Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of tables and figures
 Historical overview of education...
 African education today
 Problems of secondary education...
 Farming systems approach to...
 Structural change in African...
 Discussion and conclusions

Title: Linking secondary education in anglophone Africa with a farming systems approach: a framework for restructure
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Title: Linking secondary education in anglophone Africa with a farming systems approach: a framework for restructure
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Language: English
Creator: Glisson, James
Publisher: University of Florida, Farming Systems Research and Extension
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Page i
    List of tables and figures
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Historical overview of education in Africa
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    African education today
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    Problems of secondary education and its effect on agricultural education
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
    Farming systems approach to reform
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
    Structural change in African education
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
    Discussion and conclusions
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
Full Text

S5. / La-


James Glisson
Farming Systems Research and Extension
Department of Agriculture Education and Communication
University of Florida
Dr. C.E. Beeman
Dr. P.E. Hildebrand
Dr. M.H. Breeze


1. Introduction....... ...... ................................... ....................................1

2. Historical Overview of Education in Africa.................................................. 4

3. African Education Today.....................................................................13

4. Problems of Secondary Education and Its Effect on Agricultural Education.............20

5. Farming Systems Approach to Reform......................................................40

6. Structural Change in African Education......................................................51

7. Discussion and Conclusions...................................................................68

8. Bibliography...................................................................................72


Table 1. Structure of Anglophone African Education.............................................17

Table 2. Wage Employment in Selected African Countries 1975-1985.........................30

Table 3. Importance of Wage Employment in Selected Anglophone African Countries......31

Table 4. Trends in Educational Attainment for 29 Sub-Saharan African Countries .........34

Figure 1. Diagrammatic Representation of Agriculture as a Subject in Combination With

Other Subjects................................................................... ...... 57


The educational structure of anglophone Africa is essentially a legacy of the colonial era.
Administration and curriculum development are done through a centralized governing body
usually in the form of a ministry. The subject matter taught in the schools are also based on
colonial influence in that it is highly academic and designed to produce students to fill roles
in a mercantile type of society. The curriculum is developed using a subject-centered
approach where individual fields of study are taught separate and to a progressively greater
degree of specificity. Evaluation of student progress is achieved through a rigorous, centrally
administered exam. Exams are sometimes generated externally such as the West African
examinations Council (WAEC). As a result, a large portion of the students will not complete
schooling. The combination of these influences have created education that is questionably
relevant due to the 1) overproduction of wage type skills in an economy that cannot absorb
them, 2) pressure to focus only on the material that will be tested for, and 3) a devaluation
of relevant vocational studies, particularly agriculture education. Educational scholars have
called for reform in African schooling but suggested measures have often failed due to
unclear aims and objectives. This paper explores the potential use of the development concept
and methodology of "Farming Systems" as a means of improving relevancy of education for
those students who will leave school to return to a rural agricultural environment. The
Farming Systems approach has been used in agricultural development for over 20 years to
diagnose problems, develop alternative strategies, and disseminate information for small,
resource poor farmers. One of the basic tenants of Farming systems is the use of -
multidisciplinary influences to achieve a more holistic view of a farm system. Practitioners of
this concept view the farm as being comprised of many, interrelated sub-systems that are
subject to social, economic, and biological forces. These elements of farming systems lend
themselves to adaptation for teaching relevant agriculture education. The greater holisticy and
problem-solving nature of the methodology could provide students with greater insight into
the rural environment. Implementation of this approach would require a blending of four
relevant subjects to be taught based on the co-relation of individual subject areas. A
curriculum design that allows for such a blending is the core-curriculum design. Changes to
existing educational structures would be required at three levels. These are 1) national level,
2) system level, and 3) school-level. Impediments to this reform will be largely those of
public opinion. Colonial style education is deeply ingrained in Africa and the public must
believe that any change in the system will not result in a decrease of educational quality.
Additionally, the public must value continuous assessment as a form of evaluation over the
existing examination regime.



During the past 25 years, Africa has been characterized as a continent in crisis. Despite

tremendous effort from development agencies from all over the world, Africa continues to

maintain the poorest record of indicators of human development, with lowest life expectancy,

highest infant mortality, and one of the lowest levels of literacy (World Bank 1993).

Recognizing this fact, many organizations have called for human development to be made the

focus of developmental policy in the decade of the 90's (UNESCO 1990). It is widely

accepted that education will be the primary vehicle of this effort. The return on investment in

education shows a positive increase in development. Studies show that clients that have been

educated tend to be more participatory in development efforts (ILO 1977, Krieger 1988). It is

ironic, then, that education in Africa continues to operate under an inappropriate system that

is a legacy of colonialism in both its structure and function. A critical failing of the system is

a lack of relevance of the schooling to the realities of the environment. One result of this is

that a high number of secondary school graduates are unemployed. Attention has recently

turned more and more to vocational education as a potential area for reform. However, there

has been a lack of clarity in aims and objectives as well as the technical complexity of such a

redesign (World Bank 1992). Most Africans depend on agriculture for subsistence.

Agriculture education, then, is a logical focus of vocational reform. High drop-out rates

coupled with high unemployment of secondary school graduates necessitates agriculture

education that will prepare students for life in the communities that they will find themselves

in after school.

Farming Systems is a concept and methodology used by extensionists to generate innovations

based on the socioeconomic and agroclimactic parameters of an area or domain. This concept

places emphasis on farmer participation and integration of the separate components that make

up agricultural production. It is essentially a more holistic view of agriculture. If relevance is

to be defined as the relationship of education to the surroundings of the educated (Oni 1988),

then such a system can provide a framework for generation of relevant educational material.


The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential use of Farming Systems concepts and

methodology in secondary agricultural education in Africa. The focus will be on English

speaking Africa. Specific questions that will be addressed are:

1) What problems currently exist in African secondary education, particularly in

agriculture education.

2) What Farming Systems concepts could be applied to resolve these problems.

3) What actions could be taken to put the resulting recommendations into practice.


The procedure used for the generation of this paper is literature search and assimilation.

Material will be from the most currently available in the library system of the University of

Florida and from the farming systems library of Dr. Peter Hildebrand. In addition to this,

the author will draw from his experience as a teacher of secondary agriculture education in

East Africa.


To gain an understanding of the problems and constraints faced by African secondary

education, it is helpful to have a familiarity with the history of its formation. What follows is

a brief description of the beginnings of education in Africa up until the present.

Long before the first Arabs and Europeans arrived in Africa, the African people had a

developed system of education. Its primary purpose was to prepare the children for the harsh

realities of the African landscape, thus knowledge of the natural surroundings was imperative.

The philosophical foundations of this form of learning was that education should 1) build a

sense of community, 2) prepare the child practically to cope with their surroundings, 3) be

functional, 4) instil a reverence for one's ancestral past, and 5) instil a holistic view of one's

surroundings. This indigenous education was, understandably, very utilitarian.

With the arrival of foreigners to the continent, and the subsequent domination by them,

these ancient forms of teaching were bound to become irrelevant. The first western educators

were missionaries. Formal education was considered by most missionaries as an essential part

of evangelism, and they established schools very soon after their arrival in Africa. The first

English-speaking missionaries in Nigeria, for example, arrived in 1842 and opened a school

almost immediately. A similar pattern occurred in Kenya in 1844, and in Uganda in 1877

(Anderson 1970). The curriculum was very religious and designed to convert first, then to

educate. The method of teaching was usually imitated from the home countries of the

missionaries. The curriculum, although chiefly copied from Europe, contained heavy

emphasis on vocational subjects including agriculture. The missionaries felt that relevance of

the learning to daily life was important. Another factor contributing to this was an underlying

racism. Missionaries believed that Africans were not capable of higher learning and thus

placed more emphasis on vocational studies. This imposed curriculum was the first clear

example of non-African ideas being imported into the continent from the west. Religious

organizations remain a force in African education to this day.

As Europe gained more control in Africa, these missions were left to administer

education and it was not until much later that colonial governments either participated in or

subsidized education. With the arrival of foreign forms of learning came the beginning of the

decline of indigenous education. Sifuna (1990) identifies three reasons for this:

1) Indigenous education was centered around development of the community,

whereas mission and colonial education centered on individuals;

2) Indigenous education was designed to serve a static society that changed little

over time;

3) No letters or figures were learned. Learning was passed on in oral


These factors were inconsistent with the "civilized" education brought by the missions and

thus were either discouraged by western educators or disregarded altogether.

By the year 1914, almost the entire continent was under European rule. This year was the

final partitioning of the African territories by European powers seeking exportable materials

from Africa's mostly untouched natural resource base. The effort put forth by these countries

to gain land was done in such haste that the era is now called the "scramble for Africa". At

this time, Britain held a near monopoly on manufactured goods around the world and thus

had a great need for exportable raw materials from Africa. The other major players, France,

Belgium, Portugal and, until World War I, Germany, wanted to gain control of sufficient raw

materials to upset this monopoly. In the end, however, Britain acquired a sizable portion of

Africa. In the south they possessed the territories that embrace the Union of South Africa,

North and South Rhodesia, Basutoland, Swaziland, Bechuanaland, and Nyasaland. In the east

they possessed the East Africa protectorate (Kenya), Uganda, and Zanzibar and in north

Africa, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Condominium and Egypt. In west Africa, Britain possessed

the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, and Nigeria.

There were in general, two types of colonial administration established in the African

territories. The first, utilized by the French, Portuguese, and Belgians is known as "direct"

rule; the other, used by the British is called "indirect" rule. These two systems differed

primarily in theoretical approach. The system of direct rule assumed that indigenous authority

groups were incapable of providing the kind of control and political leadership required in a

colony, which meant that at every level in the administration a European was required to

carry out assigned tasks regardless of how minor.

