Update – How have the Permaculture Educational Structures changed it the Netherlands in the years 2012 – 2014?

UPDATE on Educational Structures in the Netherlands

Based on interviews with Leo Bakx and Monique Wijn 28th – 30th June 2014. Written by Tanja Korvenmaa

The interest towards permaculture is growing

The interest towards Permaculture in the area of the Netherlands has grown in particular through Transition Towns movement and Urban Farming movement. There is also new legislation coming into effect, forcing all government agencies, organisations and businesses to adopt sustainable development policies and practices. Number of “green” bachelor and master’s courses is rising quickly as universities compete for the favor of students (their main source of income).

Our response has been to plant the seeds for a full time vocational school for permaculture teachers, training complete school teams, based on lean start-up, cooperative, sociacratic models. Affiliating with national and European universities. Both facilitated through EPT network. This project is the Aardwerk Academy.

Structures supporting permaculture education have started to change

The structures of permaculture  education in the Netherlands have started to change during these two years, but not much yet. Other than the new 4-year vocational Aardwerk Academy, it’s business as usual.

A group of teachers and permaculturists are meeting on a regular base on skype or in person to create together a national diploma system and a national association. These teachers are helping each other to develop curricula and exchange teaching material.

A national survey was carried out both in Belgium and in Netherlands, about the needs for a national organisation and a questionnaire to create a social map of designers and teachers. The results will be presented at the Dutch-Belgium permaculturefestival at 4-6th of July 2014 in Belgium (http://permacultuurfestival.wordpress.com/).

Another example is working with Steve Hart and Martina Petru on the Permaculture College of Europe, supporting standards dialogue, development and quality assurance.

“It feels like there are more teachers”

The Netherlands does not have a compulsory register of teachers and courses, so there are no exact data on how many teachers and courses there are.

Several permaculturists have followed teachers trainings abroad, due to the partnership, specially the teachers trainings in Friland by Andy Goldring and by Rosemary Morrow in Spain.

The well known names like Taco Blom and Ishi Crosby of the Permacultuurschool Nederland are keeping a very low profile. Taco moved to Belgium a couple of years ago and Ishi retreated from teaching. PDC’s are given by Fransjan de Waard, http://thuisopaarde.nl/, Katherine Holm (http://www.permacultuur.org/2012-01-26/), Martijn Ballemans, http://www.puurpermacultuur.nl/index.php/de-docent, Linder van den Heerik, http://eetbaar-groen.nl/ en Leo Bakx, http://aardwerk.org/.

Because the Netherlands does not have a association yet, there is no data to measure the changes in the quality of teaching. Leo Baxt comments: “The gut feeling is that the quality of teaching is based on experience alone and more and more inexperienced teacher are coming on-line, while the quality of teaching is going down accordingly. You could say that the quality of teaching is going down due to the lack of changes in the structure ;-)”

Leo Bakx, what have you learned from the educational structures of other countries?

“There are problems with any system. The problems have many similarities are often related to personality issues with the people involved. Something in permaculture education doesn’t address the need for better skills in human communication and the pragmatic resolution of conflicts.

I’ve also learned that the standards and criteria in other countries are lacking in rigor and seem to encourage a softening of curricula and effective teaching methods. The curriculum in many countries lack in teaching design skills in favor of teaching appropriate technology, arts & crafts. Few countries have a curriculum standard for teaching teachers. These are all issues that the Aardwerk Academy is designed to address.