Since 2013, Agriculture for Food Security (AgFS) has been an optional subject for higher secondary students in 20 pilot schools across the country.
In the past four years it has expanded to 39 schools all with about 2200 students. The plan now is to take it to all higher secondary schools in the country.
“The main objective to introduce the curriculum is to create awareness on the self-employment opportunity in the agriculture sector as a long term vision and to supplement nutritious foods for the school children as an immediate objective” said the Royal Education Council curriculum specialist Wangchuk Rabten, adding that it has been observed that AgFS is one of the most popular subjects and opted in class IX and X.
Currently, there are 39 Secondary Schools implementing the AgFS subjects. At least teacher from each school were trained to teach the subject.
“Since 2013, certain need for improvement were found and the comprehensive review was done by a team of subject specialists from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Ministry of Education and Royal Education Council (REC) reviewed the AgFS contents last year,” he said. “It will be introduced as vocational subject for classes XI and XII from the next academic year.”
He said the piloting phase is now over and the curriculum is ready and has been handed over to the education ministry implementation.
According to the Bhutan food security and accelerated poverty reduction project report of 2013, about 35 percent of the respondents faced food shortage during the year, 51 percent faced food shortage for more than four months, while 49 percent had inadequate food for three months or less.
While the nutritional indicators have improved, food security and malnutrition remains a challenge in the lagging regions in Bhutan.
“As our country is an agro-ecological zone, it provides a great opportunity for us to explore our agriculture skills in a long term career path and reduce the rate of dependency on the imported foods,” said Wangchuk Rabten. “The subject includes both theory and practical knowledge and skill of all agriculture basis like forestry, agriculture and livestock and also on vegetable production, dairy, poultry, piggery and horticulture which is designed in a way so that it provides the students to be well equipped in overall knowledge of agriculture.”
Plant protection through effective microorganism technology, mixed farming, idea of ecological zone, livestock rearing, protected horticulture and various related ideas were also included in curriculum.
“What they learn in normal subjects in schools is not enough since it’s mostly about theory, we need to implement it in real field where practical session is required to subject abundant knowledge and hands on experience,” he said, adding that those schools that has adopted the subject in the past four years has seen great progress in school agriculture programmes which has ultimately helped in curbing the budget and consuming healthy foods especially for the boarding schools.
“It is found that students who have taken up the AgFS subject are doing comparatively better and are helping in getting better opportunities to get qualified in agriculture related courses after class 12,” said the SAP coordinator for Ministry of Agriculture, BB Rai. “The students can take agriculture as an alternate career option which will curb the youth unemployment, promote dignity of labor and contribute to self-sufficiency which is one ultimate goal of gross national happiness.”