The Need For Integration Of Education With Life

Garry Jacobs

November 1983


For rapid and effective development, progress in each field should be supported by proportionate advancement in other fields, so that the social life remains harmonious and integrated. The present educational system in India is not related to the real needs of the students and is not integrated with the social life of the country. It is degree-oriented rather than knowledge-oriented, and it lacks social relevance. The present system is designed to train teachers, researchers, and government officers, not to produce modern scientific farmers. If farmers are to benefit by agricultural education, it is the farmers who should receive it. Changes in the recruitment policies are needed to select more students who aspire to become farmers. A flexible three stream curriculum should be introduced: the first stream emphasizing practical field training for those seeking self-employment in agriculture, the second emphasizing scientific theory and laboratory practicals for those seeking a career in research and teaching, the third stressing socio-economic factors in the development process for those seeking jobs in government and banks. Internship programmes should also be introduced as in Britain and East Germany. Students must be shown the lucrative opportunities for employment as scientific farmers and professional agricultural managers. The ultimate aim must be to integrate agricultural education with the rich wealth of the Indian religious and spiritual tradition.


I have found the papers and discussion presented during this seminar immensely interesting and thought provoking. It is not my task or intention to comment on all the ideas which have been expressed or to sum up the proceedings. Nor do I feel obliged to confine myself within the boundaries of thought already expressed in the last two days.

Many very profound questions concerning the educational system have been raised and many answers have been offered. I would like to try to place this enquiry within a broader framework and indicate some of the deeper issues involved. I believe that only if these questions are approached in this manner can everything be seen in its proper perspective.

Therefore, I will begin on a somewhat different plane of thought, then come down to the actual subject matter which has been discussed, and finally end with a brief reference to a completely different view of these questions than those expressed thus far.

Natural Development is Integrated and Self-adjusting

As society evolves through the long slow process of natural development, changes in every walk of life occur gradually and simultaneously. Like a chemical reaction whose speed is determined by the temperature, pressure and concentration of the reagents, natural social development proceeds in the measure all the necessary conditions are present. This in-built control mechanism ensures that change in any one field is supported by appropriate changes in other fields with which it is interconnected. In other words, life is naturally integrated at one level and as society moves forward that integration is maintained by a natural self-adjusting mechanism.

In Planned Development Integration is Lost

However when we come to planned development the process is different. Planned development is a conscious goal-directed effort of government to accelerate the natural evolution of society and achieve specific results within a far shorter period than they would otherwise occur. Here the natural integration of life is rudely disturbed. By concentrating effort only on some specific areas to the neglect of many others, rapid progress is achieved in these fields which is not accompanied or supported by proportionate advancement in other fields to which they are related and interconnected. The natural harmony and integration is lost. For rapid and effective development, this integration must be consciously restored.

India's Development Not Integrated with Society Around

In the case of modern India nearly all its planned initiatives, policies and institutions are based an foreign models or foreign ideas which have not arisen inevitably from the indigenous conditions or social climate. They have been imposed from above rather than evolved from below, and as a result are only partially integrated with the wider life of the society which they are intended to serve. The administrative and political apparatus, financial institutions, scientific research, the system of education all suffer for want of integration with the society around.

For instance, the banking system inherited from the British was designed to promote mercantile trade between Britain and its colonies. It was not intended to promote India's development or help fulfill the aspirations of its people. It was nearly 15 years after Independence before the banks started supporting industrial development in a significant way, and it took another five years for that support to extend to the small scale entrepreneur. In 1969 when The Mother's Service Society proposed extending financial support to agriculture, the bank officers cringed and violently opposed it. Today more than 10,000 villages have been adopted by commercial banks and agricultural loans are common place. This example illustrates the lack of integration between key social institutions and the needs of the country which persists on a large scale even today.

Value of Education

Education is the greatest known civilising force and the most powerful lever for development. As Kamaraj said, "Educate a man, he will develop himself." Education is by itself a naturally integrated social process. Education communicates the experiences of the past to subsequent generations in a systematic, abridged and condensed form so that the youth of today can build upon the entire past achievements of the society. Education reduces the time required for youth to mature. It ensures the continuous growth of knowledge and skills in the community. It eliminates the necessity for each new generation to relive the experiences of their ancestors, and it enables them to acquire as knowledge in a brief period what was earlier learned only through long years of life experience.

