Veterinary labour planning
Minimum requirements for veterinary education
Veterinary education for private practice
Veterinary education for public service
Veterinary education for field research
National agricultural research systems in Sub-Saharan Africa
Conclusions and recommendations
This article was compiled by R. Ruppanner, Senior Officer (Animal Health), Animal Health Service, Animal Production and Health Division, FAO, Rome, Italy.
"Since the main function of veterinary education is to supply veterinarians and animal health assistants (AHAs) in the number and of the quality required, an assessment of veterinary manpower requirements is essential to meaningful planning of veterinary education and to decisions on the network of training institutions and their capacities. "
This statement taken from the 1988 FAO Animal Production and Health Policy Paper Education, training and applied research for the livestock sector set the stage for an FAO/WHO (World Health Organization) Expert Consultation on veterinary education held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy, in September 1993.
Fifteen internationally recognized authorities (Box 1) on veterinary education were invited to assist FAO and WHO officers in producing recommendations to serve as international guidelines for veterinary education, training programmes and facilities. After briefly considering the state of the art relative to each of the five major issues raised, the experts were asked to suggest ways and means of identifying and overcoming any possible constraints. This procedure proved most effective and generated over 60 recommendations.
The experts' findings leading to these recommendations are summarized in this article.
An important point to keep in mind when redefining and updating veterinary education is the recent trend towards privatization of veterinary practices in developing countries with the aim of enlarging the services available to small farmers.
A method for planning veterinary labour needs based on the number of livestock units (LSU) has already been used in some countries more or less successfully. Not only does this method allow comparisons between countries, but it can also help to highlight the influence of different systems of husbandry. Its application to predict the number of veterinarians required per thousands of LSUs needs careful consideration, however. It must also be recognized that there are a number of additional factors to be included in the equation, such as public recognition of veterinary skills in related areas; growth of small animal practices; increasing involvement in public health; tighter control in international trade; public interest in animal welfare and ethical matters; and the increasing number of women in the profession. These factors came to light as a result of miscalculations in recent years by veterinary associations in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Other factors that are applicable, also in the context of developing countries, are the size of the human population; gross national product; total value of the livestock industry; affordable needs; competing, supporting and auxiliary workforce available; and political imperatives.
Estimating the number of veterinarians needed is not all that is required. The knowledge and skills they must have in order for the profession to be equal to its task must also be considered. In the context of developing national programmes, it is important that national veterinary associations play a strong role in determining professional development. "This means far more than forming an association for meetings and exchanging information with colleagues, important though that is; an association should also have credibility at national level and command sufficient respect to be invited by the appropriate government department to give its views on all animal health and production matters [including education]." This quote echoes a sentiment that was repeatedly heard during the expert consultation and emerged as one of the main recommendations.
BOX 1 - Contributors
President, World Veterinary Association
Dr Jean-Germain Gros
Dr Daniel N. Kisauzi
Dr Peter Msolla
Dr Eryl H. Pitt
Dr Lekan F. Ayanwale
Dr José M. Berruecos V.
Dr Douglas I. Bryden
Prof Rod S. Campbell
Dr Mohamed M. Fassi-Fehri
Dr Ismail M. Reda
Dr Jean Piérard
Dr William R. Pritchard
Dr Helen Scott-Orr
FAO animal health experts with nomad karakul sheep breeders in Afghanistan - Des experts de santé animale de la FAO s'entretiennent avec des éleveurs nomades de moutons karakul en Afghanistan - Expertos de sanidad animal de la FA O con criadores nómadas de ovejas karakul en el Afganistán
Photo/Foto: F. Botts, FAO
Animal health and husbandry students at class in lay assistants' school in Kabul Afghanistan - Etudiants de l'Ecole d'assistants spécialisés en santé animale et zootechnie, Kaboul (Afghanistan) - Sanidad animal y zootecnia: estudiantes en una clase de la escuela de personal auxiliar no profesional en Kabul, Afganistán
Photo/Foto: F. Botts, FAO
Student studying charts on animal diseases in Ethiopia - Un étudiant regarde attentivement des planches illustrant les maladies des animaux en Ethiopie - Un estudiante examina gráficos sobre las enfermedades animales en Etiopía
Photo/Foto: F. Botts, FAO
The idea of establishing minimum requirements for veterinary education throughout the world is not new; it has been discussed in almost every informal international meeting of educators for many years. In 1987, the World Association of Veterinary Educators (WAVE) was created under the auspices of the World Veterinary Association (WVA) at the time of the XXIIIrd World Veterinary Congress, in Montreal, Canada. As one of its first actions, WAVE created a steering committee on veterinary education with the objectives of establishing a survey of veterinary education throughout the world and proposing recommendations to help teaching institutions achieve their goals, as well as establishing and maintaining expertise in the area of veterinary education.
