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Letter of the Day: Refocus, transform agricultural education

Published:Monday | July 20, 2015 | 7:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

After years of providing instruction and preparing individuals for successful careers in agriculture, can we say the job is done?

Today, some individuals believe that little need exists for continued instruction in agriculture. But agricultural education will become more focused on the science of producing and processing plants and animals, as well as maintaining a healthy environment.

Many in the profession understand that the real value of agricultural education is not necessarily the subject content, but the method of teaching that makes this educational programme and process meaningful for both students and teachers. Therefore, it is critical that agricultural educators continue to examine, refine, and improve our educational process as we to enter the 21st century.

There are several ways to ensuring a successful future for agricultural education. First, we must attract and keep high-quality teachers. Bright young people entering agricultural education will ensure it sustains itself in future years. Teachers need the support of strong state and national leaders to help them keep abreast of changes in teaching technology and methodology along with technical knowledge in agriculture.

Another key to future success will be agricultural education's ability to deliver instruction to diverse audiences in diverse settings. Our programmes must become global in scope and available to students of varied age levels and backgrounds. Distance delivery of instruction will become commonplace.

Agricultural literacy will become a more important focus for agricultural educators, and we will need to determine the primary customer for our literacy efforts. For example, we should consider placing more emphasis on primary school and high students as the chief audience for our agricultural literacy efforts.

HIGH-QUALITY MATERIALS

By providing high-quality instructional materials and programmes for students, beginning with grade four, agricultural educators can focus their efforts on a specific target population. To ensure successful integrated instruction occurs, high-quality materials must be developed that can be used by teachers of all subject areas for presenting information about agriculture to their students.

Agricultural education must be responsive to the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base. A cadre of high-quality teachers with diverse backgrounds is essential for agricultural education to successfully meet the divergent challenges of the future.

Teachers must think globally but be empowered locally. To best meet the needs of students, our programmes must become more community-based. Teachers can empower themselves locally by bringing a wide range of community stakeholders together to determine the type of agricultural education programme the community needs and wants for their students.

Together, the community and teacher decide what should be taught. This ensures community and school support for the agricultural education programme and allows the teacher to focus on how to teach, using materials that are developed and approved by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

GABRIELLE HYLTON

gjhylton@hotmail.com