Southern Forests: a Journal of Forest Science

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Does tertiary education in South Africa equip professional foresters for the future?

Palesa Mgaga, Mary C. Scholes


A modern day forester in South Africa assumes a variety of roles that constantly challenge them to remain professionally relevant in a dynamic system including the continuously expanding number of stakeholders that cuts across political, social and economic boundaries. This study is important in understanding how a forester’s job has shifted from simply managing trees and forests for timber to managing trees and forests to achieve the interests of various stakeholders and biological ecosystems that are influenced by industry. This research contributed to a global programme involving the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO). The programme addressed the needs of future employers and economic innovators in the field of forestry. A variety of data collection methods were used to complete this empirical research. The research strategy adopted was implementing case studies where students and academic experts from four tertiary institutions were interviewed. A sample of individuals from the forestry sector was also drawn for interviews. The findings from this research provided insight and perspective on the challenges facing tertiary education of foresters in South Africa, such as the subject of the disciplinarity of forestry as a profession as opposed to more interdisciplinary careers where in addition to modules that are grounded in the discipline, other types of natural sciences are also considered in curriculum design. The main conclusions drawn from this study are that a higher level of integration of social sciences in forestry curricula is pivotal to resolving some of the challenges facing the forestry sector, and that in light of programmes whose delivery process is severely restricted by budget constraints, solutions developed jointly between industry and tertiary institutions should be ongoing.

Keywords: collaboration, competencies, curriculum design, disciplinarity, forestry education

Southern Forests 2019, 81(4): 377–385

AJOL African Journals Online