3.2 An appraisal of how agriculture is taught at present
The Rural Science approach seems quite adequate in theory. Yet,
the way it is practised raises doubts about its feasibility. Here are a number
of weak points.
Teaching and Learning
- The main teaching method employed is chalk and
talk. It is rare to find experiments or nature walks. There is hardly any
observation. Thus the many opportunities for the pupils to be active and to make
discoveries are lost.
- Pupils' textbooks and teachers/guides are relatively
poor. There is not enough background information on agriculture, nor are there
sufficient guidelines on teaching methods and work organization. Therefore,
wrong things are sometimes taught and work organization on the farm is less
effective than it could be.
- Classroom teaching and farming/gardening are
most of the time unrelated. This again means the loss of valuable learning
opportunities since one would think that, for example, teaching a lesson on soil
would be most effective if the pupils actually tilled the soil.
with this is the mechanical application of a common syllabus. For example,
certain crops have been termed "school farm crops" - yams, beans, and maize.
Most teachers try to farm these crops no matter whether they ape suited to their
area or not. Instead of taking the syllabus as a general guide and adapting it
to their respective environments, they try to carry it out to the letter.
Examinations are exclusively in writing and usually come in the form of
multiple-choice items. Therefore there is no important incentive for good
- Most school farms perform less well than local
farms using traditional methods. This is going to defeat the very purpose of
school agriculture, exposing it to the ridicule of illiterate farmers.
School agriculture has little influence on farming outside the school compound.
Teachers and ex-pupils use traditional farming methods. At best, they try a mix
of "scientific" and traditional methods. The pupils know very well what is going
on on the teachers' private farms. They therefore get a firstclass demonstration
of the teachers' own lack of faith in "scientific"
3.2.3 Failure to Comply with
- In many schools, pupils are sent to work on the
school farm as a punishment, especially since physical punishment is forbidden
by law. This is bound to create or reinforce a negative attitude to farm work
rather than foster positive attitudes. It highlights the hardship of farm work
and portrays more than anything else the real attitude of teachers towards
- Also, unfortunately very common is the misuse of pupils'
labour, of crops grown at school, and of money from the sale of crops by
teachers and headmasters. During farm work lessons, some pupils are sent to work
on the teachers' farms or in their compounds. The teachers often take part of
the harvest from the school farms, either free of charge, or at a price below
current market prices, or on credit that is difficult to recover.
In conclusion, one could say that
- learning effectiveness is far below the level of
what is possible;
- farming and gardening often degenerate into mere child
- as for attitude formation, current practice is counterproductive;
- pupil's efforts are exploited, often in a dishonest way which brings the
whole subject into desrepute.
The following extract describes an inspection tour to schools
doing agriculture in an East African country.
Agriculture Programme in Schools and Collegesby J. Wesonga
My familiarization trips to a few schools and the questionnaire
which I sent to all schools and colleges teaching Agriculture reveal some
problems in teaching Agriculture. The Ministry has made significant steps to try
to introduce as many schools as possible to the teaching of Agriculture; with
the major objective of boosting our Agriculture as one of the major earners of
income and Foreign Exchange. At this juncture it is needless to mention that
Agriculture plays a vital role in our Economy both for international trade and
the internal market, as the industry on which more than three-quarters of the
population of the country depend for their livelihood. It was with this in mind
that Government decided to reintroduce Agriculture in the Curriculum in both
Secondary schools and colleges, and soon we hope in Primary schools and High
schools. This is to comply with the principle that Education is for the benefit
and needs of the country. One of the needs of not only this country but the
world at large is to produce enough food to feed its people. Thus when
Agriculture was started in schools, the aim was to make it a vocational rather
than a theoretical subject. This is clear from many official documents of
meetings and Conferences concerning the development of Agriculture syllabuses in
the sixties and early seventies. This point is further emphasised in the aims of
the Agriculture syllabus itself, i.e. 'To teach in a practical manner, basic
principles and skills in Animal Husbandry, Crop Husbandry, Agriculture Economics
and Agricultural Mechanics'.
Despite all this, most schools have turned the subject into a
theoretical one. It is not unusual to find poorly kept crops or animals in the
school garden just - because of the failure to put theoretical knowledge into
practice; e.g. poorly spaced crops, coffee that is not pruned, cabbages that are
not weeded; no rotational cropping or grazing, no records kept of what cropping
is being done on the farm.
