|Primary School Agriculture: Volume I: Pedagogy (GTZ, 1985, 144 p.)|
|Part I: Pedagogical foundations of primary school agriculture|
Map of Africa
Agriculture occupies an important place in many Primary School Curricula. Often it is not a new element in the syllabus, however, but has been taught for many years in succession. Why bother to write a Teacher's Manual since there are already a number of Rural Science books, and why design a manual which goes beyond the level of factual information about agricultural topics?
The answer is that after Independence education proceeds from a concept which places education fully in the context of independent nations belonging to the group of developing countries in Africa. Education is supposed to serve the needs and aspirations of an independent nation with ambitious goals for development, needs and aspirations of a political, cultural and social nature as much as of an economic nature. It seems necessary, therefore, to define the place of primary school agriculture in relation to the overall aims of education and to make comparisons with similar efforts in other African states. From the discussion of aims and objectives on the one hand, and the daily constraints under which schools have to operate, on the other, the necessity of thinking about appropriate teaching methods will become apparent. It is in this broader framework that factual information for teachers will have to prove its usefulness.
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.
In this section, a few approaches to the teaching of agriculture
in primary schools will be presented so that the reader may compare them and
judge the merits of each. On the evidence of two particular cases, we shall then
briefly examine the gap between educational theory and what actually goes on in
3.1.1 Agriculture as a Vocational Subject
This approach is followed, for example, in Kenya. Practical work
and a high level of production are important. The emphasis is on modern methods
of agriculture. Textbooks are structured according to crops with detailed
information as to the methods used in obtaining high yields. There is no
reference to other subjects. Specially trained teachers are required who ideally
have the qualities of a good farmer or farm manager. The assessment of pupils is
based on their performance in the garden and on the farm. This approach is also
the one being followed in the current educational reform in Rwanda. It was
prevalent in colonial days and is used today in most post-primary
3.1.2 The Concept of Rural Science
In the anglophone provinces of Cameroon and in countries like Nigeria and Ghana, agriculture is or was incorporated in a broader subject labelled Rural Science. The plan of A.F. Ndenge's book "Science for the Beginner" neatly exemplifies the structure of the subject:
- the soil
- farm and garden management
- crop husbandry
- animal husbandry
- ventilation and overcrowding
- first aid
- organs of the body
- body systems
- classes of food and drinks; food preservation; diet
- common worms
- dead and living material
- money and trade
- engines and machines
- clubs and societies
- some important Cameroon industries
The syllabuses and schemes of work provide for experimentation and observation. Practical activities take place on the school farms. The scope of this subject is not confined to pre-vocational training but is more general and therefore acceptable also to those who will not become farmers. It is a compromise between a pure science curriculum structured according to the internal progression of the natural sciences, and a purely vocational training approach with recipes showing "how to do it". The methodical emphasis is on flexibility and on a timing that ensures immediate applicability of what is taught:
"The topics should be taught at suitable times of the year in relation to the changes in seasons. It is important to establish links between the topics in this book. They should neither be treated separately nor dealt with in the strict order in which they occur." (Ndenge, A.F., Science for the Beginner, Victoria 1972, preface)
The approach tentatively advocated by IPAR-Yaounde, Cameroon,
splits the teaching of agriculture into two components and keeps them separate
as far as the time-table and schemes of work are concerned. One component is
actual farm-work where pupils are supposed to acquire a certain amount of
practice. Building up a positive attitude towards manual work as such seems to
be as important as the acquisition of skills. The other component is called
"Observational Science" (sciences d'observation). It covers roughly natural
science and social studies. Being entirely classroom work it is supposed to
follow a rigid scheme of work which links up only occasionally with work on the
school farm. It is to be feared that such an approach severely limits the
pupils' opportunities for learning.