The committee also assists WAVE in its efforts to coordinate globally the quality of veterinary degree studies in the world. Hence, its first task was to propose minimum requirements in veterinary education that not only had to meet certain standards but also had to have enough flexibility to be adapted to the various situations in the world. A draft of the minimum requirements was presented to the General Assembly of the World Veterinary Association and was adopted in May 1992.
It is clear that the minimum requirements were prepared by educators for educators without any formal consultation with international agencies or experts other than those on the WAVE Committee on Education and were intended to provide relevant authorities and teaching institutions throughout the world with a tool to help them produce better qualified veterinarians with high technical and professional standards. The role of the veterinarian varies, sometimes widely, from country to country, but the veterinary profession, like most other professions, is always an amalgam of technical skills and conceptual abilities; both are important and both are necessary. Awareness of the dangers inherent to the loss of one or the other of these attributes is critical.
The minimum requirements are essentially concerned with the professional level of education (doctorate in veterinary medicine), realizing, however, that professional education, postgraduate education and research are all linked together. It is also recognized that the minimum requirements will have to be revised and improved regularly, although the main challenge will be their implementation.
Neither WAVE nor WVA has coercive power or money to invest in improving the quality of veterinary education where needed, but they do have moral power. Hence, at its last meeting, the Steering Committee on Veterinary Education proposed that WVA implement a school certification programme with evaluation carried out by the teaching institutions themselves. This evaluation would be monitored and confirmed by volunteers from international organizations in the area, duly appointed for the purpose by the Veterinary Education Committee of the WVA. The certified status of a school, college or faculty would be granted by the Veterinary Education Committee and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the WVA.
The certified institutions would be identified as such in future editions of the World Directory of Veterinary Teaching Centres, published by WVA. It is anticipated/hat the prestige associated with this would be a good incentive for institutions to participate.
The wide diversity of conditions in the world makes the establishment of minimum requirements in veterinary education imperative yet difficult at the same time. As mentioned above, the objective of such requirements is to provide assistance in the training of skilled individuals to be useful in their part of the world. These requirements should not be used to classify veterinary teaching institutions in a hierarchical scale nor are they intended to replace the standards currently existing in the scientifically and technically more advanced parts of the world. Their sole purpose is to ensure a minimum level of quality training of veterinarians worldwide.
The minimum requirements for undergraduate veterinary education follow here.
· A veterinary education institution must be of university level and meet the standards specified by the World Veterinary Association (WVA) in its accreditation system. The veterinary curriculum must be under the -immediate and sole direction of a veterinarian but non-veterinarians are not excluded from teaching. It must be adequately financed, housed, equipped and staffed.
· The duration of the veterinary curriculum must extend over a period of at least four years - not including preveterinary training - during which a minimum of eight months of instruction is given each year The veterinary curriculum must cover in depth, and provide appropriate understanding of, the subject matters (Box 2) in relation to the various animal species and animal production - systems of importance in the area.
· Appropriate library and audiovisual facilities as well as sufficient clinical, laboratory and practical training must be provided. Students must be properly supervised and evaluated throughout the course of their studies.
