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Part two: Reorienting training programmes

Part two: Reorienting training programmes

Chapter 3: Curriculum development and training

We have seen in previous sections the need to:

This section focuses on some of the applied and practical aspects of curricular reorientation, and proposes some essential elements that will form the basis for a methodology to introduce environmental (especially agricultural) and gender-related subject matter into conventional home economics curricula Naturally, curricula will vary depending upon the emerging conditions and issues in each different country. To this extent, curricular content, structure and delivery should be need-based, and reflect the opportunities and constraints of rural households in each country.

3.1 Formal and Informal Approaches to Training

Since the time of the Greeks, there have been two fundamentally different approaches to pedagogy: one is based upon telling people what they should know; the other (the Socratic approach) assumes that people have a fair amount of knowledge that can be made explicit and effective through a process of questioning. The two approaches have manifested themselves respectively as traditional educational pedagogy and as "progressive education." Progressive education is oriented toward the process of learning, and in recent years has become favored as the best way of teaching adults (Seltzer 1980). Several philosophers and educational theorists, notably Mahatma Gandhi, Paolo Freire, A. T. Mosher and Mohammed Anisur Rahman, have developed effective nonformal approaches to training and social reform that have been widely tested and adopted in developing countries.

Nonformal approaches have significant potential for expanding the environmental learning experience, as they build upon knowledge and skills and farmers already have.

In many instances, nonformal training has become, explicitly or implicitly, a vehicle for making poor and powerless people aware of their condition, and is often aimed at empowerment of the poor and oppressed. This political aspect of nonformal education combines with the Socratic-progressive pedagogic approach to make nonformal education strongly concerned with the process of education. Since women have generally had less access to education than men, and since they are usually the poorest and least powerful members of their communities, one would expect that nonformal educational approaches would be especially effective for them (Seltzer 1980). In a community setting, the context is usually less structured, and in addition to preparing for and teaching youth and adults, a home economics educator may spend more time in assessing needs, developing programs, recruiting learners, and consulting with learners who have specific problems to solve (Seltzer 1985).

Agricultural education and extension in developing countries have considerable importance, as many farmers never have an opportunity to go to school at all, particularly women and girls.

Adult education and agricultural extension in developing countries have considerable importance, as many farmers never have an opportunity to go to school at all, particularly women and girls. Such contact may represent the only formalized education that an individual will receive in his or her lifetime. The response to the need for adult education, and particularly for women, has been a range of nonformal education programs including adult literacy programs, health or family planning education, craft training, or training for poultry or vegetable gardening (Seltzer 1980).

In practice, a wide range of non-formal approaches and methods to nonformal education can be found in use in developing countries. People's participation is an orientation that has been promoted by nonformal educators particularly in the 1980's, but implementation has been difficult for several reasons. First, students and rural people have generally experienced a hierarchical environment, with a top-down management style. Second, group process and communication skills have not been incorporated into pre-service training programmes for rural field workers. Third, the formal education system is subject matter and examination oriented, and educators generally do not foster critical thinking. Finally, curriculum models used for agriculture, home economics, and other applied fields are scientifically-based, so that emphasis is on the accumulation, not application, of knowledge (FAO 1990g). Nonformal approaches centering on people's participation should seek to integrate the knowledge of farmers, extensionists and researchers, emphasize catalytic problem solving, critical thinking, and practical applications of educational materials.

Many informal approaches to training have significant potential for expanding the learning experience, as they build upon knowledge and skills that farmers already have, and can incorporate indigenous technical knowledge (Chambers 1983) into training sessions. One such example is farmer-to-farmer training, which is used to disseminate new methods and techniques. The approach favors the circulation of information between researcher, extensionist and farmer, and enables researchers and extensionists to adapt technical packages to meet farmer needs. FAO has utilized the method in community forestry activities in forest management and tree growing, and is preparing case studies in several countries which will be useful for the future elaboration of home economics curricula

Another approach to informal education relies on farmers' field schools, which have been supported by FAO in an integrated pest management programme over a five-year period in Indonesia, and is now being used in other Asian countries (Indonesia National IPM Program, n.d.) (see Box 3.1). This approach emphasizes field-based training and the cultivation of joint plots by both farmers and extensionists. The approach promotes a broad view of agro-ecosystem management, economic viability, and human health monitoring. The involvement of women farmers in the program is an important element of the program.

Many informal approaches build upon the indigenous technical knowledge and social groupings that already exist in an area.

Nutritionists have experimented with another informal approach to nutrition education based upon the method of Paolo Freire, known as conscientization and dialogue exchange, and developed by Cornell University in Brazil. In this approach, extensionists are cautioned not to 'domesticate' people, but instead to foster two-way communication and methods to enable farmers to identify and solve their own problems (Freire 1981; Drummond 1975). Community meetings are held in the evenings, when most people can attend, and focus on the identification by villagers of factors contributing to child malnutrition and mortality. Village-based coordinators are trained to facilitate the dialogue exchange and work with villagers to identify possible solutions to the problems that have been identified related to food and nutrition.

Box 3.1 Farmer's Field Schools in Indonesia

Since the 1960's, the government of Indonesia has heavily promoted the cultivation of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of rice under irrigated conditions. The introduction of HYV varieties required the use of more inputs as fertilizers and pesticides. Pesticides have been misused, destroying the ecological balance between pests and their natural enemies, with consequent dramatic pest outbreaks and development of pest resistance. Farmers' traditional methods and knowledge were not sufficient to reap the full benefits from the HYVs they were now required to plant. Meanwhile, women have assumed a much greater role in rice farming in the country. The feminization of agricultural labor is due to the dynamics of economic development, which have created better paying off-farm jobs for men.

To address the difficulties that farmers had in coping with the problems associated with HYV rice, the Ministry of Agriculture relied on Training and Visit (T & V) extension methodology, which unfortunately did not effectively reach farmers (neither men nor women). In contrast, the National Integrated Pest Management Project (NIPMP), supported by FAO, provided training that was directly relevant to the primary concerns of both women and men farmers, through farmer's field schools. In form and content, it is the opposite of the usual extension methodology. The NIPMP gives to farmers crucial knowledge and skills about the ecology of the rice field and its proper management, enabling them to understand the dynamics of the insect populations, the requirements of a healthy, resistant plant, and to come to their own independent judgement about when, or if, it is time to spray the crop. The method of instruction, the nonformal adult education model, has proven to be a powerful instrument for the delivery of agricultural extension and opens the possibility that other essential agricultural skills can be diffused in the same way. There is evidence that horizontal, farmer-to-farmer training is already spontaneously underway as a result of the first two rounds of training.

Source: Indonesia National IPM Program, n.d.

Another nonformal method used by several NGOs and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Asia and Africa is known as participatory action research (PAR). Using this method, farmers assemble in camps lasting several days. With the support of a trained national facilitator, they learn to identify the source of their problems and to plan various actions to overcome the problems. Training in group formation, group empowerment, savings and asset creation, and conflict resolution are part of the PAR process. The technique has been successfully used to organize women around environmental rehabilitation of wastelands and small forest-based income-generating industries, particularly in India This nonformal method is based upon the work of Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Anisur Rahman, and variations are widely used by NGOs including Seva Mandir, Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), PEDO, and others.

Distance teaching is another informal method used widely in extension and adult education programs around the world. Learners are distanced geographically from the institution providing the training, and carry out their studies through correspondence courses or by mail contact with faculty members. This can be a cost-effective means of providing specialized training, although the obvious drawback is lack of direct student-teacher contact and demonstration. The Lesotho Distance Training Centre is one example of an adult education training facility that specializes in correspondence courses.

Informal approaches to training have often succeeded due to their decentralized structure, and their adaptation of training activities to the immediate concerns of rural farmers.

Such informal approaches to training have often succeeded due to their decentralized structure, and their adaptation of training activities to the immediate concerns of rural farmers. Informal approaches are generally oriented toward problem-solving, empowerment, and practical needs-based curricula Many informal approaches build upon the indigenous technical knowledge and social groupings that already exist in rural areas. For example, Kenya women's groups, or mwethya, are based on the concept of self-help and mutual assistance (Khasiani 1992). A number of government and NGO programs work with mwethya in capacity-building and in local-level environmental initiatives. As mentioned above, a number of nongovernmental organizations around the world have successfully used participatory, nonformal approaches to environmental conservation, including SEWA and Seva Mandir in India, Project Fruitopia in the Philippines, KENGO (Kenya Energy NGOs), and 6-S in Burkina Faso.

Many governments have already incorporated nonformal approaches into their extension curricula Many have also incorporated agricultural, rural development, and technological concerns into home economics curricula For example, Egerton College in Njoro Kenya has incorporated an integrated unit entitled Management of Family Resources into its curricula The home economics curricula of Jamaica and Nigeria have also been expanded to include rural development and agricultural concerns. However, the need remains in many countries for the adoption of nonformal methods, as well as broader environmental and gender foci into conventional curricula.