3.1.4 The Integrated Approach
Agriculture is seen as part of a much larger subject called "Environmental Studies" within primary education. It covers the topics included under Rural Science but extends to Social Studies. Furthermore, it is integrated as far as possible with teaching in the general subjects - language and mathematics - following a project-centred approach. The aim of agriculture is to develop basic agricultural skills and to teach, in a practical way, elementary scientific principles and procedures. As for agricultural skills, the emphasis is on basics. A six or seven year primary school course cannot and should not turn out professional farmers. The aim is to teach basic scientific skills through primary school agriculture. This approach seems to have been first advocated in Africa by a curriculum development project at Namutamba in Uganda. It was recommended as part of the reform of Primary Education for Cameroon. Apart from supplying background information, heavy emphasis is placed on teaching methods, since the approach requires new teaching skills not demanded by the old approach. Much of the curriculum development activities will have to go on at local, subdivisional and provincial level in order to produce teaching content suited to local conditions. Within a general common syllabus' teachers will have to determine teaching content based on local situations. While documentation is needed to back up teachers' efforts, they must do their own fact-finding. This, in turn, is one of the skills pupils are supposed to acquire through the integrated approach. Systematic inclusion of African farming methods is part and parcel of the approach. Integration in this context has assumed two meanings. One is unifying a number of separate subjects in a larger one. This greatly simplifies the timetable and gives teachers more scope for organizing their teaching according to areas of interest. It also makes project-centred teaching possible. The other meaning is that content in one subject is used in other subjects, too. Lessons in language and mathematics use content taken from agriculture instead of examples from contexts unrelated to the child's experience. One step further in integration would be to use agricultural content as it comes up during school-farm work. It would be good, for example, to practise reading and writing with texts about soil and tilling when the school farm is being prepared for planting.
The Integrated Approach
- 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.
- Linked 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 practical work.
- 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" agriculture.
- 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 manual labour.
- 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 labour;
- 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 Financial Limitations.
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 for Agriculture.
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.
Agriculture has been carried out most of the time and in most countries of the world by illiterate or poorly educated people. Sometimes, education and the pursuit of knowledge have been set in opposition to agricultural activities. Not too long ago, in Europe, the terms for farmer carried an additional meaning of being uncultured, ignorant, rude, and dirty. In many African countries today pupils who take up farming after primary school are still considered a failure. Rural areas are often labelled as backward, traditional, underdeveloped and closed to new ideas. Would it not therefore seem that agriculture and science are direct opposites, excluding each other? Of course that is not true, and "Scientific Agriculture" is on the syllabuses for primary education in many African countries.
Since the scientific method and its results were applied to more and more fields of practical activity, it was inevitable that agriculture, too, became an area where scientific knowledge and methods were introduced. This produced a body of applied science of its own, much like engineering. Science is organized according to areas of specialisation, called disciplines. Agriculture, like many other fields of activity (medicine, building, administration), does not fit neatly into any one of them. It presents problems that can only be solved by calling on a number of disciplines. But even the most sophisticated agriculture does not rely on science alone. It draws on a body of long-standing traditional experience and skills which cannot be replaced by science. Today, agricultural sciences are recognized as areas of applied science in their own right. The following subdivisions are known:
- Soil Science dealing with soil formation (geology), its physical and chemical properties, and generally speaking with all factors affecting soil fertility.
- Plant Production dealing with topics such as plant physiology, plant nutrition, plant breeding, weed control, plant diseases, and pest control.
- Animal Production, treating problems like animal breeding, animal nutrition, and animal husbandry.
- Economics and Management.
- Agricultural Engineering dealing with tools, implements, farm machinery, and buildings.
The diagram shows the relationship between agriculture and science.
Relationship between science and agriculture
Although science does not simply replace traditional knowledge, it helps to rationalize it and to make it more systematic. It is when they come face to face with scientific knowledge that certain elements of a given agricultural tradition will be regarded as erroneous or even "superstitious". On the other hand, a well established, experience-based agricultural tradition acts as a check on science running wild: sometimes scientists rush into the open with results that have not yet been really tested in real-life conditions.
Science does not simply replace traditional knowledge, it helps to rationalize it and to make it more systematic.
