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BACKGROUND OF STUDY
From a global perspective civilization began with agriculture, when our nomadic ancestors began to settle and grow their own food, human society was forever changed (Nova, 1996). Not only did villages, towns and cities begin to flourish, but so did knowledge, the arts and the technological sciences.
Agriculture has an immense impact to humanity in terms of global food supplies, hunger alleviation, economic development and provision of employment (Nova, 1996). Therefore agriculture can be considered to be a pillar for human survival and hence the importance of agriculture being taught at all levels of education.
In the U.S.A, formal programs in agricultural education are conducted at Agricultural education schools, community colleges and universities. As a vocational educational program, agricultural education focuses on three major components - formal classroom instruction, career experience programmes and leadership development. These components are delivered through a competency based curriculum in the context of agriculture in the USA (Lloyd and Osborne, 1988). Beyond the Agricultural education agriculture program, community colleges and universities provide excellent opportunities for students to specialize and gain skills and knowledge in agriculture (Williams and Dollisso, 1998).
Agriculture is the traditional foundation of Chinese society and China is facing a great challenge in restructuring its system to meet the needs of the market economy. The country‟s economic system is shifting from a centrally planned to a market–driven system (State Council, 1999). In particular agriculture education is playing an important role in preparing people for a new phase of rural development. According to Xiarong and Thomas (2002) China‟s economic reform movement proposed Agriculture curriculum and strategies to meet the needs of the new economic realities in Chinese agricultural education.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the agricultural sector is still the dominant provider of employment, and it remains crucial for economic growth. Moreover in most parts of Africa food security is still a critical issue and therefore food production will continue to be a major focus of agricultural education and training institutions (Vandenbosch, 2006).
In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture has been introduced in general school curricula at Agricultural education education levels as a compulsory or as an optional subject. The rationale for offering agriculture to Agricultural education school students counter the apparent negative attitude to farming by many Agricultural education school students, whose occupational choices are often limited, and thus exposing them to the knowledge and skills that they would require in agricultural production, should they choose to become farmers (Abalu, 2001).
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for Nigeria and therefore teaching the subject in Agricultural education schools effectively is very important (Mwangi and Mwai, 2002). Before independence in 1963, agriculture was taught in primary schools to the Africans only, and the method of teaching particularly the practical work made the subject unpopular (Ngugi, Isinika, Temu and Kitalyi, 2002). Occasionally agriculture work was used as a punishment for errant pupils. However after independence, agriculture has been incorporated into the school curriculum. This has given it importance comparable to that of other examinable subjects in the Agricultural education school curriculum.
With regard to teaching agriculture in Agricultural education schools, during the period between 1965 and 1976, the United States Agency for International development, (USAID) played a prominent role in supporting the introduction of agriculture in Agricultural education schools by financing the building of workshops, equipping of schools and the training of agriculture lecturers at Egerton University. However due to the strict conditions that Agricultural education schools had to fulfill before they could be allowed to teach agriculture, only about 1,000 students were taking the subject at the level by 1966 (Weir, 1967). This trend continued so that in 1980, only about 100 schools out of 1,760 were offering agriculture as an examinable sungject.
Statement of the Problem
Despite the greater number of Agricultural education graduates produced by our tertiary institutions every year, there are a number of schools where Agricultural education lecturers are not competent in the teaching of the subject. In addition, the attitude of the students in Agricultural education schools towards Agricultural education as a profession is not encouraging. This makes the teaching of Agricultural education ineffective even where there are competent lecturers to teach. It is on this premise that this study is designed to investigate the attitude of students to teaching and learning of Agricultural education in Agricultural education schools.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to investigate the attitudes of students in Ibrahim Bagdamosi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger state, towards the study of Agricultural education as a discipline among science education student and to find out if the course should be made compulsory for all science education students in the school. The study is also designed to make recommendations for lecturers and other stakeholders on how to arouse or improve students’ attitudes towards the discipline.
In order to investigate the attitude of students to Agricultural education, the following questions were raised:
1. What are the students’ attitudes towards Agricultural education in IBB university?
2. To what extent do the attitudes of the students influence their lecturers’ attitude towards the subject in IBB university? Or to what extent does the lecturers’ attitude to the subject influence students’ attitude?
3. What are their attitudes towards problem solving as a result of unavailability of textbooks and other instructional materials?
4. Should Agricultural education be made compulsory for all science students in IBB university?
Scope of the Study
The study was limited to tertiary institutions with particular reference to Ibrahim Bagdamosi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State. Based on the time frame and financial constraints in covering all the tertiary institutions in Niger state, the study was also limited to the students in Science education.
Significance of the Study
It is hoped that the results of the study will assist Agricultural education lecturers to develop new learning experiences for the students and to reorganize these learning experiences in ways enough to arouse the interest of the students.
It would be helpful if lecturers were to improve on obsolete teaching methods and use adequate, modern and relevant instructional materials and textbooks at their disposed to the fullest.
This study may also assist the students to improve their attitude towards the study of the subject. Finally, the government and parents would benefit from the study of their roles as highlighted in the recommendation column.
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