3.3 Training with disciplinary focus versus job training

In the past, professors passed on their knowledge to their students, i.e., the university offered training in a certain field of science. The fact that today a number of professors with different fields teach in one curriculum did not bring about a principal change, because the increasing number of professors often reflects only the increasing division of fields and specialization of teachers. By and large, the division of universities into faculties, and the curricula taught within a faculty correspondend to scientific fields and subfields. As long as the graduates from such a curricula work afterwards as scientists, in their field, no harm is done, but that is the exception. For the majority, training along fields of science does not meet job requirements, and there is a gap between training and and the labour market. The majority of students go to universities to prepare themselves for high-level jobs, not to eat from the tree of science. Jobs usually require more than knowledge in one field of science. For many jobs, knowledge in two scientific fields is necessary, often in two faculties. The owner of a food-processing plant, for instance, requires knowledge in food-processing and food-technology as well as business management. The animal nutrition advisor working for the extension service needs training in animal sciences as well as in extension methods. The cooperative credit specialist needs agricultural economics as well as finance and banking knowledge and, perhaps, some training in law. For the majority of jobs, the best applicant has not only to be trained in one scientific field but has to gain sufficient knowledge in at least one other field as well. This extra knowledge often tends to be management of one kind or the other.

As meeting job requirements is not only necessary for the easy placement of students but to make the best possible contribution to the development of the economy, the modern college needs flexibility in its curricula so that the student has a chance to broaden his training beyond the boundaries of a single field of science or department. The variety of personal interest and circumstances, the peculiarities of the current labour market, and the difficulty of predicting the future labour market makes it difficult to decide on the most suitable mixture of subjects. In this situation, the decision is best placed in the hands of the one who has to take the risk, the student, provided safeguards are taken to prevent chosing the easiest path and students receive proper councelling.

To summarize, it appears that for all three problem areas, i.e. practice versus theory-oriented training, broad training versus specialization, and disciplinary focus versus job training, there is no definite answer for one or the other choice. In each case, both are necessary, depending on future career plans. The modern college of agriculture, therefore, requires great flexibility in its curriculum requirements so that the students have a certain choice corresponding to their personal interests above and beyond certain obligatory courses.

Training students to meet the requirements of our times requires adjustment not only in the content, but also in the method of training. The traditional lecture is unavoidable because it is the most timesaving means of teaching fundamentals of the field. Therefore they have their place, especially in introductory courses. However, they need complementary forms of instruction because of their limitations. The classical lecture tends to induce memorizing, repeating, and copying. The university graduate of our times, however, should be capable of critical thinking. He should question the socalled facts. We want him trained in the creative use of science to achieve objectives, not just in memorizing the principles. Most jobs require daily solving of arising problems, and the solution often lies in the combination of different pieces of knowledge. To train students for these requirements, other teaching methods than lectures are necessary. Exercises, in which students try to find answers to given problems, are an example. Short papers on specific topics may be beneficial and give exercise in one of the day to day requirements of working life: to compile and write a paper in a precise, comprehensive, short manner. Bringing students out to the villages and into the factories means teaching and working in the real world where problems are not isolated as in laboratory experiments, but practical aspects like the availability of labour, costs, and time often play a decisive role in determining the solution.

In working life, due to the complexity of the problems, solutions are often the result of the co-operation of a team of specialists of which everybody contributes with his particular knowledge. While such interdisciplinary work has been discussed very often in recent years, students training during most formative years emphasize only individual work and achievement. It might be worthwhile to consider the value of comprehensive topics to be dealt with by a group of students. While each deals with one limited aspect according to his fields, he recognizes his contribution as part of the whole task and learns to appreciate the limitations of the individual field towards solving practical problems.

The university as an instrument in socio-economic development cannot limit its training activities to the students proper. The improvement in the level of teaching over the past makes today's graduates much more qualified than former ones. This calls for retraining of alumni in order to give the economy the necessary manpower at the required level. In addition, sciences are developing so rapidly today that learning cannot end on the day of graduation. What other institution than the university is in the position to give in-service training at the university level, an urgent necessity in an economy expanding its scope and productivity.

Finally, there are numerous persons playing leading roles in the development process of the nation who would benefit from short courses and do afterwards a better job for the society. Needless to say, the benefit is mutual. Training not only students, but adults who are in the midst of their career and have excellent experiences, gives the university impressions as to ,,where the shoe hurts" and how problems look to the eyes of a farmer or an engineer. It guarantees that thinking at the university develops parallel to the needs and wishes of society and, thus, improves the social significance of teaching activities.

One final comment on teaching: it belongs to the role of agricultural colleges to teach other faculties, what modern agriculture is and what role it plays in the society. The fewer people are engaged in agriculture, the more important is it that leading personalities of all professions have a basic understanding of the problems and conditions of this shrinking sector of the economy and society.