Posted May 1997
Agricultural Education and Training:
Issues and Opportunities - Part III
1. Adjusting training to employment needs and entrepreneurship
Relationships with the employment market
Many of the participants at the meetings stressed the need for institutions
to develop ways of keeping in touch with the employment market and adapting
agricultural education curricula accordingly. It was felt that, ideally,
institutions should set up permanent mechanisms for observation of the job-market
and adaptation of courses, but it was acknowledged that institutional inflexibility
and lack of resources would often make this difficult to achieve.
While it was noted that a lack of relationships with the employment market
is fairly widespread, some interesting exceptions exist. Among these are:
Several initiatives in the area of entrepreneurship and private-sector oriented
training were reported during the round table for Central and Eastern
Europe, but these experiences are too recent to be analysed for their
- The Institut Agricole de Bouaké in the Ivory Coast has
set up a permanent board to study the employment market and define related
training needs. It makes use of visiting teachers from various commercial
sectors and attaches students to private enterprises to gain practical experience.
This is also commonly done with industrial placements during university
courses in the UK. This practice widens employment opportunities
for students and promotes the involvement of the industrial sectors in defining
the curriculum in terms of commercial needs.
- The Ecole des Cadres Ruraux, Bambey, Senegal conducts training
in agricultural enterprise management using commercial case studies.This
exposure to commercial concerns helps students develop skills and knowledge
which are valued by industry, thereby enhancing their chances of future
- The Escuela Panamericana El Zamorano, Honduras organizes training
up to the B.Sc. level. The courses are characterised by the importance given
to practical skills and training in technical and administrative decision-making,
following the motto "learn by doing", and are closely related
to the job market.
- The Instituto Universitario Experimental de Tecnologia y Agricultura
Simon Bolivar in Venezuela trains farm managers in accordance with
the Venezuelan policy of promoting modern middle-size commercial holdings.
Some countries, especially in the industrialized world, are reluctant to
base admissions solely on employment prospects and remain faithful to the
traditions of academic freedom. Students are relatively free to build their
own study courses according to their interests. In these countries, however,
management and entrepreneurship training are given considerable emphasis
through a system of professional schools with a commercial orientation which
exists alongside the university system.
In most industrialized, and some developing countries, it is common practice
to require a minimum of one year working on a farm, or some other area of
the agricultural and food industry, prior to taking up a long-term programme
of study in agriculture. In some cases, (e.g., the UK), students
are also expected to work in various agricultural enterprises during the
The French system of high schools and technical high schools, which
is still in use in most Francophone developing countries, provides a compromise
between job orientation and academic freedom. While a considerable amount
of choice is given to the students in their choice of study courses, strong
links are maintained with the technical services, parastatals and professional
organizations, allowing training to be oriented towards employment.
Development objectives, local needs and community participation
Agricultural education and training has a fundamental role to play in the
definition and implementation of a country's development programmes. However,
this requires competent authorities to determine a coherent agricultural
policy in which agricultural education and training have important functions.
This requires, in turn, the definition of educational objectives within
the framework of development objectives.
It was widely recommended in all the meetings that university staff should
be involved in the preparation of agricultural policies. This presently
occurs only in a few countries. For example, in Malaysia university
staff members are often called upon by government to serve as members of
policy formulation and budget allocation task forces.
Teaching programmes at all levels need to take into account the problems
of small-scale farmers and landless or near-landless rural people with specific
teaching materials and complementary research and extension programmes.
The fisheries sector should also be given increased consideration in agricultural
teaching, research and extension programmes. Small-scale fisherfolk are
among the poorest rural populations in Asia and the Pacific Islands
where lack of skilled human resources is a major limiting factor in fisheries
In many regions, small-scale family farms constitute the majority of the
total number of agricultural holdings. The technological model of development
proposed by research and extension often is not well suited to small-scale
producers since it depends on inputs that are mostly inaccessible to them.
Meeting the needs of these rural families should be a key priority of governments
that have specific responsibilities for the generation of appropriate technology
and training of rural families. Agricultural education institutions have
a key role in training research and extension workers so that they are reoriented
towards the needs of small-scale producers.
In many countries, agricultural enterprises range from subsistence to advanced
forms of modern agriculture. In reviewing this situation, the round tables
for French- and Portuguese-speaking Africa proposed that training
needs should be assessed with four employment areas in mind:
As suggested by participants, a possible mechanism to help bring training
closer to actual needs is to include representatives of economic sectors
and communities in the needs assessment and definition of programmes. This
approach was implemented through an FAO programme in Colombia where
a secondary technical institution established an external educational committee
involving local government organizations which work in the region and representatives
of farmers' co-operatives. The committee formulates educational policy and
programmes with the institution and helps find jobs for the graduates.
