The recently completed EDULINK project “Enhancing nutrition and food security through improved capacity of agricultural higher education institutions in East and Southern Africa” has been strengthening the mechanisms for quality assurance of teaching and learning processes.
One thrust of the project aimed to raise awareness of students regarding their central role in providing feedback for quality assurance and also built their capacity to interpret the requirements and provide high quality feedback to QA tools, especially those administered online. As a result of the project interventions, response rates by students has increased significantly from below 30% to over 70% when averaged across 1st to 4th year students. As a legacy of the project, it is expected that response rates as well as quality of feedback will increase and be sustained especially through student-to-student influence mechanisms initiated.
To address challenges from the teaching staff perspective, the project identified important roles for professional bodies as key stakeholders in quality assurance through curriculum design, research, and teaching, among others. Based on the realization that professional bodies for agricultural scientists are currently weakly organized and generally not functional in the ESA region, the project identified strategies for developing effective professional associations and mechanisms for their linkage to institutions of higher learning. An important outcome of the project is an initiative to institutionalize the role of agriculture professional bodies in curriculum development and other quality assurance aspects.
This initiative will be rolled out in close consultation with the Commissions governing University Education in the project countries. The approach will complement the distribution of a set of three reference handbooks targeting teaching staff and developed under the EDULINK project on (i)Teaching Skills, (ii)Curriculum Design and (iii) Management of Agriculture Teaching and Research. Over 2000 copies of the manuals will have been distributed in different institutions and will be available for free download online. An additional guidebook for careers in agricultural science was developed under the EDULINK project targeting youth to enlighten them on careers in agriculture and thereby attract and retain them to support activities that will lead to better food security and nutrition for the population in ESA.
An important impact of the project has been on improvement of the teaching facilities including use of ICT for teaching and learning. Four of the participating institutions were supported to upgrade labs and install greenhouses for teaching practical skills. The provision of computers, projectors and better internet connection has substantially increased use of ICT in teaching and broadened the range of practical skills demonstrated. By providing specific training to staff to improve teaching and mentoring for Distance and Virtual learners, the EDULINK project has contributed to establishing strong capacity, especially at Kenyatta University, for provision of agricultural science education through e-learning. An improvement in quality of teaching to distance learners has been reported and this will lead to expansion of access to quality education locally and in region. The outcome will be more and better trained manpower to support food security and nutrition initiatives in the region.
Three participants have been selected to share their testimonials: