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In recognition of the role agriculture must play in the economy, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be working together to restructure agricultural education.
Speaking during his contribution to the 2010/11 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives recently, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, noted that the agricultural education infrastructure in Jamaica is not responding to the needs of the sector.
“Continued modernisation of the sector requires agricultural workers with far greater levels of skills and competencies than currently obtains. The main vocational technical institutions, Elim Agricultural School and Knockalva Agricultural School, designed to train students at this level, have fallen short,” Dr. Tufton said.
He added that the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine and the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE), are not producing the quantum or range of specialists required to drive the new agriculture.
Dr. Tufton further noted that in 2008, there was only one Jamaican graduate from UWI St. Augustine, where the agricultural faculty has long been reduced to a department.
He said that the Knockalva programme will be restructured to produce Agricultural Technicians at the level equivalent to the output of Heart, Ebony Park. In this regard, the Ministry sought and obtained the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to review the current programmes at Knockalva, develop appropriate curricula and programmes to produce the new technicians, and identify resource gaps that must be filled.
On the basis of this study, new programmes will be put in place at Knockalva under the management of Heart. The new technicians will provide critical technical support to the sector and will be able to easily matriculate into tertiary education programmes, Dr. Tufton added.
He also stated that discussions are well advanced with the UWI, Mona, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Agriculture and fisheries, to develop a School of Agriculture, appropriately resourced and offering the mix of programmes, consistent with the demands of a modern agricultural sector.
“We are also encouraged by the initiative involving the University of Technology, in partnership with CASE, to introduce a degree in agricultural engineering,” Dr. Tufton said.