How to make education more flexible to introduce agri-food training in classrooms at all levels? A great challenge with different approaches.

19. 4. 2024

On April 16, 2024, a round table on the flexibility of education in the field of multifunctional agriculture and rural development took place at IES Galileo Galilei, framed within the CoVE AgriNext project. One of its missions was to propose flexibility improvements in Vocational Education and Training in the field of multifunctional agriculture and rural development. Among the attendees were different authorities related to vocational training, such as directors, teachers and students from different agricultural centers. In addition, there was representation from both the agricultural employment sector and companies, universities and agricultural cooperatives in the region.

The purpose of this day was to obtain conclusions regarding the changes that must be taken into account to adapt education to the current context and situation of the agri-food sector. The contribution of these attendees with extensive experience in the sector, contributed to the improvement of Vocational Training for Employment and the preparation of future workers in the agricultural field. Among the most notable contributions and ideas, it is worth highlighting the need to standardize learning competencies by relating them to employability and market needs; as well as focusing on flexibility in the curriculum of professional qualifications.

Enrique Ruiz Acosta (technician in the General Directorate of Vocational Training and Employment) also mentioned the possibility of creating specialization courses according to the needs detected and directly relating them to employment. On the other hand, there was talk of the possibility of centers having the capacity to create their own degrees, so that students can change centers when it comes to specializing in a specific field. José Ramón Arjona (head of internationalization at IES Galileo Galilei) mentioned the Finnish model of enrollment by quarters as an idea to make the registration process more flexible. In addition, a good debate was created about the need to advise entrepreneurs and students on the different successful business models focused on multifunctional agriculture and rural tourism. In line with this, the president of COAG Jaén, Ignacio Rojas Pino, pointed out the importance of changing production models and the need to propose flexibility thinking about long-term models that take into account the consequences of climate change.

The possibility of creating a specialization course in Multifunctional Agriculture was also raised. Josefina García Rivera (headquarters director of Agri-Food Cooperatives) brought examples of employability guides from the countryside for primary school students. From Cooperativas Agrarías de Córdoba, they already work in schools with students from 6 years old in order to publicize field work, its modernization and the functioning of agricultural cooperatives. All of this with the idea of ​​influencing education early to solve the big problem that ended the round table debate: the absence of generational change. The need to make the countryside attractive for young people of working age was put on the table, as well as making them see that agricultural employment can be approached as a form of entrepreneurship in the sector. To do this, it is necessary to eliminate the stigma of field work as something “hard and precarious”, which makes it necessary to make the educational curriculum more flexible by focusing it on the student.

The round table concluded with a very positive result of proposals to improve the flexibility of Vocational Training in Multifunctional Agriculture at all levels, always with the perspective of the structural changes that will occur from the next school year, with the point from a view to improving the current paradigm for a more sustainable one in the rural world, creating employment and business niches from the centers of the Vocational Training system.