2. Objectives for teaching agriculture in primary schools
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
- 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
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
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
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.