Ministry of Education, Guyana

Sunday, 14 January 2018 09:07

Guyana School of Agriculture: Developing human capacity for over 50 years

news 20180115 3One of the most important pillars of Guyana’s successful agriculture sector is its large labour force. In fact, the industry remains the largest employer with at least 38% direct employment. But the ever-growing challenges in this field, always summon the need for a workforce that is complemented by skilled and technically capable agricultural professionals.

Recognizing this need, the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) was established in 1963. Today, it is the sector’s leading training institution. The minds of more than 3,500 agricultural professionals have been nurtured by the institution.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the School will continue to play a lead role in advancing the human resource development capacity of the sector. In addition to this, the National Strategy for Agriculture in Guyana 2013-2020 has set out the priorities which will guide the operations.

The School has since reviewed its curriculum to make it more responsive to new developments in agriculture, the educational environment as well as the ever-changing requirements of employees. Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture noted that the school will endeavour to establish operations in the hinterland regions to provide specialized training in agriculture that are specific to those regions.

Moreover, the school has intensified its short specialized training programme in Agro-Processing for out of School youths and small agro-processors. The Ministry of Agriculture noted that emphasis will also be placed on building the capacity of staff through short-, medium- and long-term training.

Ministry officials intimated that the School will work towards building the human resource capacity in different areas through the development of skills, as well as enhanced knowledge and information exchange between the actors involved; including farmers and their organizations, agricultural research, education and training institutions, extension and advisory service institutions, and the researchers and professionals working in the agricultural sector of Guyana, the Caribbean and wider afield.

The officials said that Agricultural education has benefited significantly from the adumbration of policies over many decades. As it moves to reposition agriculture and its contribution to GDP, the Ministry officials said that the need to form new policies to inform agricultural education is self-evident.

Priority Areas

For this year, officials at the Ministry of Agriculture say that there will be more than 10 priority areas for the GSA.

With regard to good agricultural practices, the officials said that the consumption of safe and healthy food is increasingly being targeted by health-conscious people. They said that training programmes which are designed to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses, preserve the highest nutritional levels of food, and process foods using acceptable and proven methods, therefore impact positively on the health status of citizens.

In this regard, they said that the School will continue to offer an annual course in Good Agricultural Practice to all Diploma in Agriculture graduates as a specific adjunct to their training, recognizing the need for technicians to be proficient in this area.

The Ministry officials noted, too, that the School will also place focus on a national policy for agricultural education.

“The School has now completed more than fifty years of operation. A Strategic Plan developed through a consultative approach, along with a Policy on Agricultural Education will serve the institution in a powerful way by focusing material and other resources in achieving the goals that have been set. The School has approached the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations through the Ministry of Agriculture for technical assistance in the elaboration of a Strategic Plan for GSA as well as a National Policy on Agriculture Education in Guyana. FAO’s Representative in Guyana has agreed to incorporate these in its work plan for the 2018-2019 biennium.”

“We have incorporated this request as one of the outcomes or indicators in our 2018 budget submission. A decision has been taken to review the entire curriculum to make it responsive to new developments in agriculture, the educational environment, as well as the ever-changing requirements of employers. A broad-based Committee comprising key stakeholders is being promulgated as the vehicle to complete this work. This Committee will continue its work in 2018 and will be supported by specialist help, either from a qualified firm or a team of consultants, in order to accelerate the achievement of deliverables set for curriculum reform.”

“Organizational structure, complete job descriptions and specifications, and a human resource manual, remain key elements, too, in fostering efficient management and use of resources. A systematic review of these areas of operation will be initiated to make them more responsive to the needs of the School.”

Furthermore, capacity building and training have long been recognized as an important component of the School’s developmental activities. In order to maintain and improve the quality of education offered by the institution, it has acknowledged that there needs to be a continuous effort to build the capacity of its faculty.

This year, the school hopes to initiate a rule-based formal support system for staff members who are desirous of improving their professional qualifications. In addition, the school has said that Continuous Worker Education Credits will continue to provide opportunities for staff development.

Improved Technology

In order to get youths to take up careers in agriculture, the practice of agriculture has to be made more attractive. There is therefore, the need to move away from labour-intensive operations to one which makes use of more mechanization and improved technologies which will encourage youths to become more involved in agriculture.

In this regard, officials at the Ministry of Agriculture said, “Agricultural production is vulnerable to climate change. Conditions of increased temperatures and heavy rainfall have served to reduce yields of cultivated crops and have encouraged the proliferation of pests and diseases. The dry season is considered the most conducive period for crop production, as low humidity discourages the occurrence of diseases. During periods of intense rainfall there is flooding which results in significant crop loss.”

“The issues of climate change are best addressed through adaptation. The School is therefore, seeking to demonstrate the use of protected agriculture technology for the production of high value crops. In this regard, the School is seeking to erect one shade house with raised beds.”

Maintenance of Facilities

Accreditation provided by a reputable agency provides the requisite assurance that minimum standards are being upheld in the delivery of service. With this in mind, the School has been working with the National Accreditation Council to have its programmes accredited. To successfully gain accreditation, facilities that are specifically meant for direct teaching and learning must meet industry standards. Facilities including classrooms, classroom seats, laboratories, library and audio-visual learning equipment must be adequate. These will include constant maintenance of living quarters, main buildings, farm buildings and infrastructure, computer and laboratory facilities, library, recreational and other miscellaneous facilities. Ministry officials said that there is need therefore for resources to be committed to the maintenance of the School’s facilities.news 20180115 4

Ministry of Agriculture officials have since noted that equipping the school’s facilities with modern electrical systems which comply with the National Electrical Code as well as fire protection garnered through centralized electronic systems and extinguishers, will enhance the record of providing a safe education environment for hundreds of students, local and overseas, including workers.

Registration And Accrediation

The National Accreditation Council Act 2004 makes provision for establishment of a National Accreditation Council (NAC) and for this Council to grant recognition to awards obtained in Guyana and elsewhere and to determine equivalence of all awards for the purpose of establishing acceptable standards.

The Guyana School of Agriculture falls under this regulatory control which is critical to the delivery of quality services. The National Accreditation Council has announced the imminent implementation of a National Qualifications and Credit Framework for Guyana.

In 2018, GSA said it will continue to work with the NAC to streamline its operations so as to satisfy set standards. These pertain to a wide range and include the following areas: Governance and Administration, Quality Management System, Legal, Policy and Regulatory Requirements, Resource Management, Teaching-Learning Process and Continuous Improvement.

Relations with CTVET

The Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (CTVET) was established under the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act. 2004. Its main role is to promote Technical and Vocational Training. The Ministry of Agriculture has stated that the Guyana School of Agriculture falls under the Technical and Vocational Education Training System, and therefore can benefit under the rubric, Competency Based Education. The officials said that GSA graduates may benefit from having their diplomas and certificates being recognized in Guyana and the Caribbean, having been granted such status by CTVET.

They said that 2018 therefore, will witness enhanced efforts in solidifying the relationship between GSA and CTVET.

Source:https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com

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