The Integration of Agriculture, Science, and Technology What can by yfv54841

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									  THE INTEGRATION OF AGRICULTURE, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY: WHAT
   CAN BRAZILIAN AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION LEARN FROM THE UNITED
                         STATES AGRISCIENCE MOVEMENT?
     Francisco C. Leite (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park-PA, USA, fleite@psu.edu)
  Rama B. Radhakrishna (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park-PA, USA, brr100@psu.edu)
        Connie D. Baggett (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park-PA, USA, bbc@psu.edu)


Resumo

        No artigo, algumas recomendações pertinentes ao futuro da educação agrícola brasileira
são formuladas, partindo de uma análise histórica comparativa das trajetórias da educação agrícola
no Brasil e nos Estados Unidos, e considerando as profundas mudanças na agropecuária e no meio
rural brasileiro. O referencial é o movimento denominado agriscience, nascido nos Estados
Unidos em 1988 a partir de um estudo do Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa que recomenda
expressamente estender o conceito de educação agrícola para além da produção agropecuária, e
promover a integração do ensino de ciências e tecnologia com ensino da agropecuária. Após
extensa revisão bibliográfica os autores recomendam que: 1) os programas de educação agrícola
no Brasil devem promover uma maior integração curricular entre agropecuária, ciência, e
tecnologia, como forma de intensificar as relações entre oportunidades de aprendizagem
contextualizadas e a transferência de conhecimentos e habilidades entre diversas situações; 2) a
educação agrícola no Brasil transcenda os limites das escolas agrícolas e seja estendida
principalmente para as escolas rurais, não como programas com objetivos profissionalizantes, mas
sim como oportunidades de uttilizar os conteúdos e experiencias agropecuárias como contexto
para a integração de princípios e conceitos oriundos de várias ciências; 3) os programas de
educação agrícola no Brasil sejam revistos no sentido de incluir conteúdos que transcendam os
aspectos puramente produtivos da agropecuária e mesmo a agropecuária própriamente dita,
visando preparar os estudantes para carreiras dentro e fora do setor, uma vez que o meio rural não
é exclusivamente agrícola e a agropecuária não é exclusivamente rural. Para tanto, é
imprescindível que as escolas agrícolas dotem seus alunos de compreensão científica para que
sejam capazes de entender, aplicar, e gerar tecnologia; 4) se conduzam pesquisas em escolas
agrícolas e rurais para avaliar a validade da experiencia americana onde foi comprovado que a
utilização de conceitos agrícolas no ensino de ciências melhora sensivelmente o aproveitamento
dos alunos em ciências. Finalmente, o conceito de educação através da agricultura é contruido ao
longo do trabalho, como uma estratégia adequada à realidade brasileira, em complementação aos
conceitos de educação em agricultura e sobre agricultura propostos pelo Conselho Nacional de
Pesquisa dos Estados Unidos em 1988.


                                           Introduction

       As society continuously moves towards a knowledge-based economy, jobs have become

technologically complex and are demanding sophisticated work skills. As pointed out in the call

for papers for the 2002 International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and

Training, the potential contribution that an individual can make in acquiring and applying
knowledge for improving processes, products and services is becoming more important than the

physical labor. Raw materials, capital, and labor itself has been, many times, replaced by the

application of knowledge as the main mean of production. In this sense, Chiasson & Burnett

(2001) indicate that the importance of a good education goes far beyond just employment and job

skills in today’s demanding society. To live properly in a modern society, it is imperative that

people have a quality education simply to develop everyday life skills and to take full advantage of

all information available today. In an environment like this, scientific literacy is vital to a nation’s

cultural well being and economic competitiveness (Trexler & Miller, 1992).

        The nature of agriculture lies in its intrinsic and direct relationship with the natural world.

Agriculture is, in fact, an essentially interdisciplinary and complex subject that cuts across many

scientific, social, and practical disciplines (FAO, 1996). Since agriculture is intrinsically

connected with the primary source of food and social well being agricultural education helps

students to develop awareness about the complexity of human actions introduced in the natural

world. Yet, the role of agricultural education has been historically challenged by the

dichotomization of its purposes and content in vocational and academic education. This dichotomy

lies behind the degree of integration between agriculture and science, and defines the character of

agricultural education programs.

        Agricultural education must address these new demands bridging the gap between its

vocational and academic tracks in order to provide students with scientific literacy needed to judge

evidence and draw conclusions from the scientific point of view.

