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Frequently Asked Questions

Q:

Is Education for Rural People a new concept ?

A:

No, it is a subject that has been debated for some time but rarely has there been a concerted effort to make it a reality like now, with the ERP partnership programme. A FAO publication, Learning and Living - Education for Rural Families in Developing Countries ( 1977) details the complexity of providing such an education response. It notes that there needs to be cohesion between the formal (primary school) program and the non-formal learning arrangements for those out of school. It also highlights the unsolved dilemma concerning the curriculum that does not address the needs of rural population, " and concludes that the emphasis should be on learning versus schooling. What is clear is that providing education for rural people is a complex challenge given the heterogeneous nature of the main stakeholders, the numbers of people involved world-wide, and the particular physical, cultural, and resource problems of rural space.

Q:

If the challenge is so daunting and the past record so poor why should we hope for success now?

A:

There are a number of unique elements in play as the 21st century begins which bode well for the success of the attack on rural development and poverty alleviation. Specifically:

  • The MDGs focus on poverty reduction and human well-being, thus, on people, versus economic growth, as well as the relationship established among the different dimensions of human well- being which requires increased attention to interdisciplinary efforts.
  • A wide ranging emphasis on rural development as distinct from agricultural development
  • The World Bank's updated Rural Development Strategy that stresses the importance of basic education for rural development, capacity building, and human capital formation
  • The international focus on poverty reduction and the interest of poor countries in developing and implementing Poverty Reduction Strategies that are multi sectoral and multi-disciplinary.
  • The continuing march of decentralization and the demand for capacity to plan for and administer development programmes at the local level.
  • The realization that basic education is a key to rural development is providing a challenge to those who are concerned about access, quality and curriculum content of rural schools
  • The increasing role of private sector and non-governmental agencies in the rural development process.
  • The influence of globalization on competitiveness in international markets for farm commodities.
  • The importance of non-farm rural employment.
  • The availability of promising modern communications that can be harnessed for effective learning

Q:

What are the Objectives of ERP?

A:

ERP seeks to empower the rural poor to become fully integrated actors of the development process. The strategy adopted is to address at the same time knowledge generation, advocacy, policy and capacity building technical assistance work, and field projects to ensure the interaction between normative activities and pilot field projects.

Q:

Which are the key concerns of ERP?

A:

The questions we now wrestle with concern access and quality of education. On access, we are concerned with the large numbers of people in rural areas: they are the seventy per cent of the world's poor, of the 880 million of world's illiterate, of the 130 million children who are not in school. We know that the number of poorly educated rural youth and young adults is difficult to calculate but we also know that they represent millions of rural people. We need to focus also on the relatively small proportion of rural children who have access to basic and secondary school and ensure all rural children have the right to basic education. While primary education is the critical foundation for dealing with life's daily problems secondary and vocational education prepares young people for active citizenship and an immediate productive future in the workforce or later entry after pursuing higher education. We are also concerned with quality of basic education for rural people, whith what is taught in schools, with the questions of contextualization and relevance of the of the curriculum of basic education to the need of rural population , the adequate selection, training and remuneration of basic education teachers for rural areas , and the funding of for our target.

Q:

Why should the Food and Agriculture Organization lead the ERP partnership and not leave education to UNESCO?

A:

UNESCO requested FAO to lead the ERP flagship partnership which in no way seeks to assume any of UNESCO's roles or responsibilities but to complement them. The added value of FAO leading ERP is derived from FAOs' mandate, experience, constituency and networks which focus on Rural - as including but being broader than Agricultural - development and poverty reduction and from its long tradition of advocating and promoting education and training for the rural population.

Q:

How can member contribute to ERP?

A:

Rural people are still a hidden constituency in the MDGs, including an EFA hidden constituency. ERP members are committed to raise awareness of the need to disclose the hidden rural constituency of the MDGs, and specifically of the poverty and hunger agenda (MDG1) as well as of the EFA agenda (MDG2) and show the interdependence and synergies among addressing the goals 1-2 and 3 . We want to start a process similar to the one that started more than 20 years ago with gender issues, that led to disclose and address the gender gap. We can only succeed if we join forces.

Q:

What is Agriculture Education?

