Assessment of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Bachelor of Agricultural extension curriculum implemented at Cedara College.
Polepole, John Sanzimwami.
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This study assessed the effectiveness of Bachelor of Agriculture in Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (BAgricExt) qualification of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), implemented at Cedara College of Agriculture. Any academic programme aiming to achieve success requires regular assessments of its activities to determine areas that need to change or improve. The BAgricExt is considered as one of the potentially pivotal qualifications in agricultural education with a direct link to farmers and primary production. The impact of Agricultural Education and Training (AET) is and will remain considerable in the South African landscape. It is contributing substantially to provide knowledge and skills for production of food and fibre which, in turn adds value to the country’s economy. The quality of education provided in the agricultural field will determine the graduates’ efficiency and ability to contribute to the increase in quality, quantity and efficiency of food and fibre production countrywide. The primary research is presented under three main topics in the form of publishable articles. The first one establishes a framework to assess an undergraduate qualification of any kind. Different elements (input, process, outcomes and influencing factors) to be assessed in the undergraduate qualification are suggested and the most important area to consider as far as qualification performance is concerned are specified. This led to developing a model of assessing an undergraduate qualification. The model is called: ITAPP (Intake, Teaching and Learning, Access to facilities, Performance, and Placement) model. The second paper describes the learning outcomes required to enable graduates to serve effectively as extension practitioners to build the capacity of farmers. In addition to extension theory and practice, the areas of learning include agricultural production, natural resource management, farm business management, and farm engineering. The third part of the literature review establishes a framework showing how better learning can be acquired specifically in the BAgricExt. A qualitative approach, consisting of interviews and focus group discussions with various categories of participants purposefully chosen was followed to collect data. The study was conducted among 65 UKZN students, nine lecturers, three administrative officers and seven potential employers of BAgricExt graduates. With this sample, it was possible to obtain qualitative data and more insights into the research question based on the experiences and knowledge of respondents. Using the ITAPP framework, the learning outcomes required for BAgricExt were established. Learning outcomes were presented based on level descriptors as recommended by the South African government (Higher Education), and determined the environment, including safeguarding quality assurance, conducive to successful completion of the qualification. With reference to the research objective, the study found that the BAgricExt programme with its present curriculum is operational and has a clear delivery and support system that is sustainable. BAgricExt programme allows students to start and finish being well-grounded, with substantial knowledge and skills (theory and practice) in Agricultural Extension, agricultural production, farm business management, resource management and farm engineering. Specifically, against the ITAPP framework, the study found that the BAgricExt was successful on two core elements: ‘Teaching and Learning; and ‘Performance’. While this places the programme on a solid footing, the study determined a need for greater efficiency in the other elements of the framework (Intake, Access to Facilities, and Placement) – which, the study suggests can be improved by taking into considerations the recommendations drawn from this study – particularly regarding the “placement” element. The study recommends to the BAgricExt to give more attention to placement and look at the ways that it increases prospects of a livelihood either as an employee or through selfemployment. The degree should be more directly centred on ‘where the graduate is going’ and how the graduate will gain a living by using the competences acquired in the programme. A model was developed for this purpose, and a revised framework presented to evaluate the BAgricExt in prospect of a livelihood - it is called “Placement-Centred Intake to Performance (PCIP) Framework”. It is anticipated that through this shift in focus the BAgricExt will be substantially strengthened.