- Development administration and management;
- Entrepreneurship and the private sector;
- Traditional farming; and
- Training for instructors, researchers and extension workers.
The inappropriateness of curricula designed by educators in isolation was
stressed at the round table for the Near East. Training needs and
employment objectives need to be adequately considered in developing courses.
Ideally, representatives of all groups involved should have input into curriculum
design. Identification of education and training needs can be carried out
through informal surveys with former students. Questionnaires covering issues
such as career development, present employment, and level of satisfaction
regarding the training they received at the institution can be used.
2. From public service needs to the needs of the private sector and self
In the past, most developing countries based their agricultural education
system on meeting the human resource requirements of public services or
parastatals. Practically all graduates found employment in the government
Economic crises and structural adjustment programmes in most countries have
not only halted recruitment of new civil servants, but have led to the dismissal
of many public-sector employees. These changes mean that curricula need
to be reoriented towards entrepreneurship and the private sector.
The new requirements for education and training
More than ever, agricultural education and training systems need to satisfy
the requirements of the private sector and self employment. Training needs
to be organized to meet the needs of very diverse groups including:
An example of a comprehensive training programme is given by the Institut
National de Développement Rural, at Thiès, Senegal.
Its programme, which supports training for entrepreneurship, offers fee-based
courses, job orientation advice and in-service training.
- Unemployed and under-employed people;
- Dismissed civil servants;
- Professionals and others wishing to change careers;
- Young graduates seeking employment for the first time; and
- Groups such as village associations and farmer groups who need skills
and knowledge for local development.
Many colleges of agriculture throughout Africa conduct agricultural
skills training for farmers and those wishing to work in agriculture as
well as various training programmes to support the development of small-
or medium-scale agricultural enterprises. Few programmes as yet, however,
conduct higher-level entrepreneurship and management training courses.
Various factors have contributed to the increasing pressure for the inclusion
of commercial concerns in agricultural education and training. Among these
Several programmes for entrepreneurship training have been designed and
implemented in African countries involving educational institutions
and development projects supported by NGOs and international organizations.
Key aspects related to the role of the present formal education system are:
- The increasing exchange of goods, people and information between regions
- Reduced employment of graduates in the public sector;
- Decreasing government funding for agricultural education and training;
- The collapse of command economies and a shift towards market economics.
The participants at the French-speaking African round table considered
that basic conditions for successful redirection of agricultural training
- Institutions offering training at B.Sc. level have so far had little
involvement in entrepreneurship training; and
- Since technical/vocational institutions offer training for tasks of
a practical nature, it may be at this level that agricultural entrepreneurs
can best be trained.
- Programmes should reflect national development needs;
- Programmes and training strategies should be in line with employment
needs and professional profiles of trainees;
- The role of the institutions, particularly those which offer more conventional
formal education courses, should be clearly defined;
- After entrepreneurs set up businesses, follow-up training by means of
short courses and technical support should be provided, with trainees sharing
the cost of this training;
- Teaching and practical training should, where possible, use resource
persons from the commercial sector;
- Flexible training methods should be used; and
- Established entrepreneurs should be involved in the preparation, planning
and conducting of training activities.
The shift from central planning to market orientation
The shift from a centrally planned regime to a free market economy, of particular
concern to the round table for Central and Eastern Europe, requires
significant changes in the way agricultural education is conducted. Although
problems and contexts present fairly broad similarities throughout the region,
the specific situations differ from country to country. An extreme case
is the agricultural education system of the former East Germany which,
following unification with West Germany, is being gradually and comprehensively
integrated into the German system.
Russia and most other former socialist countries, on the other hand,
have not been able to conduct such a total reorganization of their systems.
However, a strategy for transformation has been developed and new policies
are gradually being implemented to reorient the agricultural education system
towards a market economy.
Key aims and objectives of the educational system need reviewing to take
account of free market economics. In particular:
To meet the above objectives, it may be necessary to completely restructure
education systems based on the following guidelines:
- The education system has to respond to the needs of private enterprise;
- An entrepreneurial spirit needs to be developed among students, and
students need to be encouraged to think creatively and act independently;
- Training for agricultural advisers in economics and marketing has to
be given a new and increased emphasis;
- The training of narrow specialists needs to be substituted by a wider
knowledge of the agricultural and food systems; and
- Environmental problems which have been largely neglected until now have
to receive attention.
Solving the problems mentioned above is especially difficult in view of
the decades of under investment in higher education. This has resulted in
difficulties in buying and maintaining equipment, shortages of text books
and other publications and a decline in the interest of graduates in university
jobs as researchers and teachers. Russia and the other Central
and Eastern European countries all expressed the desire for international
and inter-institutional co-operation in developing their reform plans and
in organizing sound contacts with institutions in Western Europe
and North America.
