October - December 2016
Education is a driving force behind quality human resource development (HRD) in different sectors that contribute to the Indian economy. Agricultural education is important not only in steering the HRD process, but also develops management skills in working with multiple environment in the rural settings. Realizing this, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), being the apex organization for ensuring quality education in agriculture in the country, continued its concerted efforts in planning, development, coordination and quality assurance in higher agricultural education in the country and thus, strives to maintain and upgrade quality and relevance of higher agricultural education through partnership with State Agricultural Universities, Deemed-to-be-Universities, Central Agricultural Universities and Central Universities with Agriculture Faculty. To enable all these, the ICAR provides financial assistance to the Agricultural Universities for strengthening and development of higher agricultural education system.
Quality assurance in higher agricultural education in the country is being achieved through policy support, accreditation, framing of minimum standards for higher agricultural education, academic regulation, personnel policies, review of course curricula and delivery systems, development support for creating/strengthening infrastructure and facilities, improvement of faculty competence and admission of students through all India competitions.
As first and most important step for quality improvement of education, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research periodically appoints Deans’ Committees for revision of course curriculum. In the series, the Fifth Deans’ Committee was constituted to consider contemporary challenges for employability of passing out graduates and to adopt a holistic approach for quality assurance in agricultural education. The Committee undertook a bottom-up approach in respect of curriculum development by obtaining inputs from different stakeholders of agricultural education at different levels. The Committee did deliberate on the skills which the graduates must have and then reverse engineering was done to design the course curriculum. The course curricula have now been restructured to reorient course curricula, to develop the much needed skills and entrepreneurial mind-set among the graduates, and to take up self-employment, contribute to enhance rural livelihood and food security sustainability of agriculture. Some new initiatives that emerged out of this Committees’ recommendations are:
- Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme to enable students to be agri-preneurs;
- Agricultural degree programmes that are of 4 years duration at undergraduate level are declared as ‘Professional degrees’;
- Minimum Standards for Higher Agricultural Education set to ensure land requirements, infrastructure, faculty etc;
- New curricula and new programmes for holistic distribution of courses across semesters in view of the futuristic requirements; and
Accreditation of Agricultural Universities.
Keeping regional requirements in view, the Fifth Deans’ Committee recommended certain optional courses in emerging fields like Precision Farming, Conservation Agriculture, Secondary Agriculture, Hitech Cultivation, Specially Agriculture, Renewable Energy, Artificial Intelligence, Mechatronics, Plastics in Agriculture, Dryland Horticulture, Nano-technology, Agro-meteorology and Climate Change, Waste Disposal and Pollution Abatement, Food Storage Engineering, Food Plant Sanitation and Environmental Control, Emerging Food Processing Technologies etc. The Committee also added courses on Yoga Practices and Human Values, and Ethics to the list of noncredit courses.
The Fifth Deans’ Committee also recommended ‘Student Exchange Programme’ between colleges located in different agro-climatic zones, to promote knowledge sharing, skill development to the graduating students for specialized jobs in view of market needs and demands. In this regard, the Council is strengthening the experimental learning units to enthuse and capacitate the students. In the process, each college would have a Demonstrationcum-Production Centre for training students, field workers of Government Departments and NGOs community leaders in income generation skills. Taking inputs from the Fifth Deans’ Committee, the Council is increasing the number of overseas trainings so as to update knowledge with time, identifying more areas and more programmes for national level trainings through winter/summer schools.
With an objective to have uniformity in the governance of State Agricultural Universities, ICAR brought out first Model Act in 1966 that was revised as latest in 2009. This Model Act is envisaged to bring uniformity in the functioning of all agricultural universities, and to have a pan-India adaptive mechanism to govern higher agricultural education.
Based on in-depth analysis and through comprehensive national level consultation, the Deans’ Committees over the years have been making recommendations for transforming agricultural education system in the country for science-led development. The Council appreciates the efforts of the Deans’ Committee members and associates to have done their best to reshape agricultural education towards excellence as also to attract and retain the youth in agriculture.