From the coming academic year 2019, Agriculture and Food Security (AgFS) will be regularised as a subject for classes IX to XII.

To regularise and further improve the subject, a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Royal Education Council (REC), agriculture and education ministries in Thimphu yesterday.

The MoU identifies roles and responsibilities of the respective agencies to regularise AgFS curriculum as an optional or compulsory subject in classes IX and X and as an elective subject in classes XI and XII under Vocational and Commercial Studies. Students of classes XI and XII can take up AgFS as one of the five subjects they can opt for.

A task force comprising members from education and agriculture ministries and REC has developed a curriculum framework with guidelines for schools on AgFS implementation in each classes from IX to XII and four sets of textbooks. There are 45 schools and 3,982 students studying the subject as of yesterday.

Curriculum specialist with REC and a member of the task force, Wangchuk Rabten presenting the brief status report on agriculture for food security said that the curriculum would not only prepare children for the world of work but also integrate education with agriculture which is one of the largest employment sectors in the country.

He said AgFS curriculum is designed to develop potential in students to be creative, innovative, resourceful, skillful and dedicated as well as provide opportunity for students to apply their prior knowledge and skills learnt through different subjects in the primary schools.

The curriculum also expects to provide general concepts of agriculture activities, farm management and concepts of starting a business.

The curriculum is designed for a time period of 50 hours of instructional time and 30 hours club’s periods (75 periods of 40 minutes in 25 weeks).

Wangchuk Rabten said the curriculum is designed to be dynamic and creative than the academic subjects facilitating objective teaching and authentic learning for usefulness in day-to-day life and not just for examinations.

The students of classes IX and X will not have examinations but will be assessed based on different internal assessments. Students of classes XI and XII would be assessed both in internal and year-end examination with markings of 50 percent each.

To provide students with cognitive skills in application of fundamental scientific principles in day-to-day life and to provide alternative academic pathways, a bilateral MoU was also signed between the education and agriculture ministry in 2013. Through the MoU, the AgFS subject was developed and piloted as an optional subject for classes IX and XII.

Agriculture secretary, Rinzin Dorji said the MoU would help address national issues of both the agriculture sector and youth unemployment. “We can encourage and motivate many youth to go back to farms but if they are not equipped with the skills and the knowledge they will not be able to do anything.”

Education secretary Karma Yeshi said such initiatives would help fulfill the country’s goal of self-sufficiency. “It would be good if self sufficiency starts from food,” he said.

Appreciating the hard work put into developing AgFS curriculum, the education secretary said that it is in line with the ministry’s goal of incorporating more vocational activities in the education system. “Agriculture is an optional subject for now but because of its importance, we will try our best to make this available in each of our schools.”

REC director Kinga Dakpa said the task force is continuing their work to make the curriculum more relevant and of standard quality.  “We have started our work on diversification of the curricula to provide students with more opportunities.”

The MoU for five years can be terminated by mutual consent of all the parties.

Karma Cheki