Indian Education Lacks Integration

The present education system in India is one of the fields where integration is seriously lacking. Though the country has undergone a very rich and varied experience since Independence that could be converted into a powerful and effective knowledge, the educational system is derived from another age and realm rather than India's own recent experience. As Dr.R.Sudarsanam points out in his paper 1[1], the system of agricultural education evolved prior to Independence was essentially "a prescriptive mechanical process of instruction which failed to become an instrument of development for the individual and for the society." Its essential aim was not development, but colonial exploitation of local resources.

After Independence another system was introduced patterned after the American Land Grant Colleges. This system has evolved naturally in the American context. Its primary aim is to provide sophisticated scientific training and research to an already highly educated and technologically sophisticated agricultural industrial sector. But it is not more suited to serve the wider social goal of rapid planned development than its British counterpart. Conditions in India -- politically, economically, socially as well as physically - are radically different than in the USA and no imported system can fully meet the developmental needs and priorities of this country. Dr. Daniel Sundararaj pointed out in his paper[2] this lack of integration and called for a "vigorous and integrated approach fixing priorities in agricultural education, research and extension to solve the vexing problem of poverty".

Education Sought for Employment not Knowledge

For the most part the agricultural educational system is not related to the real needs of the student or the country. This being the case it is no wonder that the vast majority of students seek enrollment in universities as a passport to employment, rather than as an opportunity to acquire interesting, essential, and practically useful knowledge which will better equip them for successful achievement in life after graduation.

American Student's Attitude toward Education and Employment

As Dr. Madhava Rao said, "The American student demands his money's worth from the university." He does so because he is after knowledge, not just the degree. To the average American student, higher education offers him an opportunity to improve his capacities and skills and productive value. He has been instilled with a sense of self-confidence in his capacities, an attitude of independence, a willingness for hard work. His own abilities are his greatest asset. When he emerges from college into life, he accepts the challenge of finding or creating his own employment and finds that his education has better prepared him to meet that challenge. After he has settled down in an occupation, even 20 or 30 years later, he may return to the college at night or part time to refresh his knowledge, acquire new or additional skills, or prepare for an entirely new vocation. In other words, his personal attitudes, and his educational experience are fully integrated with the opportunities available to him for employment.

Community Colleges

Perhaps the finest example of higher education integrated with the needs of its students and the society is the American system of two year community colleges, also prevalent in Japan and Philippines which designed their systems on the American model. The community or junior colleges were first introduced at the beginning of this century to segregate the first two years of the four year college course from the last two and from higher level university studies. The rationale behind this initiative was that many American youth emerging from the 12th year of high school were not fully prepared for the rigour and pressure of university level courses, but still wished to continue their education at a higher level or sought to obtain vocational training in many different fields. The opening of these colleges to adults and those seeking re-training helped to make them a fully integrated part of the educational system catering to important needs of the community. Community colleges have been growing at the rate of one per week during the last two decades and enrollment has doubled during the last 10 years. Today there are over a million students enrolled in 1400 community colleges around the country. These colleges have played a major role in opening up higher education to more than 50% of American high school graduates.

In India Curriculum Not Integrated with Occupational Needs

The American effort to adapt and innovate in the field of education in order to evolve a system responsive to the changing needs of students and the nation is in sharp contrast to the situation in India. Today higher education in India is valued mainly for its form not its content, for the degree which enables the graduate to obtain a Government job rather than the knowledge which makes him a more productive member of the community. In almost all cases the moment the Indian graduate gets employed, he is divorced from his educational background. Except for the general preparation in basic skills, what he has learned in the university often has very little relevance to the knowledge and skills required by his occupation. Only rarely does a student return to the university after graduation either formally or informally, in search of more or greater knowledge for practical application in life. Perhaps this is what Dr.Rajagopalan had in mind when he said that the educational system lacks social relevance.

Knowledge Divorced from Life Experience

In other words the present system of higher education is integrated with life only at the level of degrees for job seeking. It is not integrated at the level of knowledge and skills for greater production. When knowledge is expressed in life as an occupation, it becomes richer by experience and stimulates the growth of science in life. But where the graduate enters a government job unrelated to his education, his life is divorced from his training and the growth of science is not stimulated by contact with life.

