Report of the Regional Assessment of Forest Education in Europe

This regional report (link to report here) covers survey results, analyses, discussions and recommendations to help improve and enhance forest education in the European region. It aims to identify further action that will make forest education more relevant for current and future generations of students and professionals at different levels of education, society, and in different contexts of the labor market.

Figure 1. Frame of reference for the Assessment of Forest Education (p. 3 in the report)

This report is part of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ (CPF) Joint Initiative on Forest Education, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

This report show results drawn from a survey that covers all levels of formal forest education including, primary, secondary, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and tertiary education (see Fig. 1). The target respondents were grouped into three through which the survey was administered according to priority:

1) Forest professionals working in government organizations, business organizations (the private sector), labor unions, forest owners’ associations and environmental and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
2) Teachers in the respective levels of formal education
3) Students and recent graduates.

The survey was administered online between July and October 2020. Seventeen countries from the European region were included as primary targets. Subsequently, additional countries in the region were included in the survey sample, based on a snowball-sampling approach. In many of the countries included in the regional survey, forests and forest-related industries play central roles in the economy, and provide a multitude of recreational opportunities that are important for physical and emotional well-being. Altogether, 453 responses were received in the European region, representing the afore-mentioned groups of respondents that were first approached.

Forest professionals, teachers, and students (including recent graduates) had rather similar perceptions of forest education. However, some systematic differences in their perceptions were observed. Compared with other respondents, professionals were more critical of several topics and skills which they saw were inadequately covered in the current programmes, amounting to an almost outdated picture of certain curricula.

Several cultural and societal topics such as gender, ethnicity, traditional and indigenous knowledge were reported to be lacking in the curricula. Also, traditional forestry education topics such as silviculture and forest planning were perceived by many respondents to be excessively covered. A strong emphasis on outdoor learning and promoting students’ opportunities to visit forests and for teachers to use forests as learning environments were identified in both the survey results and the outcomes of the regional consultations.

In conclusion, the regional assessment report offers several new vistas to enhance trans-disciplinary collaboration in the region related to forest education. The survey results, along with other relevant sources of information, recent literature, and outcomes from regional consultations are integrated in the discussion section. This focuses on how to enhance forest education, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and sustainable development at different levels of formal and informal education. The discussion also includes suggested policy changes that could promote gender and ethnic equality.

The report was published 2021 and written by Mika Rekola, Anne Nevgi, and Niclas Sandström (University of Helsinki; Merits-HE).