Posted May 1997
Agricultural Education and Training:
Issues and Opportunities - Part IV
Conclusions and recommendations
The changing role of agriculture and implications for agricultural education
Agriculture will remain a major contributor to the economies of most countries,
particularly in the developing regions. In many countries, however, its
share of the GDP will progressively decline.The agricultural sector is undergoing
rapid changes as a consequence of both technological progress and economic
forces which call for an increased market focus, competitiveness and higher
Employment opportunities in the off-farm sector are expected to increase
at a faster rate than in agriculture. This will further emphasize the present
employment shift of agricultural graduates to related sectors, requiring
a revision of existing curricula to better address educational needs. Furthermore,
agricultural education curricula need to be redirected to more specifically
address national problems.This reorientation should incorporate both the
new role of market-oriented agriculture as well as issues of direct relevance
to the improvement of subsistence agriculture and rural poverty.
All the round tables and expert consultations considered ways to make agricultural
education institutions, particularly universities, active promoters of change
within their environments. The working document, An Agricultural University
for the 21st Century, presented at the round table for Asia/Pacific,
outlined three ways to view education institutions:
The majority of agricultural universities seem to fall into the first category.
A smaller number appear to follow the second model and only very few universities
are in the third category. A challenge facing many universities over the
next decade will be to move towards the third model, i.e. to take an increasingly
pro-active role rather than passively reacting to circumstances. While universities
have an opportunity to greatly influence their environments through the
technology that they are capable of generating, political support from national
governments is often a prerequisite to the process. Agricultural universities
have made significant contributions when they have joined together research,
teaching and extension functions.
- As having little contact with, or influence on, their external environment;
- As responding to a continuing assortment of pressures and requests from
an external environment; and
- As active users or organizers of their environment.
The challenge for the next century is to move:
Key recommendations are:
- From production to productivity;
- From immediate needs to long-term sustainability;
- From disciplinary to interdisciplinary teaching and research;
- From a commodity to a system focus;
- From reactive to pro-active organisation;
- From hierarchical organisations to participatory ones; and
- From agricultural universities to universities for rural development.
The key recommendations presented by the round tables and expert consultations
focused on a number of topics, many of which were outlined in this report.
Individual recommendations are more fully documented in the various meeting
reports. While many of the recommendations are based on general principles
which are widely applicable, some will need to be adapted to the specific
conditions and educational systems in individual countries. The recommendations
presented by the round tables and expert consultations include:
- Government policy
- The necessity for governments to promote education systems and institutions
which are open, flexible and capable of efficiently adapting to changes
in the environment.
- The need for a clear definition of overall agricultural priorities
and policy the role that agricultural education and training must play within
this policy, and objectives for the agricultural education system and its
- The need for a comprehensive inventory and evaluation of education
institutions, and a rational system for geographical coverage by institutions
at national and regional levels.
- International cooperation
- The need to improve the structuring, coordination and rationalization
of international cooperation, particularly at the regional level.
- The need to strengthen horizontal cooperation between countries with
the same level of development, through inter-institutional agreements, development
of networks of scientific and higher education and exchanges of researchers,
- The need to rationalize and strengthen inter-country organizations
on a regional basis.
- The need to maintain, and in some cases strengthen, the co-operation
between industrialized and developing countries, including countries in
transition from centrally planned to free market economies; safeguards need
to be set in place to avoid 'brain drain'.
- The necessity for better co-operation and co-ordination among international
organizations and between them and NGOs.
- Agricultural education institutions
- The need to make student recruitment methods more flexible in order
to offer rural youth, particularly rural women, more opportunities for admission
to the various levels of agricultural education.
- The necessity for improved staff recruitment methods and improved
pre-service and in-service training at all levels.
- The need for higher professional recognition and opportunities to
improve career prospects.
- The necessity for better and closer links between education and employment
in order to meet the actual needs of the region or the country through an
adaptation of curricula and teaching methods to meet these needs.
- The necessity to introduce into curricula new subjects and techniques.
- The need for institutions to develop educational methods adapted to
the various needs of different target populations. These methods should
include continuing education, modular courses, distance learning and non-formal
- The need to organize on the pedagogy of agricultural education.
- Better links between education, research and extension; and
- Improved financial, administrative and educational autonomy.
Specific regional issues
The regional round tables suggested the creation of a number of regional
- The round table for Asia and the Pacific suggested selecting
a school, a college and a university in the region to develop and test innovative
programmes and curricula through the Asian Association of Agricultural Colleges
and Universities (AACU) for the benefit of the whole region.
- The round table for French-speaking Africa strongly supported
the creation of a Higher Institute for Agricultural Pedagogy, following
a pattern similar to the one of the Interstate Schools. This institute would
be responsible for collection of information, experimentation and training
in agricultural education.
- The round table for Latin America recommended that the various
international organizations support and strengthen the Latin American Association
for Higher Agricultural Education (ALEAS) in view of the role it plays in
co-ordinating pedagogical experiments, exchange of information and experience,
organization of study travels, staff exchanges, etc.
- The round table for Central and Eastern Europe proposed the formation
of a European Association of Higher Agricultural Education responsible for
promoting exchanges between West, Central and Eastern regions of the continent.