Having established the link between science and agriculture does not prove that agriculture must be taught using a scientific approach. One would have to prove that a scientific orientation to agriculture is necessary, and that this approach can be used with primary school pupils. Traditional agriculture so far has produced most of the food needed for Africa's population. This in itself is a measure of success. It is a fairly coherent system based on experience, and by no means closed to innovation. If conditions change only slowly, traditional farming methods will probably adjust to these changes. But during and after colonisation conditions have changed more and more rapidly, and traditional farming is not adjusting fast enough to guarantee a steady food supply in the long term (see Volume 2, part I (Farming Methods), sections 4.1. "The need for a new approach", and 3.1., "The meaning of scientific agriculture"). The following are the main factors of change which require traditional agriculture to seek help from science:
- Population Growth
As the population keeps growing, more and more land has to be cultivated. This leads to a shortening of the fallow period (see volume 2, part I (Farming Methods), section 2.1. "Traditional land use systems - from shifting cultivation to degraded bush fallow"). Systematic research into continuous farming, building on traditional agriculture, is important if a disastrous decline in soil fertility is to be prevented.
In all African countries there are urban settlements. The urban population is not able to grow the food it needs. Towns rely on food produced in the surrounding rural areas. This is only possible if the rural population produces a greater marketable surplus than before. Both land and agricultural labour become scarce, and changes are needed which allow farmers to produce more crops on the same land and with the same amount of work. Here again, one would look to science for possible solutions, new farm inputs, improved farming techniques, better storage facilities etc.
Many industries need raw materials derived from plants for their work. Sugar cane is used to produce sugar, maize is used to brew beer, cotton is made into cloth, sisal fibres into ropes and mats, cocoa into chocolate, groundnuts and palm nuts into oil. Factories operate on a large scale and need a steady supply of inputs of standard quality. If they use large quantities of food crops (as for instance in brewing), they compete directly with local consumers and may create food shortages. If they use non-food crops these must be grown somewhere, and the areas growing industrial crops are no longer available for food crop farming. Industrial activity will also push traditional agriculture to its limits. These limits can only be overcome if productivity in farming can be raised, and this is one of the main tasks of applied science.
- Financing National Development
Development plans usually require large amounts of foreign goods and services. This has to be paid for in foreign exchange. The main part of the foreign exchange is earned from sales of agricultural products. Science is called on to play a vital part in improving productivity in this area.
There is a widespread belief that science can be taught properly to primary school children. In Africa, there is the well known APSP (African Primary Science Programme), later on the Science Education Programme for Africa (SEPA). Basic science can be taught at primary school. Experience with SEPA-material seems to prove, furthermore, that pupils enjoy it.
Basic Scientific Skills Taught Through Agriculture
It seems clear that all the basic scientific skills can be taught through primary school agriculture. The flow chart above and the next Figure show this in a rather general way, but detailed examples will be given later in the manual.
An important part of school agriculture is school farm work. School farm work deals with plants and the conditions of plant growth. This quite naturally leads to topics taken from different natural sciences, as can be seen from the diagram above. The emphasis in science teaching should be on method rather than on content. It would be possible to memorize a large amount of scientific knowledge. However, without an elementary grasp of the scientific method one might not be able to apply such knowledge to practical problems. On the other hand, somebody who masters the basic scientific approach will be in a position to find out for himself answers to problems in everyday life which he would not find in books. He would also understand that a scientific approach to problem solving is open to everybody.
In order to understand better what is meant by the scientific method let us look at the meaning of science. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary offers the definition:
"Knowledge arranged in an orderly manner, especially knowledge obtained by observation and testing of facts; pursuit of such knowledge."
Significantly, this does not refer to any content of knowledge but rather to its orderliness and to the methods by which it was obtained. Therefore we are fully justified in stressing the need to familiarize children with elementary scientific methods rather than with a mass of findings.
Science based education, if well done, enhances personal self reliance. It will not only enable a person to take a rational stand in matters concerning traditional ways and beliefs, it will also protect him or her against uncritical acceptance of new methods and proposals.
Thus, in agriculture, a farmer with a basic scientific outlook will retain from tradition whatever seems valuable after comparison with other ways of doing things. On the other hand, the same person will carefully listen to the advice of the agricultural extension agent and ask for proof. Maybe he sets his own little experiments in order to test the innovation under local conditions. In this way he would be better protected from risks than if he accepted the new ideas and methods mainly because the extension man is a government employee.
