Monday, March 4, 2024

Hort education, an overseas example

By Patrick Regnault

Over the last few decades, Horticulture education has seen many changes. Australia, like many other countries, mainly in the English-speaking world, seems to be heading towards distance learning to the detriment of practical based learning.

Apprenticeships and traineeships are not reaching levels of completion, and the profession is ageing. The educators who advise the various ministers are either not listened to, or are themselves not very good at listening to what the industry requires. Perhaps the lowering of educational standards to create working drones, as opposed to passionate thinking professionals, is the main culprit.

One country which has a more formal yet innovative approach to the formation of horticulturists is France.

The French describe horticulture as “A vast profession, gathering work in nursery, food production, flower production, arboriculture, landscaping, ground maintenance. A true outdoor profession with a large technical and commercial aspect.” As we can see, the key word here is profession.

Most, if not all, horticulture schools have extensive grounds with many having converted to organic production by the early to mid-2000. Be they public or private facilities, they are under the control and administration of the Ministry of Agriculture. In some cases, studies can be done entirely at school or at school and apprenticeship

The full-time studies can start after year 9 or 10, leading first to a CAPa (Cert III equivalent), which involves two years of study comprising general studies, horticultural science, equipment use and maintenance, and business and sales, with a twelve-week placement in a horticultural firm over two years for those not apprenticed. Once the CAPa is obtained, the student can continue the studies towards a Professional Baccalaureate which will require a further two years.

Another path is to go towards a Professional Baccalaureate, Bac Pro (Diploma equivalent). This starts in year 11 and takes place over three years. If we look at a Professional Baccalaureate Landscaping, we will see that general studies and foreign languages are still taught but the horticultural studies are more complex, as at the successful completion of the studies, the person can start at a team leader level. The course includes plant recognition and sciences, landscape construction, worksite management, specialised equipment maintenance and use, two weeks group internship in health and sustainable management, and twenty weeks over three years of placement work in a landscaping firm.

The BTSA (Advanced diploma equivalent) is the next step of the study. This requires two years full time study which can be added after the previous Bac Pro or after gaining the General Baccalaureate. The studies are geared to develop a very skilled workforce that will be in charge of projects, own their own businesses, and set up as Landscape designers (for BTSA Landscaping). General knowledge and two foreign languages are in the curriculum but of course the horticultural studies are more focused on the decision making, mastering of technical operations, human resource management and communication, work management and problem solving of professional situations. Fourteen to sixteen weeks of the studies are put aside to work for a professional firm in the chosen field of study.

Bachelor’s degrees can be done in one year after the BTSA and in the case of landscaping, is closer to a Landscape Architect Assistant Degree. Other possibilities are school of engineer in one of the many horticultural fields.

All the above studies, CAPa, Bac Pro, BTSA and Bachelor’s degrees have continuous exams and a final exam which alone will account for 50% of the grading.

For the mature person who decides to enter the horticulture profession, they can always find a job and work their way from there, either informally by learning on site or by simultaneously obtaining a certification through further studies.

We can learn from other countries’ approaches to teaching horticulture. We do not have to copy their methods but we need to improve the teaching of horticulture, at least for Cert III to Diploma. The best way to do so, is to go beyond our comfort zone and explore ideas from various places. A rethink of our Hort education is in order if we want to have skilled and educated horticulturists in the decades to come.

Patrick Regnault FAIH RH0062

Interactive Landscapes



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