Role of Agriculture in Development: England

The preeminent role of agriculture in stimulating industrialization and economic development is an established fact. Sir Aurthur Lewis, Nobel Laureate in Economics, has identified high agricultural productivity (and the generation of agricultural surplus) as the most important reason why the industrial revolution began in England and not elsewhere. By 1850 England was the only country in the world whose agricultural population had fallen below 50% of the labour force.

High Agricultural Productivity Creates Demand for Industrial Products

The shift of population from agriculture to industry actually preceded the Industrial Revolution. The movement was stimulated by the high productivity of the English farmer who produced about 1600 lbs of wheat per acre as compared to the 700 lbs of rice produced by farmers in the average tropical country. The result of the English farmer's high productivity was agricultural surplus which created buying power and demand from the farming community for non-agricultural products. This demand stimulated the development of manufacturing industries long before new technologies made them more efficient and more profitable.

Agriculture Stimulated Industry In Europe

Nor was high agricultural productivity confined to England alone. On the average the European farmer produced 6 or 7 times as much as his tropical counterpart. All over Europe Agricultural prosperity paved the way for industrial development and the most agriculturally advanced were the first to industrialise.

Similar Process in Japan

A similar process occurred in Japan where the land under cultivation doubled between 1600 and 1800 and where there was a gradual shift from subsistence to cash cropping. The agricultural revolution preceded and prepared the ground for the industrial revolution in the latter half of the 19th century.

Agricultural Education as Key to Agricultural Development

As agriculture is the real key to industrial development, agricultural education is the key to agricultural development. But for education to play this role, it is essential that the educational system be attuned to the real needs and potentials of the country and transform itself from a self-sufficient structure into an active catalyst for social development.

How to Integrate Agricultural Education with Social Life?

The question before us then is: How can the present educational system, particularly agricultural education, be restructured so as to become more fully harmonious and integrated with the life of the society? I would like to address this question from several angles with reference to the student, the curriculum, life opportunities and the cultural milieu.

Integration of Curriculum with Occupational Needs

The key to the solution is that the agricultural graduate must find a real opportunity to draw upon his knowledge and skill for his livelihood. Unless what he learns in the university is integrated with the needs of his occupation, the value of agricultural education will remain academic. No lawyer or doctor can divorce his knowledge from his practise. But engineers and agricultural officers can when they take to salaried jobs less and less related to their knowledge and skills. To reverse this situation essential changes are required in the recruitment policies, course structure and content of the curriculum.

The Goal of Agricultural Education

An important question has been raised here by the Vice-Chancellor: What is the aim of agricultural education? As Dr. Rajagopalan framed it: Should we have a single goal or multiple goals'? Should we set common goals for all or group specific goals to suit the needs of each different group of students?

As Dr. Knight has pointed out in his paper, agricultural education is intended to serve three different groups and these three groups have very different needs. First, the agricultural researchers and teachers; second, those who will seek salaried jobs as development, extension, banking and administrative officers; third, those who will seek self-employment in agriculture. We all know that at present the system is designed primarily to serve the interests of the first two groups.

A study by G.B. Pant University revealed that on an all India basis less than 5% of agricultural graduates take up self-employment compared with 18% for engineering graduates. It is obvious that if agricultural education is to fulfill its potential as a catalyst for development, the first prerequisite is that agricultural training must reach the actual farmer and those who are most likely to migrate toward farming.

Need to Stimulate Self-Employment

In the report of the Review Committee on Agricultural Universities headed by Dr. M.S. Randhawa, the committee recognised the need for new policies to stimulate self-employment among graduates and it recommended special measures to enable and motivate at atleast 20% of new graduates to take up self-employment. The report states, "A conscious and deliberate promotional policy needs to be undertaken to ensure that the objective of self- employment is gradually achieved by reversing the present trend of agricultural graduates going in for predominantly white-collar employment. The agricultural universities have a substantial role to play in this area. So far they have more or less produced graduates for institutional employment without breaking new grounds by attuning their training programmes toward self-employment.

Unemployment due to Prestige of Sedentary Urban Jobs

Any restructuring of agricultural education, any reorganisation of courses, must be accompanied by the re-orientation of individual attitudes toward employment in society. Today society accords respect and prestige to those in sedentary urban occupations, not to those who are most productive or whose work best serves the interests of the nation. This attitude is a legacy of India's colonial past. Naturally the youth place a premium on the prestige and security of salaried employment. .

