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close this bookContextualising Teaching and Learning in Rural Primary Schools: Using agricultural experience - Volume 2 - Education research paper No. 20 (DFID, 1997, 130 p.)
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View the document1 Introduction
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1 Introduction

This report illustrates the findings from the second phase of a research project commissioned by the Department for International Development (Education Division), titled 'Contextualising the Curriculum in Rural Primary Schools: the role of agriculture'.

The second phase was commissioned following the findings of an initial desk study (Taylor, 1995 1), which set out to examine how agriculture could be used as a means of contextualising the primary school curriculum in rural areas. The purpose of the initial desk study was to examine the role of agricultural experience as a vehicle which can support the development of learners in rural primary schools whose needs are extremely diverse, and whose life experience has been enriched by agricultural practice. This involved a review of literature which sought to investigate a "new role" for agriculture as a key element of primary schooling. In particular it examined from a conceptual point of view, and through the use of case studies from the literature, the capacity of agriculture to act as a familiar vehicle for the development of young rural learners' basic skills of literacy, numeracy, and other life skills which are perceived as necessary for a fruitful and productive life. The intention was not to explore issues relating to teaching agriculture as a distinct subject area in the curriculum.

1 Taylor, P. (1995), Contextualising the Curriculum in Rural Primary Schools - the Role of Agriculture. A Research Report to the Department for International Development. The University of Reading.

The purpose of the second phase of the research was to gather information about schools which have used agricultural experience as a means of contextualising teaching and learning, by looking at the implications for teaching and learning practices, resources, school management and teacher training, and to evaluate the impact of this practice on school attendance, school performance, development of school-community links, and on teacher, pupil and parental attitudes. Case studies were used to examine the capacity of agriculture to act as a familiar vehicle for the development of young rural learners' basic skills of literacy, numeracy, and other life skills which are perceived as necessary for a fruitful and productive life.

At the same time the research aimed to highlight the problems which may arise in attempting to use agriculture in a way which may challenge its traditional role as a vocational subject area. The study aimed to identify examples of good practice, and based on these, highlight issues of importance to educational policy makers, teachers and other interested parties.

The case studies for this research project were carried out in four countries: Tanzania, Sri Lanka, India and Ethiopia, between July and December 1996. In each country, apart from Ethiopia, field work took 2 to 3 weeks. In Ethiopia, logistical problems meant that field work had to be completed in one week and consequently the case studies are shorter than in the other three countries. A detailed methodology is given at the front of this volume. Volume I should be consulted for the theoretical background and issues and implications arising from the research.