This type of education is not only useless but also a waste of
Government money and man power. There are many reasons why this subject in some
schools lacks the practical aspect but I will discuss them broadly under three
headings; i.e. Agriculture teachers, the role of the Administration, and
Agricultural teachers: Many problems in school are due to the
laziness of some teachers. While some teachers are doing a very commendable job
there are others who are trying to frustrate the aims of the subject. They are
too lazy to initiate a project in school; so they resort to theoretical teaching
and place most of the blame on the Head Master or the Ministry. An Agriculture
teacher is somehow different from other teachers because his work and abilities
can be easily seen on the school farm apart from the usual class-work. He is
lucky that he can convert all that is being taught in class into practice on the
school farm. This farm not only helps to teach pupils but also becomes an
example to be copied by people around. Yet in many school farms the practices
used are either below the standard of an ordinary surrounding farmer or are just
the same. in this way most students don't see any difference between school
agriculture and traditional methods of farming. A good number of schools I
visited personally had projects established such as coffee, tea, dairy etc. but
surprisingly enough instead of the Agriculture teacher grabbing this opportunity
to use these projects, he neglects them, and does not seem concerned with what
happens on the farm. The farm is the laboratory of the Agriculture teacher, thus
he should strive to improve anything on the farm. Lack of maintaining the school
farm in good conditions is just as lack of maintenance of a laboratory for a
Science teacher, as such a teacher cannot call himself a scientist if he is not
able to demonstrate experimentally some of his theories and laws of science.
I feel it is better to have, nothing on the school farm at all
than have something of very poor quality. This type of project does not achieve
the aims stated in the syllabus, i.e. it can never change the attitude of
students and make them think that farming can be a dignified occupation. Instead
it fortifies their already negative attitude towards farming. High-quality
projects do not necessarily mean grade-cows instead of our local breeds, or
hybrid chicks, or any other exotic breeds of animals. What I mean is that even
if you have local breeds, try to improve their quality e.g. through good
feeding, or if possible through cross-breeding, and any other animal husbandry
procedures. All these will lead to increased yields and to better farm-projects.
It will create insight and arouse the interest of the students, whereas keeping
tick-infected cows which are poorly fed is more of a liability to the school
than an asset.
Crop-production should also lead to high standards of crops. All
the theories of good husbandry should be followed i.e. selection of good crops
according to climatic conditions and marketability, practices like spacing,
weeding, pruning, pest and weed control, seed selection. It is very frustrating
to see the demonstration plot demonstrating some of the worst practices such as
no correct spacing, poor weeding, monoculture practices etc., so that the end
result is the lowest yield in the whole neighbourhood. All this happens because
the Agriculture teacher does not plan these projects. He has no concern for what
is happening on the farm; Many complain of lack of funds. This is not true. It
rather is a question of a lack of technical competence and diligence. A
demonstration plot should be big enough to provide a real farm situation rather
than just a plot of a meter by a meter, but at the same time the plot should be
small enough to be well-looked after without straining the teacher and students,
and allowing teachers and students enough time to discuss problems and exchange
ideas. In schools where there is enough land, commercial farming can be
practised by employing workmen to run the farm, and if possible a Farm-Manager.
However, an Agriculture teacher should still be involved in decision-making both
in long-term and short-termplans.
While I agree that students should not be overworked on this
commercialized farm I feel strongly that there is nothing wrong with students
helping during peak periods such as planting and harvesting time. This gives
them the basic skills needed for farming. It has been proved that some students
can write excellent essays on how to grow this and that crop, yet they are not
able to raise a cabbage if given land. The question then arises why the Ministry
should spend money on building workshops, buying equipment or even tractors. If
the intention is to teach Agriculture theoretically there should only be books
It has come to an unfortunate state where even an agriculture
teacher gives the impression that work on the school farm by students is a sort
of exploitation, or hard labour, a punishment to the students. I wonder whether
this helps in any way to obtain the objective of stimulating interest in
Agriculture. Working on the farm should be incorporated in the scheme of work.
Students should be made to feel that practicals are not at all a punishment but
experiences that make them understand better the theories taught in class. They
should feel proud that working on the farm is just as dignified an occupation as
any other, that it is not a dirty job only fit for the uneducated. The
experiences gained from the garden should glamorise Agriculture and not be the
drudgery they had hoped to escape by coming to school in the first place.
- It is better to have nothing on the school farm at all than to
have something of very poor quality.
- Students should be made to feel that
practicals are not at all a punishment but experiences that make them understand
better the theories thought in class.