For training programmes to be effective, curriculum must evolve to meet the changing needs of students and employers. It must change to reflect new needs, new audiences and new approaches to learning.
Dr Kolapi Olatunji from Nigeria had been tasked to improve the training curriculum of post-graduate students at the University of Ibadan, where he was teaching Masters in Agronomy and Agro-meteorology and Doctor of Philosophy in Agro-meteorology. As he was working on the new curriculum to enable his students meet new challenges, he received an Australia Award Fellowship in June 2013 to travel to the University of Sydney for an 8-week study tour on Mining West African Legacy Agricultural Research to Enhance Agricultural Productivity.
During the study tour, Dr Olatunji had the opportunity to visit rural Australia where he came face-to-face with large scale farming, agricultural research institutes and private agricultural consultancy farms. “The scale of agricultural production blew up my mind,” says the lecturer, but more so, the integration of agricultural production, livestock, crop production and emphasis on tillage method and soil fertility,” he says.
But what he saw in Australia did not distract him from his initial assignment of developing a new curriculum to meet the new challenges. As he toured various projects, Dr Kolapo was also scouting for ideas for the curriculum that he was to improve. He had been tasked to include elements of climate change and crop simulation models. These he came across at the University of Sydney. “Colleagues at the University were gracious enough and give me ideas and offered me materials, which I have used in developing the post-graduate curriculum at Ibadan University,” he says.
The revised curriculum was finalised in June 2014 and is awaiting approval from the post-graduate school board and the university senate before it is implemented. “The study tour offered me the opportunity to collect relevant information that will be handy in training post-graduate students,” he adds.
Since visiting Australia, Dr Kolapo has maintained links with staff at the University of Sydney. This has led to joint research projects and student supervision, as well as inter-university linkages that culminated with a visit by a Course Coordinator from Sydney to discuss possible areas of collaboration.
“The study tour was an eye opener. Some of the things I came across changed my perception on agriculture,” says the lecturer adding that, owing to his experience in Australia, “I now only send students for practicals in large farms with livestock and crops to enable them to have a better understanding of the viability of agriculture as an enterprise,” he says.