The British indirect rule assumed that indigenous authority groups should have an established

role in colonial government. African rulers were given limited, and later wider, control over

certain government functions at the local level. This approach was also considered financially

beneficial because it was less expensive to utilize African manpower than to import British

citizens to do the same job. In the area of education the policy of indirect rule emphasized

the notion of "adaptation", the adjustment of European institutions to local political and social

organizations and the creation of a group of educated Africans, who at the same time would

be rooted in their own culture. This approach, both in administration and education, was seen

by Britain as mutually beneficial for both Europeans and Africans. Africans were receiving

education that would one day allow them to rule themselves, and Britain was able to utilize

trained Africans in clerical positions to help carry out the day-to-day business of


At first, there was general government dissatisfaction at the idea of introducing an entirely

British curriculum into African schools. The reason was that many felt that the unrest in India

had been the result of a low emphasis placed on vocational education. In fact, in the colonial

office in London, there was a strong anti-academic group championed by Lord Valentine,

who detailed in his book Indian Unrest his reasons for wanting a vocational centered

curriculum in the colonies. He argued that, for colonial education to be successful, it must be

adapted to the needs of the local people. It must be noted here that discussions of this sort

were directed towards primary education. There were still very few secondary schools and

almost no institutions for higher education in Africa. Those post-primary schools that did

exist would not consider allowing indigenous matters to affect curriculum. In the British-run

primary schools, however, the policy of adaptation was exercised by teaching in the local

vernacular and following a curriculum that strongly emphasized the local environment.

In the years 1920-25, a study was carried out by a philanthropic organization out of New

York to observe the colonial system of education in Africa and to record the effect it had had

on the local people. The report, in short, spoke critically of the result of western style

education in Africa. It cited a lack of relevance between education and the local conditions

that graduates returned to following their education. This landmark report has come to be

known as the Phelps-Stokes report (Fafunwa 1974). Britain took the report seriously and

adopted many of the recommendations presented. Post-primary education, however, remained

basically unchanged, very academic and very British. The reasons behind this are two-fold.

Firstly, Britain needed Africans that were literate to assist in the colonial government's

clerical activities. The second reason is that Africans wanted an academic curriculum in their

schools. There were two reasons for this.

Firstly, Africans who completed school generally were able to find ( relatively) good

jobs in the urban areas working either in trade or government. Therefore, many Africans saw

education as a way out of the life of subsistence agriculture. Education was more a means to

an end than something to be appreciated in itself. Africans thus wanted education to be


Secondly, Africans wanted education that was similar to that of the Europeans. They

felt vocational education was demeaning since it was not a major portion of the European

school curriculum. In this light, vocational education was seen as inferior learning. This was

reinforced by the fact that they never saw Europeans doing manual agricultural labor. The

end result was that agriculture education was shunned by Africans.

World War II did much to change colonial Africa. During the war, many African

soldiers were able to travel to other countries and see new things. This helped many to see

their countries from different prospective and form new ideas. Later, these people would be

some of the most militant in the fight for independence. Through this exposure to the outside

world, they came to see their colonial dominators in a different way. Before the war,

Europeans had dominated Africans. Now several European countries had been defeated and

publicly humiliated, which destroyed the myth of the white man's superiority. Relations

between Africans and Europeans began to change.

Africans now began to place more pressure on colonial governments to improve education.

The war itself had done much to delay the development of education, but afterwards, there

was more urgency to construct a standard education system.

Standardization of African schools came to fruition in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

Curricula had formerly been developed on-site by the headmaster or simply copied from a

European syllabus. Now curricula were being developed for African schools. For example,

Ghana adopted its first standard secondary school curriculum in 1950 (Earle 1983). With this

development, the inequalities of colonial education became more apparent. For example, in

1957 the Kenyan educational budget was allocated as follows: Whites, who comprised only

1% of the population, received 19% of the budget. Asians, who made up 3% of the

population received 28% of the budget. This meant that African students, who made up the

rest of the population received the remaining 53% of allocated education money (Scheffield

1973). Scenarios such as this added fuel to the fire of rising nationalism in Africa.

The beginning of nationalist feelings can be said to have started as early as the 20's. At this

time, the traditional African elite had largely been replaced by a new educated elite. These

were Africans who had studied abroad and returned as doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They

were used essentially as "trustees" of the colonial governments. They felt, however, that the

colonial administrators did not treat them according to the status they felt they merited. From

these individual grudges emerged a general dissatisfaction with the way Britain was running

the colonies. As mentioned earlier, the second world war fundamentally changed the way

Africans and Europeans interacted. The feelings of nationalism among the African territories

now spread at a much greater pace than before the war.

Prior to the war, colonial educational policies had centered on primary education. Now

Africans wanted more secondary and higher education to make up for this deficit. The time

from the end of World war II until independence can be described as a dramatic expansion of

post-primary education.

An important factor in the formation of African education is that, on the whole, Africans

were satisfied with the economic structure that the colonial governments had built. In fact,

they were eager to adopt these structures at the time of independence. Educational curricula

had been designed to produce graduates that could fill roles in such an economy (just as

schools in Britain did). Thus, in the late 1950's and early 1960's when African countries

were being granted independence, the major educational thrust did not involve a change in

the way Africans were taught, but a continued expansion of the number of schools.

The social and sometimes revolutionary upheavals that contributed to the rapid achievement

of independence were caused by numerous factors. Such a study is beyond the scope of this

paper. One is, however, able to discern patterns or consistencies of educational policy among

the newly-independent African countries.

African countries placed considerable importance on the role of education in promoting

economic and social development. The education system was expected to achieve two main

objectives. These were:

1) providing future manpower with skills needed for a growing economy;

2) instilling values to enrich people's lives and maintain cohesive productivity.

It was implicit in this approach that development should approximate the institutional

forms and underlying values of Western education. African governments earmarked

substantial portions of their budgets to education.

The first example of Africans attempting to inject relevance into their new educational

systems began in this period. In curriculum reform, a start was made in a number of English-

speaking countries on curriculum revision that would place emphasis on local needs.

Surprisingly enough, African officials looked to Britain and Wales for examples (Sifuna

1990). A case in point is Nigeria. In 1961, the Banjo Commission proposed that existing

modern secondary schools be merged or expanded to form comprehensive middle schools.

These schools would have no selection examination and be open to all pupils that had

completed primary school and could afford to pay the fees. It must be noted here that

examinations have and still do play a major role in African curriculum development. This

will be discussed in greater detail later in the paper. Despite such curriculum changes, the

structure of primary, secondary, and higher education remained British in outlook.

It was not long before expansion of schools far outstripped the possibilities for employment

that existed for school-leavers and new job creation proved difficult, slow, and expensive.

However the kind of education that students, and particularly their parents, wanted remained

constant. The goal was, and still is, a white-collar, wage earning job. This led to

considerable migration of young people to urban areas in search of such jobs. Even greater

pressure was placed on the new African countries to create work for these graduates.

This unsustainable direction of African education was particularly apparent to the

visionary Julius K. Nyerere, first president of Tanzania. He felt that education was helping

only a very small portion of the African population, creating an elite, and he called for a

radical change in both structure and focus. He detailed his beliefs in the now famous work

Education for Self-Reliance. In it, he proposed that agricultural production to meet the

people's needs be made the focus of education. Such a focus, however would have to fit into

the context of the socialist society Tanzania was attempting to build at the time (Nyerere

1968). Primary and secondary schools were charged with meeting much of their financial

needs through production on school farms. Students and teachers were expected to carry out

the manual labor together and thus restore the "dignity of labor".

Nyerere's success in building a socialist society is debatable especially in light of the current

gradual shift to a market economy that is occurring in Tanzania today. In education,

however, he did much to destroy the feelings that agriculture education is demeaning and has

no place in formal education. The primary criticism of his efforts, however, is that students

spent too much time simply performing manual labor without a structured approach to the

subject matter. Education for Self-Reliance represents the best attempt to make relevant

agricultural education to date.


In this section, an analysis of structure and function of educational systems in anglophone

Africa with particular reference to agricultural education will be undertaken. I have defined

anglophone countries as those that use English as their primary educational language at the

secondary level. Many of these countries use local vernacular at the primary level with the

introduction of English during the final years. With the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, all

of the countries included in this definition were colonies of Great Britain. The reason why

these countries are examined together is that many of the problems they face in their

respective educational systems stem from their common past.

French speaking, or francophone Africa is often analyses collectively in a similar manner and

there are several informative books on the subject (deLusignan 1969, Mumford 1970, Kelly

1984). The English-speaking countries that are examined here are:

1. Botswana 10. Nigeria 19. Zimbabwe

2. Ethiopia 11. Sierra Leone

3. The Gambia 12. Somalia

4. Ghana 13. South Africa

5. Kenya 14. Sudan

6. Lesotho 15. Swaziland

7. Liberia 16. Tanzania

8. Malawi 17. Uganda

9. Namibia 18. Zambia

The countries of Somalia and South Africa present difficulties in an analysis such as

this due to current upheavals in both countries. Presently, the country of Somalia is without a

functioning government due to a civil war. Until the time the war began, the Somolian

educational system was administered by the Ministry of Education established upon Somalia's

independence. Half of the original land area had been a colony of Italy and thus the school

system was a combination of the British and Italian systems. In 1970, the country was

declared a socialist state and the educational system underwent a major transition in focus.

Most of the private education, which was primarily sponsored by the Catholic Church, was

nationalized and a Somali-oriented curriculum was established. By 1975, primary schooling

had been set at 8 years in duration followed by 4 years of secondary. Secondary schooling

terminated with an examination with the results determining who went on to the Somali

National University. Warfare has unfortunately destroyed this structure completely, and until

peace is achieved, the outlook for education in Somalia is bleak.

South Africa, unlike Somalia, has undergone a different type of upheaval. Literature

describing the new educational structure as a result of the abolition of apartheid is scarce.

Prior to this change, South Africa had a very complicated and blatantly racist educational

system. Each of the four major races in South Africa, whites, blacks, colored, and Indian had

their own system. Whites fell under the Department of National Education regardless of what

part of the country they lived. Africans, who had been moved to "Bantustans" or homelands,

came under the jurisdiction of the local Bantustan department of education. Colored students

fell under the jurisdiction of the Administration for Colored Affairs. The management of

Indian students was controlled through the Ministry of Indian Affairs. Each system had the

same chronological progression for students. There were four phases, each three years in

length; junior and senior primary, and junior and senior secondary. An external examination

at the end of senior secondary determined who attained a place in higher education. The

quality differential between white education and black education was enormous. This disparity

is illustrated by the low literacy rate (45%) for black South Africans. Only 30% of blacks

have had secondary education, 3% have attended tertiary. The new government, then, has a

formidable task to counteract long-term repression.


