Sunday, 24 January 2010

Agriculture Practicals at a Primary School

Friends on my Facebook and Twitter network already know of a school programme I attended today, on bringing agriculture through practical work. This was at Academic Heights Public School’s new campus in Nagole (Hyderabad). This school was set up by a bunch of six professional managers / entrepreneurs who took a franchise for Andhra Pradesh from the SK Group of Bachpan fame (more popular in Delhi). Today I was the Chief Guest at the launch of their new programme called “Continuing Education and Learning Programmes for Students”. The first domain for this programme is titled “Hello Farmer” to enable students experience villages and farmers lives.

Many of you gave me valuable inputs on what I should cover in my talk. I’ve synthesized all of those ideas into my talk, as you can make out from what I reproduce below! I enjoyed the whole experience largely because of this interaction with many of you on Fb & Twitter over the last two days :-) Thanks a ton!

Before I started my talk, I wanted a sense of what the parents and kids present there thought about the whole initiative. Since the numbers were large, I couldn’t ask individual opinions. Instead I gave two options and asked for a raise of hands.

1. Parents: First choice was whether they “agree that practical / project work is great; exposure to agriculture is wonderful”. The second choice was if “all this is a waste of time and distraction from studies in today’s competitive world”. Overwhelming majority went with the first choice. There were a few who raised hands for the second choice too.

2. Kids: One choice was if “all of this was fun and joy” or anyone thought “this was pain, hard work and more burden”. Every single kid raised hand confirming this was fun!

I was therefore talking to the converted. So I focused on underscoring the value of this approach and brought out some nuances.

Here’s a summary of my talk:

I compliment the management and the faculty of the school for conceiving a structured programme that helps “learning by doing”.

In my opinion, ‘learning by doing’ is the second best form of learning, in the sequence of ‘learning by’… 1. ‘listening’ to a teacher / parent / friend, 2. ‘reading’ books, 3. ‘writing’ notes, 4. ‘seeing’ action as it happens or in films, 5. ‘doing’ by oneself, and 6. ‘teaching’ someone else using whatever method, the ultimate method of learning!

I believe, through this programme, the children learn three things:

1. Life Skills: Through any method of “learning by doing’, whether this programme or other such practicals / project work etc., children learn the very critical life skills. By life skills, I mean capabilities like gathering information, determining alternatives, making choices, appreciating future consequences of current actions, time management! These are as important, if not more, as the many subjects the children learn in the class room. Growing plants, watering them, monitoring the progress will develop a disciplined routine in the child.

2. Focus on practical work in agriculture & rural builds the character and value system in the kids: After experiencing the hardwork involved in farming, the unpredictability of survival & growth of plants, the children will value and respect a farmer. They will appreciate the dignity of labour. The children will also realize the value of food after experiencing the hard work involved in growing, and hopefully not waste food any more! Some parents know that this approach is likely to produce better results than any amount of telling and scolding the kids about wasting food :-)

3. This programme is also a great opportunity for the children to gain knowledge in some very important areas: While introducing me, the Principal mentioned ITC’s brands like Bingo Snacks, Aashirvaad Atta and Classmate Notebooks. I know, most kids are already familiar with these brands, now they will also know how agriculture is the starting point for all such products! Most of you heard about 2012 prediction, some of you may have seen the movie too… The end may not happen in 2012, but won’t be that far away if we do not bother about global warming; I am sure many of you are familiar with that phrase. I know some kids who actively farm on Farmville via Facebook are very aware of this phenomenon. It is important that all of us learn and practice various methods of conserving natural resources. Say, reusing kitchen waste water in the garden, composting vegetable waste into manure, using drip irrigation for saving water etc. I am sure the children will come back from school and teach a thing or two to the parents on this front. And, after all, if we are worried about global warming, it is for their future! Through these practicals, children will also learn about different soils, different conditions under which different crops grow, importance of variety localization, problems in growing some alien breeds etc. Most importantly, I think, the children will start loving fruits & vegetables and eat such nutritious food, without the nagging from the parents!

The beauty is that all of these important lessons – be it life skills, or value system, or the much needed knowledge – are all learnt while having a lot of fun by playing with sand and soil:-) Therefore will be internalized better!

In order to realize all of this,

1. a lot of innovation in the classroom is required, say showing films like ‘Bee Movie’ or pictures of ‘Urban farming’ using the multimedia, besides what is covered in the science class

2. supported by outdoor practicals at the school including growing a nursery from where the children can collect saplings for growing at home. Could be simple crops like pudina, coriander or even tomatoes and chillies

3. supplemented by a highly engaging homework like growing plants in pots or small patches at home, monitoring them and bringing results back to the school.

In short, an integrated design of the programme. That’s my recommendation to the school management and the faculty.

