S5. / La-
LINKING SECONDARY EDUCATION IN ANGLOPHONE AFRICA WITH
A FARMING SYSTEMS APPROACH: A FRAMEWORK FOR
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
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.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
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
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
2. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF EDUCATION IN 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
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
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.
3. AFRICAN EDUCATION TODAY
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
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
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,
6 6 Ministry of Education
8 4-2 Ministry of Education and Culture
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.
4. PROBLEMS OF SECONDARY EDUCATION AND ITS EFFECT ON
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.
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
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
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.
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.
5. FARMING SYSTEMS APPROACH TO REFORM
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
(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
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:
3) Testing and evaluation of technologies generated
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
6. STRUCTURAL CHANGE IN AFRICAN EDUCATION
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
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
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
2) Students will gain location specific experience while still learning required
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
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.
7. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
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
Alonge, A.D., & Martin, R.A. (1993). The Assessment of the Farming Systems Research
& Extension Approach to Technology Transfer Among Resource Poor Farmers in the
Middle-belt Region of Nigeria. In Collaboration and Cooperation in a Global
Community, Annual Meeting of the Association for International Agriculture and
Extension Education, March 1993.
Anderson, J. (1970). The Struggle for the School. Longman, Niarobi, p. 10.
Ankrah, E.M. (1987). Education of Women to the year 2000...and Beyond. In The Future
of Education in Eastern Africa: Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Eastern African
Regional Conference held in Kampala, Uganda. July, 22-25, 1987.
Bembridge, T.J. (1993). Some Thoughts on Agriculture Education and Training in New
South Africa. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for
International Agriculture and Extension Education.
Benevot, A. (1989). Education, gender, and economic development: a cross-national study.
Sociology of Education 62:14-32.
Bray, M., Clark, P.B. and Stephens, D. (1986). Education and Society in Africa. Edward
Arnold, London, p. 149.
Brown, A.W. and Barret, H.R. (1991). Female education in sub-Saharan Africa: the key
to development? Comparative Education. 27(3): 275-285.
Caldwell, J.C. (1986) Routes to low mortality in poor countries. Population and
Development Review. 12:171-220.
Dada, A. (1987). Mass Failure in Public Examinations: Causes and Problems. Proceedings
of the National Conference on Mass Failure in Public Examinations. Heinemann
Educational Books (Nigeria) LTD.
deLusignan, G. (1969). French Speaking Africa Since Independence. New York: Frederick
Earle, E.W. (1983). The Development of Education in Pre-Independent Ghana Based on the
Personal Accounts of Twenty-five Participants in That Development. Oxford
Development Records Project. p. 18.
Fafunwa, A.B. (1974). History of Education in Nigeria. George Allen and Unwin London.
Forum of African Science Educators (FASE). (1982). Report of first International FASE
Conference. Harare: August-September, 1982. Report: International Council of
Associations of Science Education (ICASE).
Gambia, The, Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture. (1985). Educational
Grey-Johnson, C. (1990). Policies and Programs for Employment Generation. In The
Employment Crisis in Africa. ed. C. Grey-Johnson. African Association for Public
Administration and Management. p. 48.
Gulma, A.(1986). Cultural Adaptation: The Problem of Ineffectiveness of the Educational
System in Nigeria. In Realities and Challenges of the Nigerian Educational System.
ed. V.B. Iwuji.
Hans, N. (1947). Comparative Education. Rutledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. London. Preface to
Hawes, H. (1979). Curriculum and Realities in African Schools. Longman, Harlow.
Hildebrand, P.E. (1981). Combining disciplines in a rapid appraisal: the sondeo.
Agricultural Administration 8:423-432.
Hildebrand, P.E. and Waugh, R.K. (1986). Farming Systems Research and Development.
In Perspectives on Farming Systems Research and Extension. ed P.E. Hildebrand.
Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colorado.
Hubchen, J.M. (1990). Popular participation and Farming Systems Research and Extension:
Examining the Central Visayas Regional Project 1 in Bohol, Philippines. Paper
presented at the Meeting of Association of Louisiana Evaluators. Baton Rouge, LA,
International Labor Office(ILO). (1977). Education for Development. Geneva:
International Labor Office.
Jiggins, J. (1989). How poor women earn income in sub-Saharan Africa and what works
against them. World Development. 17(7):953-63.
Kelly, G.P. (1984). "When Did I Become a Functionnaire": School Knowledge in French
West Africa, 1918-1938. Buffalo: Comparative Education Center, State University of
New York at Buffalo.
Kenafric Industrial Services. (1991). Kenyas Primary and Secondary Schools network.
Choro Publishers, Niarobi. p. 153.