A survey of the current structure of secondary education in anglophone Africa

involves a discussion of three components of educational systems. These are:

1) Governing bodies of educational systems;

2) Chronological progression of the student in terms of the number of years at

each phase;

3) The presence of examinations that determine who continues.

In this section, patterns among the African countries under investigation will be

revealed. With the exception of Nigeria, all anglophone African educational programs are

governed by national ministries of education. In some countries, part of the responsibility of

administration is assumed by religious organizations who do so primarily by operating private

schools. An example of this is the Kingdom of Lesotho where 80% of all secondary schools

and 90% of all primary schools are operated by the Christian church (Urch 1992). Another

example is Kenya with 68% of all secondary schools operated by the church (KIS 1991). The

presence of religious organizations are not limited to Christian ones. Koranic schools which

teach the principles of Islam have been present since before the arrival of western Christian

missionaries. I feel that although these schools have had a tremendous impact on the

perpetuation of Islam in Africa, they do not greatly influence the state education systems.

As mentioned earlier, Nigeria does not have an overall administrative body to

supervise education. The closest thing to it is the Nigerian National Council on Education

which attempts to ensure that uniform practices are carried out by the individual states in

Nigeria. There are 22 states in Nigeria. Management of primary, secondary, and teachers

colleges is done through individual state direction. Nigeria "breaks the mold" in several

aspects of education. They were the first African country to send many students abroad to

achieve an education and education is still highly regarded there. As a member of OPEC, and

therefore possessing unusual wealth for an African country, they have the latitude to be more

progressive in their education. They have undertaken many experiments in reform. Much of

the literature dealing with African education comes from Nigerian scholars.

Table 1 presents a summary of the structural components of education systems in

anglophone African countries. As the table confirms, the average duration of primary

schooling is 6 years followed by 5 years of secondary. Of these countries, 91% have major

bodies that supervise education. Also apparent is that every country uses examinations to

determine entrance to higher education. Of the total, 33% use the West African Examination

TABLE 1. Structure of Anglo-phone African Education


# OF













Sierra Leone

South Africa






6 6 Ministry of Education
* Ministry of Education

6 5 Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports

6 5 Ministry of Education and Culture

8 4 Ministry of Education, Science, and

7 5 Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports,
and Culture

6 6 Ministry of Education

8 4-2 Ministry of Education and Culture
S **

Ministry of Education

Ministry of Education and Guidance

Ministry of Education and Guidance

Ministry of Educational Education

Ministry of Educational Education

Ministry of Education and Culture
Ministry of Education

information not available
***no longer applicable
no longer applicable






Source: Authors Research


Council (WAEC) as the supplier of these exams. The impact of these exams on overall

effectiveness of African education is tremendous.

The number of secondary schools vary widely depending on educational budgets and

geographic size of the country. The Gambia for example has only 8 secondary schools

(Gambia 1985), Tanzania has 219 secondary schools (Tanzania 1986), and Nigeria has the

highest number of secondary schools with 5,927 (Nigeria 1990). The quality of facilities

varies just as widely. At the upper end of the spectrum are the highly academic secondary

schools that are well constructed and electrified. Schools such as these are commonly found

in Kenya and Nigeria. The author taught agriculture at a small, mud-brick, unelectrified

school in the southern highlands of Tanzania. This sort of school is much more prevalent than

the former. This is illustrated by the numerous calls for facility renovation found in ministry

education reports from all anglo-phone countries (authors research). In an attempt to address

this issue, African governments spend an average 17.5% of public expenditures on education.

The costs per student have been significantly higher in Africa, at least in the 60's and

70's, largely due to teacher salaries. As a percent of per capital expenditures, teacher salaries

was estimated to be five times that of other regions. This was largely due to high salaries for

expatriate teachers that were required to fill the teacher void following independence (World

Bank 1994). Recent statistics of this sort are scarce, however factors such as inflation and

deteriorating government budgets coupled with high drop-out and repetition rate, which

increase cost per student, are expected to paint a similar picture.


The function of African education programs involves elements such as language used

in the classroom and the development of curricula. The use of English in the schools is a

subject that has been extensively scrutinized and much literature exists. For this paper,

however it will be considered a constant and subsequently will not be discussed.

Curriculum development as a way to improve learning is a relatively recent arrival in

Africa. The generation of curricula in most African countries is done through "curriculum

centers". A few examples of such centers are the Curriculum Materials Center of Liberia,

established in 1961, The Nigeria Educational Research Council (NERC) established in 1965,

and the Curriculum Revision Unit (CRU) of Sierra Leone, established in 1970. These centers,

then represent the central decision making unit for subject matter taught.

Examinations compose the primary influence on the subject matter generated from the

curriculum centers even though they have the freedom to design any curriculum they feel is

appropriate. As a result of the examination bias, curricula are usually subject and teacher-

centered with emphasis on the liberal arts and sciences.

The information presented above reveals several important consistencies in structure

and function of anglo-phone African education. These are 1) Educational administration in

Africa is primarily centralized, 2) External examinations are present in all African programs,

3) Curricula are generated from centralized decision making units, and 4) Curricula are

subject and teacher centered. These structures are essentially a continuation of the British

system of education previous to independence.



When one approaches problems in Africa from the broad perspective of human

resource development, causative factors can be generalized. The World Bank (1994) identifies

three primary factors that have delayed expected development in African human resources.

These are:

1) Development strategies adopted by African governments.

2) The nature of labor markets in African countries.

3) The financial and other problems in African education.

These factors are interrelated. The focus of this study is the third problem, however

relations that exist with the other two will be briefly examined.

As the scope is narrowed and problems specific to African education are scrutinized,

one can see that these problems fall into two broad areas. UNESCO (1991) defines these as:

1) Problems of democratization of African education

2) Relevance of African education

Democratization refers to equal access to schools for all students as well as an equality

of teaching quality, materials quality, and quality of facilities. To solve inadequacies here will

require continued effort by governments to build and staff schools in all parts of their

respective countries (Okongo 1987). The population increase occurring in Africa makes a

solution more difficult. Between 1965 and 1985, the population in age group 6-11 in Kenya

increased by more than 4 percent per year while that of Nigeria increased by 3.6 percent per

year (World Bank 1994). The same age group in countries such as Hong-Kong, Korea, and

Singapore has actually demonstrated a decline in numbers.

The area that is of most importance to this discussion, however, is that of relevance.

It is of even greater importance when we discuss the subject of agriculture in African

secondary schools. Before confronting methods to address this issue, it is useful to discuss

some of the aspects of the system that prevent relevancy. The reader has been presented with

basic background information regarding history and structure of anglophone secondary

education, now discussion will turn to some effects of the system.


An educational system may be regarded as effective to the extent that it trains students

in accordance with the qualitative and quantitative needs of economic development; and

imparts instruction conforming to an accepted social model and to traditional, cultural, and

spiritual values, while at the same time meeting the needs for human transformation inherent

in any human change. This can be called the relevancy or "external effectiveness" of an

educational system. It is precisely because that educational systems in Africa have not met

this criteria that we undertake this discussion.

A discussion of this dilemma must begin with examinations since curriculum is

determined by examination syllabi. Recall from Table 1 that all African English speaking

countries use examinations to determine students progression into higher education. Also

recall that 33% of these schools specifically use the West African Examination Council

(WAEC) for this purpose. The history of the WAEC can be traced back to 1948 when the

University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate and the University Of London School

of Matriculation Council discussed with the West African departments of education the future

policy of school examinations that would best suit the needs of west Africa. Schools had

always used the Cambridge School Certificate Examinations which were written and graded

in the United Kingdom. In 1950, a report was submitted by the late Dr. G.B. Jeffery,

Director of the Institute of Education of the University of London, strongly supporting the

proposal for a "West African Examinations Council". The report was adopted without

reservation by four west African colonial governments and an ordinance establishing the

council was drafted. Although named for the west African territories, and supposedly for a

more Africanized education system, the content of the examinations was basically British as is

apparent in the statement made in the WAEC 1988 annual report.

" The ordinance charged the council with determining the examinations required in the public
interest in West Africa and empowered it to conduct such examinations and to award
certificates, provided the certificates did not represent a lower standard of attainment than
equivalent certificates of examining authorities in the United Kingdom"

Thus the exam was essentially a British one. Analysis of recent WAEC publications

suggest that the examinations are still testing for skills that are more applicable to Britain than

Africa. For example, English literature is a highly regarded subject in African schools. The

WAEC tests for a students knowledge of specific works of literature that have been written in

English. The works that will be taught are determined by the council. Of 66 pieces of

literature listed in the syllabus, only 13 are from African writers (WAEC 1983). This

"Eurocentric" pattern is consistent throughout the syllabus. Until recently, most of the

remaining African countries were still using the CSCE to evaluate students, however most

have developed examinations of their own. These examinations are very similar to the WAEC

in content and structure.

Today, the test is administered at three levels. The first is a primary students leaving

exam that determines admission to secondary school. The second comes after a student has

completed the first phase of secondary school, usually three years. This test is called the "0"

level or ordinary level. The third exam comes after the second phase of secondary school,

usually two years, and is called "A" level or advanced level. The A level determines who

will carry on to higher education. Thus, the overall performance of the African student is

determined by these examinations. This creates incredible pressure on students to perform

well. Generally, the scheduled release of exam results in African countries is a time of great

tension for students and their families. The author is familiar with this situation in countries

that use their own examinations such as Kenya and Tanzania. To illustrate this even further,

in the years 1984 and 1985 there was massive failure from all countries using the WAEC.

There was such an uproar as a result that an emergency conference was held to determine the

cause (Dada 1987).

The effect of examinations on curriculum is what Hugh Hawes (1979) called the

"backwash effect". In order to prepare students to pass the exam, curricula is designed

around the examination rather that setting a curriculum and then evaluating a students

progress against it. Additionally, students are forced to rely on rote memorization of subject

matter in order to recall the material on test day.


The combined forces of Eurocentric examinations and a low public opinion of vocational

studies have resulted in a curriculum that is heavily focused on liberal arts and sciences.