3.2 Strengthening Staff Capacities to Incorporate Farm Household Management and Environmental Topics into Curricula

The primary goal of home economics extensionists and educators is to help rural families to learn. While educators perform other tasks, such as developing policies and programs, the most important function of the home economist or extensionist is to teach (Seltzer 1985). Reorienting home economics curricula requires that educators be capable of developing expanded curricula and teaching new subject matter that is to be included in the expanded curricula

Strengthening the capabilities of extension staff to effectively teach farm household management and environmental topics is therefore a key element in introducing the reoriented curricula

The primary goal of home economics extensionists is to help rural families to learn.

Staff training should generally focus on three fundamental areas: background information on the curricular reorientation, subject matter training, and training in nonformal communications and methods, such as needs assessment and participatory methods. As a matter of practice, a staff training needs assessment should be conducted prior to developing a training programme. Field-based workshops should also be conducted to assess staff and farmer training needs prior to developing training programmes, instructional units, and training materials.

Strengthening the capabilities of extension staff to effectively teach farm household management and environmental conservation in a key element in introducing the reoriented curricula.

3.2.1 Training of Trainers/Lecturers

Curriculum change is most effectively implemented when the community understands and supports it, when facilities are available for learning activities, when appropriate materials are at hand, and when staff are supportive of the change. But it is the teacher or trainer who is the key to curriculum implementation, for in the last analysis, the curriculum is what the teacher makes of it (Unesco 1988). Trainers of trainers and their trainees will first need to be convinced of the need to change existing curricula, then be given the tools and training to train others.

Training will likely be required at all professional levels in order to achieve the curricular reorientation. The educational planner will need to review current capabilities and skills levels, and determine the training needs at each level and for all professional categories.

3.3 Curricular Framework and Design

The planning and development of a curriculum in any field of study is perhaps one of the greatest tasks facing an educator or extensionist. As such, curriculum planning is usually not a hurried affair, but a careful, analytical exercise (Weidemann 1976). It is a process that must take into consideration the specific educational needs of the learner, changing environmental and socioeconomic conditions, and the cultural norms and values of the community.

In the last analysis, the curriculum is what the trainer makes of it.

Unesco 1988

Rural settings will differ greatly from one country to another, and environmental endowments, conditions and farming practices also differ enormously from place to place. Consequently, while general steps can be outlined here, it is the responsibility of the education and extension planning staff in each country to develop the specific curricular framework that addresses the unique environmental and socioeconomic conditions and the particular natural resource constraints of rural farmers existing in the country. The steps provided in this document are broad guidelines that should be adapted as needed to the resources and constraints found in any given country.

A curriculum can be defined "as all learning which is planned and guided by the educational institute" (Kouchok in Weidemann 1986). As such, it guides the overall preparation and application of education and training, and answers the underlying questions of: who should learn what, when, how, why, under what circumstances, governance, and cost (Unesco 1988).

3.3.1 The Curricular Planning Process

The curricular planning process involves several discrete steps. First, planners will need to specify curricular goals, objectives, and learning activities, and work through a process like that outlined in Section 3.3.3 below. The planning process should be adapted and revised according to the resources and needs of the particular country.

The planning and development of a curriculum in any field of study is perhaps one of the greatest tasks facing an educator or extensionist.

During the planning period, it will be necessary to identify the various levels of trainees, and the training activities needed for each level. Planners should also discuss the duration of training, competencies for all levels of trainees, the phasing out of the existing curriculum, record-keeping and evaluation procedures, and other aspects related to implementation of the revised curriculum.

Planning of the training activities should be conducted in an atmosphere of close collaboration with research, extension, and community development staff, as well as with the trainees themselves. Participatory assessment, planning and evaluation methods are advisable, as they enable the trainees to participate in and learn about educational processes in a direct way that they can in turn adapt in their own extension work, as well as to enable learners to contribute information about their own training needs.

3.3.2 Assessing Needs, Constraints, Capabilities and Resources (Human and Financial)

When preparing a new or broadened general curriculum, it sometimes happens that not enough resources are available to carry it out, and therefore it may not be possible to respond to all of the pressing needs of the society (Pandey in Seltzer 1985). The reorientation of an existing curriculum may not require the substantial resources that are required for designing and implementing a new curriculum. Nevertheless there may be substantial costs involved in curricular reorientation, especially where subject matter and techniques are brought in from other disciplines. The curricular planner should carefully assess the needs, contraints, capabilities and opportunities that are available, and avoid preparing an ambitious program that is beyond the reach of available resources. Where resources are scarce, a simultaneous reorientation of research, extension and training activities for environmental concerns should be closely integrated to reduce costs across institutions, and to build upon complementarities wherever possible.