Kiyima, D.S. (1987). Pressures For and Against Namutamba Project: A Uganda
Experience. In Proceedings of the 2nd PWPA Eastern African Regional Conference
Held in Kampala, Uganda July 22-25, 1987. ed S.A.H. Abidi. Professors World
Peace Academy of Uganda.
Krieger, M. (1988). African policy linking education and development: standard criticisms
and a new departure. International Review of Education, 34(3):293-312.
McDowell, R.E. and Hildebrand, P.E. (1986). Characteristics of Selected Systems. In
Perspectives on Farming Systems Research and Extension. ed P.E. Hildebrand. Lynne
Rienner Publishers. Boulder, Colorado.
Mengot, A.D. (1981). An Overview of the Achievements, Problems, and Issues in African
Development. In Problems of Curriculum Development in Africa. (eds) A.E. Yoloye.
African Curriculum Organization. University of Ibidan, Nigeria.
Mugerwa, J.S. (1988). Challenges In Agricultural Education With Particular Reference to
Uganda. In The Future of Education In East Africa. (ed) S.A.H. Abidi. Professors
World Peace Academy of Uganda.
Mumford, W.B. (1970). Africans Learn to be French. New York: Negro University Press.
Nigeria. (1990) Statistics of Education in Nigeria. Federal Ministry of Education, Lagos.
Nyrere, J.K. (1968). Freedom and Socialism/ Uhuru na Umoja. A Selection from Writings
and Speeches 1962-1967. Dar es Salaam etc. OUP.
Ogunniyi, M.B. (1986). Two decades of science education in Africa. Science Education,
Okech, J.G. & Asiachi, A.J. (1992). Curriculum Development for Schools. Educational
Research and Publications (ERAP) Nairobi. p. 58
Okongo, A.P. (1987). Toward Democratization of education in Uganda. In The Future of
Education in Eastern Africa: The Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Eastern African
Regional Conference Held in Kampala, Uganda. July 22-25, 1987.
Omo-Fadaka, J. (1982). Education and indigenous development in Africa. Prospects,
Oni, B. (1988). Education and alternative avenues of mobility: a Nigerian study.
Comparative Education Review 32(1):87-99.
Rajasekaran, B., Martin, R.A., and Warren, M. (1994). A framework for incorporating
indigenous knowledge systems into agricultural extension organizations for sustainable
agricultural development in India. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension
Robertson, R.A. (1983). Educational Development in Pre-Independent Tanganyika.
University of Oxford Development Records Project(ODRP).
Shaner,W.W., Phillipp, P.F., and Schmehl, W.R. (1982). Farming Systems Research
and Development: Guidelines for Developing Countries. Westview Press,
Sheffield, J.A. (1973). Education in Kenya: A Historical Study. Teachers College Press,
New York. P. 67.
Sifuna, D.N., (1990). Development of Education in Africa: The Kenyan Experience.
Initiatives Ltd, Niarobi. p. 13.
Sifuna, D.N. (1992). Diversifying the secondary school curriculum: the African experience.
International Review of Education, 38(1):5-18.
Steele, R.E., Muchena, O.N. and Hakutangwi, M.B.K. (1993). Do Zimbabweans Want
Agricultural and Extension Education? Paper presented at the ninth Annual Conference
of the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE)
Swaziland, Ministry of Education. (1986). Education Statistics in Brief. Research and
Tanzania, The United Republic of.(1986). Education and Training Statistics. Bureau of
statistics, Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning. Dar es Salaam.
Udo, B. (1974). Work and Environment Oriented Curricula Within the Framework of
African Primary School Reform. (Working Paper no. 3) IPAR, BUEA Camaroon,
August, 1974, p. 3.
UNDP (1990) The Human Development Report 1990. (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
UNESCO. (1990). One Billion Illiterates: A Challenge of Our Time. UNESCO Courier,
UNESCO. (1991). Educational Strategies for the 90's in Africa: Promotion of Literacy
Teaching and Basic Education for Development. Conference of Ministers and Those
Responsible for Economic Planning in African Member States (6th, Dakar, Senegal,
July 8-11, 1991).
Urch, G.E.F. (1992). Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Garland Publishing, Inc. New York
Vandemoortele, J. (1990). The African Employment Crisis of the 1980's: Some Facts and
Figures. In The Employment Crisis in Africa. ed C. Grey-Johnson. African association
for Public Administration and Management. p.36.
WAEC (1983) West African Examinations Council: Regulations and School Syllabuses.
WAEC (1988).West African Examinations Council: Annual Report.
World Bank (1990). World Development Report 1990. (New York, Oxford University
World Bank. (1992). Adjusting Educational Policies, Conserving Resources while Raising
School Quality. The World Bank, Washington D.C.
World Bank. (1993). World Development Report. Oxford University Press, New York.
World Bank. (1994). The Banks Role in Human Resource Development in Sub-Saharan
Africa. World Bank, Washington D.C.