A:

Agricultural Education refers to the delivery of education and training designed for the agriculture sector defined to include forestry and fisheries. Typically agricultural education includes tertiary education offered at an agricultural university or in an agricultural faculty in the university complex; sub-tertiary, diploma-granting institutes, colleges or polytechnics; training institutes and training centres catering to in-service training of sector service workers and agents and farmers; and, to a lesser extent, vocational school subjects in agriculture-related topics. Management of agricultural education is frequently split between the ministries of education and agriculture with Education being mostly responsible for tertiary, sub-tertiary and vocational education in general while Agriculture manages some agricultural universities, institutes and training centers. Agricultural education, in contrast to formal education, is not a true system. Most of the elements do not work together to satisfy well-defined labour market needs and, being managed from different ministries, do not cooperate on common planning, budgeting, or technical issues. Thus it is inappropriate to discuss of Agriculture Education Systems as it has been done in the past.

Q:

Which is the difference among Agriculture Education and Education for Rural People?

A:

Education for Rural People focus is broader than Agriculture Education and encompasses all those who live and work in the rural space and not only people directly involved in agriculture. The new way of looking at education needs is therefore people centered rather than sector centred. While it is clear that agriculture will continue have its special needs for education and training the emphasis will increasingly be on ensuring that basic education is provided for all in the rural space. Agriculture Education it is thus seen as one important pillar of Education for Rural People, among others. The Bank's updated Rural Development Strategy identifies basic education as essential for sustainable rural development and ERP concurs. Agriculture is still the largest sector in many countries in the process of development and has its special education needs but, as we realize, agriculture alone will not absorb all surplus labour, or provide a living for the whole rural population. Agriculture is only one element on the rural canvas. There is the emphasis on off-farm rural employment, on other occupations that serve the rural population, and on those who, by choice or by circumstance, will migrate from the rural space to urban centres. There are the rural poor who because of poverty and lack of access to education and other services have special needs for knowledge and skills related to agriculture but also to literacy, numeracy and livelihoods. There are innumerable local situations influenced by indigenous knowledge, culture, religion, and agro-climatic realities that demand non generic solutions for knowledge and skills. To meet these many needs we need to enlarge our focus from Agriculture Education to Education for Rural People.

Q:

Does ERP Refer to Formal or to Non formal Education?

A:

ERP encompasses both. Formal Education in general refers to the education provided for all rural dwellers in a country by the conventional/formal system run by ministries of education. The ministry has a network of primary and secondary schools in rural and urban areas and, for the most part, has a "national" or standardized core curriculum that is offered to all. ERP, therefore, is part of the formal education system that deals with all social and geographical aspects of the population, but focuses especially on addressing the specific, very often neglected, learning needs of rural people and on the need to close the gap among them and urban people in fulfilling their right to education. Not all rural people have access to the formal education system and many who do enter basic education drop out for a variety of reasons. There are large numbers of out-of-school youth and adults in rural areas who have need for knowledge, attitudes, values and skills to enable them to pursue gainful employment and enhance the quality of their lives. These are candidates for non-formal education and training which is supplied by traditional agricultural extension and health services, NGOs and religious groups. There are some government departments that specifically cater to non-formal education for youth and adults but coverage is uneven.

Q:

What is a flagship?

A:

A flagship is defined as a structured set of activities carried out by voluntary partners, under the leadership of one or more UN agency, to address specific challenges in achieving the Education for ALL (EFA) Dakar plan for action.

Q:

Why was ERP launched at WSSD (World Summit on Sustainable Development)?

A:

About 70 per cent of the world's poor live in rural areas. The rural-urban education gap is increasing and is threatening efforts to achieve sustainable development. Illiteracy is a strong correlate of poverty and hunger and is mainly a rural phenomenon which hinders rural development and food security; it threatens productivity and health, limits opportunities to improve livelihoods and promote active citizenship and gender equity, since illiteracy is particularly high among rural girls and women. Ensuring Education for All (EFA) to rural people - which includes primary education, literacy and basic skills for life - is seen as urgent if the world is to achieve sustainable development as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of eradication of poverty and hunger (MDG1), universal primary education (MDG 2) and gender equity (MDG 3). There is, however, lack of empirical data/evidence on the interrelation among levels of access to quality education by rural people and poverty reduction and food security, and a consequently low level of awareness among decision makers of the importance of the rural dimensions of education . Moreover weaknesses of basic education services in rural areas are related to the fact that countries lack knowledge, people trained and the experience to plan and deliver effective basic education services to rural people. In addition, coordination mechanisms among Ministries of Education, Ministries of Agriculture and civil society are still to be developed in most developing countries. FAO and UNESCO have been aware of this gap, hence the launching of the ERP global flagship partnership. FAO's leading role and experience in rural development, food security and poverty alleviation as well as in agricultural education at different levels, provided the rationale to assume the leadership of the initiative.

