Sanjeev Singh Bariana
AGRICULTURE experts and farmers in Punjab have given a thumbs up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement underlining the need for imparting lessons in farming to schoolchildren. The PM was referring to the reforms under the National Education Policy (NEP-2020) for introducing agriculture as a subject at the middle school level.
Vice Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, Prof Baldev Singh Dhillon, says, “Integrating agriculture with school education is very important. Agriculture is directly associated with the lives of more than 70 per cent of our country’s population. Schoolchildren need to be educated about agriculture and associated fields like agri-entrepreneurship and agro-processing, which are new areas of study.”
Dhillon says education in agriculture at the school level is important for connecting with the Indian Agricultural Research Institutes (IARIs) that are coming up across the country. Simply put, there has to be greater sensitisation towards educating farmers to look for diversifying crops instead of the routine summer and winter crop plantation.
Pavail Gill, an organic farmer based in Fatehgarh Sahib district, says, “Besides producing better-educated farmers, connecting agriculture with education will allow more thinking minds to argue in favour of a better deal for farmers.”
Gill says, “A curriculum containing agriculture and ‘science of growing food’ can help children in their personal and professional lives. Times are very challenging today. Climate change has affected the global food cycle of the world. Schools need to kindle interest among students to educate themselves in a subject that dealt with the survival of the human race.”
A senior professor at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Dr Sucha Singh Gill, feels bringing modern technology to agriculture is not the task of schools but that of agriculture extension services provided by state agriculture departments and agriculture universities in the country. He says the ground reality of school education in the country is worrying. “Rural schools lack adequate staff and have poor infrastructure. They need adequate funding and improvement in quality of education, an issue not touched upon by the PM,” he adds.
Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) president Balbir Singh Rajewal says receiving education about agriculture is very important for children. “We had special chapters in our school books about farm activities. I don’t know when these vanished from the books. This means our education policy-makers sadly chose not to let children get educated about agriculture,” he rues.
“Leave aside deep understanding, mere information about farming, harvesting, packaging and selling is vital for society. This had the inbuilt scope of educating people about the potential of agro-entrepreneurship in the country,” says Rajewal.
Ajay Chaudhary, sarpanch of Taloor village in Gurdaspur district, says, “Starting to work on our own land when I was very young, I learnt that the farming exercise sub-consciously equipped me with leadership and communication skills. I was able to learn the importance of working with the community.”
A public school-educated Chaudhary says while most of his classmates went in for jobs after graduation, he opted to stay back in his village for farming. “Having spent nearly 28 years on growing crops or maintaining a dairy, I feel this is a very satisfying career. I am sure several more could have done the same if they were better educated.”
“Teaching children agriculture in classes is not a bad idea. The government only needs to ensure that the teaching involves practical lessons in the fields rather than rote learning,” he adds.
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