|Primary School Agriculture: Volume I: Pedagogy (GTZ, 1985, 144 p.)|
|Part I: Pedagogical foundations of primary school agriculture|
Agriculture was incorporated very early into the syllabuses of primary and secondary schools. None of the colonial powers in Africa and none of the more important missions made an exception to this rule. Reasons for this were complex:
- Economic considerations demanded increased productivity, especially in the brandnew cash crop sector.
- Another line of economic reasoning led to the inclusion of food crop farming in the curriculum: many of the early schools were boarding schools. Their costs could be kept relatively low only if part of the food at least was produced by the school itself.
- Many educators expressed a concern to create in their pupils the habit of hard and reliable work.
- A work-oriented and farm-oriented education was meant to keep the colonized peoples safely in their place. These were politico-administrative considerations whose aim was to keep the emancipation movements in check. It is for mainly this reason that work-and farm-oriented education came to be resented and rejected by many politically conscious Africans.
A number of objectives - are pursued whereever agriculture is included in the school curriculum. The following major objectives can be identified:
1. Teaching basic scientific procedures and introduction to the general methods and logic of science;
2. Teaching practical skills and knowledge;
3. Developing positive attitudes towards manual labour;
4. Making education African in content;
5. Halting or reducing the migration of school leavers from rural to urban areas;
6. Generating income for schools.
As can easily be seen, these objectives are interrelated and are also linked to overall national goals. The diagram on p. 11 shows the relations between the objectives. It might be useful to take a closer look at the links between the various objectives.
1. Pre-vocational training means providing knowledge, skills and attitudes that will be directly useful for agricultural activities. This does not constitute a full-scale professional training, since pupils are too young for it and must not be barred from the chance of further education through having specialised too early. Rather, what they learn in agriculture should prepare them for real professional training later on. The argument for pre-vocational training is that the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired are valuable. Since most primary school leavers in Africa will, for some time to come, have to earn their living in rural areas, this means that the pre-vocational training will be agricultural instruction. Also it is hoped that a practically relevant education will motivate pupils to stay in their home communities. The rural exodus is seen as economically wasteful, depriving rural areas of valuable labour and adding to the high costs of urban centres. It must be realised, however, that rural-urban migration depends mostly on economic factors beyond the control of the school system. The rural exodus is often seen as a threat to political stability. Agricultural skills, it is argued, will enable rural young people to earn an income in their home areas. While production in the rural areas would go up, the urban centres would no longer be flooded by job-seekers.
2. Attitude formation often figures as an objective in its own right. People deplore the disdain for manual work. By introducing agriculture, with its partner farm-work, into the syllabus, one hopes to create a habit of manual work. A positive attitude would build up at the same time. It ought to be remembered, however, that the overall attitude towards manual work is also shaped by cultural traditions, early childhood socialization, parental- expectations and the actual hard work involved in manual labour, the rewards that go with it, the behaviour and attitude of teachers etc. This objective can only be reached if practical work is carefully conducted and supervised in school.
3. Using agriculture as a means of teaching basic principles and procedures of science might be a more realistic aim. How well it has been achieved can be assessed throughout and at the end of formal education, whereas the success of pre-vocational training can only be seen a number of years later. Also equipment for the teaching of science, e.g. experimental kits for physics or chemistry, is expensive and needs constant replacement. Yet, scientific methods can be taught on the school farm or garden at very little expense. Experimentation and observation, both short- and long-term, are perfectly possible. This would provide a valuable preparation for any pre-vocational or vocational training. It would also make pupils receptive to future extension work, and help develop an informed critical mind.
4. Earning income by means of school agriculture seems to be an attractive objective, too. Since farming produces crops, it can provide an income. This could be used to finance at least part of the recurrent expenditure of a school. As a large part of the budget for education goes into teachers' salaries, very little is left for any other purpose. But it is not just economic considerations that back up this objective. Earning income from school agriculture fits into a general policy of self-reliance. The idea is that teachers and pupils who are used to taking care of most or all of the needs which arise in school will carry this attitude over into other spheres of life. The earning of income by schools will lower the cost to be met by society at large. How well it will be achieved depends among other things on the relative importance of prevocational training and introduction to science: the more emphasis there is on pre-vocational training, the more production will be valued as the result of work, whereas for science education, production is of minor importance.
5. Last not least, including agriculture is seen as a means of adapting education to the local situation. Work constitutes an important part of human life, and any cultural tradition is intimately linked to work. Since agriculture is the main area of work in most of Africa, it should not be overlooked in education. This implies, however, that agriculture in education really does refer to traditional agriculture. If this is so, then it may well facilitate skill development and attitude formation as discussed under the heading of pre-vocational training. More important, in general terms, it will help to shape and stabilize the cultural identity of the pupil. And it will contribute to ensuring that education is the passing on of traditions from one generation to the next instead of the transmission of knowledge and values coming from an outside culture.
Our discussion of the objectives for school agriculture has been rather general. We shall be more specific when dealing with the objectives for primary school agriculture.