Extension Education: The Beacon of Hope

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Standing in the 21st century under the parasol of globalisation backed by modernisation, still India as the seventh largest country in the world marks herself as developing, infact, since an aeon we are hearing it. More than 70% of our country lives in cottages and are agri-based in nature comprising of the poor of the poorest peasants and priviledged groups. Education today which turned into a pedagogy and marks the zeniths of commercialisation, has already paved its way in a wayward direction, isn’t it? Swami Vivekananda, the great monk and philosopher, had quoted, “Education is the manifestation of perfection already existing in man” which no doubt has become a platitude but still today it is relevant in the present scenario. Well, with respect to education and its publicity, it doesn’t had a good and proper reach to the sub-urbs and rural parts of our country. So here comes the importance of Extension Education. Extension is a term which is open to a wide variety of interpretations based on dynamicism.  In the first decade of this century, the term ‘extension’ was first used in the United States of America as a means to spread and disseminate the knowledge from land grant colleges to the farmers through the process of informal education.  In India, ‘extension work’ was primarily started by F.L. Brayne (1920) in Punjab and later, the terms ‘community development’ and ‘extension education’ became more popular with the launching of Community Development Projects in 1952 and with the establishment of the National Extension Service in 1953. Since then, Community Development has been regarded as a programme for all-round and holistic development of the rural people and Extension Education became the tool to achieve this very objective.

Extension education_venn-diagram

Although the farmers are contented already with the holy indigenous and traditional knowledge about their environment and farming system, still extension can bring and develop them through disseminating the information they have not yet acquired. For example, knowledge about the cause of the damage to a particular crop, the general principles of pest and insect control, how the manure and compost are broken down to provide plant nutrients for proper growth, or information about the modern agricultural machineries, tools and technics, flow of benefits through governmental programmes and bank loans, etc. are all areas of knowledge that the extension agent can usefully bring to farmers. The transfer of knowledge and skills to farmers and their families is an important extension activity and the extension agent must prepare himself thoroughly. He must figure out which skills or areas of knowledge are lacking among the farmers in his area, and then arrange suitable learning experiences through which the farmers can acquire them. Moreover, one of the most common things as observed in indian villages is the detestated mindset of the farmers towards adapting modernised agricultural techniques. Therefore, it is important for extension agents to work closely with those farmers, rather more precisely- work hand in hand with the farmers, helping them to take the initiative and generally encouraging them to get participated in extension activities. Equally important is to persuade and convince farmers that they can do things for themselves, that they can make their own decisions on particular matters and that they have the ability to eliminate the poverty themselves- which gradually develops in them self-reliance and self-confidence. One measure of extension effectiveness is to see how well policies and plans have been carried out. An equally important measure is the extent to which incomes and living standards of the rural people have increased as a result of extension work. Rather imposing the rules and decisions, the decentralised mode of administration prefer two-way mechanism and that the rural groups must be given chances to have their say judging the progress themselves and whatsoever is going on in the name of development.

Focussing on extension in relation to agriculture and development, there are four paradigms of agricultural extension that can help the farmers to reach the pinnacles of socio-cultural hierarchy- i) Transfer of Technology, i.e., persuasive and paternalistic, involving the top-down approach to deliver the ideas and recommendations about which particular practices the poor farmers should adopt. ii) Advisory work, i.e., persuasive and participatory, which mainly pays attention to respond to farmers’ inquiries with technical prescriptions, like the government organizations or private consulting companies. It emphasizes on participatory approaches to promote predetermined packages of technology. iii) Human resource development, i.e., educational and paternalistic, that initially dominated the earliest days of extension in Europe and North America, now gives stress to employment of top-down teaching methods, although the students are expected to make their own decisions about how to use the knowledge they acquire. Moreover, it brings holistic kind of development and change in the livelihood patterns of the rural farmers. iv) Assistance through empowerment, i.e., educational and participatory, involving methods such as experiential learning and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. Knowledge is gained through interactive processes and the participants are encouraged to make their own decisions. The best known examples in Asia are projects that use Farmer Field Schools (FFS) or Participatory Technology Development (PTD). Farmers Field School Thus the steps starts like this: Drawing villagers’ attention> Stimulating their interest on a newer idea> Arousing their desires to adopt to the change> Convincing the people regarding the applicability of the newly generated ideas> Delivering action or operation such as small scale demonstration and training to the farmers, developing personal contact by the extension worker, supply of critical inputs and ensuring essential services> Producing satisfying results through producing high yield, more income, better health etc. which thereby reinforces learning and develops confidence, which generates motivation for further change. Therefore extension education follows five stages starting from Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Trial and finally ending with Adoption.

The main scope of educating the rural masses through extension service signifies the Increasing efficiency in agricultural production and marketing, distribution and utilization of agricultural inputs and outputs, Conservation, development and use of natural resources, Proper farm and home management, Better family living, Youth development, Leadership development, Community and rural development and Improving public affairs for all round development. Thus, it is indeed the only beacon of hope for rural development.