- The large number of small faculties of agriculture needs to be substituted
with larger and more diversified institutions;
- Research and education, previously unconnected, need to be combined
thus integrating the teaching staff with the research system;
- A system needs to be developed that will be sufficiently flexible to
allow students to choose courses from a number of options;
- International exchanges are needed for teachers and students to break
their current isolation and to allow them to profit from the experiences
of countries with established free market economies; and
- To implement such a transformation, teaching staff will need to be retrained
in order to deliver the new programmes and teaching methods.
The following four categories for classification of countries with regard
to their current roles in agricultural education and training are useful:
- Developed (industrialized) countries;
- Advanced developing countries (undergoing rapid industrialization);
- Least developed countries; and
- Countries in transition from centrally planned to market oriented economies.
In both developed and advanced developing countries,
specific problems are emerging. Furthermore, it can be assumed that the
problems faced by agricultural education in industrialized countries are
likely to become increasingly relevant in newly industrializing countries
such as Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico,
Argentina and Chile.
As in the case of the other Central and Eastern European countries, Bulgaria
is experiencing radical and dynamic socio-economic changes which affect
the agricultural economy and education system. Agricultural education and
its objectives need to be reconsidered. The system inherited from socialism
is antiquated, static and conservative, with inflexible forms and structures;
it does not meet modern requirements. Bulgaria needs a flexible open system
capable of responding to the changes, which means a modern agriculture university
able to combine education, research, practice and extension.
- M. Popova, Higher Agricultural Education in Bulgaria in a Time of Economic
Transition, Report of Regional Round Table in Central and Eastern Europe,
In these countries, the rapidly increasing integration and diversification
of agricultural activities has changed the role and scope of agricultural
education. Major changes which are taking place are:
There is also a need to take into consideration significant changes in public
perceptions of agricultural activities. Consumers are becoming more concerned
with issues such as the quality of food, environmental protection and animal
- Liberalized economy and market situation;
- Changes in society, values and perceptions of the rural countryside;
- Rapid scientific progresses and emergence of new technologies; and
- Reduction of the agriculturally-active segment of the population.
Regarding the structure of agricultural education systems in developed countries,
advanced developing countries and countries in transition, trends which
need to be taken into consideration are:
These considerations, presented at the round table for Central and Eastern
Europe, were confirmed by the case studies carried out in 1991 on higher
agricultural education institutions in Canada, France, Germany,
the Netherlands, Sweden, and the USA, and by the country
reports for Japan, Korea and Thailand, among others.
- Competition between institutions as a consequence of student mobility
and an open market for higher education;
- The globalization of society which leads universities and colleges to
become more international in their outlook;
- Increased co-operation among a few institutions at very high levels,
and a risk of decreased competition among others;
- Strengthening of the integration of higher education and research; and
- Growing importance of the credibility of university professors in the
3. Relationships with regional and international organizations
Regional, inter-regional and international organizations often cover a larger
field than agricultural education alone. They are often associated with
economic and technical assistance and may be organized either by governments
International associations have been created by agricultural education establishments
themselves, at regional and sub-regional levels, often on the basis of language
groups. Associations grouping higher education institutions together are
more numerous and have a larger geographical coverage than those which link
technical education institutions.
Problems related to institutions and organizations
Both inter-governmental and inter-institutional organizations were considered
important by the participants at the meetings. However it was noted that:
The round tables unanimously emphasised the need to look beyond national
borders, establishing links with other institutions for both research and
higher education activities. Regional associations of agronomists, veterinarians,
professors and technicians are a useful instrument for the exchange of information
across borders. Such associations exist in every part of the world, but
are particularly active in Asia and Latin America.
- The increase in number of institutions often leads to duplication and
overlap. Co-ordination is often lacking even when institutions belong to
the same overall organization. Possibilities for co-operative arrangements
in organizing specialized training programmes are often not exploited;
- Projects and activities funded by different agencies, carried out in
the same institutions, can cause conflicts between the funding agencies,
or within the institutions themselves;
- Externally funded projects are generally of limited duration. Lack of
sufficient emphasis on training national personnel to take over often jeopardises
the sustainability of the initiatives; and
- The end of externally financed projects often implies sudden interruption
of all logistical support. Without adequately-planned provision for internal
funding, continuity of activities is often endangered.