· The emphasis in science
teaching should be on method rather than on content.
· Science based education, if well done, enhances personal self reliance.
This approach contains the study of the child's everyday-life environment as one of its central ideas. It has been stated as follows:
"Focus On the Local Environment
The didactic centre of the reformed primary school curriculum is supposed to be the local environment, with which pupils, teachers and parents are familiar. The children's learning process will start from that very environment in order to become aware of its problems and try to find solutions. According to this concept the educational activities should be organized around centres of interest or problems which relate to the environment in question. The content of teaching will differ from region to region, even from one locality to another in the same region." (IPAR-Buea, Report on the Reform of Primary Education, 1977, p. 71)
Primary school agriculture can help to achieve this aim. Farming is part of children's lives in most of the country. They usually help to farm from a very early age. The use of the environment is a sound educational principle. In order to make full use of the educational possibilities offered by the environment one would have to observe the following guidelines:
- Local crops should be at the centre of teaching and school farm work.
- Local farming methods should be discussed.
- Good local farmers should take part in teaching and farm work.
- If new crops and methods are discussed in school, they should be related to local conditions.
- Agriculture should not be taught as an isolated field of productive activities. It should be presented as a part of people's way of life and cultural tradition. By following these guidelines one will automatically africanize the content of teaching.
The use of the environment is a sound educational principle.
Public statements related to development have laid much emphasis on issues like self-reliance, the "green revolution", and social justice.
One might very well feel that school agriculture should emphasize production, because this would make schools more self-reliant, less dependent on Government funds. By increasing overall agricultural production school agriculture would contribute to the "green revolution". This is true in the short term. Yet we must not forget that the main aim of school is essentially one of training the new generation for adult life with a much bigger effect on agricultural production later.
A science-based approach to school agriculture will, in the short run, produce less in terms of crops than a production-oriented approach for the following reasons:
Primary schools are not research institutes which produce new knowledge in such a way that today's experimental results can be turned into more productive farming methods for the next farming season. They deal with children who are having their very first introduction to science.
We therefore would want to set experiments the results of which we already know for certain. For the aim is not to find new knowledge but to demonstrate what experimentation can do, and how the method works. There will be a limited set of simple farm experiments which will be repeated many times. This need not stop an enterprising farm master from using experimentation for genuine research. Here is an example of how science orientation would lead to lower yields than an approach geared to maximum production:
Teachers know that weeding is essential for maize growth. If they were aiming at maximum yields, they would make sure that the maize plot was properly weeded, and at the right time. Experiments on weed control are easy to set, and results can be seen early and easily, so that the experiment is very convincing. By allowing weeds to grow on part of the plot, some yield will be lost.
Observation, too, might lead to losses. Observation of a growing crop means measuring, looking at plants closely, and sometimes taking samples and specimens. Taking samples and specimens might destroy or disturb the plants concerned. Measuring might disturb a plant, and pupils walking around almost certainly cause some damage. In order to make observation easy, one might have to provide more paths than usual. This reduces the area for farming and means an additional loss in yields.
But if primary school agriculture succeeds in teaching elementary scientific skills and procedures, pupils will tend to apply these skills to their practical problems in later life, be they farmers or not. The option between a "production approach" and a "science approach" is not an option for or against self-reliance or the "green revolution" but a choice between relatively small immediate benefits and larger benefits later.
The "production approach" has another snag. Since it stresses productivity rather than systematic learning, it will lead towards vocational training. But agricultural skills are more limited in scope than a general introduction to scientific methods. Parents might oppose a "production approach" especially in urban areas. This would lead to a split in the school system - one type of primary school for the urban areas, and another type for the rural areas. Reform attempts in many countries have shown convincingly that a reform fails as soon as suspicions of such a split arise.
The "science education approach" to primary school agriculture is feasible in every envronment and would therefore not in itself discriminate between different classes of people. It serves the political goal of social justice better than the "production approach".
Here is a set of potential objectives from which curriculum developers may choose and which could be complemented by other ones.
