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close this bookPrimary School Agriculture: Volume I: Pedagogy (GTZ, 1985, 144 p.)
close this folderPart I: Pedagogical foundations of primary school agriculture
close this folder3. Approaches to the teaching of agriculture
View the document3.1 Overview
View the document3.2 An appraisal of how agriculture is taught at present

3.1 Overview

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 the schools.

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 programmes.

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
- manure
- farm and garden management
- crop husbandry

Nature Study

- weather
- entomology
- air
- flowers
- roots
- animal husbandry


- water
- refuse
- 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
- lamps
- 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)

For a more detailed analysis see Volume 2, Part I (Farming Methods), sections 3.1. and 3.2.8.

3.1.3 Focus on Manual Labour

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