Dimensions of agricultural educational training in formal education centres : in the case of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
This study investigated student and teacher attitudes, factors affecting those attitudes and perceptions of students towards different aspects of agricultural education programme processes offered in secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It can be used by policy-makers and can also assist the various South African Departments of Education (DoE) and schools to improve classroom administration, curriculum delivery and the provision of teaching facilities and other required support. The sample population comprised 375 high school agricultural science students and 180 agricultural science teachers. The research was arranged in nested Concurrent Mixed Sampling Designs. A multi-stage, random, purposeful sampling procedure was implemented to select the sample population. The survey was conducted by using a pre-tested structured interview schedule. The survey used structured and unstructured questions appropriate to the study objective. The supplementary qualitative information was collected from both categories of respondents, using an open-ended questionnaire, observation and interviews. The quantitative data was analysed using descriptive statistics, such as frequency, percentage, mean, chi-square and the Tobit Model. The qualitative data was analysed using a spiral content analysis. With a 97% response rate, the result showed that there was sufficient agricultural lesson coverage in the teaching and learning process, but that there was often no compensation for missed lessons. Other problems include a shortage of teaching materials, trained agricultural science teachers and support for teaching programs. In aggregate, 76.5% of the students and 88% of the teachers have a highly positive attitude towards Agricultural Education and Training (AET). There was, however, a significant difference between the attitude of students in Dedicated, Rural and Urban Schools towards various aspects of AET. Racial background (African, White and Colored), large family size, discussion about agriculture with other people and family access to farming land, positively and significantly affect students’ attitudes towards AET. African students seemed to have the highest positive attitude towards AET, when compared to the White and Coloured students. Coloured students had the least positive attitude towards AET. Generally, the attitude of students positively increased with an increase in their family size. The absence of family access to farming land, having high school-educated mothers, and a monthly family income of between R500-5000, significantly and negatively influenced students’ attitudes towards AET. Teachers in the age category of 20-29 years have a negative correlation with their attitude towards AET. Teachers in the age category from 30 to 59 years were positively correlated with their attitude towards AET. This means that the attitude of teachers towards AET was positively influenced with an increase in the age of teachers above 30 years. Younger teachers had a more negative attitude than older agricultural science teachers. This suggests that more attention should be focused on motivating and supporting younger teachers to positively influence their attitudes towards AET. The availability of internet access to teachers negatively influenced their attitudes towards AET. This was attributed to the fact that they are not accessing AET-related information through their respective schools, mainly due to the lack of computer and internet facilities in the schools. The results showed that a higher percentage of agricultural science high school teachers were offering AET without having an agricultural science qualification and hence, even if they were more satisfied in terms of salary, their attitude towards AET was still negatively influenced. Conversely, teachers’ attitudes toward AET were positively influenced by racial background (African, White and Colored), having an Agricultural Science qualification, being satisfied with administrative support, experiencing social value, good human relations and respect in their schools and in the larger community, and the availability of good communication between teachers, students, administrators and support staff in their school’s micro-environment. African teachers had a more positive attitude towards AET, compared to the White and Coloured teachers. These findings, which are based on the empirical data should be used as the basis for improving AET systems aimed at establishing open information-sharing and networking between policy-makers and implementers in order to make timely adjustments, for the limitations that occur. The findings also implied the need to improve the quality of AET offered, by creating awareness among policy-makers and implementers at all levels concerning current attitudes of teachers and students, as well as the factors influencing them. They suggest that consideration should be given to teaching-learning infrastructure, income-generating agribusiness sources, such as the establishment of small-scale farming, and in-service training programmes for agricultural science teachers.
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