Last April, I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit in a sharing on how a Dutch university convince their youth to farm or get them to be interested. Director for Vocational-Technical courses Hanneke Haaksma of Utrecht University shared about their system of education, how they determine the courses to offer and how they grow interest in agriculture among students.
For voc-tech courses, their System of education consists of classroom schooling and practical work outside the school. For example, 60% of time/days spent in classroom learning while 40% spent in practical work. They emphasize in giving their students assignment so they learn to solve problems on their own.
In knowing what courses to offer, the university, first, gets a perspective of the area, do a survey of the different industries. Then Look for a partner who can take internships and be a potential employer of the students after study. Next the university gets a competence list needed by the partner and from that the school develops a manual for learning. Finally, they equip professional skills + social skills needed like culture, gender sensitivity, etc.
In convincing youth be interested in farming, what they do is, they make sure that their orientation is creative. Most of the students, she said, would prefer courses other than agriculture but the key is in suggesting. In suggesting, their approach is like saying “I know Agriculture is not your preferred course but why don’t you try, just observe and after that, you can choose what you want.” This strategy works. She added, “you need to show them (students) the one receiving them”, this needs someone to welcome them warmly and then they let the farmers to be teachers to teach the process step by step through practicum.
Here in Philippines, the education system has just adopted the K-12 learning where students can already learn vocational/technical skills in High school level so that even if a student cannot proceed to Universities for College they have a skill that can give them job to earn a living. For rural agricultural areas, it is just but appropriate to offer agricultural courses but the challenge is to find a partner with adequate facilities who can show them the beauty and potential ( income wise) of farming and who can take in internship.
I have seen models of farmer groups, private sectors with great practices who can be a good host for learning, but they are few and some are far. This is the challenge.