Posted January 1999
At the heart of most development programmes, whether they are oriented towards agriculture, health, nutrition or finance, is an attempt to bring about change in people. In educational terms, change may come about in people's knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and behaviour. The change should result in a person having an increased capacity to make decisions and to choose, implement and evaluate strategies effectively utilizing their available resources.
The need for personal development in individuals would rarely be disputed. However, exactly who should identify the need for change and how they should do so, as well as the way in which educational programmes should subsequently be planned, implemented and evaluated are often the sources of debate. In order to provide educational programmes in an institutional context, some sort of basic structure is required and the underlying framework of this structure is the curriculum. Great efforts are expended regularly on an activity known as curriculum development, by schools, colleges, universities and training providers of different kinds.
For all this effort, a recent study of agricultural education and training in sub-Saharan Africa (Wallace, Mulhall and Taylor, 1996) suggests that many agricultural education curricula have shortcomings. The study found that many curricula are unresponsive to socio-economic and technological changes in the rural sector and are inappropriate for the local context. Furthermore, many curricula do not involve any form of systematic training needs analysis and often adopt delivery modes and mechanisms that fail to suit the reality of the situation of people working in rural areas. It is likely that this situation extends beyond the sub-Saharan Africa region to many countries throughout the world.
A rather paradoxical situation arises where curriculum development is influenced by global perspectives on education and training, requiring the inclusion of thinking on key societal, economic and environmental issues. At the same time, there is a need to include relevant local content that has direct application to a particular context. An approach, termed participatory curriculum development (PCD), is emerging and it may help to achieve a balance between the demands of both global and local contexts.
PCD seeks to identify all of the stakeholders who may contribute to the ultimate aim of education - learning. Dialogue and interaction are needed to reach an understanding of stakeholders' various interests in the curriculum development process. In addition, there is a need for a mechanism that defines the role of stakeholders within the curriculum development process and allows them to fulfill this role. Some stakeholders will be "insiders" who have an intimate knowledge of the educational system, such as teachers, learners and materials producers. Others may be "outsiders", for example farmers, extension workers, employers, policy-makers, educational experts and funders. All will have some role to play in the PCD process.
A PCD approach is more flexible, accommodating the demands, needs and expectations of stakeholders. This does not mean that PCD is unsystematic. It still attaches due importance to a structured means of planning, implementation and evaluation, involving different stakeholders in appropriate ways in each activity.
The author has worked recently in two countries, Viet Nam and South Africa, which are undergoing considerable social and economic change. This change is affecting agricultural education and training policies and programmes at both national and local levels.
At the forestry college, it is being recognized that any new curricula being developed should be based upon a comprehensive national training needs analysis. College staff are proving to be willing to use extension and research activities to provide knowledge and experiences for curricula. However, what is lacking is a mechanism by which different "outsider" stakeholders can be involved in curriculum development other than simply being consulted in a training needs analysis.
During a recent workshop, a stakeholder analysis was conducted with college staff as a preliminary step in establishing a PCD process. This experience was very informative, as participants were asked to identify all the stakeholders in the curriculum development process and then to assign relative levels of importance and influence to them. The tendency was for participants to place policy-makers before other stakeholders. It was interesting to note that farmers, the ultimate beneficiaries, were consistently omitted from lists of the stakeholders who would have an interest in short course development for field-level forestry extension workers. When the omission of the farmers was recognized, they were rapidly added to the list and assigned a high level of importance. The workshop participants acknowledged that the farmers had been "forgotten" during their discussions, reflecting the relatively low priority that farmers frequently receive from many teachers and trainers.
The farmers' role in the development of education and training programmes is increasingly important because farmers will gain a direct benefit, which is realized either through receiving training themselves or through working with field-level extension staff who have received training.
As curriculum development continues in the forestry college, there are signs that a broader range of stakeholders, including farmers, will become involved in the process to a greater extent than before. The establishment of a national network of forestry-related training institutions, each of which has its own local network, is proving to be an important outcome of the PCD approach.
Beginning with a stakeholder analysis by the participants in their respective organizational groups, strategies for identifying training needs were drawn up. Central to these strategies is the need for meaningful involvement of stakeholders which must continue beyond the training needs assessment into the planning, implementation and evaluation stages. Following an initial workshop, participants were visited in the field to ascertain how successful they had been in implementing the strategies they had developed. The results were impressive.