Before the launch speech, I planted a sapling. After the launch, the kids performed a skit on village life. That was lovely. At the end, all of us took a green pledge! Included in the pledge that each of us will plant at least one sapling every year and tend to it, knowing that that’s how a whole garden is taken care…

Before closing this blog, I want to again thank many friends on Facebook and Twitter who gave suggestions on what I should cover in my talk. I hope I’ve been able to incorporate all of them.


  1. Micro grooming at its best! Cheers to your initiative to take your expertise & experience to where it would probably matter the most in the time to come. :)

  2. Its a welcome idea to start such programs in schools. Hope many more schools follow suit..!! Congratulations Sir...!! You have made it very interesting...!!!

  3. Nice, some more specifics on the exact practicals will surely guide students

  4. Good initiative. In "Learning by Doing", students or participants not just learn but start living the wisdom. The knowledge gets internalized very fast. This is the best way of growing and thats the way must be adopted by all schools in India.

  5. Trust me if i woudld have had this kind of exposure when i was a kid then perhaps i would have been a different person (with a different temprament, different outlook etc). Espcially the life skill and Building of value and character is appealing. I believe that even if 50% of the participants remember 50% of what got discussed then the world will be a little better place to live in...:)

  6. Thanks Anand, Aditya, Ram, Abhishek, Surya and Amrit :-) Much appreciate all your comments.

  7. Urgent need for many such sessions across the country
    The current interest in agriculture is very low.

  8. Sorry could not hyperlink the url; was having trouble with the link for this post.

  9. You've woven together the many suggestions into a wonderful and inspiring speech.
    It was a pleasure to contribute.

  10. @Vipul: Saw your blog on "interest of youth in agri-careers". Can't blame them, nor their parents; it is not an attractive profession as it stands. For the same reason, it is a great opportunity to those who want to pursue and bring creative inputs. In the past few weeks, I've interacted with many agri / rural management students while doing Pre-placement talks across the country. Most of them are genuinely keen on agri / rural careers, and are determined to make a difference :-)

  11. Thanks Anita :-) Much appreciate your valuable inputs earlier, and stopping by to read the blog now. As I said in the blog, I enjoyed the exercise largely because of sincere interest shown by so many friends!

  12. Happy to hear there is a growing genuine interest in some part of the country. Would love to see more of it. Would be a pleasure for me to accelerate this. :)

  13. to whatever little levels I can

  14. Shiv, it was nice indeed. I missed my input, wish I could have chipped in. Being a agriculture student myself I have an anecdote to share how specious the learning has become. Few of my classmates who are from urban background could not differentiate between the tassel of Maize ( Male inflorescence) from that Paddy panicle!. And they graduated in agriculture! And one bank officer (again from urban background) went to inspect a farmer's groundnut field along with Rural Dev. officer. The crop is in senescent stage and coming to harvest – oblivious to the fact that pods are borne underground - sheepishly asked farmer how can he repay the loan when the crop is withering away, much to the amusement of his RDO colleague. These are case points to the relevance of introducing ‘learning by doing’. And, if the school is lucky to have positioned in a rural milieu then it will be double bonus of not only reorient learning but attitudes as well as we can feel the pains and perseverance of a rural populace.

  15. Thanks for those anecdotes Pratap. They strongly reinforce the need for practicals, early on in life!



  17. Though it is a bit late ...

    Would like to convey our sincere thanks to Sivakumar and each one of you for contributing your ideas for your appreciation and support to our " Hello Farmer" initiative...:-)

    on behalf of

    Academic Heights Public School Team

    Ramprasad Nori

  18. Academic Heights School Hyderabad is doing excellent service to the Nation by introducing practicles in Agriculture for school children. I hope other schools in our country will follow. Being an Agricultural Scientist I feel that”Agriculture” as a subject should be included in the school syllabus. Though India is mainly an agrarian country, now a days people are losing interest in farming. Contrary to many other professions, no farmer wants his son to become a farmer. Introducing the practicles in agriculture at school level will definitely create interest in at least few students to take up farming as a profession. In this global era, there is a need for intelligent and innovative minds in agriculture. I hope that the initiative taken by the school authority leads to a huge success.

  19. You are right Vinayaka. Thanks for dropping by and commenting...

  20. We are fully with you Vinayaka on this ...Being Agrarian economy India as a nation should adopt a policy ( as part of the recent reforms perspective ) to impart the Agri exposure as part of the syllabi and as a token of contribution we have initiated this program at our schools .
    Looking forward , we may / can design a program for the school level as well as college level programs ...
    Any thoughts ? If it is ok , can i give you call ?

    Sivakumar : Can I take the liberty to ask your views on the same

    Ram Nori

  21. I remember that when I was at school we used to sow beans with cotton and it made that the bean grew faster it was really exciting because we had to take care the plant and if it die it was few points less it was funny because anybody wanted to loose them.Generic Viagra Buy Viagra