Agriculture education is taught, however, beginning at the secondary level. Examinations for

the subject are offered at both the O level and A level in all anglophone African countries. In

order to convey a better understanding of the structure and function of agriculture education

in Africa, we will examine the agriculture syllabus taken from WAEC documents in greater


At the O level, the subject matter is divided into theory information and practical

skills. The theory portion is divided into four major study sections. These are 1) introduction

to Agriculture, 2) soil science, 3) crop science, and 4) animal science. Each of these major

subject areas are further divided into 3-8 sub-headings that deal in some aspect of the major

heading. Examples of sub-studies are role of government in agriculture, soil formation and

properties, weeds, and animal nutrition. The practical component of the O level syllabus is

divided into seven major skill or competencies areas. Examples are pest identification (must

know the common English name), and recognition of common farm tools.

At the A level, there is also a theory and practical sections of the syllabus. Theory

major headings are 1) general agriculture, 2) agriculture economics, 3) soil science, 4) crop

science, and 5) animal science. Each are then sub-divided into 5-8 sections. Examples include

role of science and technology in the development of agriculture, fish farming, agricultural

finance, the soil profile, plant protection, and feeds and feeding. The practical section is

divided into five major skill areas. Examples of competencies that will be tested for are

mechanical soil analysis using a hydrometer, ability to test for seed germination, and

identification of animal breeds (both local and exotic). An important feature of the agriculture

curriculum to remember is that it is centrally written and distributed. All schools in any given

country will have the same agriculture curriculum, regardless of location specific agricultural

practices. The author recalls spending nearly a week of valuable teaching time covering the

principles of combine harvesters as outlined in the school syllabus yet never once actually

seeing one in the country. The students also were unfamiliar with the machine and eventually

decided that it was a "large tractor".

Teachers in agriculture are expected to teach the material in the order that it is presented in

the syllabus although sometimes reshuffling does occur. Each major subject heading is treated

as an independent field beginning with a general introduction progressing to a greater degree

of specificity. The African school year is such that there is a significant rush to complete the

syllabus because of time dedicated to needed agricultural activities such as sowing, harvesting

etc. on both school farms and homesteads. The authors experience is that little teaching

activity occurs during this period. This is also a legacy of the British school system.

Agricultural cycles were not taken into consideration when the year was set, rather, the

European holiday of Christmas was. As a result of this rush, practical skills are often ignored

to concentrate on theory. Additionally, subject areas that fall at the end of the syllabus are

often not adequately covered, or not covered at all.

A curriculum design whereby each aspect of a major subject is treated independently is called

a "subject-centered curriculum design" (SCCD). Utilization of SCCD is the commonest

practice by far all over the world. It is also the oldest. Educators and other professionals who

support this design frequently were themselves taught with SCCD. Those who advocate this

design cite the following advantages of SCCD:

1) It is possible in advance to determine what all children in a country will learn.

2) It is feasible and necessary to determine minimum standards of performance and

achievement in a subject area.

3) Textbooks and support materials are frequently organized on a subject by subject


4) SCCD is better understood by teachers since their training was SCCD.

5) Advocates argue that full intellectual powers of individual learners can be developed

with this design.

6) Curriculum planning is easier.

7) Through SCCD, broad national goals can be attained.

As we will discuss later, critics of SCCD strongly advocate a shift from it. Their criticisms

are based on the following:

1) SCCD tends to bring about a high degree of fragmentation, and as knowledge is

increased, more subjects are created.

2) SCCD lacks integration of content. Learning tends to be compartmentalized with the

subject broken down into smaller, seemingly unrelated bits of information.

3) The assumption that information learned through SCCD can be transferred for use in

every day situations is doubted by many schools who argue that automatic transfer of

information already learned is not possible.

4) The design stresses content and tends to neglect the needs, interests, and experiences

of the student.

The information presented in this section and the section on examinations presented

before it illustrate what I believe to be the primary causative factors of problems of African

secondary education. More elaboration is needed.

Firstly, the subject matter contained in curricula is directly dependant on examination

content. All curricula is supposedly planned by using specific aims and objectives, such as

building greater national unity, or increasing national literacy, etc.. These aims and goals are

obscured, however by the practical need to prepare students who can pass the examinations.

The result is not a well-formed mind, rather a well-packed mind and skills such as systematic

inquiry and rational analysis are reduced if not lost completely.

Secondly, as a result of adaption of colonial education systems, curricula is heavily

focused on liberal arts and sciences. In addition to this, colonial education has resulted in a

poor public opinion of vocational studies. At the time of independence, education was

intended to create manpower for a mercantile type society such as the one that existed under

British rule. The colonies focused on massive exports of a few cash oriented crops and other

resources and needed graduates with skills to facilitate this process. African education is

producing the same kind of graduates today. Herein lies a second major problem; most

African countries are not mercantile type societies, rather they are agrarian societies. The

Gambia for example, is a country with 90% of its population engaged in agriculture (Urch

1992). In Uganda, agriculture employs 90% of the population and accounts for over 50% of

the GNP and over 60% of government revenue (Mugerwa 1988).

Thirdly, the type of learning that results from subject centered curriculum design is

inappropriate for African environments (indeed any area that is underdeveloped). The

inherent specialization of the subject matter is intended to foster an environment where

students can progress and study any specific subject to a high degree of specialization to meet

the needs of a highly specialized nation. African countries, however have not yet reached the

developmental stage of high specialization. This is borne out by the serious problem of

school-leaver unemployment which will be discussed later in this paper.

These three factors form the foundation of African educational problems. The

consistent thread between them is of course relevance, or more precisely, the lack of

relevance. This problem is, however more complex than this. There are several other factors

that contribute to the gulf between education and local environments in Africa.

Unemployment, drop-outs, and female education

The 1980's witnessed a sharp deterioration in Africa's employment situation. The

primary cause of this was a sluggish economic growth associated with the world-wide

recession of the time but austerity programs such as structural adjustment (Grey-Johnson 1990

p 48) and the impact of a demographic tide of labor supply in Africa contributed to this

problem. The "employment situation" refers not only to unemployment but also wage and

salary labor trends and the informal sector. The goal of most newly graduated Africans

students is to acquire a wage or salary (white collar) job which will require the academic

skills they have achieved. This, unfortunately does not happen in Africa as the trend has been

a decrease in minimum wage earnings and more importantly, an overall decrease in the

growth of wage employment, specifically in industrial wage employment. Table 2 illustrates

this trend over the past several years. Overall, the average rate of increase for wage type

employment slowed from 2.8% per year in the period 1975 to 1980 to 1.0% between 1980

and 1985. From a broader perspective, this data seems to indicate that rather than slow

industrialization occurring in Africa, there is a slow de-industrialization happening. It is also

important to remember that since independence, wage type labor has occupied a very small

percentage of the overall labor force. Table 3 shows the share of wage employment has in

labor force in selected countries in anglo-phone Africa.

Acting as a catalyst to this downward trend is the population growth occurring in the

Africa region. Population growth means higher student populations and thus higher numbers

of graduates seeking wage type jobs in a market that is increasingly unable to absorb them.

Students who fail to find this sort of work in the rural areas tend to seek work in urban areas

creating the problem of urban unemployment. In particular reference to urban areas, the

Table 2. Wage Employment in Selected African Countries 1975-1985

Total Wage Employment Industrial
1975 1980 1985 1975

Wage Employment
1980 1985

Sierra Leone

33.1 66.2 80.8 6.3
18.8 29.6 24.1 8.3
819.1 1005.8 1174.4 152.4
276.8 370.4 394.6 62.8
61.3 69.9 69.4 20.1
64.4 75.1 72.8 15.8
393.5 379.3 361.5 186.0
1050.2 1009.9 1039.4 286.3

Source: Vandemoortele 199







Table 3. Importance of Wage Employment in Selected Anglo-phone African Countries






Botswana 228 83.4 29.0 %
Ethiopia 15287 362.1 2.4 %
Ghana 4073 461.0 11.3 %
Kenya 5996 1005.8 16.8 %
Lesotho 594 31.1 5.2%
Liberia 635 121.0 19.1 %
Malawi 2316 367.5 15.9 %
Nigeria 27981 2722.1 9.7 %
Sierra Leone 1184 69.6 5.9 %
Somalia 1581 138.8 8.8 %
Sudan 5365 6000.0 11.2 %
Swaziland 214 75.1 35.1 %
Tanzania 8174 607.7 7.4 %
Uganda 5239 362.8 6.9 %
Zaire 9147 926.7 10.1%
Zambia 1690 379.3 22.4 %
Zimbabwe 2555 1009.9 39.5 %
Source: Vandemoortele 1990

trends in many countries towards a growing unemployment is undeniable. In Zimbabwe, for

example, the male unemployment rate has more than doubled from 4.1% to 10.7% in the

period 1969-82, in Nigeria, 4.0% to 10.0% in the years 1976-1986, in Kenya, 11.2% to

16.2% between 1977-1986. As population continues to increase, the absolute number of

Africans that are unemployed will increase correspondingly.

A proportion of the urban labor force is absorbed into what is called the "informal

sector". In recent years, this sector has increasingly become a labor "sponge" for those who

fail to find wage employment. It is difficult to define this sector, but it consists mainly of

micro-enterprises that are family based and operate in a competitive environment. Examples

are small entrepreneurs such as tailors, butchers, etc. Measurement of the share this sector

has of the total labor force is difficult, but estimates are that it comprises 10% to 15% of the

total (Vandermoortele 1990).

If we consider both wage and informal sectors, we see they account for between 30%

and 35% of total labor forces in African countries. The remaining 65% to 70% are involved

in rural, agricultural labor.

Education and labor do not have a cause and effect relationship. The labor situation in

Africa is the result of many, sometimes external factors. The focus of education, however

does contribute by producing manpower far in excess of what can be utilized. This discussion

points out that the issue of relevance in African schools goes beyond mere theoretical

parameters, rather it has a direct influence on the economies of African countries.

The rate of drop-outs is another factor to weigh in this review of African education.

Up to this point, discussion has centered on students who have successfully progressed

through the educational ladder and passed all requisite exams while doing so. Unfortunately,

there is a large percentage of secondary school students who do not survive this process.

