|Primary School Agriculture: Volume I: Pedagogy (GTZ, 1985, 144 p.)|
|Part I: Pedagogical foundations of primary school agriculture|
|4. A Science-Based approach to primary school agriculture|
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".