At another level, the profession of home economics has a long-standing tradition of working with rural women. There are thousands of village-level workers who have had some basic training in home economics and could benefit from a reorientation and training. Educational planners will need to conceptualize the best way to reach them (FAO 1986b), as well as the costs involved in doing so. Certainly these village-level workers should be viewed as a valuable resource and means of reaching rural households that is already in place, which would benefit greatly from some additional investment in training.

Village-level workers should be viewed as a valuable resource and means of reaching rural households that are already in place, who would benefit greatly from some additional benefit in training.

In developing curricular content and training activities, the educational planner should consider the need for staff salaries, facilities and equipment, training materials and media, a resource library for trainers, administrative requirements (office space, supplies, filing cabinets, desks, bookcases, etc.), and fore such as seminars, workshops, and field trips. Certainly indigenous materials should be used wherever possible. Cost estimates should be attributed to each resource, and a budget developed for carrying out the curricular revision and related training activities. Costs will vary from one country to another, depending on the scope of the curricular reorientation, available resources, and number of trainees.

3.3.3 Reviewing the Curricular Framework

This document assumes that a home economics curricular framework already exists from which to work. To incorporate environmental and gender concerns into an existing curriculum, the educational decision maker should undertake a series of steps to assess, revise and reorient the curricular framework. This methodological process can be summarized in the following steps:

3.3.4 Curricular Design


Three important considerations should be kept in mind when redesigning an existing curriculum, or when preparing new curricula First, strong effort should be made to closely integrate the various existing institutional elements that contribute to the development and dissemination of information, including research, in-service training and staff development, and extension services; the integration of subject matter between and within disciplines; and the integration of theory, practice and application. Because environmental conditions and farmers' needs are not static, it is essential that the curricular design be made flexible, to accommodate new information, issues, and technologies over time.

Because farmers' needs are not static, it is essential that the curricular design be flexible enough to accommodate new information, ideas, and technologies in the future.

Second, the curriculum should reflect and encompass a holistic ecosystem approach, without fragmentation or compartmentalization into small unrelated units. Since the world in reality is not fragmented, the world should not be conceptualized in small units or parts. When teaching about environment and society, curricula should reflect greater self-managing units which are ecosystems (Bakshi and Naveh 1980), and specifically connect humans with their environments and the interactions between them. To do this, a broad-based curriculum must be developed that integrates a considerable amount of subject matter from other disciplines, and extends beyond the conventional boundaries of the home economics discipline.

Third, the reoriented curriculum must be a balanced one that reflects the importance of both the cultural and occupational needs of the student (Weidemann 1976), as well as the resource constraints that the student faces.

The value orientation of curriculum reorientation assumes that the harmony of people and nature is an important value to teach and that education for the future requires a global and ecological perspective by all peoples. The necessity of remaining in harmony with the environment with respect to population and food balances presses us to develop a more futuristic and longitudinal perspective in educational planning activities (Rettig in Seltzer 1985).

3.4 Curricular Goals and Objectives

Curricular goals are the foundations upon which curricula are built. In this case, the curricular goal should be the incorporation of environmental topics and issues into home economics curricula to improve the sustainability and productivity of the natural resource base, particularly that which is used the household level.

Curricular objectives are the purpose of the student's reaming, stated in terms of the reaming behavior to be achieved and the content in relation to which (s)he is expected to achieve it (Knorr in Weidemann 1977). Curricular objectives are generally divided into three domains. First, the cognitive domain, which is the knowledge area and involves the learning of skills, comprehension, application analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Second, the affective domain, includes receiving, responding, valuing and organizing. The third domain specifies the skill to be learned (Bloom et al in Weidemann 1976). These aspects must be considered when preparing the curricular reorientation.

In redesigning home economics curricula to integrate agricultural and rural development considerations, educators should seek to (FAO 1991w):

3.4.1 Learning Experiences and Methods

Educational planners should first determine the overall approach to training, whether formal or nonformal. Adopting multi-dimensional, holistic environmental concepts and interdisciplinary approaches to environmental education implies that multiple teaching and delivery methods should be used to convey information that is beyond conventional curricular boundaries.

The learning experiences should be devised to relate directly to the experience and needs of the trainees in their field work, and provide them with skills and tools to address the specific natural resource constraints and conditions of rural households with whom they work. These are normally developed once the specific curricular objectives are finalized.