- The round table for English-speaking Africa observed that various
centres or institutions have been established at sub-regional or regional
levels to foster co-operation in training and higher level education and
that some of these have become ineffective. Thus, the round table recommended
pooling the resources and rationalizing co-operation and co-ordination at
the sub- regional levels (East - South - West)
- The round table for the Near East recommended the creation of
academic networks and inter-institutional relationships charged with organizing
joint programmes of research and exchanges of educational information.
- The round table for the English-speaking Caribbean recommended
that some regional institutions, or national institutions with regional
responsibilities, be strengthened and suggested the creation of a number
of regional training programmes: a Technology and Management oriented B.Sc;
a school of post graduate studies in Tropical Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries
and Food Sciences; a Caribbean Institute of Technology and Agribusiness
Development (technical and vocational level).
- The round table for Portuguese-speaking Africa proposed the creation
of a network to promote the exchange of information among teachers and students
and the development of teaching materials and methodologies.
Principles for developing an FAO strategy in support of agricultural
education and training
The problems, examples and recommendations presented by the various round
tables as well as the observations and conclusions of the 1991 and 1993
expert consultations can be summarized and developed as a 'charter' for
FAO concerning its agricultural education and training support policy.
- Basic principles
- To promote agricultural education programmes which are job-oriented
and meet the actual needs of the communities, the regions and the countries.
- To distinguish agricultural education from training for public service,
thereby fostering training aimed at meeting the needs of the private sector
and preparing students for entrepreneurship.
- To support and promote agreements and co-operation/co-ordination at
inter-institutional and international levels, particularly in exchange of
faculty members, students, information and experiences.
- To promote the integration of population, environmental and sustainable
development themes into agricultural education and extension programmes.
- To place a greater emphasis on developing more relevant curriculum,
improving the quality of instruction and promoting better institutional
- Primary and secondary level education
- To promote research, experimentation and implementation in rural education
systems which makes use of the experiences and the natural and social environments
of rural youth, and
- to examine current modules where elementary and secondary schools
have successfully included agriculture in the curriculum.
- Technical and vocational education and training
- To promote technical and vocational education institutions whose programmes,
structures and teaching methods are oriented towards local problems and
the needs of small and medium-size farm families, and which work in close
collaboration with rural communities, development structures and service
agencies or firms.
- To promote education systems which mobilize the potential of the local
environment in educational activities, through use of public or private
resource persons, extensionists, researchers, farmers, etc.
- To promote technical and vocational schools which give priority to
non-formal education and training over conventional teaching methods.
- To promote agricultural education systems which include youth education,
adult training and continuing education in a co-ordinated way to make the
best use of facilities, equipment and staff.
- To promote the organisation of a system of pre-service and in-service
training for agricultural teachers and instructors which would also be open
to part-time and occasional teachers.
- To encourage the organisation of an integrated modular education system
which allows the exchange of students among schools offering differing specializations.
- Higher agricultural education
- To follow, in matters of higher education, the same general principles:
to address local needs and adapt curricula to employment needs; integrate
or closely collaborate with research and extension; to be open to the professional
environment and make use of resources from the private sector.
- To organise, as far as possible, an integrated modular structure of
- Sub-contracts some subjects to the faculties of general education
(basic sciences, law, etc.);
- Offers the students a large range of courses; and
- Opens some modules to continuing education.
- To support inter-institutional agreements for specializations and
facilitate the sharing of information (scientific, technical or pedagogic
issues) as well as exchange of teachers and students.
- To promote systems and structures which allow staff flexibility among
higher education, research and extension activities.
- To actively promote participatory teaching methods using case studies,
problem-solving approaches, group working and interdisciplinary approaches.
- To promote more relevant and efficient teaching programmes through
regular reviews of curricula and systematic feedback from employers and
- To promote the adoption of a systems approach in teaching programmes
enabling graduates to comprehend agriculture as a system comprised of technical,
economic, social and cultural elements.
- To promote contractual links between faculties and universities for
the creation of sub-regional or regional networks organised through Advanced
Research and Training Centres; such networks can link institutions both
within and between developed and developing countries. Research and Training
Centres in Agricultural Pedagogy should be involved in these networks.
- To promote an understanding by students of key management principles
such as decision-making skills, planning techniques and the use of suitable
technologies (computers etc.).
- To promote projects and actions for training and improvement of teaching
- In some countries, or regions within countries, special attention
needs to be paid to rural youth, particularly young women, to assist them
in qualifying for admittance at every level of agricultural education and
- Special attention should be given to problems of less developed countries
(or less developed regions within some countries) where concern for employment,
community participation and external relationships are particularly important
and difficult. Special situations in those regions, such as use of local/non-official
language, out-of-school youth education, nomadic or semi-nomadic education,
may require special solutions and non-conventional teaching methods.
- Use of external assistance, particularly financial assistance, should
be considered only when all possible local resources have been explored
and the possible consequences of external assistance (recurrent cost, brain
drain, etc.) evaluated.
- To further examine the need for specialized regional centres for advanced
study and to promote greater north/south and south/south interaction and
collaboration among educational institutions.
- Electronic information systems and the application of these new systems
to different forms of distance learning in agriculture should be given special
consideration as a way to improve the effectiveness of pre-service and in-service