Table 4 illustrates the trends in educational attainment and completion for sub-Saharan Africa

(including franco-phone Africa) and compares to that of other developing regions in the years

between 1960 to 1985.

This table points out several factors that are relevant to this discussion. First, Africas

progress has been mostly in the primary level rather than the secondary level. In fact, by

1980, a larger fraction of Africas adult population had been exposed to some primary

education than was the case elsewhere: This is largely the result of the quest for universal

primary education embraced by most African countries. Completion rates for primary,

however are smaller than that of other areas indicating a high drop-out rate for primary

education in Africa.

In other areas of the developing world, completion rates have slowly increased over

the period shown. In Africa, both secondary and primary levels have not increased in any

degree. According to the completion rate for secondary level students, for every two African

students who graduate into the uncertain labor market, there are seven students who do not

complete and either 1) return to the rural agriculture areas to farm, or 2) contribute to the

unemployment figure. The implication from this is that the "window of opportunity" to

provide students with relevant skills is much smaller than the 5 years of secondary school we

assume they will have.

A final issue that is of importance throughout this discussion is that of female

education. Ester Boserup (1970) noted in her classic work Womens Role in Economic

Table 4. Trends in Educational Attainment for 29 Sub-Saharan Countries


Pop. over
25 (m)

Percent of pop. over 25 by level of schooling Avg.
No Primary Secondary Years of
school total complete total complete School

1960 47 70.5 23.6 7.3 5.4 1.4 1.60
1965 53 69.5 24.4 6.4 5.5 1.4 1.62
1970 60 67.8 24.9 5.6 6.3 1.5 1.76
1975 68 63.9 28.5 6.1 6.6 1.4 1.91
1980 77 58.8 32.7 6.6 7.6 1.5 2.16
1985 89 54.4 36.0 7.6 8.7 1.6 2.41

1960 487 69.3 25.5 8.2 4.4 1.7 1.70
1965 45 66.6 26.9 9.4 5.4 2.1 1.94
1970 609 62.2 28.8 10.5 6.9 2.7 2.28
1975 684 58.4 30.0 8.5 9.1 3.6 2.59
1980 782 55.9 28.1 8.5 12.7 5.1 3.04
1985 905 49.6 31.7 10.4 14.4 5.8 3.58
Source: World Bank 1994

Development that "Africa is the region of female farming par excellence". To summarize her

point, women, with some variation of degree, are the primary farmers in most of the Africa

region. Transition from female to male farming "systems" depends on population of the

surrounding community and the level of technological advancement of the agriculture of the

area. In the years following her work, there has been accumulating evidence of the

importance of the agricultural role women play. Additionally, there has been relationships

found between female education and the well-being of the family. From a broad aspect,

Brown and Barret (1991) found that female literacy has a strong correlation to development

indicators in a particular country. In a cross-national study on 96 countries, Benevot found

that expansion of education for girls has a stronger positive effect on a national economy than

expansion for boys does.

If we examine the literature at the family level, we see further evidence of positive

results from female education. Caldwell (1986) determined that infant mortality is associated

not so much with the economic status of the family, rather the education of the mother.

The paradox of this is that girls are not being educated in Africa nearly as much as boys. For

example, the secondary school population in The Gambia was only 33% girls in 1984/85. In

1987 in Tanzania, girls were 34% of the population (Tanzania 1988). Even in a more

advanced country like Nigeria there is a lower population of girls, they were 41% in 1989

(Nigeria 1990). Swaziland appears to be the only anglo-phone African country with near

parity in the secondary school system with 49% girls in 1986 (Swaziland 1986). This is not

the result of fewer girl children in anglo-phone Africa. In Kenya, which is also a progressive

country, 68% of all school age girls were in school as opposed to 78% of all school aged

boys (Ankrah 1987). Girl children are not attending at the rate of boys. The reasons for this

are primarily cultural. Girls are seen as domestic servants more than boys and thus kept at

home to help with younger children. Girls have a low return on investment as they will marry

out of the family one day whereas boys will stay and support the parents in their old age.

Women are the primary farmers in Africa and they are the primary nutritional managers of

African families ( Jiggins 1989) and yet they are not included as much in education.

The need for reform

Consider the major points of the previous sections. They are that in the scale of

development, Africa has not reached the stage of high specialization yet the educational

systems of these countries are designed to produce students for a society that is specialized by

utilizing a centralized, subject centered curriculum that focuses on specific subjects

independently. The acquisition of skills in problem-solving and continuing evaluation are not

emphasized because of time constraints and the need the memorize an enormous amount of

material to pass examinations. The low share that wage type labor has in the total labor force

is insufficient in such economies to absorb the students being produced by the schools

resulting in a higher unemployment figure.

The emphasis on vocational studies, particularly agriculture is low yet the bulk of the

employment opportunities are going to be in agriculture, primarily subsistence farming in the

rural areas. The high percentage of students who drop out are returning to the rural areas

with few usable skills in the context of subsistence agriculture.

This evidence presents a strong case for reform of the African secondary school

system. This is based on the belief that agriculture will continue to play the primary role in

African economies for a long time to come. The most obvious direction for such reform is a

shift to greater vocationalization of curricula. The matter, however is not as simple as that.

Many scholars have reached the same conclusions regarding African education and have

called for "diversification" of the curriculum to include more vocational studies and therefore

enhance relevance of education. However a mere shift from academics to vocational studies is

not the answer. Mengot (1981) warns of the "vocational fallacy" which is the belief that

vocational studies will solve the problems of underdevelopment in Africa when in fact the

problem is much too complicated and extensive to be cured simply by increasing the number

of hours that vocation is studied.

Regardless, calls for more relevance in African education have been numerous (Omo-

Fadaka 1982, Gulma 1986, Ogunniyi 1986, Steele et al 1993). The scope and degree of such

calls, however have been quite diverse. There is a school of thought that advocates a

complete transition from western education to the indigenous type present before

colonialization. There are, as well more subtle suggestions involving small changes in

curricula. The problem with most reform programs has been what Sifuna (1992 ) called a

lack of clarity in the aims and objectives in such attempts. In addition to this, the World Bank

(1992) states that diversification of African education is overly technically complex and

expensive and therefore unattractive to poor African countries.

This paper takes the stance that reform is essential for African education.

Furthermore, such reform need be in the area of agriculture education because 1) African

countries are on the whole agrarian societies, 2) 65-70 percent of the labor force will be in

the agricultural field, and 3) students who drop-out will at least be in possession of relevant

skills useful in a farm scenario. I feel problems in education stem from the lack of relevance

to real world conditions. Politicians have been aware of this discrepancy. This is illustrated

by the conclusions drawn as early as 1961 by attendants of the Addis Ababa Conference on

African Curriculum, these were:

1) In a typically agrarian society, the living condition of the population can be

improved only if the agriculture sector is modernized.

2) The school as an institution can contribute to rural development only when it

imparts knowledge and skills which enable school-leavers to solve local

problems with available resources.

3) The contribution of the educational sector toward improving the living

conditions of the majority of the population is based upon the understanding

that the facilities of the country are restricted, and therefore the co-operation of

every citizen is vital in the task of national reconstruction.

(Udo 1974)

To sum up the previous attempts at diversification, an example is appropriate. In

1983, Robertson documented the efforts of the Tanzanian government to emphasize

agriculture education at the middle school level since it was expected that only 20% would

continue education and the rest would return to the farms with hopefully enhanced

agricultural skills. Three years later, Bray et al (1986) concluded,

"Even though 85% of Tanzania population lives in rural areas, and even
though the government has announced bold objectives of self-reliance,
agriculture has a very minor place in the curriculum. The emphasis on English
has been reduced while that on Swahili has been increased, but the syllabus
remains highly academic. The curriculum is still similar to that used during the
colonial era, even though objectives of education have been changed
significantly and enrollment rates are much higher".

What is needed, then, is a reform that is 1) clear in its aims and goals yet allowing for

some flexibility, 2) affordable for a lesser developed country, 3) feasibly implemented, and

the most important, 4) effective as a reform measure.

The focus of the reform will be on agriculture yet will include other subjects. This is

due to the necessary nature of any reform measure. One of the problems of African education

today is the use of the subject-centered curriculum design; any shift away from this design

will entail a blending of multiple subjects thus the reform must include other subjects.

The core of academic subjects must, in the authors opinion, remain unchanged. Any

diversification schemes that would exclude academic studies would be as harmful as

excluding vocational studies from the curriculum. A possible solution to the reform question

lies in the agricultural development concept of farming systems.


Following World War II, devastated European countries were essentially rebuilt using

what is known as the Marshall Plan. This procedure involved implementing modern

technologies into the infrastructure of the destroyed country to expedite the recovery process.

Using such measures resulted in rapid recuperation of some of the most devastated countries.

From this process arose the development concept of "modernization" which was the belief

that what was needed in developing countries was an infusion of modern technologies into the

infrastructure of a country. Another term commonly used was transfer of technologies (TOT)

which embodied the process. In the early 70,s, developers began to realize that such an

approach was not producing expected outcomes in the fortunes of the lesser developed

countries. A great deal of money had been spent pursuing the TOT concept. The primary

reason for the failure of this paradigm was that lesser developed countries lacked the

infrastructure of the European countries were the procedure had been successful. For

example, industrial technologies were useless when the transportation system was inadequate

to move the product from one area to another.

In the agricultural development arena. The TOT process was based on agricultural

advancements resulting from the "green revolution" in the 1960's which was an era of rapid

development of technologies such as high yielding varieties (HYV) of major grain crops. The

vehicle of transfer of the technologies were largely the land grant university system of

research and development conceived in the United States whereby trials were carried out on

experiment stations and then diffused through extensionists to the local farmers. Many U.S.

developers felt that adoption of this system in developing countries would solve the food

problem that resulted from what they believed to be "ignorant" agricultural practices.

As with the realization of the overall failure of the modernization strategy, agricultural

developers began to see that development was not occurring in the poorer countries. There

was no single reason for the failure of the U.S. land grant system, rather there were several

related problems. In short, they were:

1) An essential component of the land grant system is research facilities to carry

out experiments and Universities to train scientists and extensionists. These

elements, to a large extent, did not exist.