· A veterinary education institution must be able to demonstrate that research activities are performed on its premises, contributing to the acquisition of new knowledge both at the applied and fundamental levels. A veterinary education institution must be able to assist veterinarians practicing in whatever position, in whichever area or country, to cope with quickly changing professional demands, by providing continuing education, for example.
The certification of a veterinary education institution meeting the above requirements should be made by an international organization, such as WVA or WAVE.
The changes advocated to prepare graduates for a rewarding private veterinary practice vary from country to country depending on its level of economic development. In the developing world, most livestock industries are small to moderate. The veterinarian to serve in this type of setting would have to be a farm animal practitioner with much training in farming systems (dairy and beef cattle, sheep and goats), nutrition, disease prevention and control strategies, reproduction, including pregnancy diagnosis and artificial insemination, therapeutic and surgical services and vaccination schedules.
Veterinary curricula should be adjusted to achieve the new objectives and should include the subjects listed in Box 3.
Another matter that should also be given some consideration is companion animal practice, which is gradually becoming an issue in developing countries. This would concern dogs kept as pets or reliable guards, for example.
BOX 2 - Minimum basic veterinary curriculum
· Macroscopic and microscopic anatomy
Traditional veterinarians in public service require many skills, some of which are provided by standard veterinary curricula, including good clinical and epidemiological skills, a thorough understanding of the principles of medicine, parasitology, microbiology, pathology and toxicology as well as an understanding of livestock production systems.
Also desirable, but not necessarily provided in detail at veterinary schools, are more general competencies such as good communication skills, both oral and written, and an understanding of rural sociology appropriate to the particular country, the adult learning process, extension methodology and the local legal and regulatory framework. Staff supervision and motivation is another important skill that is usually acquired on the job. Further special skills needed to cope with the emerging roles of government veterinarians are shown in Box 4.
BOX 3 - Veterinary curriculum for private practice
· Production economics
These technologies use a combination of epidemiological, statistical and economic tools and must be underpinned by detailed knowledge of livestock and livestock product trading patterns as well as the behaviour of different disease agents in different livestock products.
Apart from specific veterinary roles in public service, there are a number of more general features of the public-policy environment that will impinge on veterinary education in the future, such as information-handling skills, computer usage, public accountability and an allied trend to legal action where individuals or companies perceive themselves to be often unjustly treated.
An increased educational level of the community gradually leads to a greater requirement to persuade people rather than to instruct them. Issues that are considered by veterinarians to be in the public interest must be justified clearly and broadly against competing priorities. Increasing concern worldwide for the environment and for the preservation of global biodiversity is creating new areas for veterinary involvement, particularly in the management of wildlife and endangered species.
It is also necessary for traditional veterinary practices and livestock production systems to be evaluated in terms of their impact on the environment, particularly in the area of waste management. Grazing management systems designed to provide sustainable production without damaging fragile ecosystems require abroad ecological and adaptive approach. A traditional veterinary education does not necessarily provide the best framework to develop this.
All these external features indicate a need for flexibility in designing veterinary curricula for a variety of reasons, including the rate of change and conflicts between global food production requirements and competition for scarce resources by the world's population. It is predicted widely that veterinary requirements will become more precise in the coming decades. The traditional veterinary education based originally on European models has served governments and the private sector well in the past. People emerging from this system have been able to carry out traditional roles and make enormous strides in the eradication and control of many major livestock diseases and related problems.
The charging role of veterinarians in public service plus external pressures call for some modification in the approach to veterinary education in order to help students cope with the knowledge explosion and with future changes likely to occur. Suggestions for curricular changes include provision of group and integrate subjects that logically relate to one another, greater emphasis on principles rather than rote learning and better selection of key information that must be committed to memory, as well as more emphasis on practical training and total systems rather than various components of those systems.
