The potential of integrating structured experiential learning into the curriculum as a means of improving the agricultural extenstion curriculum : a comparative study of two programs in KwaZulu-Natal.
The training of agricultural extension graduates is an important contributor to agriculturalThe training of agricultural extension graduates is an important contributor to agricultural development in both developed and developing countries. Extension workers help small holder farmers uplift their food production. In most African countries, the curriculum of agricultural extension institutions has been adopted from other countries. This causes higher education institutions to produce graduates with inadequate skills to meet the needs of African countries. With the transformation in South Africa, and the resultant unification of the extension system, the curriculum needs to be reviewed to meet the current needs of the employers. This research explores the potential of including structured experiential learning into the curriculum with the aim of bridging the gap that exists within the extension training systems in South Africa. The alumni from two institutions, one with an unstructured experiential learning programme and the other with a structured experiential learning programme were interviewed to find out the skills that they feel are needed and whether those skills can be effectively taught during the academic training of students. A convenience sampling method was used. The employer’s perceptions regarding the skills for effective extension work were also solicited. Both the alumni and the employers indicated that well planned and supervised experiential learning would help students acquire practical agriculture skills, and also orientate them to the new work environment. The educators indicated that the curriculum structure at times impedes the effective implementation of an experiential learning programme due to semester system and demands from other courses The research revealed that for effective experiential learning, it is important that universities work with communities in development programmes and to forge links with the industry. Although service providers may be willing to offer experiential learning to students, they are also limited in terms of resources. They cannot always accommodate students from tertiary institutions as there are number of them requiring experiential learning opportunities.