Manpower development for agriculture entrepreneurs
(Second of two parts)
OF less immediate concern yet of more important strategic importance is the education for future farmers—children of farmers who will soon take over the running of their parents’ farm. Here we have to rely on the formal educational system to deliver this service. It starts with the premise of good basic education (up to at least high school) so that we build on the capacity of our youth for the challenges of the future.
Family Farm Schools
On this point, I would like to highlight a unique agricultural education model called the Family Farm Schools.
The Family Farm School is an educational institution offering secondary and post-secondary level of education where qualified and deserving children of Filipino farmers are taught and trained with their parents’ help in theoretical and practical methods so as to instill in them high human, social, and moral values and the right sense of professionalism in the performance of work.
The professional formation acquired in the Family Farm School prepares students to exercise a profession in farming coupled with a technical and entrepreneurial training that will hopefully plant the seed for a strong agricultural economy.
Unique to the Family Farm School system is the alternating cycle of education where students spend a week in a “live-in class” at the school and two weeks in their family farm.
This system facilitates the learning process by not only confining it within the four walls of the classroom but allows the youth to learn through their continuous and direct contact with reality thus avoiding the real danger of alienating them from their environment.
While at the family farm, the students analyze those experiences and place them all in the Family Farm Notebook that will later be reviewed by the teachers and the students in a one-on-one learning session. The alternating cycle also affords parents to participate actively in the education and formation of their children.
Tutors of the Family Farm School visit each family in each of the alternating cycles and help both parents and child to think together and work out a project for the improvement of their farm as well as to help them have deep family ties through the formation given them.
The curriculum of the FFS applies the principle of the Dual Training System. The FFS is one of the pioneers in the Philippines to apply it to agriculture education. One consideration that our policymakers would consider is to incorporate the FFS type of education for those in the rural areas since this is more appropriate for them than the present comprehensive high schools.
There are now more than 2,500 FFS all over the world—Europe, Africa, North and South America, Africa and Asia.
Farm Business Schools
College-level agriculture programs have been around in the country for over a century yet there is very little success if we take the situation of our small farmers. Today, agriculture is one of the last courses a farmer would like his son to take (if at all he gets a chance to go to college) because they say, “there is no money in farming.”
This fact is reflected in the number of students enrolled in agriculture courses over the past 30 years. Agriculture’s share of the whole student population has been declining and will continue to do so. As a result, agriculture schools in the country are soon to join the list of endangered species if nothing is done about it.
Fortunately, the Management Association of the Philippines initiated a project as early as 2004 called the Farm Business School. It is a school dedicated and focused on training farm managers and farm entrepreneurs. The degree that will be offered leads to a Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Management major in Farm Business. It is offered as a ladderized program that can award a diploma after three years (under TESDA) and a bachelor’s degree after an additional year (under CHEd).
Why a ladderized program? The first three years will make use of the Dual Training System (that has been proven to be a success) because a bias of the curriculum is intensive hands-on internship component. Students will go through a work-study program. The work component will be done in school through the various farm enterprises that will be set up to serve as “live” projects for students to learn the ABCs of running a farm business.
After three years, only select students will be invited to go through the fourth year to earn their bachelor’s degree.
The farm business enterprises that will be set up to serve as practicum venues for students of the program will also be the answer for many schools today to generate their own revenues. Some of the faculty members of the Farm Business School will be designated managers of the farm enterprises that will be operated as “strategic business units.”
We now have a working model of this type of school. The MFI Foundation is the first to implement this concept. In turn it partnered with the University of Rizal System to award the bachelor’s degree under its College of Business. This is to affirm what was said earlier that the program is not an agriculture course but a business course.
One may ask, what are the chances of success of this program considering that this is something new?
It may sound new but the key elements of the program design have been drawn from two successful “experiments”: (1) the Dual Training System that is now institutionalized in the Philippines and (2) UA&P’s Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Management that has already produced a good crop of entrepreneurs.
The first Farm Business School in Jala-Jala, Rizal, is now in its second year of operations with close to 70 students under its Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Management major in Farm Business and the Diploma in Agriculture Entrepreneurship. It still remains to be seen if at all alumni will turn out the way they have been trained. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
Where do we go from here?
The experience shows that training present farmers is still effective in bringing about new technologies and farming systems to increase farm productivity. On the other hand, training future farmers is an investment we have to do now to address the dwindling number of young people interested in farming as a profession.
The Family Farm Schools and Rural Development Schools to date count 13 such schools in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Mind you, these schools have been established and had flourished despite minimal government support.
Even if just a small percentage of the budget of the Departments of Agriculture, Education, and TESDA is set aside for the support of the Family Farm Schools and the Farm Business Schools, it will surely make a long way to spark a “new revolution” among the ranks of our farmers. This time though, it is of the good type of a revolution.
As a rejoinder to the current discussion on how to implement the K+12 basic education curriculum, policymakers may want to consider the postsecondary program discussed earlier as an option to fulfill the additional two years of schooling for those students especially in the rural areas.
There is a Chinese saying that goes this way: “If you plan for a few years grow rice, if you plan for decades grow trees, but if you plan for a century grow men.” Education is the best and surest way to emancipate our farmers from the bondage of poverty. And if we invest in agriculture then our economy definitely will have its take-off for a sustained economic growth.
(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is vice chairman of the MAP AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and dean of the MFI Farm Business School. Feedback at [email protected] For previous articles, visit www.map.org.ph.)
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