3.5 Curricular Content

It is helpful to prepare a statement of content (sometimes called generalizations), that takes into account the curricular goals and objectives, the developmental level of the trainees, and the national or regional environmental context. The number of generalizations in the curriculum will depend upon the prevailing environmental conditions, age of the students, the duration or length of the unit, and the breadth or depth of the content to be covered (Unesco 1988). An example of a generalization is

"Conservation methods, such as revegetation, soil conservation methods, and controlled grazing, are important for controlling soil erosion." From each generalization, specific learning experiences can then be developed.

The economic trade-offs of alternative uses of natural resources should be carefully considered when developing curricular content.

In developing the curricular content, the potential impact of the curriculum on the cultural practices of the rural population should also be considered. The choice of content may have broad economic, nutritional, and environmental impacts within the country (Unesco 1988). For example, a home economics extensionist may promote red meat, black or red beans, or dark green vegetables as a source of iron. However, the production of each may have specific environmental or economic impacts. The promotion of ret meat through cattle raising may provide a source of iron and a source of income to rural households, but may also have a detrimental impact on the environment through overgrazing and soil compaction under certain conditions. The economic tradeoffs of alternative resource use should be carefully explored while developing the curricular content. The broader socioeconomic and biophysical implications of each extension message should be carefully thought through.

In considering curricular content, planners should review the curriculum to see if it does the following:

Finally, any economic and technical packages to be introduced through the reoriented curriculum must be economically attractive to the household, and should be thoroughly tested with small groups of farm households prior to dissemination and promotion on a large scale. Similarly, environmental conservation methods and techniques that are appropriate for one area may not be appropriate for other areas.

3.6 Curricular Delivery

3.6.1 Delivery Methods

A number of alternative delivery methods can be considered to meet the needs of nontraditional students. These include holding extension activities in the evening when people may have more free time, although they may be in addition to the person's existing work load (Seltzer 1985). Another method for reaching widely dispersed individuals that has been used in India and elsewhere in Asia are "camps," where learners (often women) stay together for several days during a period of training and educational activities. This method has been widely used by NGOs and United Nations organizations to organize rural people around environmental rehabilitation activities, as noted in Section 3.1. It could also be used to train decentralized village-based field workers.

Workshops, study tours, and correspondence or distance courses are other alternative delivery methods that have been used in various countries to provide in-service training for extensionists (Seltzer 1985). Curricular delivery will be determined by the number if trainees, duration of training, budgetary constraints, and degree to which trainees are dispersed.

3.7 Curricular Supervision and Evaluation

3.7.1 Curricular Supervision

To administer and implement the curricular reorientation, some type of ongoing coordination or administration will be needed, with representation from instructors and from the learners through a feedback mechanism. A curricular advisory committee comprised of individuals from various training and research institutions in the country is advisable if the curricular reorientation is broad-based. Such a committee could also facilitate the integration of material from research institutes and from other fields not generally represented in home economics curricula, such as watershed management, community development, or forestry.

3.7.2 Evaluation

Given the large amounts of dedication, creativity, and resources that have been invested into educational and extension programs over the past thirty years, it is surprising how little is known about the actual effects that have been produced (Unesco 1988; Uphoff 1990; Eckman 1993).

Evaluation is a process for finding out to what extent the curriculum and related reaming experiences that are planned are actually producing the expected results. Curricular development entails considerable preliminary investigation related to the learners' needs. The evaluation phase is not the end of curriculum development or revision, but rather is part of a continuum and completes the "loop" in the process (Unesco 1988). As such, it can help educators to revise curricula to meet the changing needs of farmers in a flexible, iterative way.

Building an evaluation process into the curriculum should be a basic task in curriculum development. Educational planners should orient the evaluation process around the following questions:

As noted above, participatory assessment, monitoring and evaluation (PAME) methods are strongly advised, both for assessing the impact of the curricular orientation, but also as a topic for inclusion in the reoriented curriculum. FAO has produced a body of material on PAME primarily for participatory community forestry activities that is widely available (FAO 1989c; FAO 1990e). Many of the nonformal training and organizational methods described in these field-oriented manuals could be used for evaluating the impacts of curricular reorientation on an informal, participatory basis.

Summing Up

This chapter has attempted to provide some practical guidelines and ideas for educational planners and trainers in reorienting home economics curricula to include environmental and gender concerns.

In reorienting the home economics curricula in their countries, trainers should continually assess and revise the curricular content and methods, as new information becomes available from research sources, and as the needs of the trainees change. Curriculum development and reorientation is best served by using iterative, flexible approaches that enable the curriculum to respond to the changing needs and resource constraints of the community and the nation.

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