Shift Toward Work Ethic

But as the society develops there is a gradual shift in attitude, which is visible today, toward a work ethic in which manual and mental work are regarded as equally important, and the social prestige which formerly accrued to the least active man now goes to the one who accomplishes the most. Ten years ago no agricultural graduate would drive a tractor, but today it is a common sight and the boys are proud of it. This shift must be consciously fostered and accelerated within the classroom.

Recruitment Policy

If we want farmers to benefit by agricultural education, we must first ensure that it is farmers who receive it. As is well known, the recruitment policies are not geared to attract future farmers. Recruitment is not on the basis of interest or aptitude for agriculture, but only on the basis of marks. If the agricultural universities are to serve the interests of students seeking self-employment as well as those seeking salaried jobs, it will be necessary to ensure that a much larger proportion of the new recruits are drawn from agricultural families and aspire to become farmers.

Curriculum is Job Oriented

This leads us to a second set of important questions which have been raised during this seminar. What type of knowledge should the education system impart to the student? How much emphasis should be placed on theory? How much on practicals? How much on science? How much on technique? How much on laboratory experience? How much on field experience?

The present curriculum is primarily suited for training researchers and teachers and secondarily for preparing graduates for jobs. The present curriculum is not geared for training or motivating graduates to become dynamic and enterprising modern scientific farmers. Opening up the University to potential modern scientific farmers is the most effective strategy for rapid agricultural development. The ultimate purpose of all agricultural education is to educate the farmer and that can never be done by alienating him from the educational system. This is the key to linking agricultural education with national development.

Need for a Flexible Curriculum

At the outset of the seminar, the Vice-Chancellor referred to the tendency of the teachers in each discipline to teach as much as possible. He referred to it as a sort of greed, "packing the student with knowledge." All too often the curriculum is not oriented to teach what the student really wants or needs to learn for his own growth and future occupation. Rather course content is determined by the idea that all the accumulated knowledge which is growing at a phenomenal rate must be imparted to every student. I agree with Dr.G.R.Damodaran that there is a need for a flexible curriculum. The curriculum should be adopted to the specific needs and aspirations of the different groups of students.

The Vice-Chancellor has posed the question, "How to make the student conscious, anxious and curious to learn?" The answer lies in teaching him what is really relevant to his own life.

Three Stream Admission and Course

One obvious solution which has been proposed is the creation of several distinct streams of admission and distinct courses of study. One stream would be for rural candidates seeking self-employment as a career in the village and this course would emphasize practical aspects of agriculture. Another stream would be open to all those seeking a career in research and teaching and would emphasize scientific theory and laboratory practicals. A third stream intended for those seeking jobs as extension officers and bank officials would emphasize socio-economic factors in the development process. This suggestions seems to me so practical, and so essential that it should be introduced without hesitation in universities throughout the country.

Curriculum is Weighted to Theory not Practical Training

I recall on my first visit to this campus about seven years ago, a senior faculty member candidly confided in me:

"Our boys can recognise any plant disease by its photo in the textbook, but very few could recognise the same disease on an actual plant in the field."

The present curriculum is weighted very heavily in favour of theory. Applied practical training programmes receive only secondary importance. On an all India basis practicals constitute only 35-40% of total course load and that includes laboratory practicals. I believe here it is around 45%. Field practicals constitute only 10 to 15%. Here it is around 20%. The Randhawa Committee perhaps understated the matter when it said:

"Graduates corning out of these universities cannot be said to be fully equipped with the practical knowledge of field operations in agriculture, let alone their capacity for doing independent agricultural operations."

At least for those going into self-employment or extension work, the credits devoted to field practicals should be increased to at least 35% of the total.

Internship Programmes should be Introduced

At its annual convention held at Coimbatore in 1976 the Association of Agricultural Universities of India recommended the introduction of internship programmes as a part of degree requirements on lines similar to the internship programmes for medical students. At least for those seeking self-employment this is a vital necessity. In Britain graduates seeking a career in agriculture must qualify for a national diploma and one of the requirements for the diploma is that the student live on a farm for at least one year. In East Germany the student must spend one year on a farm before he can be admitted to the university.

