By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
For the Department of Education (DepEd), the interest in agriculture should start at the basic education level so learners would have “lasting” passion about it.
“For us in the Department of Education, it is most important to promote agriculture to our youth by integrating it in basic education programs,” said Education Secretary Leonor Briones in her message when she presided over the investiture of the new Southeast East Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Opening Ceremony of the 67th SEARCA Governing Board Meeting held recently at the Umali Auditorium, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Laguna.
Briones underscored that SEARCA and DepEd could rouse lasting passion and interest of learners towards agriculture by integrating researches into the basic education curriculum.
“As an academic and as a faculty member of the University of the Philippines, I am aware of the great researches that are being conducted in SEARCA,” she said.
However, Briones noted that teaching agriculture at a younger age would be very ideal. “I believe in teaching agriculture to college students at the tertiary level will be already a little too late,” she said.
“We have to develop a passion, interest, and excitement for agriculture at the basic education level [and] this can only be done if SEARCA researches are translated and integrated into the curriculum,” she added.
Supporting SEARCA’s innovations
In her message, Briones also emphasized the crucial role of SEARCA in the agricultural development of the country and the ASEAN region.
“The agricultural sector is vital to all ASEAN countries; we always assume that it is important,” Briones said. “It is a major portion of our economy, but the latest statistics tend to tell us that in the ASEAN, the total contribution of agriculture to the GDP for 2017, for example, is consistently going down,” Briones said.
Furthermore, Briones expressed hopes for a “stronger” academe-industry-government partnership that will “bolster agri-business development” in the country and the entire Southeast Asian Region.
“I am very happy to learn that SEARCA in today and perhaps tomorrow’s meeting about their 11th five-year plan, will involve the strengthening of Academe-Industry-Government Interconnectivity to strengthen agricultural innovations and promote market-driven agri-business development in the Philippines and also the rest of the Southeast Asian Region,” Briones said.
Meanwhile, Briones also helped welcome SEARCA’s new director, Dr. Glenn Gregorio who assumed office on May 1, 2019 and became its11th director since its establishment in November 1966 by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).
In his investiture address, Gregorio expressed confidence in SEARCA’s organizational development plan at the beginning of his term. He noted the “many new beginnings” – particularly the start of the new 11th Five-Year Plan. “The goal and implementation of the Plan, as well as the implications to society, makes it a daunting task,” he said.
A distinguished academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Philippines, and professor at the Institute of Crop Science, College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS), University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Gregorio also served the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for almost 30 years, including a five-year stint as IRRI’s rice breeder in Africa based at the Africa Rice Centre station at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria from 2004-2009.
Gregorio added that the “new normal” conditions in the Southeast Asia region “compels SEARCA and all its key partners to initiate a paradigm shift to increase its visibility and coverage and deliver greater impact on the lives of the primary stakeholders – the farmers and farming families, including the youth. [And] so we hope to further this in the 11th Five-Year Plan.”