BOX 4 - Veterinary curriculum for public service
· Administration of animal welfare standards
· An understanding of the science of pain and stress assessment and of animal behaviour
· In-depth understanding of pharmacology and toxicology relative to the registration of veterinary chemicals and the control of chemical residues in food processing
· Keeping up to date with the emerging world and international regulatory homework for chemical residues, which has such an important impact on trade
· Risk assessment for quarantine and trade purposes
· Hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) methodology
· Total quality management (TQM) principles
· Contingency planning for exotic disease outbreaks and other disasters
· Management, organizational and communication skills
It is evident from the above that it is increasingly difficult to provide veterinary students with information in undergraduate courses to prepare them for any of the many roles they may need to play in public or private practice. The course would become too long and too cumbersome for effective development of the required skills in emerging graduates. A more flexible method may be to encourage a basic science course with some mandatory subjects, followed by a basic veterinary course dealing with principles and practical teaching in both pre-clinical and clinical subjects, livestock production and animal behaviour, as well as modules for specialization in various areas, which may come directly after a basic course or be taken up at a later date.
The aims of field research are to curb animal disease and increase animal production, to enhance farmer income and to improve public health. All of these aims are of national importance. To meet these objectives the research worker can select from an array of methods as listed in Box 5.
BOX 5 - Veterinary curriculum for field research
Surveys. In advanced countries a mass of data has been accumulated on indigenous diseases of livestock and is being expanded to include aquatic species, wildlife and other animals for which most countries still do not have reliable data banks. As a result, there is a need to teach simple survey techniques and data analysis.
Epidemiological studies. Designed to give detailed information on the prevalence, incidence, distribution anti variability of specific diseases, in other words, disease dynamics.
Trials. Assessment of vaccines or treatments and other intervention studies to show the value of a procedure in controlling disease, cost/benefit analysis can be built into the experiment.
Productivity studies. These must be concerned with the total farming system. Assessment of production indexes is an important part of the work of veterinarians, whether animals are healthy or; diseased. Body-weight gain in young animals, milk or egg production and fertility are all important aspects of the production system. Underlying disease factors such as parasitism, bacterial or other diseases may be assessed as part of multidisciplinary studies.
Aspects of field research can be taught at any time in the undergraduate veterinary curriculum and will be most effective during the paraclinical and clinical years. The requirements for effective field research are usually more complex than they seem, however. To begin with, they will almost certainly be multidisciplinary, requiring the involvement of the people and facilities shown in Box 6.
The aims and methods of research can be implicit throughout the entire veterinary undergraduate course but these may not be encouraged by conventional curricula and teaching methods. They are most likely to be expressed when the teacher is an active research worker, a condition that lies at the core of an effective university. There is no reason why aspects of field research cannot be conveyed to the student from the earliest days of a veterinary programme through appropriate examples.
The interested and experienced teacher will be able to meet the challenge by reorganizing existing material and by using modern teaching aids, good printed materials, videos, etc. The analysis of case-studies, scientific papers or research results can convey both basic principles and provide insight into research methods at field level. Problem-solving exercises may include field examples. Many lecturers already do include these but there is undoubtedly a need to extend the practice more widely.
In some veterinary schools a small research project is part of the clinical course, but its effectiveness in field research depends on the type and amount of material to which the student has access. Often the accessibility of good quality field material is limited for geographical, economic or logistical reasons in urban faculties. It is important that the student is trained to select problems of great economic importance, some of which are subclinical. The temptation to concentrate on the more exotic, exciting and newsworthy diseases should be tempered by the realization that more mundane problems (mastitis, internal parasitism, protein deficiency, neonatal mortality, infertility) may have a greater effect on productivity and farmer income.
In training students in the paraclinical sciences, the role of the laboratory in field research should be emphasized. If the field workers cannot depend on this support, their success in research will be limited. The scope for field research based on the paraclinical sciences is almost unlimited; the skilful selection of problem areas and appropriate support from a laboratory, abattoir or other facility can generate considerable information that may be valuable far beyond the experiment site.
