedness. In addition, the degree of specialization depends partly on the level of the development in agriculture. It appears that many developing countries have taken over the American model with relatively high specialization without taking into consideration the different patterns of agriculture. A farmer with a bachelor degree in agriculture requires a highly trained specialist as his advisor. For the general problems, he has been trained himself. A poor peasant needs an advisor who understands all the facets of the farm and who can help him in all aspects. Under such conditions, a specialist risks obsolescence. As a consequence, each country — not each college — needs in addition to training in specialized fields, possibilities for training in allround agriculture to cater to the needs of the future farmers, farm managers, extension officers, etc.