Inter-institutional co-ordination and co-operation
Inter-institutional co-ordination and co-operation already exist to some
extent at regional and sub-regional levels. A large number of inter-institutional
associations were represented at the round tables, including:
These structures contribute to the organization of inter-university exchanges
- The Asian Association of Agricultural Colleges and Universities (AAACU);
- The South East Asia Center for Higher Education and Research in Agriculture
- The Latin American Association for Higher Agricultural Education (ALEAS);
- The Center for Integrated Rural Development in Africa (CIRDAFRICA);
- The Association of Agricultural Faculties in Africa (AFAA); and
- The European Network for University Co-operation in Tropical Agriculture
Co-operative networks have been created in various regions, beginning with
regional associations (Asia, Africa, Latin America)
of universities and faculties of agriculture.
- Promoting regional co-operative research projects;
- Exchanging research and teaching personnel as well as students; and
- Exchanging curricular and other relevant information of common interest.
These networks allow the identification, among the linked institutions,
of centres which are particularly well placed and competent to become regional
focal points for a particular subject. The round tables recommended the
reinforcement of these centres, which include:
Many participants stressed that the expansion of specializations as well
as increasing staff and equipment costs make collaboration and inter-institutional
agreements increasingly necessary at both national or regional levels. Parochial
attitudes, however, have often prevented efforts to create regional universities
- The Centres of Excellence in Asia;
- The Centres of Specialization of Anglophone Africa; and
- The Regional Centres for Specialized Studies in Agriculture (CRESA)
of Francophone Africa.
It is in the area of the less common and more expensive specializations
that inter-institutional co-operation can offer the greatest benefit. Since
it is impractical for all institutions to offer all specializations, co-operation
allows specific institutions to conduct the initial training or continuing
education for specialists in various fields. The various Centres of Excellence
or Centres of Specialization should be developed with these objectives in
mind. They can also play an important role in inter-institutional and international
Academic networks and inter-institutional links seem to be generally lacking
in the Near East. Their creation was recommended by the regional
round table with the objective of improving the co-ordination of research
and higher education. The various round tables for Africa expressed
the need for establishing contacts and links between the different African
While links among institutions of Central and Eastern Europe have
been weakened, these institutions are now establishing links with Western
Europe. The round table made an appeal for the creation of a European
Association of Higher Agricultural Education in charge of promoting linkages
among institutions from Western, Central and Eastern European countries.
Most round tables recommended that national, sub-regional or regional networks
for education and training institutions also need to be created at the intermediate
level of education.
The experience of the interstate schools
An intra-regional initiative for educational co-operation with technical
assistance from some industrialized countries has resulted in the creation
of a number of Interstate Schools by fourteen French-speaking Western
and Central African countries. In the field of agriculture these are:
These Interstate Schools are members of the CRESA network (Regional Centres
for Specialized Studies in Agriculture) of Francophone Africa. The
system, which has been in operation for about twenty years, presents a number
of advantages and positive implications:
- The Interstate School for Veterinary Sciences and Medicine (EISMV) in
- The Interstate School for Rural Engineering (EIER) in Ouagadougou, Burkina
- The Interstate School for Technicians in Hydraulics and Rural Engineering
(EITSHER) also in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
- Availability of sufficient financial resources through contributions
of both member states and multilateral donor agencies;
- Efficient scheme of in-service training for teaching staff;
- Up-to-date and comprehensive documentation centres;
- Organization of post university education and of a well-structured continuing
- Permanent contacts with employment institutions;
- Active engagement in applied research and extension activities;
- Administrative flexibility and autonomy;
- Regular exchanges through consultants and visiting professors from African
and European universities; and
- Responsiveness of training to employment needs.
The role of international organizations in support of agricultural education
Participants at all the meetings recognised the important role of regional
and global technical assistance organizations in supporting the development,
improvement and updating of agricultural education.
FAO is the lead agency with technical responsibility for agricultural development
within the UN system. With regard to agricultural education, FAO is presently
engaged in the following specific activities:
Ways in which international organizations can best assist the development
of agricultural education and training include:
- Assistance to governments in policy formulation and programme improvement;
- Promotion of and support for the development of new curricula and teaching
- Assistance in building links between teaching, research and extension;
- Assistance in agriculture education projects, either funded by its own
resources, donor agencies or governments resources.
Bilateral donor agencies, such as government-supported aid organizations,
foundations and voluntary organizations, conduct a wide range of projects
and programmes in agricultural education. Apart from their regular programmes,
the various agencies promote links between agricultural education institutions
from the industrialized countries and similar level institutions in the
developing countries. Such links can be particularly useful in managing
fellowships, training of teaching staff and creation of networks of advanced
- Assisting regional organizations which often lack sufficient resources
and promoting co-operation among developing countries;
- Organizing exchanges of information and experiences between countries
- Developing national managerial capabilities to ensure continuity of
achievements after project completion; and
- Improving co-ordination among donor and technical assistance agencies.