An internship programme was recently introduced at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University placing students with planters for a period of three months. The following comment by one of the trainees indicates the success of this programme. "This is the type of training programme we want, so that we can put our knowledge into action. We now feel quite confident of earning much more in agriculture than we could from a salaried job."

Development Education

I have already referred in my paper on Development Education to the need to reorient education for future planners, administrators, and extension officers to provide a knowledge of the process by which science and technology can be most effectively translated into field productivity through the study of the development process, policies, strategies, and programmes which I called Development Education. I will not elaborate further here. I would like to focus rather on agricultural education for self-employment.

Lucrative Opportunity Will Make Self-Employment

Dr. Jayaraj posed the question, "Why self-employment is not attractive to the agricultural graduate?" In his book New Strategy for Indian Agriculture C. Subramaniam said that if man is to be prompted to a new innovative effort, the lure of 25% or even 50% greater profits is not sufficient. Man will not stir himself for something new, unless he sees a lucrative opportunity to earn 10 or 20 times more than through a traditional vocation. The agricultural graduate must be shown a place in life where his knowledge and skill will bring rewards several times greater than he can get in a salaried job.

Agricultural Scientists Must Take to Farming

For agriculture to prosper in India, the real need is for the flowering of the agricultural scientists into leaders of agricultural production -- leaders of thought, action and practical innovation -- who create new techniques, employ new skills and generate greater productivity in their own fields. For agricultural graduates to return to the farm, the lure must be as great as that which attracted the American pioneer. The role of the university is to help reveal to the student the potentialities open to him.

Citronella as Example of Enormous Profitability of Agriculture

For example I recently met a chemical engineer from Dharmapuri who had established a citronella essential oil extraction unit and was cultivating 10 acres of citronella grass. He explained to me that by processing the 10 acres from neighboring farmers, he was able to earn a net profit of more than Rs.2,00,000 per year on a capital investment of Rs.50,000 for equipment and Rs.50,000 for cultivation. Surely there are very few graduates who can hope to earn even 20% of this amount in a salaried job. The technology is simple distillation of the grass, which must be within the capabilities of any graduate. Only he needs to be shown the possibilities and convinced about them. The indigenous market demand for citronella oil is very high and until recently it was being imported. The local price is about Rs.20 higher than the international price. Even if several thousand acres are cultivated, the production can be absorbed internally or exported to the West.

Potential for Cultivation and Export of Cut Flowers

Another area of agriculture which offers enormous potential for graduates is export of cut flowers. Europeans alone buy nearly Rs.5000 crores of cut flowers every year which are supplied mainly by Italy, Israel, Kenya, Colombia and Brazil. The average Swiss citizen spends Rs.600 per year on flowers. Roses, gladiolas, and chrysanthemums are popular varieties which fetch a high price. With India's year-round summer, there is no reason she should not become the world's leading producer and exporter of cut flowers.


Yet another potentially big earner is the desert shrub jojoba which produces an oil bearing seed. This shrub thrives in areas with 15 to 20 inches of annual rainfall and high temperatures. Jojoba oil is very similar in chemical properties to the oil of the sperm whale and has enormous potential as an industrial lubricant and as a base for cosmetics. It has been estimated that the world market could absorb the production from at least 10 lakh acres of jojoba, yet present plantations in USA and Israel cover less than 20,000 acres.

Five years ago jojoba oil was selling for Rs.100 per litre. In 1980 the price was Rs.200 and it is around Rs.400 now as more and more applications are discovered for it. At present prices a 10 acre jojoba plantation which requires little or no care after the first year could easily generate a net profit of Rs.3 to 4 lakhs. Jojoba is 4 times as profitable as a well-tended coconut garden which is 4 times as profitable as paddy.

New Cadre of Professional Agricultural Managers

For Indian agriculture to realise its full potentials, it is essential to build up a new cadre of innovative entrepreneurs and professional agricultural managers. As there are vast opportunities for graduates to make farming a highly lucrative occupation, there is also an enormous scope for employment of professional managerial skills and talents in agriculture.

