DepEd, SEARCA to promote agriculture in K-12 program

MANILA -- The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) have discussed building a partnership to promote the importance of agriculture among Filipino learners.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a statement on Thursday, said agriculture is one of the recommended fields for students nationwide.

"We are primarily an agricultural country and we want to enhance interest in agriculture,” Briones said.

On Aug. 28, SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio presented to DepEd the center's programs that may be linked with the K to 12 curriculum, particularly in agriculture, under the Technical-Vocational track.

"The programs include faculty development -- offering graduate scholarships in agriculture and allied degrees, short courses on agribusiness and agri-entrepreneurial mindset and education, and continuing education and professional licensure exams review services," Gregorio said.

Citing that SEARCA’s School + Home Gardens Program are complementary with DepEd’s Gulayan sa Paaralan and the School Inside a Garden programs, Gregorio said that they will improve and localize the components in the teacher's learning support materials.

He added that SEARCA "shall also embed upgraded agri-business context and examples in the K to 12 curriculum".

In line with this, Briones said the DepEd will explore urban-based gardening for schools in urban areas like gardening on rooftops and pots.

“Make agriculture sexy like grafting. That is very interesting, kasi may (application) ng science iyan (Science has an application on that). Hindi ka lang nagtatanim at gumagawa ng (You are not just planting and making) organic fertilizers,” she added.

Briones reported that there are existing schools with little farms and school sites bigger in size and even have tilapia farms.

However, she stressed the importance of urban farming and the need for its promotion to be intensified.

To celebrate the contribution of young people who are actively engaged in agriculture, the SEARCA has launched its annual photo contest with this year's theme “Cultivating Southeast Asia’s Youth Agripreneurs".

Gregorio said “agripreneurs” are agricultural entrepreneurs or “transfarmers” who combine business opportunities with agriculture.

With ages ranging from 15 to 34, Gregoria said the Southeast Asian population is young -- providing their respective countries many benefits because "they can become good leaders and the catalyst for economic, social, and cultural development".

The contest is open to all Filipinos and to citizens of other Southeast Asian nations. The first-place winner will receive USD1,000, the second and third places will get USD800 and USD500, respectively, while a People’s Choice award will receive USD200.

Special prizes await the Department of Education Secretary’s Choice and the SEARCA Director’s Choice.