Knowledge and Skills
1. Pupils should acquire basic facts relevant to agriculture.
2. Pupils shall master basic scientific principles and procedures.
3. Pupils shall be able to apply basic scientific principles and procedures to agricultural problems.
4. Pupils shall accept the need for change and adaptation.
5. Pupils shall develop the self-confidence necessary to survive in a changing environment.
6. Pupils shall develop the motivation to participate actively in the improvement of their environment.
7. Pupils shall develop the social skills and attitudes necessary for co-operation with other members of the community and nation.
Specific Objectives in Science Education Through Agriculture
Most of these objectives deal with study skills. As such, they are valuable beyond their field of application, agriculture. The more they are pursued, the better will pupils be prepared for further education after primary school.
- Basic Scientific Principles
1. Logical thinking.
2. Curiosity and open-mindedness.
3. Intellectual honesty.
4. Acceptance of the fact that knowledge is relative: what is thought to be right today may be proved to be wrong tomorrow.
5. Accuracy in scientific procedure.
6. Insistence on factual evidence.
- Basic Scientific Procedures
7. Pupils will be able to make a simple hypothesis, stating a relationship between two phenomena.
8. Pupils will be able to design a simple way of testing such an hypothesis. "Simple" here means simple apparatus and low or no costs.
9. Pupils will be able to collect information by way of experiment, survey work, direct observation.
10. Pupils will be able to measure properties such as extension, volume, and weight of objects.
11. Pupils will be able to record their observations. Record-keeping may be in written or in graphical form.
12. Pupils will be able to analyse observations. This essentially means grouping of information for comparison, calculating elementary statistics (mean, percentages, simple ratios).
13. Pupils will be able to make systematic comparisons according to initial hypotheses.
14. Pupils will be able to draw conclusions from comparisons.
15. Pupils will be able to report their findings in such a way that the reader can repeat the whole process by himself.
Specific Objectives in the Field of Agriculture
These are objectives which cannot easily be generalized beyond the field of agriculture. The more important they become, the more primary school agriculture becomes pre-vocational training.
- Parts of a plant
- Life cycle of plants
- Crops and their requirements
- Modes of propagation
- Diseases and pests
- Plant improvement: breeding and selection
- Main crop associations
- Sources of improved planting material
- Propagate plants by seeds, suckers, cuttings etc.
- Distinguish suitable and unsuitable patterns of mixed cropping
- Identification of pests and diseases
- Prevention and cure of pests and diseases (elementary)
- Properties of soil
- Conditions of soil fertility
- Dangers to soil fertility
- Improving soil fertility
- Soil types
- Take and analyse a soil sample
- Manuring and mulching
- Simple erosion control
- Compost work, green manure, fallow and cover crops, chemical fertilizer
- Selecting crops adapted to a few soil types
- Common tools
- Maintenance of tools
- Measuring equipment
- Animal-powered equipment
- Main agricultural machines
- Handle some common tools
- Correctly care for tools
- Making and using simple measuring equipment
- Set of operations required for different farm crops
- Sequence of farming operations for different crops
- Time required for different farm operations
- Rejuvenation of tree crop farms
Make a plan for the farming of a given crop
- Laying out a farm plot with right angles
- Doing light tillage as required by the crops farmed
- Preparing nurseries for vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, lettuce), for coffee, cocoa, or oil palms according to area, for Eucalyptus and fruit trees, etc.
- Earthing up
- Simple methods of drying and storage
- Division of labour by sex and age
- Forms of group work
- Draft the regulations of a mutual help group
- Draft the rules for a contract job
- Notions of profit and loss
- Elements of planning
- Calculate profit and loss of the school farm (the class plot)
- Make a simple time-table for farming a standard crop
- Keep records
- The local market
- Local measures of weight and volume
- The Licensed Buying Agent
- Sale on credit before the harvest
- The Cooperative Society
- The Produce Marketing Board
- Convert local measures into standard measures
- Compare prices
- Use and check a balance
- Establish and check a receipt
- Calculate the interest on a loan
- Agricultural employment
- Information on rural training schemes
- Information on sources of agricultural knowledge