                                        Purpose of the paper

        This theoretical paper assumes that the remarkable transformations undergoing the

Brazilian agriculture and rural milieu bring about tremendous changes in expectations and

perspectives for agricultural students. These changes bring extraordinary challenges for Brazilian


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agricultural education, which require a new equilibrium between the vocational and the academic

aspects of agricultural education programs in order to make students able to understand, apply, and

generate technology.

        The primary purpose of this paper is to engage educators, school administrators, and

policy makers in a dialogue to think and debate about new roles to science education and

agricultural education to enhance the relationship between opportunities to learn in context and the

ability to transfer knowledge and skills across situations. The concept of agriscience is the

background in which the discussion is grounded. To fulfill its purpose, this paper specifically

examined:

1. The historical trajectory of agricultural education in Brazil and in the United States as related

    to the dualism between vocational and academic tracks.

2. The transformations undergone and undergoing in the Brazilian agriculture and rural milieu.

3. The foundations of the agriscience movement in the United States

4. The potential contributions of the agriscience movement to the Brazilian agricultural

    education.

                                     Theoretical Framework

Agricultural Education in Brazil and in the United States: A Brief Historical Perspective

        The first agricultural education school in Brazil was established in 1875 (Franco, 1987)

during the imperial period, designed to prepare agronomists with the express mandate to “always

connect theory and practice of such a broad and important science” (“Carta Régia,” 1812).

However, agricultural education was formally recognized as an educational field only in 1910,

through the Presidential Decree 8319. This legal instrument divided agricultural education

hierarchically into 11segments, 6 of which dealt with formal and 5 with non-formal education. The




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top two segments in the hierarchy – higher education and middle education1 - were supposed to be

theoretical and practical based on the ground rules of the agricultural science to promote the

scientific advancement of agriculture. Those two segments differed only in terms of complexity of

the programs. In short, agricultural education, as defined in those two early legal instruments,

embraced both the science and the practice of agriculture, as well as higher education in

agriculture.

           The Decree 9613 issued in August 1946, also known as Organic Law of Agricultural

Education, limited the concept of agricultural education in Brazil to formal education programs

below the college level devoted to the professional preparation of people working in agriculture.

The Organic Law of Agricultural Education shifted the definition of agricultural education from

being science-based to a strictly vocational definition. The situation remains essentially the same

today. The first Directives and Basics of National Education Law (1961) did not bring any

significant change in this situation. Eleven years later, vocational education became mandatory in

all secondary education programs throughout the country (Law 5692, 1971). Such a legal

requirement was revoked eleven years later through the Law 7044 (1982). Current Brazilian

educational legislation (Directives and Basics of National Education Law, 1996; Decree 2208,

1997) placed agricultural education into a broad educational modality named professional

education, which shall be delivered in independent form, but articulated with general education

programs. In short, since 1946 agricultural education in Brazil has become focused more on

training than in science.

           Agricultural education in the United States began with a strong link with agricultural

research, as part of general education. The Hatch Act of 1887, which established agricultural

experiment stations, also called for the diffusion of agricultural information to the public. The

1
    Equivalent to grades 9 – 11.


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federal government officially recognizes agricultural education with the passage of the Smith-

Huges Act in 1917, when over 90,000 students were enrolled in agriculture classes in 4,665 high

schools (Moore, 1987). The passage of Smith-Huges Act in 1917 promoted the concept of

vocational agriculture as a separate program devoted to education for farming (production

agriculture). Hillison (1996) indicates that the Smith-Huges Act shifted the definition of

agricultural education from being science-based and academic-oriented to a strictly vocational

definition.

        With the passage of the Vocational Education Act of 1963 the concept of agricultural

education in the US was broadened to encompass off-farm occupations. McCormick, Cox,

Zurbrick, & Miller (1988) point out that even with a broadened instructional mission, the primary

purpose of vocational agricultural education programs remains in preparing individuals for

employment in agricultural occupations. However, the concerns about the declining profitability

and international competitiveness of the US agriculture in the late 1970s and early 1980s (NRC,

1988), and the great decline in laborers in the middle 1970s due to advancements in technology

(Shelley-Tolbert, Conroy, & Dailey, 2000), indicated a need for increased education in both

science and technological applications in high school agricultural education programs.

        As a result, from 1985 to 1988 the Committee on Agricultural Education in Secondary

Schools of the National Research Council (NRC) conducted a study on agricultural education in

the US secondary schools to address the concerns about declining enrollments, instructional

contents, and quality in agricultural education programs. Such a study resulted in a 1998 report

titled “Understanding Agriculture: New Directions for Education,” which has become one of the

most cited documents in relevant agricultural education publications in the United States (Conroy,

2000). Recognizing the changing forces acting in agriculture and education, the report points to




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two major challenges: agricultural education must become more than vocational education and

major revisions are needed within vocational agriculture (NRC, 1988).