2) For those institutions that did exist, the research foci were on increasing yield

of crops. The nature of experiment stations is one where crops are grown

under optimal conditions. Constraints such as water, labor, and capital were

not calculated into research agenda.

3) As a result of the above reason, findings of the research facilities were only

applicable to the farmers who were already at an advantage. Wealthier farmers

were able to adopt the technologies and thus improve their yields. Small

farmers, or "resource poor farmers" were unable to adopt the technologies

because of the inputs required. For example, HYV's have a higher yield than

locally grown varieties, yet to produce well, more fertilizer is required. If the

farmer is unable to purchase fertilizer due to financial constraints, then the

HYV's will produce no more or even less than the local variety. As a result,

most small farmers were unable to adopt the technologies causing an increase

in the disparity between large and small farmers.

4) Research was aimed at those who owned land and farmed it for consumption

and sale. There are, however many landless tenants that are not able to utilize

any technologies due to the financial burden of their tenancies.

It was apparent that a new approach was needed. In the 70's when the failure of the

collective modernization strategies was realized, a fundamental change took place in the way

agriculture developers addressed improvement of resource poor farmers. This change

involved the realization that rather than importing agricultural technologies from the west and

inserting them in a developing country situation, development could be better accomplished

by working within the context of the existing agriculture practices in the developing country.

This involved a dramatic shift in attitude on the part of many experts. Firstly, it had to be

realized that there was merit to the way indigenous farmers had been practicing agriculture.

For centuries farmers had been producing food for consumption based on their knowledge of

the land, climate, and cultural influences. Secondly, agricultural conditions were not

consistent in any continent or even within a specific country. Agroclimactic and social

conditions differed widely from place to place. Thirdly, previous efforts had been focused

narrowly on a single technology without consideration of other factors such as the above

mentioned inputs. Experts began to realize the interactions between agricultural practices and

other biological and social factors.

From these collective realizations emerged the term "farming systems approach" to

agriculture development. Although used broadly to describe development techniques, the term

is based on three essential components. Hildebrand and Waugh (1986) describe these as" 1) a

concern with small-scale family farmers who generally reap a disproportionately small share

of the benefits of organized research, extension, and other developmental activities, 2)

recognition that thorough understanding of the farmers' situation gained firsthand is critical to

increasing their productivity and to forming a basis for improving their welfare, 3) The use

of scientists and technicians from more than one discipline as a means of understanding the

farm as an entire system rather than isolating the components within the systems."

Farming systems development efforts viewed agricultural scenarios more holistically than

previous paradigms. Interactions between multiple components of agriculture were calculated

into the equation rather than controlled for as in TOT methods. A very important distinction

of the farming systems approach is the introduction of anthropology to agricultural

development. With this approach, social factors are considered as important as biological


From this concept evolved the term "farming systems research"(FSR) which involved

the research component of development. A similar concept was that of "farming systems

research and development"(FSR&D) (Shaner et al 1982). A farming systems approach to

agricultural policy was conceived and termed "farming systems approach to infrastructural

support and policy" (FSIP). Each of these practices utilizes different methodologies although

always faithful to the farming systems concept.

A comprehensive approach that involves technology generation, evaluation and

delivery is "farming systems research and extension"(FSR/E) (Hildebrand and Waugh ibid.).

The basic features of this methodology are that:

1) Practitioners of FSR/E hold that farmers are rational and make decisions based

on their farming system and the constraints they face.

2) FSR/E views the farm as a holistic system with all sub-systems interconnected.

Any changes to the components of the system will be reflected on other

components and ultimately the entire system.

3) FSR/E emphasizes that farm households have multiple objective functions.

Farmers do not always want to simply increase production. Cultural and other

factors may dictate otherwise. Thus economics and anthropology have a

heightened role.

(adapted from Fresco and Poats, unpub. man.)

The methodology used for this practice is flexible and can be utilized in a non-linear

fashion. It is the flexibility of this methodology which makes it suitable for adaptation to

different agricultural development scenarios. For this reason, I will use this method as a

framework for reform of African secondary agriculture education. In addition, the bottom-up

approach of FSR/E meets the need to address relevance of education. To gain a complete

understanding of the procedure, it is necessary to discuss the established methodology of


Methodology. of FSR/E

On the nature of farming systems research and extension methodology, Fresco and

Poats ibidd) state the following:

1) FSR/E is interdisciplinary involving biological, technical and socioeconomic


2) FSR/E requires complementarity between on-farm and on-station research. The

success of FSR/E depends to a great extent on the linkages with component

and commodity research.

3) FSR/E's starting point is the whole farm including livestock and off-farm


4) FSR/E is "bottom up" whereby farmer participation in the research process

becomes both a means and an end in itself.

5) FSR/E is iterative and practical, incorporating methods of knowledge

generation that include two principle elements: informal, diagnostic surveys

and on-farm experimentation based on the results of agricultural research and

farmers experience.

They further go on to describe how, using these criteria above, three complimentary

FSR/E approaches can be characterized:

1) Those which describe existing farming systems in a holistic way with a view to

understanding the relationships of the components of the system.

2) Those which focus on on-farm research with a farming systems perspective

complementary to ongoing station research. This type usually focuses on one

crop or commodity system, and assumes that production increases result from

stepwise changes in components of the farming system.

3) Those which attempt to develop new farming systems under the assumption

that a radical restructuring of the entire system is required, such as shifting to

permanent cultivation in the humid tropics, or the introduction of farming

systems based on animal traction as opposed to hoe cultivation.

As a tool for the restructuring of African agricultural education and to provide a guide

for curriculum generation, it is obviously the first of these approaches that holds the most

promise. Understanding the "components of the system" is the ideal goal for students of

agriculture in that it provides a relevant learning experience that can be utilized upon

graduation or early departure from the school system. The methodological steps that are

involved in this procedure, although flexible and not necessarily linear, are:

1) Diagnosis

2) Design

3) Testing and evaluation of technologies generated

4) Analysis

5) Dissemination and reevaluation

They will each be discussed in further detail.


Literally, diagnosis means the search for the source of the problem. It has the same

meaning for this first stage of FSR/E. Diagnosis involves two steps. The first is an inventory

of agricultural production systems, review of existing research results and recommendations,

and an inventory of the biophysical elements of the system which are called the research

domain ( Hildebrand 1985). The second step is to identify a more or less homogenous groups

of farmers and then determine the constraints to higher productivity that they face. These

farmer groups are termed recommendation domains. Each recommendation domain will have

specific technologies generated for it. To collect the type of information required to make

these distinctions requires an expedient, affordable technique. The most common method is a

"rapid rural appraisal" or "sondeo" ( Hildebrand 1981) where a multidisciplinary team

conducts a survey of a specific area. The time period for the survey is generally around two

weeks and quite intense in its data collection. Methods for data collection are a combination

of formal survey techniques and informal methods, such as interview. This step in FSR/E

methodology does not end here. As more information is collected, the components of the

system become more clear and thus, technologies can be better utilized. Diagnosis takes place

throughout the FSR/E methodology.


After initial diagnosis has taken place, the sondeo team will design strategies to

overcome the constraints that were identified. For example, a different planting rate, or a

different mix of crops. This involves on-farm and on-station research however most of the

time, FSR/E will occur at the on-farm level. Possible innovations must take into account

constraints at other levels such as culture or the local market system.

testing and evaluation of technologies generated

At this stage, the strategies designed in the previous step are tested in the farmers

fields with full participation of the farmers. This is an important element of FSR/E. Clients

who have participated in a project hold a higher perceived importance for it than those who

have not participated (Hubchen 1990). It is also critical for farmer participation to keep the

nature of the approach bottom up. Tools for the execution of testing of innovations such as

Hildebrands'(1993) modified stability analysis make this process possible in a variety of

settings with minimal resources. At this stage the farmer has the opportunity to evaluate the

innovation for applicability to his or her conditions. Additionally, any fine-tuning of the

recommendation domain will occur at this stage. The level of trials will be site-specific and

regional. Agro-socioeconomic trials should also be carried out (Hildebrand 1986).


This stage is an accumulation and analysis of on-farm trial information as well as

further collection of economic data and other socio-economic and political information. An

example of such information would be to collect data concerning gender. The beginning of

the next stage should begin here.

desemination and reevaluation

Once acceptable technologies have been generated, then this information can put into

the form where it can be deseminated through networks of farmers. These networks,

sometimes called diffusion domains must be understood in order for the innovations to reach

the maximum number of farmers. Data of this sort is collected along with other

socioeconomic data during the sondeo and subsequent diagnosis. In addition to this extension

of innovations, reevaluation of the technologies is carried out to provide further insight into

the nature of the system.

The above mentioned five steps constitute the standard FSR/E methodology. The

nature of the process lends itself well to utilization in institutions of higher education. Indeed

a great deal of literature has been developed discussing the teaching of farming systems

approach, the concept of the approach, and the integration of research facilities and university

through a farming systems approach. These all involve the formal teaching of farming

systems at tertiary levels. However exhaustive research on the part of the author failed to

locate a single work that suggested formal learning through a farming systems approach at

secondary or primary level where it is arguably needed more.

I feel that the major advantages of the farming systems approach in education are the


1) Students will gain relevant, location specific education in a subject that is

highly appropriate; agriculture in an agrarian society;

2) The learning process is through problem solving, thus providing students with

the ability to identify and address problems in their own community;

3) Students will be more aware of the interrelationships that occur in a


The task then, based on the information presented thus far concerning secondary

African education and the information concerning farming systems concept and methodology,

is to suggest specific changes in both structure and function of the education system to

facilitate a reorientation to utilization of a farming systems approach to learning agriculture.

Secondly, specific components of the FSR/E methodology can be "plugged in" to this

framework. The goal is to dramatically increase the relevance of education while retaining the

educational quality.


To construct a framework for reform in African schools will require two processes.

The first is to identify the existing components of the schools systems that should be changed

or adapted to utilize a farming systems approach. The second is to identify the aspects of the

farming systems approach, particularly of the FSR/E approach, that are suitable for

introduction into the system. These processes are interrelated and ideally should progress

together in a give and take manner. For clarity, I will first identify needed changes and then

introduce the farming systems concept. As this construction proceeds, I suggest criteria that

all reform measures must meet. These are

1) Any reform measure must not detract, rather improve the education of the


2) Reform measures should highlight learning through interrelationships.