"Field" research is a broad concept, encompassing work at the level of the small farm, commercial production unit, abattoir or diagnostic laboratory and even at the national surveillance level. It can involve any one of a wide range of economic animals, ruminants, monogastrics and avian species, as well as fish, crustaceans and molluscs. All have many well-defined problems that are sometimes influenced by regional (for example, tropical) characteristics. Veterinary schools in different regions are increasingly proving their skills by offering specialized training portfolios in these areas.
Short courses are the usual means of technology transfer. These may last one day, one week, one month or longer depending on the aims of the programme. They have the advantage of minimally disrupting the organizations concerned. Great skill is apparent in the design of an effective course, which maybe presented by senior members of the organization concerned or by external consultants drawn from the commercial sector, national or international agencies. It is essential that the curriculum is relevant, understandable and pitched at a level that will yield results of practical value to the farmer. The rush to high technology should be resisted when more appropriate intermediate technology is what is needed. Production should come before status, the farming system before the scientist.
BOX 6 - People and facilities to be involved in veterinary field research
Veterinary field officers and animal health assistants who are expected to carry out disease investigations and control. to transfer information to farmers and to oversee quarantine and surveillance, among other things. Where field research is planned, however, it is imperative that the veterinarian/farmer link is direct when the work is being carried out since the veterinarian has the scientific background to assess the causes and significance of disease.
General practitioners may be included in the research team and assigned specific tasks such as project supervision, clinical data and materials (blood, urine) collection or pregnancy diagnosis.
Livestock producers are the first link in the research chain. Training for field research must therefore include an outline of extension methods for gathering information. The farmer should become involved at an early stage of project planning.
Regional laboratories to provide accurate diagnosis essential for field research on disease. In addition, communications must be good and rapid between the laboratory and the field. and personnel should understand each other's roses. As a result. training is required at both ends of the axis.
Abattoirs and meat-processing plants can be valuable components of field research as surveys earned out using blood? urine or organs may provide indicators of the prevalence of disease in a district, region or country. Data may be used for simple quantitative analyses or from the basis of trace-back studies at the farm or district level for more detailed investigation.
The aim of field research is to obtain applicable information that will enhance production and farmer income. Transfer of the information and methods is the final stage of the process. Communication skills should be discussed as part of the field research process, therefore, since the trainees may be expected to become agents of extension. Some insight into sociological and economic structures and effective communication methods and audiovisual techniques are desirable if an operation is to succeed.
In developing countries, national agricultural research systems (NARS) vary markedly as to sophistication and effectiveness. Many NARS, particularly in Asia and Latin America, are mature institutions, staffed by well-trained research workers, and their programmes are directed at solving important country development problems. In sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, NARS are young, still developing institutions and too often research is poorly focused on national needs. In many of these institutions too many research workers are foreigners (29 percent in NARS in sub-Saharan Africa in 1981-1985) and there is too high a turnover rate of professional staff. Support for NARS throughout the developing world is only 25 percent of the support of NARS in the developed world based on agricultural gross domestic product, even though many of the research problems in developing countries are much more complex than those in developed countries. Another problem for many NARS is that donors fund special projects for short periods of time and require country participation in funding. This introduces donor bias and distorts national research objectives. Donor support, however, is critical to the survival of many NARS; consequently, research administrators are forced to accept donor funding for their institutions to survive.
One of the most serious problems facing NARS and individual scientists in many developing countries is professional isolation. The lack of adequate library resources, especially current scientific journals, isolates scientists from the international mainstream of science. Since few NARS can establish critical masses of scientists in many areas of study, many scientists must work alone or in very small groups. Funds for travel to national and international meetings, to visit other laboratories or for study abroad are very scarce. All this leads to a pervasive professional isolation, which is destructive to research productivity.