          The literature (McCormick, Cox, Zurbrick, & Miller, 1988; Hillison, 1996; Conroy, 2000;

Shelley-Tolbert, Conroy, & Dailey, 2000; Chiasson & Burnett, 2001) indicated two major impacts

the NRC report has caused in agricultural education: 1) a new broadened mission to agricultural

education encompassing education in agriculture (vocational agriculture) and education about

agriculture (agricultural literacy), and 2) the acceptance of some systematic instruction in

agriculture should be provided to all students, with an understanding of basic scientific concepts.

In short, the NRC report brought the science-based nature of the agricultural curriculum back to a

position of prominence. Figure 1 provides a graphical description of the historical trajectory of

agricultural education in Brazil and in the United States.



                                                                       Brazil
      Academic




                                                                       United States
      Vocational




                   1875 1887   1917     1946            1971    1982   1988


      Figure 1. The academic and vocational aspects in the trajectory of agricultural

      education in Brazil and in the United States.




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The Changes in the Agriculture and in the Rural Milieu

           Agriculture has changed dramatically, becoming highly scientific and technical in all

areas. During many years, the definitions of agriculture2 and farming were pretty much the same –

cultivating the soil, harvesting crops, and raising livestock. However, the modernization of the

means of production and the continuous growth in complexity and interdependency of cultural,

social, and commercial relationships between urban and rural milieus brought up a need to re-

define agriculture. Herren & Donahue (1991) defined agriculture beyond its productive aspect, as

a broad industry engaged in the production of plants and animals for food and fiber, the provision

of agricultural supplies and services, and the processing, marketing, and distribution of

agricultural products. Krebs & Newman (1994) and Solbrig (2001) indicated the scientific and

technological advancements in mechanization, biology, genetics, microelectronics, and chemistry

as the major contributors in changing agriculture. These technological advancements reflected on

new machinery, crop varieties, animal breeds, immunization technologies, chemical fertilizers,

herbicides, pesticides, computers, communication technologies, and so on, which in turn impacted

not only the physical, but also the cultural, economic, and social aspects of the rural milieu.

           Solbrig (2001) indicated that the changes taking place in agriculture due to scientific and

technological advancements has impacted the rural milieu in four major areas: the production

process, the economy of farming, the rural social structure, and the environment. According to

Solbrig, the production process has been affected essentially by new input technologies,

management operations, and by the advances in molecular biology (biotechnology). The increase

in productivity brought about by new technologies has contributed to keep agricultural prices in

their downward secular tendency, with tremendous effects on the economy of farming. In

addition, new technologies are often capital intensive and labor sparse, which impact not only the

2
    The word “Agriculture” is used in this text as related to the Portuguese word “Agropecuária.”


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economy of farming but also the rural social structure, as a result of the reduction in the rural labor

force and employment opportunities. All these transformations in agriculture created a major

disturbance in the environment, which requires constant investments in new knowledge in order to

restore and/or maintain the sustainability.

        The transformations in the agriculture are bringing a new face to the rural milieu. Graziano

da Silva & Del Grossi (n.d.) indicated that since middle of 1980s a new pattern is emerging in the

Brazilian rural milieu, based on three main attributes: a) a modern agriculture based on

commodities and closely linked with processing industries, b) the existence of a set of non-

agricultural activities related to dwelling, leisure, service, and non-agricultural industries, and c) a

set of new agricultural activities related to special markets. Such a new pattern has as major

characteristics the emergence of the part-time farmer and the phenomenon named pluriactivity,

which means the combination of agricultural and non-agricultural economic activities. According

to Graziano da Silva & Del Grossi (n.d.), the income originated from non-agricultural activities

was greater than the income generated by agricultural activities among rural residents in Brazil in

1998. The pluriactivity has been related in the literature as also occurring in Europe and in Israel

(Eikeland & Lie, 1999; Sofer, 2001).

        The transformations in agriculture and in the rural milieu have lead to changes in

expectations and perspectives for agricultural students. Studying two different rural settings in the

states of Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, Carneiro (1999) found that rural youth are

dramatically affected by the transformations occurring in the agriculture and in the rural milieu.

