Since 2016, Aeres has been involved in the project Strengthening of vocational education and training for food security in Myanmar. In this project, Aeres and partners help to give agri-education in Myanmar a boost. Much has been achieved in a short time. At the 15 SAIs (State Agricultural Institutes - comparable with Dutch Agricultural BTEC education), spread throughout the country, the curriculum has been revised and adapted to regional needs, teachers have received extensive training in new didactics and new subjects and investments in IT requirements have been made.
In 2015, Arie de Jong, project manager, travelled to Myanmar with colleague Teus Korevaar. The aim: to draw up the state of affairs of agricultural education on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What they saw were full classrooms, traditional didactics focused on subject matter and the same curriculum on all SAIs, not adapted to the possibilities of the region and the needs of the local labour market. The education did include fieldwork and practical lessons, but the group size impeded the acquisition of skills.
It was inconsistent with Myanmar's desire to become self-sufficient and to eventually start exporting food. In consultation with Myanmar's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, responsible for agricultural education, the goals were set: a new curriculum for the SAIs that is attuned to the regional land use and local labour market, has a focus on competence based learning and is gender sensitive and inclusive. "We need to educate many skill full professionals through our SAIs to meet our goals for food security, food safety and nutrition for the people of Myanmar", says Dr. Ye Tint Tun, Director General of the Department of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation. "We need the innovative ideas and experience from Aeres and other partners to help build an agricultural education program in Myanmar."
Image 1&2: Traditional classrooms at State Agricultural Institutes (SAI Pyinmana and SAI Tharyarwaddy).
Image 3&4: Examples of practical lessons; working on the fields and watering plants at SAI Pyinmana.
A stronger connection to the work field
One of the first changes made to the curriculum was the inclusion of two job profiles. Students in their third (and last) year at an SAI can choose between the job profiles of extension worker or entrepreneur as to have a better connection with the labour market. Changes were also made in regional diversification. For each school, the region has been carefully examined: which products are produced and which skills and competences do we need in that region? In an area where a lot of sugarcane is produced, the emphasis of the course content at schools in that region is on sugarcane production. At other schools, the content may be more focused on rice, dairy, vegetables or other agricultural products. “Job profiles and regional specializations deliver professionals who have a thorough understanding of the agricultural possibilities of their region”, says Arie de Jong, “so they can make a meaningful contribution to the local economy.“
Image 5&6: Specialization modules at the SAIs are now more focused on regional demands. At SAI Pyinmana, specialization is focused on vegetables and animal husbandry.
The connection with the work field is further strengthened by introducing RAAB meetings. RAAB means Regional Agricultural Advisory Board and consists of people from agribusinesses, government, NGO's and other agricultural organizations. "It was an important improvement," says Arie, "RAAB meetings enable the school to discuss relevant developments and needs. They can then implement the outcomes into their curriculum, thus making sure that their course content connects with what is needed in the work field."
"RAAB meetings help improve our curriculum", says Ms. Tin Moe Htut, teacher at SAI Tharyarwaddy, "They make useful suggestions, for example to include organic farming in our course material, or do a module about floral design."