What are the factors that lead to enrollment in agriculture courses in Maejo University, Thailand?
SEARCA PhD scholar of Central Luzon State University, Philippines and lecturer at Maejo University Phrae Campus, Thailand, Mr. Kritsada Phongkaranyaphat, delivered his paper which centered on thisquestion during the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series at SEARCA on January 10, 2012.
According to the Office of the Higher Education Commission, from 2006 to 2010, enrollment in agriculture courses in Thailand has been decreasing. To find out whether a similar trend is happening at Maejo University and describe the factors that influence students’ decision to enroll in an agriculture course, Mr. Phongkaranyaphat surveyed 320 first year university students taking up agriculture and 350 non-agriculture students from three Maejo University campuses—Chiang Mai, Phrae, and Chumphon Campus.
Mr. Phongkaranyaphat found that there was an increasing trend in enrollment in agriculture courses from 2001 to 2010. In fact, the combined enrollment in the three Maejo University campuses increased from 600 to 1465 students. However, enrollment in agriculture courses still lags behind non-agriculture courses in terms of annual increases and actual enrollment.Most students who enroll in agriculture courses are female, and reside in rural areas. Their parents had about 4-7 years of education and are farmers, with an average household income of THB 18,485 (lower than those enrolled in non-agriculture courses, THB 21,495).
The decision to enroll in an agriculture course among first year students of Maejo University was influenced positively by their fathers being farmers, having enrolled in a Science and Mathematics program in high school,participation in Future Farmers of Thailand (FFT)program, high school teachers, andthe cost of education.
Mr. Phongkaranyaphat asserted that since farmer-fathers are main influencers of decision to enroll in an agriculture course, Maejo University must build a strong linkage with farmer-parents to promote its agriculture courses and programs.
Currently, it is the policy of Thailand higher education that only students who enrolled in a Science and Mathematics program in high school could take agriculture courses in college. To increase enrollment in agriculture courses, Mr. Phongkaranyaphat recommends that university administratorsreview the policy and consider the possibility of studentsenrolled in other programs in high school to also enroll in agriculturecourses.In addition, membership inFFT should be encouraged since FFT learning activities and exposure to agriculture may motivate students toenroll in agriculture courses. In fact, Maejo University can utilize its agriculture extension program tocollaborate with high school counselor and members of FFT toreach out to potential enrollees.
Interestingly, the average tuition fee of agriculture students was more expensive (THB 12,562.19) than in non-agriculture students (THB 11,103.72) by as much as 13 percent (THB 1,459). Thus, those enrolled in agriculture have lower income, yet, pay a higher cost of education. Maejo University should re-examine the cost of agricultural education, and provide more scholarship grants and financial assistance to deserving students. (Avril Adrianne D. Madrid)