According to Carneiro, rural youth perceive education as the main alternative to a new standard of

living, due to the physical, economic, social, and cultural integration between the rural and the

urban milieus. The point is that rural youth are considering occupations outside of agricultural

careers as major alternatives to a better standard of living, even when they do not see themselves


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living in urban settings. American literature (Duval, 1988; Whent, 1992; Chiasson & Burnett,

2001) also documented changes in agricultural students. They are planning for careers not

previously associated with agriculture and are reaching for career opportunities that extend far

beyond the familiar face of agriculture in the local community to dimensions that have national

and international scope. Another interesting point indicated by the literature (FAO, 1997;

Chiasson & Burnett, 2001) referred to the fact that many agricultural students have no agricultural

or rural background, showing interest in agricultural as a secondary economic activity and/or as a

way to understand agriculture technology to apply in associated activities.

        Agricultural education is expected to supply students with the tools to face the challenges

of a changing agriculture and rural milieu. Such tools must address issues beyond the merely

productive aspect of agriculture and the merely agricultural aspect of the rural milieu. Agricultural

students should be prepared to pursue careers in and outside of agriculture. This is the new

dimension of the social role of agricultural schools, emerged from the transformations in

agriculture and in the rural milieu. Figure 2 summarizes the transformations in agriculture and in

the rural milieu, and its implications to agricultural education.

           Changes                         Consequences                       Challenges

  Scientific and technological         Agricultural students:
       advancements in                     New expectations and
           agriculture                     perspectives
                                                                        Agricultural education:
                                           Diverse backgrounds
                                                                          To cover more than
                                           Diverse career paths           agricultural production
                                                                          To prepare for careers
                                                                          beyond agriculture
 Rural milieu                                                             To provide tools to
    Production process                Rural milieu:                       understand, apply, and
    Economy of farming                   Part-time farmer                 generate technology
    Rural social structure               Pluriactivity
    Environment


Figure 2. Schematic representation of the transformations in agriculture and in the rural milieu



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The Agriscience Movement

        American education turned its attention to science in basic education, in recent times,

through the “A Nation at Risk” report issued by the National Commission on Excellence in

Education in 1983. Such a report alarmed many Americans with students’ low levels of basic skill

performance in science (Thompson, 1998), and had tremendous impact in the United States

education. As a result, an educational reform was launched with the intent to improve the quality

of education, especially in basic education.

        In the midst of the reforms brought about by the “A Nation at Risk” report, the National

Research Council (NRC) established the Committee on Agricultural Education in Secondary

Schools at the request of the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Education to assess the

contributions of agricultural education to the nation. As asserted early in this paper, a report titled

“Understanding Agriculture: New Directions for Education” was issued by the NRC in 1988 as a

result of the committee’s work. Along with several other recommendations, the report advocated

that subject matter of instruction in and about agriculture should be revised and broadened. In this

sense, one of the major revisions suggested by the NRC was the incorporation of additional

science-based curriculum in agricultural education as a way to keep the programs updated. This is

recognized as the starting point of the agriscience movement in the United States.

        The main idea behind the concept of agriscience is the integration of agriculture, science,

and technology to help students develop skills to understand, apply, and generate technology by

giving them opportunities to learn in context and ability to transfer knowledge and skills across

situations. Agriscience is defined as “the notion of identifying and using concepts of biological,

chemical, and physical science in the teaching of agriculture and using agricultural examples to

relate these concepts to the students” (Conroy & Walker, 1998, p. 12). In short, agriscience are

programs that emphasize the technological and scientific aspects of agriculture (Duval, 1988). Its


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goal can be described as to enhance the effectiveness of the teaching in science and in agriculture

through increasing the student’s awareness of the interrelationship of technology, science,

agricultural and environmental science, and natural resources.

        Trexler & Miller (1992) indicated that students see science as textbook-driven, with little

personal relevance, rather than as a web of interconnected ideas helping them to solve problems

and bringing understanding to their world. To them, science education must connect to real world

applications by bringing relevance to learners. In this sense, Thompson & Balschweid (1999)

highlighted that scientific concepts should be taught in the agricultural education classroom where

students would be allowed to apply their knowledge of science to a rich and meaningful context,

since disciplines do not stand apart in isolated subjects. It means, according to Shelley-Tolbert,

Conroy, & Dailey (2000), to take advantage of the active learning opportunities created by

agricultural education, enabling learning where pupils employ their academic understandings and

abilities in a variety of out-of-school contexts to solve complex, real world problems, both alone

and in various group structures. There is a synergetic relationship in the integration of science and

agriculture: the instruction in one reinforces the instruction in the other.

        There are two final important points to consider regarding the agriscience movement in the

US. First, the integration between agriculture, science, and technology, is improving not only the

quality of the agricultural education programs, but also giving them a new image of being more

than farm crops, animal and machinery. Second, research findings (Mabie & Baker, 1996;

Thompson & Balschweid, 1999; Chiasson & Burnett, 2001) support that integration of science

into agriculture curricula is the more effective way to teach science, and that students taught by

integrating agricultural and scientific principles demonstrated higher achievement in both,

agriculture and science than did students taught by traditional approaches.




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                               Conclusions and Recommendations

1. Agricultural education started in Brazil in 1875 as well-balanced programs in agriculture and

science at all levels. The Organic Law of Agricultural Education (1946) restricted the concept of

agricultural education to programs below the college level and shifted its definition to a strictly

vocational meaning. This situation persists until today, with minor changes. In the Unites States,

agricultural education followed pretty much the same course, except that from 1988 on a strong

academic movement starts integrating science and technology, bringing the science-based

curriculum back to a position of prominence in agricultural education programs. This movement

has giving agricultural education a new face and broadened its concept to education in and about

agriculture.

Agricultural education in Brazil should integrate more science and technology into the curriculum

to enhance the relationship between opportunities to learn in the context and the ability to transfer

knowledge and skills across situations. This integration has the potential to break the agricultural

schools’ stigma in being non-college bound institutions, giving them a new identity and image.

Also, agricultural education programs should be extended on a regular basis to rural schools, not

as a vocational program, but rather as an exploratory opportunity to take advantage of the

students’ agricultural/rural background/interest and utilize agricultural content and experiences as

a context for integrating principles and concepts from many sciences.

2. Following a worldwide trend, Brazilian agriculture and rural milieu are changing due to

scientific and technological advancements. New social and economic actors are emerging.

Farming is no longer the only economic activity in rural settings; in some cases it is not even the

major one. Neither the rural milieu is exclusively agricultural, nor is agriculture exclusively rural




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anymore. This brings substantial changes in the students’ expectations, perspectives, and

backgrounds.

Brazilian agricultural education programs should be redesigned to cover beyond the production

aspect of agriculture and even beyond agriculture itself, to prepare students for careers in and

outside agriculture. It is critical that agricultural schools give students awareness about the

complexity and implications of changes introduced in the natural world by human actions and

make them, through scientific literacy, able to understand, apply, and generate technology.

3. Since 1988 the US started a movement to enhance the effectiveness of the teaching in science

and in agriculture. This movement, known as agriscience, consists of agricultural programs that

emphasize the technological and scientific aspects of agriculture. The integration between

agriculture, science, and technology, is improving the quality of the agricultural education

programs, since students taught by integrating agricultural and scientific principles have

demonstrated higher achievement in both, agriculture and science, than did students taught by

traditional approaches.

The use of agricultural concepts in the teaching of science in rural schools in Brazil could

represent a great opportunity to the practice of contextual teaching and learning as well as to bring

more equity to the educational system since students could have higher achievement in science

with this approach. Research in this area is highly recommended in Brazilian agricultural and rural

schools. On the other hand, the increment in the use of scientific and technological concepts in the

teaching of agriculture in Brazilian agricultural schools could face the challenge of giving

agricultural students a stronger base to understand and solve real world daily problems, as well as

more consistent motivation to lifelong learning or even to pursue higher education in any field.

We call this two-way approach “education through agriculture.” According to this approach,




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agricultural education is not an end in itself, but rather a means to give students a deep

understanding of the natural world and the ability to judge evidence and draw conclusions from

the scientific point of view.



                                      Educational importance

        The understanding of the context in which agricultural and rural schools operate in Brazil

is critical to promote effective equity in the scientific literacy of their students as compared to non-

agricultural and non-rural students. In this sense, any official school classification as rural and

agricultural based upon merely geographical, structural, and administrative criteria, should be

revised to include the social, cultural, and economic interfaces. Such a revision must reflect into

the curricula as the sum of all activities taking place into the school.

        Recognizing the close interrelationship between agriculture, science, and technology

implies that agricultural education is given a new status in the educational system as well as given

the responsibility to be the main supporter of the environmental, economic, and social welfare.

Agricultural education has an enlarged social role as programs devoted to prepare people with

scientific literacy beyond agricultural careers and beyond agriculture itself.

        The education through agriculture as suggested in this paper has vast implications to

teacher preparation programs in Brazil. Teacher preparation programs must provide opportunities

to explore and reflect within each discipline the linkages with the natural world and agriculture.

Interfaces are needed to explore ways to combine rigorous science education with the practice of

agriculture and vice-versa.




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Key words: agricultural education, rural education, agriscience, science education, agricultural
schools.



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