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CHALLENGES OF TEACHING AND LEARNING AGRICULTURAL SCIENCE IN SCHOOLS
Background of study
Agriculture is the main stay of the economy of most countries the world over – providing food, employment, income, revenue, improving the countries’ balance of payment etc (Baffour-Awuah, 1987). In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) drew attention to the immersed problems and challenges facing the world’s agriculture, if present and future food needs are to be met for new approach to agriculture development. In the remaining years of this century about 1.3 billion people will be added to the human population. The global food system must be managed to increase food production by 3% to 4% yearly (WCED, 1987).
Global food security depends not only on increasing global production but on decreasing distortion in the structure of the world’s food market and on shifting the focus of food production to food deficit countries, regions and households. This shift in agriculture production will be sustainable, enhanced and where it has been diminished/destroyed, restored according to WCED (1987) pg 128-130.
By this, agriculture has been placed on a high agenda of governments of Ghana. One of the priorities of the present and past governments is to make Ghana self-sufficient in food production (Addo-Quaye et.al, 1995).
Example, the National Redemption Council, NRC, in 1972 introduced the Operation Feed Yourself Policy in order to increase food production (Baffour-Awuah, 1987). Schools were therefore made to establish mess farms to feed the students.
However, most agriculture production in the country is subsistence and small scaled with low yields. Even medium and large scale farmers use the common tools like hoe, axe, cutlass etc since most farmers cannot afford mechanization aside the over reliance on rainfall instead of irrigation.
In 1987, the government of Ghana initiated a reform in the education programme with wide ranging objectives. Wheeler (1980) commented about reform in education – if a curriculum remains static in a dynamic society especially in a period of rapid social change, it is likely that the education which is meant to induct the young into the society and to promote an intelligent understanding of it will cater only for the needs and values which no longer exist.
According to Awuku et.al (1991), one major means by which Ghana’s agriculture can move from the subsistence to commercial is by intensifying Agricultural Education. Dotse (1994) also said introduction of agriculture into the educational institution are essential components of the curriculum and indicates strongly that policy makers have realized that the problem confronting Ghana Agriculture can partially or if not completely, solved through agriculture education.
The study of agricultural science in the Senior High Schools is divided into General Agriculture, Crop Husbandry and Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Fishery and Forestry. This means that the teacher who teaches the students should prepare the students adequately for the task of positively influencing the student’s attitude, perspectives and habits of mind especially as they affect the theory and practice of agricultural science. The teacher’s approach to the subject can stimulate his students to develop in and subsequently results in good performance.
According to Awuku et.al (1991), the performance of the students in agricultural science should match student’s interest and practice of the subject. He further stated that lack of textbooks, poor management, poor funding etc as some of the many factors among others that influence the outcome of the teaching –learning process. It is therefore imperative for all stakeholders in the educational system to ensure that agricultural science is encouraged in schools to help the nation achieve its goal in food security.
Statement of the Problem
Though Agricultural Education has been a priority of the government, the teaching and learning of Agricultural science at pre-tertiary levels leaves much to be desired. According to Baffour-Awuah (1987), Agriculture Education in Ghana at the pre-tertiary level is faced with much problems hindering achievement of its goals.
There is low interest in both teachers and students (Akinmade, 2002). This low interest could be attributed to the usual approach to teaching this practical oriented subject which is no longer enticing enough to boost the required interest.
The best way the youth in school can be taught agriculture is by “doing” (Awuku et al, 1991) but the common sense is that most of the youth who completed SHS and were not able to pursue further studies in Agriculture show disinterest in agriculture and rather drift to urban centres to find jobs. There
Awuku et al (1991) indicated that one objective for Agriculture education in the school curriculum is to make teacher and student a supplementary extension officer to local farmers. But most students learn Agriculture in the school mainly because it is one of the examination requirements (Baffour-Awuah, 1996). Therefore what is the future of Ghana’s Agriculture? It is therefore imperative for such issue to be addressed.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study is:
- to assesses factors affecting the teaching and learning of agriculture in Senior High Schools in Mfantsiman Municipality.
Agricultural Education at the SHS level is very crucial as it is the basis of continuing to higher levels. It also contributes to the general objectives of educational profession of the country and the economy depends largely on the success of Agriculture.
- to examine the attitudes of both teachers and students of Agriculture.
- to examine the background and perception of teachers and students with regards to agriculture.
- to help determine the status of Agriculture in the society.
- to determine the effect of agricultural practices in the society on the study of Agriculture.
- to help enhance the study of agriculture in schools.
Research objectives to be measured are
- the social and academic background (qualification) of teachers in agriculture education
- the social background of students in Agriculture Education
- the general perception of teachers and students
The study was guided by the following questions;
- How do teachers find the need to teach agricultural science?
- What methods do teachers use in teaching agricultural science?
- How does the community show interest in the students learning agricultural science?
- What is the level of attention given to the teaching and learning of agricultural science?
- What are the major challenges in the teaching and learning of agricultural science?
Significance of Study
The study would create adequate opportunities to the Municipal Directorates of Education and other related stakeholders of education to know the challenges pertaining to Agriculture Education in Senior High Schools. This would help them in organizing in-service training to teachers at the Senior High School level.
It will benefit other researchers that may conduct further research to help improve the teaching and learning of agriculture at the senior high schools level.
The findings of the study will be helpful to school administrators whose duty is to raise the standards of the subject in their schools.
Furthermore, the study will provide insight into the challenges, if any, of the teaching and learning of agricultural science in SHS level. The issues raised in the study and the suggestions made would be beneficial in the modification of facilities and programmes to improve the existing situations in the schools.
It will also help teachers to find better methods of handling the subject in order to arouse and maintain the interest of students in agriculture and help them choose it as a vocation.
The study is delimited to students in four SHS in Mfantseman Municipal offering agricultural science as core and /or elective subject. The agricultural science syllabus is common to all schools in Ghana offering the subject.
All schools in Ghana offering the subject use the same textbooks prescribed and supplied by the Ministry of education, Science, Youth and sport.
The primary constraints that limited the scope of the research are money and time. Hence the research was confined to three of the four SHS in the Mfantsiman Municipal. The limited area could decrease the generalisability of the findings.
Organization of Study
The first chapter of this study deals with the introduction which covers the background of the study, the significance of the study, the delimitation and the limitation of the study.
The second chapter is the review of relevant and related literature. Highlights of methods used, which comprises of the delimitation of the study area, the population and sample sizes, the instrument used for gathering the data and how the instrument was administered, are composed in the third chapter.
The fourth chapter deals with the presentation and analysis of data and finally chapter five deals with the discussion of the findings, summary, conclusion and suggestions.
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