Local farmers in the Byumba prefecture in northern Rwanda learning techniques of spraying cattle against ticks - Des agriculteurs de la préfecture de Byumba dans le nord du Rwanda apprennent les techniques de pulvérisation du bétail contre les tiques - Agricultores locales de la prefectura de Byumba, en Rwanda septentrional, aprendiendo técnicas de rociado de los vacunos contra las garrapatas
Photo/Foto: G. Moneta, FAO
Using computers to monitor the progress of the New World Screwworm eradication campaign in Libya - Utilisation d'ordinateurs pour suivre les progrès de la campagne d'éradication de la lucilie bouchère en Libye - Uso de computadoras para ayudar a vigilar los progresos de la campaña de erradicación del gusano barrenador del ganado en Libia
Photo/Foto: S. Pierbattista, FAO
Another serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa is the small number of research scientists with Ph.D.-level training. In all the 49 countries of this region, there are only 1 000 research workers in animal production and health with B.Sc.-level training or higher; of these 315 also have a M. Sc., and an estimated 100 of these have earned a Ph.D. There are too few African scientists with adequate research training to lead research on intensification and all of its ramifications, and this is an essential transformation if agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is to provide food and subsistence for the region's rapidly growing population. There is a critical need to expand postgraduate education for research in the developing world and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
The quality and effectiveness of research, education and extension programmes, more than any other aspect of the development process, will determine how well developing countries will feed and support their growing populations in the uncertain years ahead. Rural-sector development requires the constant improvement of human resources at all levels of production, processing, marketing and support services, as well as the development or adaptation of new knowledge about these processes through research. Therefore, national strategies for development require that educational programmes (primary, secondary and tertiary) be constantly evaluated and adjustments made as development progresses. Development also requires that new knowledge be created or adapted to support all aspects of agricultural development. Lasting progress in the improvement of animal production and health in any country cannot be realized without the underpinnings provided by research on local problems that constrain development.
Doctoral training and university research are especially problematic because they are the most underfunded of all major university activities in developing countries. Paradoxically, these are being neglected at the very time that increasing numbers of trained scientists are needed to propel agricultural development in most developing countries. The fundamental reason for this neglect is that postgraduate education and university research are not perceived by policy-makers in most countries to be relevant to development needs. Consequently, veterinary faculties often do not function as part of the national agricultural research system and therefore constitute an underused, potentially important source of highly skilled research workers. Faculties of veterinary science in developing countries will have to orient their research and postgraduate efforts toward solving high-priority development problems in their countries if they expect to receive a just share of scarce national resources allocated to education and research.
There was a time when postgraduate education of veterinarians in developing countries could best be achieved by sending students abroad for their research training. Today, the number of students requiring education, the cost of sending them to developed countries for long periods of time, the number that do not return after completion of their training and the growing irrelevance of many training programmes in developed countries to-agricultural production problems of developing countries make the establishment of high-quality postgraduate education programmes in developing countries mandatory.
Most developing countries have established graduate programmed in subjects relevant to animal production and health in institutions within the country. Although some of these are of high quality, too many suffer from an acute shortage of funding, lack of a critical mass of mentors, the absence of a dynamic research programme and the lack of an adequate research environment to sustain high-quality postgraduate programmes,
It would be an impossible task to strengthen postgraduate programmes in all countries to the point where they are able to produce modern, productive scientists capable of solving the complex and difficult agricultural production problems of the developing world. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa a much more workable approach would be to establish subregional postgraduate centres staffed and funded to provide postgraduate education for citizens of countries that share common problems in a discipline or related area. Other institutions within the area could focus on other postgraduate topics to serve the needs of the subregion. Several veterinary colleges working together could develop high-quality postgraduate programmes in a number of disciplines; it would not be possible for any one college to do this alone.
In conclusion, there is a growing need in developing countries for veterinary scientists trained to conduct research to fill important posts in national agricultural research centres and for research and development tasks in private enterprises. Most of these scientists should be educated either within their own country or in another country in the region. Many developing countries have established postgraduate programmes in some of the disciplines relevant to animal production and health. There is a strong need to develop regional cooperative efforts so that veterinary colleges sharing common problems can collaborate and develop joint programmes to educate veterinarians for research tasks.