Services as Self-Employed Professional Managers

Agricultural graduates can offer a wide range of services to the farming community as self-employed professionals. They can go into backward areas and offer to upgrade methods of cultivation in exchange for a percentage of the increase profits the farmer enjoys. They can establish nurseries and seed farms to provide quality materials and earn profits that can excel the return from any cash crop. They can take up land reclamation and conversion of jungle lands into plantation crops. Agricultural engineers can buy dry lands, convert them into irrigated lands by tapping groundwater, and sell them for Rs.5000 to 10,000 profit per acre. When cashew jungle is converted into well-tended orchard its yield is known to increase six to eight times and can earn as much as coconut.

Professional Plant Breeding

Another potential field for professionals is plant breeding. In the USA and Europe, development of new hybrid horticultural and ornamental plants has become a lucrative business for private plant breeders whose new varieties are protected by plant breeder's patent rights. One can go into any nursery in USA and find literally hundreds of different varieties of flowers, especially roses, sold by private companies under patents. If similar legislation is introduced in India, another field would be opened for self-employment.

Change in Attitudes is Needed

What is needed to make this change possible is a change in social attitudes toward agriculture as a profession and this change must first take root in the agricultural universities. Agriculture is a highly remunerative field for those who can combine modern scientific knowledge with entrepreneurial talent and managerial skill. Students should be helped to discover the potentials this field offers and prepared to tap them for their own benefit and for the benefit of the nation.

Analogy to Exotic Plant in a Pot

If India is to prosper it is not enough that we import an exotic western variety and transplant it into a pot fashioned with foreign know-how. When the soil is rich with natural nutrients, it is not wise to raise our produce in the laboratory or the green house. The imported varieties have to be grafted with indigenous stock adapted to the climate and soil conditions of the region.

Present System is Exotic and Isolated from Life

The present system of agricultural education is such an exotic variety and the present educational institutions are luxurious green houses situated in fertile but uncultivated valleys. For agricultural education to truly become integrated with the life of the country, it must be transplanted into the fields and it must draw for its nourishment from the rich wealth of indigenous cultural values and tradition.

Indian Spiritual and Religious Tradition

There are clear signs that the West is also looking elsewhere for answers. Western science has generated ecological imbalances, pollution, waste of resources, and deep social and psychological problems. Indian society is permeated by a religious and spiritual tradition which supported a rich flowering of life in earlier times. Though many of the old forms and manners may have lost their meaning and utility, still there is a great deal of truth and value to be gleaned from that tradition.

Land is a Living Goddess -- not inert matter

To the traditional Indian his land is bhumadevi. It is a living goddess, not an inert mass or machine for production. No man would like to sell his land. There is a belief in the village that a farmer should circle around his field on all four sides and never stop after completing only 3 sides for fear of offending the property. Children are taught never to beat the ground. No farmer will walk on his cultivated fields with shoes. These ideas are not just ignorant superstitions. They arise from the best part of the Indian spiritual tradition which holds that land and all matter is alive and capable of responding to attention. It is said that a coconut tree will never drop a nut on its owners, so long as they treat it properly.

Japanese Veneration of the Country and Community

Nor are such ideas confined to India. Japan's miraculous development in the 19th century is linked with its worship of the country as the shakti, the Mother. We see today the tremendous creative power of that energy. The modern economic development of Japan is based on a parallel idea of the company as a living organism.

Scholar's Specialisation, Thinker's Wider Perspective, Rishi's Vision

Scholars develop precision in their narrow field. They become experts by specialisation and subdivision. Whereas thinkers see each field as part of a greater whole and develop a wider integrated perspective. The Rishi goes further and develops a total all-encompassing vision, a vision of earth as bhumi.

Toynbee's Mother Earth

After 40 years of research on the history of civilisations, historian Arnold Toynbee Came to the conclusion that history can never be fully or properly understood in terms of peoples, nations, races or civilisations. History must be viewed in its widest integrated perspective as the evolution of Mother Earth.

Matter is Brahman

Sri Aurobindo once commented, perhaps a bit humorously, that western society has become so prosperous because they have -- by training if not by belief -- by action if not by conviction -- recognized the Brahman in matter and have given their full attention to material things. If agriculture should prosper in India, this country too should rediscover the ancient truth that the land is indeed Brahman, the Divine.


[1] R. Sudarsanam and M. Balasubramaniam, "Developing Appropriate Job Specific Pre-Service Training Programme".

[2] Dr. D. Daniel Sundararaj, "Agricultural Education to Meet Country's Immediate Need."