3) Systematic inquiry and analysis should be the learning objectives of education.

4) Reform should encourage holisticy.

Changes in anglo-phone African secondary schools systems that are necessary to

reorient the programs to towards a farming systems approach in agriculture education will be

needed at three levels. These are national, system, and school levels. I will discuss them in

this order.

National level changes

A fundamental aspect of farming systems concept is that to solve agricultural

problems, agriculture should be viewed holistically, paying attention to interrelationships

between economic, biological, and social factors. The major point here is that this process is

designed to solve problems. This is the aim of farming systems.

In an earlier section I discussed the nature of the subject-centered curriculum design

used in Africa and indeed, most of the world. The primary aspect of this system is an

increasingly specific study of an independent subject. Thus the aim of education as it is now

is a gradual reduction of ignorance in a number of particular fields. Skills that are learned in

problem solving are reduced to overly mechanical, subject specific problems of the sort faced

only in a controlled laboratory environment (theoretically; recall that examination pressure

creates more rote memorization than problem solving skills). This creates the fundamental

juxtaposition between current education practices and farming systems approach to education.

The obvious first step then is to introduce a different curriculum design to allow for blending

of relevant subjects. Relevant subjects are those that embody processes that cause change in

processes that are embodied in another subject. It can be argued that all subjects are

interrelated to some degree (the butterfly in the Caribbean flaps its' wings and creates a

hurricane in China), however this stance does not lend itself to structured reform.

There are two curriculum designs that are structured in such a way as to permit a blending of

subjects. These are the "broad fields curriculum design"(BFCD) and the "core curriculum

design"(CCD). The BFCD design is one where two, three, or more subjects are unified into

one broad course of study. It is actually a system of combining and regrouping subjects that

are related in the curriculum into separate broad fields of study. Examples of this design are

business education or environmental education. I feel this design is not suitable for the

approach we desire. Although it contains inherent holisticy, if carried to its logical

conclusion, it will represent yet another specialized, independent subject, subject to

compartmentalization and examination pressure. We must not completely divorce ourselves of

subject specificity.

The CCD design also entails the study of multiple subjects. Okech and Asiachi (1992)

present two definitions for this design. They are:

1) The core curriculum is a way of organizing some important common learning

in schools- a curriculum using the problem solving approach as its procedure,

having social and personal problems significant to youths as its content, and the

development of the behavior needed in a democratic society as its purpose.

2) In modern education, the term core has come to be used as the part of the

curriculum which is concerned with those types of experiences thought to be

necessary for effective living in our democratic society.

The core curriculum design possesses the following features:

1) They constitute a section of the curriculum that all students are required to


2) They unify or fuse the subject matter, especially subjects such as English,

Social Studies, Business Education, etc.;

3) Their content is planned around problems that cut across the disciplines. In this

approach, the basic method of learning is problem solving, using all the

applicable subject matter;

4) They are organized into a block of time. Two or three periods under a core

teacher may be organized. Other teachers may be utilized where it is possible;

5) They encourage teachers to plan with students in mind (in advance);

6) They provide pupils with the necessary guidance.

It is apparent from this description that CCD meets the criteria established for reform

of agriculture education. Over the years, the basic tenants of CCD have been modified to suit

individual needs. The result is three types of the design in use today. Type two CCD is

where multiple subjects are taught based on their co-relation. This further refinement of the

pure CCD will represent the vehicle of farming systems approach to education.

The next issue is to consider what subjects are to be combined to represent the major

disciplines of farming systems. Projects in agricultural development that use a systems

approach will not always draw from the same disciplines to solve problems. For example, an

irrigation project may require experts in hydrology, whereas a project that examines a

livestock system may require experts in poultry science. However in a broader perspective,

systems approach generally involve agrobiological, economic, and cultural factors. The

question that arises is, based on this, what school subjects should be integrated. For this we

return to West African Examination Council (WAEC) secondary school syllabi as a reference

to current subjects.

Subjects to be blended should be available for study at both the O and A level of

schooling. This allows for continued learning through systems approach throughout the

secondary education. In the WAEC syllabi, there are four subjects that should be blended.

Three are obvious and one requires "adaptation". O and A level Biology, O and A level

Economics, and O and A level agriculture are three that are highly related in the context of a

farming system or even a single farm unit. There is however the need for a subject that deals

in the social sciences as cultural factors are just as important in the systems approach.

Additionally, if students are to learn how to solve local problems, then social factors must be

addressed. African scholars have often advocated the introduction of a "cultural studies"

subject into the secondary school curriculum (Omo-Fadaka 1982). The intent is to re-awaken

an awareness of the social influences that define an African society. These principles were

largely suppressed during the colonial era in favor of European education. A term often used

is "Africanization" of the curriculum. Various attempts have been made to install such a

subject or to introduce more culture into established studies such as arts and crafts, local

language studies, and an example particular to Tanzania, politics. The bulk of African

curriculum, however contains no such course of study. Until this deficiency can be

addressed, we must utilize what is available. WAEC syllabi contain both O and A level

History subject matter that can be adapted to include modern day cultural factors. The

rationale could be that society today is the result of the various natural and cultural forces of

the past. Introduction of basic anthropological concepts into the content should be sufficient.

The arrangement of the subject matter should be such that Biology, Economics, and History

are combined and infused into an agricultural framework. Figure 1 presents a basic

illustration of such a combination. The bulk of the time spent in the non-agricultural subjects

should remain in a subject centered format with a high degree of specificity. Therefore, only

30-40% of the subject matter of these courses would be in an integrated course of study. This

will avoid the common criticism of CCD that students only learn surface material when

subjects are blended.

The development of curriculum in anglo-phone African countries will require a

considerable amount of adjustment to meets this criteria. However, it is not only the

arrangement of subject matter that should be adjusted, the methodology for curriculum

development will require change as well. The generation of educational curricula in anglo-

phone African countries is done from a central curriculum development center located in each

country. This was discussed earlier in this paper. This is inappropriate for a farming systems

approach to education of agriculture.

One of the basic assumptions of farming systems is that agriculture is highly location

specific. Therefore curriculum must also be location specific.

Decentralization of curriculum development need only be applied to core agricultural classes

along with a portion of the other related courses. In other words, 60 % of Biology or

Economics subject matter should remain the responsibility of the curriculum development

centers. The centers will continue to generate a list of agricultural principles that are required

to be taught, examples are photosynthesis, cation exchange capacity, etc., however the list is

then expanded into a final curriculum based on the farming system of the area teaching will

Figure 1. Diagramatic representation of agriculture as a subject in combination
with other subjects ( from Edwards et al 1988)

occur. Such a course of action will have two advantages, these are:

1) It is affordable; the restructuring will only affect agriculture and portions of

related courses.

2) Students will gain location specific experience while still learning required

agricultural principles.

Identification of the "curriculum domains" present the greatest challenge to

implementation of this first step in reorientation. To survey a country the size of Nigeria for

example is no small task and to most African countries may be seen as too expensive an

undertaking. Farming systems research and extension methodology provides a process

whereby such a survey can be feasibly carried out. The steps taken should essentially follow

those of the diagnosis stage of the methodology.

Curriculum domains will be spatially defined locations in which the specific cropping,

livestock, agromechanization, and socioeconomic factors of that area are used to develop

curricula. Additionally, constraints to productivity faced by farmers are considered. Thus the

domain is a combination of research and recommendation domains, however, more emphasis

is placed on the research domain as this concept embodies the biological processes that are

the foundation of agricultural study, thus it is more suitable for curriculum development. The

resultant subject matter will be specific for this area. The two steps involved in determination

of curriculum domains at the national level are as follows:

1) Tentative identification of areas of homogenous agricultural practices. For

example mixed cropping system, or livestock systems. This can be done by

utilizing related literature and previously completed sondeo reports. If

necessary, travel to an area where there is uncertainty. Sondeo team members

should be comprised of Economists, representatives from the major

Agricultural sciences, experts on the local culture, experts in farming systems,

and representatives of the educational establishment from the country in

question. These latter members are essential to provide input on the

demographic distribution of existing schools in the country.

2) Identify within each curriculum domain a central area where curriculum

development can begin

Decentralization of the curriculum development process must be accompanied with a new

framework for evaluation. Current examination procedures are incompatible with this kind of

reform. Earlier attempts at diversification of education have failed due to the single factor of

examinations (Kiyimba 1987). Evaluation should one of continuous assessment rather than a

single, all or nothing test. This is vital for national level changes. Upon completion of this

level of restructure, progress can begin on the second stage which is the system level.

System level changes

The areas in a particular country that have been identified as agriculturally

homogenous by the procedure outlined above are now termed the system or curriculum

domain. At this juncture, the borders are tentative. Again, the FSR/E methodology will be

adapted to carry out the following steps:

1) Within each tentative curriculum domain, assemble a sondeo team comprised

of Economists, experts on local culture, experts in the relevant Agriculture

areas, farming systems experts, educationists, and curriculum writers from

each of the educational subjects being blended. Before any field work is carried

out. Sondeo team members should be introduced to the farming systems

approach. The majority of team members should ideally be from the area under

investigation or at least from the country in question.

2) Conduct sondeo. The primary objective is to collect information relating to the

system that can be translated into teaching material. For example, labor supply

affects the amount of land a farmer plants. This information can be translated

into a co-related study of macro-economics and crop planting techniques. A

guiding question should How can this information be useful in the classroom

or on the school farm?". A second objective is to identify constraints faced by

the farmers in the area.

3) Using information gathered in the sondeo, refine the borders of the curriculum

domain. Allow for situations whereby two systems blend together, or where

systems are small and highly fragmented.

4) Organize information in such a fashion that it can be exposed to students in a

gradually more encompassing manner. Do not divide information into subject


5) Write curriculum based on information gathered.

6) Establish an agricultural system advisory committee to maintain continued

evaluation and refinement.

