[Thought Piece] A Transformation Agenda for Tertiary Agricultural Education Institutions in Africa


Introduction
The current and emerging challenges of agriculture and food systems in Africa are enormous and include, among other factors, (i) rapid growth in demand for food, (ii) rapid commercialization of agriculture, (iii) lagging productivity in production, (iv) changing consumption patterns, (v) climate change, (vi) inadequate transportation infrastructure, (vii) limited electrification, and (viii) poorly developed agro-industries. To address these challenges, tertiary agricultural education (TAE) institutions must transform themselves to enhance the quality and relevance of the services they provide.

Leadership, Management and Quality Assurance
Drawn from Chapter 6, “Leadership and Change Management to Transform Tertiary Agricultural Education Institutions” by Mabel Imbuga, Daniel N. Sila, and John Wesonga; also from Chapter 10, “Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education in Africa” by Violet Makuku and Salome Bukachi.

Innovative TAE institutions in Africa are guided by an entrepreneurial vision based on evidence on labour market trends and on the knowledge and technology required for economic and social development. Academic leaders in these institutions do not wait for change to be forced upon them but, instead, proactively lead their institutions in new directions. Their leaders cultivate in themselves and their colleagues the critically-important dynamic capabilities of sensing, seizing and transforming (Teece, 2018).

Sensing in tertiary education leadership is the use of data and analysis regarding the training, knowledge and technology needs of the country and region where the TAE institution is located. The sensing capability manifests itself through (i) the alignment of institutional strategies with national, regional and continental priorities, (ii) the development of linkages with industry, (iii) interactions with communities and (iv) knowledge of best practices, such as learner-centred education and theme-driven research. Quality-assurance standards and procedures are also important components of the sensing capability. Seizing is the ability to move an academic institution or a team towards action. Once an evidence-based and compelling vision and narrative have been developed, dynamic leaders communicate, motivate, assemble and coordinate the required human, material and financial inputs. The seizing capability is the capacity and willingness to engage internal and external stakeholders, maintain open communication even in times of difficulty and conflict, build partnerships and networks and create sound policies and internal systems. Transforming is the reshaping of organizational culture, creation of shared values, empowering of colleagues and subordinates, embracing of innovation, and scaling up of plans developed through sensing and seizing. Leaders possessing sensing, seizing, and transforming capabilities empower their institutions to learn from successes and failures, thereby constantly improving over time.

Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Drawn from Chapter 7, “Transformative Curricula and Teaching Methods to Meet Labour Market Needs in Tertiary Agricultural Education in Africa” by Keba Hulela, Joseph Mukuni, Might Kojo Abreh, Joseph Amooti Kasozi and David Kraybill.

Employability, including self-employment, is a widely held societal goal of higher education. To improve the employability of graduates, academic programs must target the competencies required by employers and the self-employed. Information about the required competencies is not readily available in most countries and therefore, higher-education systems and institutions must invest in labour market research and make the findings available to academic leaders, curriculum planners, and teachers. Competencies to be targeted can be identified through dialogue with employers and entrepreneurs, graduate tracer studies, and analysis of the task required by major occupations. Research should identify the competency gaps of graduates and learning objectives should be revised accordingly. Transformative TAE institutions can then identify effective curricular content, teaching methods and learning environments to support students in achieving those learning objectives. To gain the desired level of mastery, students need active and experiential learning activities, including laboratory exercises, fieldwork, industry and community exposure, internships, individual and group project- and problem based learning and service learning.

Transformative TAE institutions make use of the vast literature on the processes and stages of learning. They promote and support the use of pedagogical methods that facilitate active learning. Their educators encourage active inquiry by their students, aiming for them to achieve mastery of knowledge and skills, including soft skills, such as critical thinking and oral and written communication. Aware that many of their academic staff members have little or no formal training in pedagogy, transformative TAE institutions provide workshops and other training opportunities for teachers in the setting of learning objectives and the use of active learning methods. Read More here

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