On the strength of their stakeholder analysis, a group of trainers who manage a training farm organized a meeting for aspiring poultry farmers from the local community. A range of other stakeholders were invited to the meeting, including representatives from the local government extension service, credit providers, feed suppliers, large-scale commercial poultry producers and various NGOs from the region. A much larger group of interested community members attended than was expected. A free and frank exchange of views took place between aspiring poultry producers and the credit and input providers, which would have been unthinkable under the former political system.
By the end of the meeting, several representatives of the local farming community had been elected to establish a network throughout the entire province. This network now liaises with existing commercial enterprises and organizations to facilitate credit provision, input supply and the establishment of new production units. The network also communicates regularly with the training farm, enabling the trainers to set up appropriate skill-based training courses on essential topics, including poultry husbandry, health and business management. A secondary development is the creation of a steering group made up jointly of local farmers and trainers, who have a direct input into strategic planning for the training farm. In these ways, the PCD approach has been utilized effectively to ensure that trainers act in full agreement with local community members when developing new curricula. This process is continuing and will soon include other areas of training.
Although resources are still limited throughout South Africa, and public demands and expectations of the government are high, this example demonstrates that newly emerging rural groups are starting to interact with key resource providers with whom they had no contact previously. People who were formerly dispossessed and disempowered are gaining access to education and training, information, facilities and resources related to agricultural and rural development that will help them to establish their own rural enterprises. Farmers and rural community members are helping to guide the direction of new agricultural education and training programmes from which they can derive benefits to pursue their own goals for economic development and progress.
|Increased opportunities for networking of groups and individuals
Inclusion of normally marginalized groups and individuals in negotiations and dialogue
Increased opportunities for discussion and reflection
Increased chances for a successful outcome from the curriculum development process
Creation of a framework for a dynamic curriculum development process as new linkages and lines of communication are established
Increased motivation and commitment arising from the responsibility gained by stakeholders for various stages of the curriculum development process
|- Unrealistic expectations of stakeholders may be raised at an early stage and may not be met|
Involvement of stakeholders may be costly in terms of their time and efforts, considering their meagre level of income
Stakeholder involvement may be tokenist in some cases, creating resentment
Bringing groups of people together has logistical implications that may be beyond the capacity of the training organizers
Creation of a mechanism by which different stakeholders can work and interact on an equal basis is complex as a result of different perceptions, experiences, educational backgrounds and understandings of the wider curriculum development process
As different groups and individuals are drawn into the curriculum development process, it is important to appreciate that many differences may exist between stakeholders. Differences have been very apparent in some field situations, especially where major political changes have recently taken place. Some stakeholders may feel resentful towards others, whereas other groups of stakeholders may develop strong, supportive bonds. Some stakeholders will be concerned about the upholding of "standards", whereas others will be concerned simply about gaining access to training. Financial, physical and human resources may be limited, creating barriers to the effective involvement of some stakeholders. These challenges are real and natural and should be accepted and addressed, rather than hidden or ignored. Facilitation of the PCD process by thoroughly trained and committed persons is critical to enable groups to feel comfortable enough to communicate openly and frankly about their needs and to explore ways in which they can move towards meeting them.
Pretty, J., Guijt, I., Thompson, J. & Scoones, I. 1995. Participatory learning and action. A trainer's guide. London, International Institute for Environment and Development.
Rogers, A. & Taylor, P. (forthcoming) A guide to participatory curriculum development. Rome, FAO.
Schamhart & van den Bor, W. 1994. Curriculum development in higher agricultural education. A case from Benin. Higher Education Policy, March.
Taylor, P. 1997. Participatory curriculum development for agricultural extension training. Paper presented at the 13th European Seminar on Extension Education, Dublin, 1-7 September 1997.
Wallace, I., Mulhall, A. & Taylor, P. 1996. Developing a Research Framework for Improved Policies for Agricultural Education and Training in sub-Saharan Africa. Report of an International Consultation held at Reading, UK, 20-21 March 1996. Reading, UK, Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Department, University of Reading.