The execution of this stage should result in x number of system centers from which

curriculum is generated. Understandably, the most difficult element of this process will be the

generation of acceptable curriculum for the secondary schools in the area. The primary

problem will be that the majority of those who have experience in this area are accustomed to

writing subject-centered material. To overcome this, it is important for representatives from

each of the subject areas to be familiar with the farming systems approach, and then to

generate curriculum together.

Curriculum development procedures should be roughly the same as for development of

single subject curricula. The elements of school curriculum are 1) aims, goals, and

objectives, 2) learning experiences, 3) content, 4) and evaluation. The proper establishment

of the goals and objectives will set the stage for the complete development. An example is

appropriate. In the extant O level agricultural syllabus (WAEC), a lesson has the following


1. Students are to be able to identify common weeds, (scientific and English common)

The objective is to provide the student with a package of facts which will reduce their

ignorance of this aspect of the study of agriculture. Realistically, they must also be able to

recall this information on exam day. In a systems approach curriculum, the objective of the

lesson would be as follows:

1. Students will be able to identify the interaction between weeds and

a) crops grown in this system

b) soil properties of this system

c) crop protection in this system

d) farmer criteria (labor to eradicate weeds, etc.)

e) economic forces

2. Students will identify weeds common in this system (scientific and local name)

The objective of this lesson highlights the interactions that occur and additionally

meets the criteria of holisticy and relevancy to the local area while at the same time still

imparting pedantic weed science knowledge. A more elaborate example of this concept can be

illustrated with a theoretical case study.

In most east African areas, goats are a common element to small farms. The

curriculum domain, then, would include this animal as a component of the system. Under the

subject-centered design, goats would be taught as a single subject from the following learning

objective in the O level Agriculture syllabus (WAEC 1983):

1. Farm animals; types products and economic importance.

A systems approach would teach the above lesson, but focus on goats. This is because

students will most likely own one or more or belong to a family with goats. Furthermore, a

systems approach would include learning objectives from the other subjects. Consider the

following learning objectives from the O level Biology syllabus and the O level Economics

syllabus respectively:

1) Mammalian reproduction; a general outline of the development; nutrition and

respiration of a mammalian embryo. Birth

2) Distribution and Marketing of Commodities: retailers and wholesalers,

problems of distribution and marketing of commodities.

Seen through a systems eye, there is a common thread that could be transformed into

a learning experience. A discussion on goats evolves into a lesson on reproduction, especially

reproduction of goats. The logical outcome of reproduction is another goat. The implications

of an added animal are several. The goat can be sold, thus leading the discussion towards

distribution and marketing of commodities, or the goat can be retained. If this is the case,

lessons can then be conducted on the economic principle of labor ( the goat must be cared for

which takes time away from another activity) or to a lesson on feeds and feeding from the

agriculture syllabus. The direction of the lessons will be determined by the objectives

established in the very beginning. Each curriculum domain will set the learning objectives

and arrange the learning experiences to suit the conditions of that domain.

Ideally, a lesson such as the one above can be taught as a module. If this is done, then

FSR/E procedures such as farm modeling can be included. This is a visual illustration of the

individual farm components and their relations with other components (McDowell and

Hildebrand 1986). The goat would represent a specific component. The impact of offspring

acquired (through reproduction) on the other elements of a small farm can be clearly

demonstrated. Throughout this process, teaching would pay careful attention to constraints

that affect the relations between individual components, thus encouraging problem solving


If objectives are correctly identified, then the remaining steps in curriculum

development can follow the accepted procedure. An important component of the curriculum

development process is outlining practical learning experiences. In the next section (school

level changes) I will discuss this element as it relates to the school farm.

The last step in the procedure for executing systems level changes involves the establishment

of an advisory committee to refine and evaluate the curriculum. These committees are

generally comprised of local decision makers, parents of students, educators, and local

farmers. They should be from the local community. Their job will be to maintain close

communication with the representatives from the schools and insure that subject matter is

relevant and up-to-date. An additional evaluative procedure should be, if feasible, to conduct

sondeos every two to three years to identify changes in the systems.

School level changes

The "front line" of education is, obviously, in the classroom. Proper implementation

of the systems approach at this is critical. Necessary to the success of this reform is the

existence of a school farm or at the very least, a school agricultural plot. Fortunately, this is

common for most African schools. The problem, however, is that many of these school plots

are not used for teaching, rather, they are used for generation of income to pay teachers,

maintain facilities, etc. Farming systems approach need not be incompatible with this. School

level changes that will be needed are:

1) The daily school schedule should be restructured in such a way as to

accommodate the inclusion of multiple subjects into the diversified agriculture

class. This need not be a radical measure. The standard one hour agriculture

class can be expanded to two hours thereby allowing time for inclusion of the

multiple subject influence while still allowing time for the subject-centered

study of the same subjects.

2) Establish a communication network between the heads of the subjects that are

being integrated ( Biology, Economics, History, and Agriculture) in order to

synchronize lesson plans.

3) Devise lesson plans whereby at least 50% of learning occurs outdoors on the

school farm or plot or on local farms.

4) Devise lesson plans whereby small-scale, single factor experiments can be

carried out for demonstration and problem solving learning.

Steps 3 and 4 constitute a dramatic change from the current practices in African

agriculture education. However, for a reform that leads to truly relevant agriculture

education, it is a critical addition. Farming systems research was operationalized at

international research centers and in some national programs, thus research is at the heart of

the concept. It would be unrealistic to expect original research to be generated on school

farms, however in step 4, I do recommend that small experiments be carried out. The

objective of this exercise is to provide students with the basic principles for solving

agricultural problems in their own communities. Additionally, insight could be gained from

learning the impact of interrelationships over space and time. Relevant learning on the school

farm through a systems approach would involve duplication of a small farm. The school farm

should use practices that are consistent with those of the curriculum domain. Specific

activities that could be carried out are:

1) Farm modelling (see above) to gain insight into relationships;

2) Student designed trials to teach systematic problem solving;

3) Testing alternative practices to teach evaluation skills.

Teaching lessons on a local farms away from the school will expose students to highly

relevant developmental challenges. In my experience in Tanzania, I found that local farmers

are very receptive to the idea of students coming to see different aspects of their operation.

Students can be trained in the basic concepts of the sondeo and then assigned to local farms

to carry out rapid appraisals.

School level implementation of the systems approach is the most essential for success of the

reform. Even if national and system level changes are properly carried out, if these principles

are not practiced properly at the school level, the effort will have been wasted.


In the past, there has been a great deal of lip service paid to the notion of increasing

relevance of African education. Projects that have gone as far as implementation have often

failed because there was a lack of clarity in the aims and objectives or because vital changes

were not made at the national level (examinations). The author has attempted to present a

framework for diversification that is clear and understandable while allowing for flexibility.

This is necessary due to the different national goals of education expressed by African

governments. Part of understanding the proposed reform is understanding the obstacles that

must be overcome before it can be successfully implemented. The nature of the obstacles will

be those of resistance and those of logistics.

Projects that include deviation from the subject-centered curriculum design are

generally looked upon with skepticism in Africa. This is because the colonial education

structure is deeply ingrained in the public and indeed a great many educators. Public opinion

then must be addressed before a program such as the one described here can be started. This

includes the political arena. Nicholas Hans once wrote Educational reforms since the first

world war are so intimately connected with politics, with problems of race, nationality,

language, and social ideals that they cease to be of narrow professional significance and have

become a matter of general interest as the main problem of a democratic government" (Hans

1947). It is important to realize, then, that reform measures must first achieve popularity with

the public. It is advisable to examine previously successful projects from the country where

reform is intended to understand the conditions that made the project work. Unsuccessful

projects should be evaluated as well to avoid any repetition of mistakes. The author feels that

to gain public acceptance for diversification of education is a matter that will vary from

country to country, however, there are general factors that should be considered.

Firstly, African educators and politicians will not accept any measure that other

countries might perceive as a decrease in education quality. This is a direct result of colonial

policy. Africans felt that their education must be as good as western education or be seen as

"inferior". As a result, African education is more rigorous than many western countries.

Therefore, the quality of the systems approach education should be stressed from the onset.

Secondly, the examination institution should be deemphasised. Currently, school

activities are only considered important if they are tested for. The value of continuous

assessment over a single exam must have support for this program to work. There are many

in African education who already feel this way. Garnering the support of these people would

be a wise undertaking early on in the procedure.

Thirdly, there is a chronic shortage of qualified teachers in Africa. The number of

teachers colleges need to be increased and more students should be encouraged to consider

teaching as a career. Additionally, teachers that will be trained in agriculture, biology,

economics, and social studies will need to be familiar with the farming systems approach in

order to properly devise lesson plans. It should be obvious that a proposal such as this one

will require a great deal of creativity from teachers. This will require a shift away from the

teacher centered style of teaching now prevalent in Africa. Almost all teaching is currently

done through lecture. Teacher training should focus on methods of student centered schooling

including addition of a systems focus in education training ( for example, see Bembridge

1993). Retraining of teachers who have already made this their profession should occur at the

prescribed system level changes, however seminars should be held to reenforce the concept.

A final obstacle to overcome is the fear that a proposal of this sort is financially

unfeasible. Decision makers must be convinced of the long term return on investment to

increased relevancy in education.

One way that these obstacles can be overcome is to carry out this proposal in a pilot

program under close scrutiny by those responsible for education. Success should be measured

not only from the number of students who progress to the next level of schooling, rather, it

should also include the student's use of enhanced agricultural skills upon return to the rural

areas. This leads to the issue of needed research.

In order to evaluate and refine a proposal such as this, there should be more research

in the following areas:

1) Means in which to measure the relevance of education over time;

2) Exploration of alternative evaluation strategies to the current single examination


3) The application of a systems approach to agriculture education in other levels

of formal and non-formal education.

In conclusion, the successful use of a systems approach to agriculture education will

involve a commitment from every level of the educational structure. Decision makers must

feel comfortable that the quality of education has in no way decreased while possessing an

increased relevancy to real world conditions. Teachers must embrace the concept of farming

systems and recognize the value of its inherent problem solving methodologies. And students

themselves must be able to accept that, after school, chances are they will find themselves in

a rural area where agriculture will be their primary source of income. They must further

realize that to be able to critically analyze their environment and to identify constraints is half

the battle to improve their well being. This is the essence of development through building of

human resources.


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