Philippine Extension and the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture

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Higher Agricultural Education Institutions in Asia CASE STUDY FOR THE PHILIPPINES: THE OPEN ACADEMY FOR PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURE1 Alexander G. Flor2 U.P. Open University 1. Introduction 1.1. Philippine Extension and the OPAPA: A Backgrounder In the past twenty years, the Philippine agricultural extension service has been severely emasculated by four factors: the abolition of the national agricultural extension system; decentralization or devolution of extension services; the top-down perception of agricultural extension; and rivalry between research and extension in the agricultural technology process. The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Extension was abolished and replaced by the Agricultural Training Institute during the Aquino administration. A few years later, front-line extension workers found themselves under the payroll of provincial and municipal governments, thus subjugating their budgets and extension priorities to local political forces. Furthermore, a dramatic shift in the attitude towards the Green Revolution of the seventies found extension workers being perceived not as change agents but as agents of the status quo. From the significant role that they played in the seventies, extension workers have been relegated a role merely supportive to research in the agricultural technology process. 3 As a result, the Philippine Extension System is fragmented and dispersed with 17,000 extension workers devolved to local government units. Within the devolved system, the Department of agriculture is still expected to provide technical support to devolved extension workers. However, this has proved to be quite difficult. Hence, extension workers have limited sources of up-to-date information in agriculture. Farmers have limited informed options to make decisions. Under these circumstances, information and communication technology can be brought to bear to link the fragmented system – extension workers, R&D centers, farmers, and markets. To address this situation, the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture (OPAPA) was established in 2003.4 Behind OPAPA is the convergence of three concepts: eExtension, Distance Learning, and eCommerce. It was envisioned to employ ICT to organize and deliver Paper submitted to the International Seminar on the Contribution of Tertiary Agricultural Education to Learning and Development in Rural Asia, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 25 to 28 April 2006. 2 Dean and Professor V, Faculty of Information and Communication Studies, University of the Philippines (Open University) 3 Alexander G. Flor, Information and communications opportunities for technology transfer and for linkages. Expert Consultation on Agricultural Extension, Research-Extension-Farmer-Market Linkages. FAORAP, Bangkok, 16 to 19 July 2002. 4 Roger F. Barroga.2005. Pinoy Farmers’ Internet. PowerPoint Presentation. 1

information to the farms. It makes available online content, learning, interactivity, and advisory services. Lastly, it enables farmers to access information and connect to markets. 1.2. Objectives of the Case Study General. This study seeks to document the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture (OPAPA) as a case study of an innovative open and distance learning (ODL) undertaking initiated in the Philippines. Specific. The specific objectives are: • to assess the initial performance of the OPAPA in terms of: improving access to ICT; the provision of social services; levels and degrees of participation, governance and empowerment; contributions to economic development; and contributions to gender equity. to document lessons learned and best practices at the initial stages of implementation; and to generate ex-ante evaluation findings that may be used for comparative purposes in mid-term, terminal and post-evaluation. 1.3. Significance of the Case Study Although OPAPA is barely two years old, it has become the subject of this case study on ODL (open and distance learning) cum ICT4D (information...
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