Q:

How does FAO define "youth"?

A:

There is no universally accepted definition of youth. Youth have been described many different ways; sometimes as a particular age group, as a stage of life or as an attitude. For statistical purposes, the United Nations General Assembly in 1985 for the International Youth Year first defined youth as people between the ages of 15 and 24. In 1995, when the General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, it again defined youth as 15 to 24, but acknowledged that the age range varies among different countries and societies.

 

In its relationships to governments and organizations, FAO uses a wide range of ages depending on the specific definition of "youth" used within a particular country or a specific organization. The age range surprisingly goes anywhere from 8 to 40. For global programming purposes, FAO defines the priority age range for rural youth development from 10 to 25. Field experience shows that to bring about important changes in attitude and behaviour, community-based, non-formal educational programmes for young people in rural areas must begin at an early age. This is especially true in areas such as HIV/AIDS education and helping young people gain an appreciation for agriculture and rural life early in life. Research shows that by age 15, a young person has more or less established patterns of behaviour and ways of thinking.

Q:

How do you get ERP theoretical ideas implemented, so the rural people really benefit? My village called Eipa, is a four hour ride on a speed boat, then another two hour walk into the mountains has had a lack of assistance from the authorities in educating the small children, due to the fact that there are literally no schools at all, and it is very remote. Only the few lucky ones who have relatives in the city manage to assist their few. I am one of the very fortunate ones because of my father. The people are very hard working and have for the first time started growing rice in the village last year. They have managed to send a village elder to the city to learn how to do all these tasks, they are happy but they do everything with their hands. Is this enough?
How does FAO or ERP assist the unfortunate ones like the example I have raised?
(From a letter of a member from Papua New Guinea)

A:

The basic question you have raised about "how to get ... theoretical ideas implemented, so the rural people really benefit" is very relevant and is at the crux of getting rural poverty and improved livelihoods addressed. It is a complex issue and much has been researched, trialled and written about this subject. In brief, we believe that there are no universally applicable strategies and methodologies that apply to all situations. However, there is much knowledge, experience and information that have documented "innovative practices" that have been successfully applied in different countries and to different situations. In this area, FAO, as the main technical arm of the United Nations with a mandate for food security and sustainable agriculture and rural development, has itself focussed on the issue extensively over its 60 years of existence. Thus there is a wealth of information and experience available on the subject even within FAO let alone other agencies and entitles at international, regional, national and even at local levels. FAO's approach is always to work in partnership with its member countries, PNG being one of them. Thus, we are aware that the PNG Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) there has various support entities, mechanisms and programmes that no doubt you and your community can tap for locally relevant information as well as technical and other support possibilities for your community's agricultural endeavours. Three entities of relevance is the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) based in Lae and the DAL's Extension Service both of which collaborate to channel findings of their agricultural research and extension throughout PNG. In addition are the faculties of agriculture of the local universities. Since you are already with internet access, it is suggested that you seek out information, such as for rice technology transfer, that might relate specifically to the PNG situation.

 

In the Pacific, FAO has it's Sub-regional Office for the Pacific (SAPA) based in Apia, Samoa. In regards your rice example, that office is currently supporting a rice project in Fiji where an FAO-developed Farmer Field School (FFS) strategy is being trialled and promoted quite successfully together with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Land Resources Division. In general the FFS system uses a farmer participatory approach through which farmer groups and individuals are taught to assess and to solve their own production challenges throughout the rice crop production cycle with technical assistance and support from outsiders (Extension workers, researchers, NGOs, SPC etc).

 

In Asia, several countries (Philippines, Thailand and now Indonesia) are following an adapted version of an Australian model known as "RiceCheck". Under this model, agricultural research validated technologies (which includes rice variety selection, good nursery production of seedlings, proper field preparation, correct timing of seedling transplanting, pest monitoring, etc) that are critical for successful rice production, referred to as "key checks", are taught to farmers via farmer group training and farmer experimentation following a modified FFS approach.

In both these examples, farmers and farmer groups are actively involved with "learning by doing". Most critical also is having appropriate technology relevant for the location, farmer participatory involvement from needs assessment, training, farmer "experimentation', production, all the way to harvesting and post harvest while also using and collaborating with available external technical support and information.

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