Wood Science Education in the Era of Convergence: Not Attractive, But Important——2019世界木材日研讨会
国际木文化学会 | 1129 view(s) | 2019/08/14
报告嘉宾：Yoon Soo Kim
Emeritus Professor, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, Korea
One of the significant figures in the field of wood sciences last 30 years is the decline of the education program of wood science (WS) in parallel with its industries in the Western Hemisphere. Traditional WS programs have been curtailed or merged into other programs. Renowned universities such as UC Berkeley, Yale, Oxford, Imperial College or Australian National University excluded forest products program or substantially altered the program. Universities in the USA changed the name of ‘wood’ into “Sustainable Biomaterial” and “Renewable Materials”, resulted in limited teaching in traditional subjects of WS within. Some universities Such trends are also true in research institutions related to WS in Germany, Sweden, and Australia; some were shut down and the others under pressure for restructuring or merging into other institutes. Looking back, a dynamic period of growth in WS education and research in the second half of the last century was followed by cutbacks in budgets, less influx of new staffs and reorientation of research directions. It is not certain that this trend in the Western world would be temporal or even spread out to the universities in the developing countries. Most probably the declining trend would not be rebounded to its previous position in the near future.
Universities across the world are now being under challenged because that 1). Expectation of a university changes greatly. Market-oriented society is not patient with the traditions of open-ended inquiry system. Under the flag of efficiency, accountability and innovation, universities were forced to accommodate the conception of business. University has already turned away from poetry to a place of prose. The competitiveness and performance becomes the keyword of university reputation. Professors are evaluated by their research productivity in terms of number of papers in quality journals. Unfortunately traditional products-based academic fields (agriculture, forest products) showed less growth in scientific output. 2). Global landscape in science and technology (S&T) has been changed. We are experiencing the convergence of digital technologies with breakthrough in material science and biology and the dawn of a human transformation. New specializations are emerging every day. IT diminished the limitation of of time and space. IT changed the procedures and motivation for learning in the higher education. IT shows that university does not work furthermore as warehouse for knowledge creation. Radically changed landscape in S&T also leads to divide the S&T as favorable and unfavorable ones in universities. Agriculture and WS program are affected by this divide as unfavorable ones. Furthermore, a much broader scope of job destruction affects also WS education in university.
The world with rapidly changing and uncertainties raises the question whether current higher education system is really suitable for providing the entire scope and spectra of knowledge for next generation. It is hard to keep a fine balance between the responsibility of university education and the accountability of research. Education in universities has been transformed 1) from didactic to interactive problem-based learning and 2) from boundary-respect conception to the boundary-suspicious conception. The prevailing model of single subject department-base degree would not suitable in an ever-changing social context for acquiring the plausible virtues of a faculty of clear-sightedness, of wisdom and of judgement. Furthermore, the life span of knowledge is too much short when compared to the last century. Students cannot be the passive recipients of knowledge following a prescribed curriculum.
To remain competitive in a rapidly changing market place, the needs of young students and societies should be reflected in “a new” WS program. The default condition of the professors and students is the intellectual dissatisfaction. Innovative and creative souls for a new WS program can be rekindled only by professors. In this regards, visionary leadership by the professors is essential to develop new programs and ideas because they are able to go beyond the confines of the packets of knowledge that they reach. They can devise new solutions to the problems of a constantly changing world, although the precautious, incremental and zero-risk thinking in the professors would be challenges to overcome. Step-by-step changes would not be adequate to overcome the structural weakness of university system. Change is always painful and expensive.
How to accommodate the new modernity in the unversity, while still embracing our traditional value system? Obviously society continues to rely heavily on forest products and more wood needs to meet a growing global population. Hence the challenge herewith, imposed by globalization, is how to re-shape programs as well as perception on WS education. Convergence of WS with other academic disciplines in particular with digital technologies is a must. Furthermore, the role of green wood products in the global climate change agenda, and the environmental benefits of wood versus competing materials are not confined to the developed countries. In this regards, issues on tropical forest and its management are included in the new program to changing the mindset of “me-centered” countries. Even if WS would not be an attractive topic for our young students, however, it can be an important topic for our future earth. The very success of WS program in universities depends on whether professors constantly try to exceed and subvert the imperative to meet immediate, and global needs.