Supervised agricultural experience projects and the transfer of learning in the primary school agriculture curriculum
Okiror, John James
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Education systems in Africa often lack life skills that link with rural communities and arguments about vocationalizing curricula remain mixed. Primary School Agriculture (PSA) has been taught as a fully fledged subject in Uganda since 2001 as a response to growing dropout rates from Universal Primary Education. However, the instructional methods used lack a supervised practical component and the poor quality of school gardens affects inculcation of skills and positive attitudes. This study was conducted in eight primary schools from Kumi and Tororo districts in Uganda to determine the effectiveness of Supervised Agricultural Experience Projects (SAEPs) as a training method for transfer of learning. The performance of pupils with school gardens and pupils with home gardens was compared using a t-test. Data were collected from 589 respondents using questionnaires, Focus Group Discussions and a posttest written exam. Overall, no significant differences (P<0.05) were observed for parents’ attitudes; pupils’ self-efficacy; and learning achievement. Curriculum analysis revealed that despite gains made on teaching time-tables, and supply of textbooks; PSA is poorly taught with limited skills accruing to pupils. Results also showed that teachers used only eight out of 22 prescribed teaching methods and reported difficulty teaching 60% of content; school gardening lacked funding support; and agriculture was less weighted in the Primary Leaving Science paper. It was established that SAEPs promoted learning-by-doing, not withstanding limited skills among teachers, poor supervision and resource constraints. Transfer of learning is affected by administrative conflicts, poor time-tabling; destruction of school gardens by stray livestock at school; and lack of parental support and time constraints at household level. Seventy-two (72%) percent of pupils passed-on information to parents but their effectiveness was limited by timidity, difficulty in articulating concepts taught in English, and tendency of parents to discount information given by children. It is recommended that PSA curriculum should incorporate supervised home gardening as part of SAEPs; teachers be given in-service training; school gardening be funded; practitioners in local government design school outreach programs for communities; and the study be up-scaled for other parts of Uganda and the region.