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Review of the higher education system in Benin: Status, challenges, opportunities and strategies for improvement

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The present study was executed to assess the current status of the higher education sector in Benin. Documentary review method was used to collect data and were complemented by surveys. Data obtained were synthesized in form of graphs and tables. Results showed that political decision sustains education systems of Benin. Benin has seven public universities and the University of Abomey-Calavi remains the most populous university with high annual students’ recruitment. Some innovations have been proposed to improve the higher education system in Benin which remain insignificant compared to the current challenge that the system is facing. Apart from national subvention, several other partners contribute to funding the higher education system in Benin. However, the vision and mission of the donors remain very divergent. Yet it is necessary to rethink the current system and implement some strategic actions towards contribution of the system to higher productivity and meet development goals. Key words: Benin, funding, Higher education, LMD, West Africa
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Review of the higher education system in Benin: Status, challenges, opportunities and
strategies for improvement
A.E. ASSOGBADJO1, R. IDOHOU2,3 and B. SINSIN4
1Laboratory of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi, 01 BP 526,
Cotonou, Benin
2Laboratory of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi, 01 BP 526,
Cotonou, Benin
3Laboratory of Biomathematics and Forest Estimations, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-
Calavi, 01 BP 526, Cotonou, Benin
4Laboratory of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi, 01 BP 526,
Cotonou, Benin
Corresponding author: assogbadjo@yahoo.fr
African Journal of Rural Development, Vol. 1(2): 2016: pp. 139 - 149
This article is lincenced under a Creative Commons license, Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
ABSTRACT
The present study was executed to assess the current status of the higher education sector in Benin.
Documentary review method was used to collect data and were complemented by surveys. Data obtained
were synthesized in form of graphs and tables. Results showed that political decision sustains education
systems of Benin. Benin has seven public universities and the University of Abomey-Calavi remains the
most populous university with high annual students’ recruitment. Some innovations have been proposed
to improve the higher education system in Benin which remain insignificant compared to the current
challenge that the system is facing. Apart from national subvention, several other partners contribute to
funding the higher education system in Benin. However, the vision and mission of the donors remain very
divergent. Yet it is necessary to rethink the current system and implement some strategic actions towards
contribution of the system to higher productivity and meet development goals.
Key words: Benin, funding, Higher education, LMD, West Africa
RÉSUMÉ
La présente étude a été menée afin d’évaluer l’état actuel du secteur d’enseignement supérieur au Bénin. La
méthode de revue documentaire a été employée afin de collecter les données auprès des acteurs à travers
des entretiens. Les données obtenues ont été synthétisées sous la forme de graphiques et de tableaux. Les
résultats ont révélé que le système d’éducation au Bénin est sous l’influence des décisions politiques. Il
existe actuellement au Bénin sept universités publiques parmi lesquelles l’université d’Abomey-Calavi
reste la plus importante avec un effectif très élevé d’étudiants inscrits annuellement. Quelques reformes
ont été proposées afin améliorer le système d’éducation au Bénin. Toutefois, elles restent très insignifiantes
au regard des défis actuel auxquels le système fait face. Le système bénéficie des subventions nationales
souvent complétées par celles des organismes/institutions internationaux. Cependant, la vision et la mission
des donateurs demeurent très divergentes. Il urge donc deIl urge donc repenser le système actuel et
surtout mettre en application quelques actions stratégiques afin de permettre une meilleure productivité et
surtout atteindre les objectifs de développement.
Mots clés : Bénin, financement, enseignement supérieur, LMD, Afrique de l’Ouest
INTRODUCTION
Higher education is increasingly being recognized as a
critical aspect of the development process, especially
with the growing awareness of the role of science,
technology and innovation in economic renewal (Astin,
2012). While primary and secondary education have
been at the focus of donor community attention for
decades, higher education has been viewed as essential
to development only in more recent years (Tight,
2012). In African countries, higher education needs to
be transformed so that it produces the graduates and
research that will increase the use of science,
Date received: 20 December, 2015 Date accepted: 27 January, 2016
ISSN 2415-2838
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Review of the higher education system in Benin
technology and innovation for economic growth and
ensure an Africa that is food secure. As such,
universities have a key role to play in producing the
next generation of the African workforce, including
researchers/scientists, extension and advisory service
practitioners that are expected to generate, translate,
extend and share knowledge with rural farmers to
increase agricultural productivity, agribusiness and
incomes. Universities should also ensure that students
appreciate the relationships between science,
technology, innovation and development, and are
sensitive to societal needs. Such approach is based on
the strong interdependence of academia, industry and
government (Teferra and Altbachl, 2004). This is
consistent with the vision of the Government of Benin
in which everyone should benefit from quality
education and learn the values, behavior and lifestyles
required for a sustainable future for positive societal
transformation
Research has shown the returns to investment in higher
education are around 20%, and in Africa closer to 30%
(Montenegro and Patrinos, 2013). Moreover,
investments must be targeted to ensure the development
of strong local post-graduate programmes and to
transform universities so that they use modern
technologies applied to local situations to provide the
human resources that Africa needs for tomorrow
(Cochran-Smith and Zeichner, 2010). Although higher
education enrolment and graduation rates have
increased, considerably gross enrolment ratios remain
low, with only 6% of Africans enrolled in universities
(Bloom et al., 2006) compared to 40% in Latin America
and 94% in North America. Furthermore, the increase
has come at the expense of quality with expenditure
per student falling significantly. There is thus an urgent
need to invest in higher education and for higher
education to transform itself to produce the quality of
graduates and knowledge needed to achieve the African
Unions Agenda 2063.
Agriculture sector continues to play an important role
in achieving these goals in Africa, employing over 60%
of local populations, and contributing on average over
30% to GDP (RUFORUM, 2015). This importance of
Agriculture has been highlighted in international
organizations (NEPAD, African Union, UNESCO and
RUFORUM) priorities for Higher education and
especially agricultural education. As such several
international meetings on strengthening Higher
Agricultural Education in Africa are held through which
actions required to strengthen the sector in Africa are
proposed. However, the current expansion in both
public and private higher education system in Africa
without strategic reform is not likely to achieve the
Agenda and respond to the challenges the agriculture
sector is facing. As such new strategic plans are needed
to build high-quality and produce relevant
postgraduates, and provide technology platforms and
the “skills revolution” needed for universities to be
leading actors in agricultural transformation in the
continent.
The current study aimed to provide information on
how higher education system contributes to sustainable
development in Benin; how the system has been funded
over the years; the existing gaps in the system and
insights on how their strategic role could be
strengthened and further developed for a sustainable
future. This will be useful for many African countries
and regional policies which recognize higher education
especially in the agriculture as the backbone of their
economies but which do not explicitly link agricultural
education to the ambitions to achieve rural or agro-
industry development.
Study area
The Republic of Benin is a West African country located
between 6°25' and 12°25' N. The country
encompasses several socio-linguistic groups (Fon,
Yoruba, Dendi, Bariba and Waama are the major
groups) who hold an outstanding knowledge on the
natural resources within the country. In Benin,
approximately 70 % of the residents live in rural areas
where they use natural resources for their routine needs
(food, medicine, craft, firewood and construction)
(INSAE, 2015). Public universities are located in main
towns of the country (Figure 1). The country is split
into three biogeographical zones: the Guinean zone
(between 6°25' - 7°30' N), the Sudano-Guinean zone
(between 7°30' - 9°45' N) and the Sudanian zone
(between 9°45' - 12°25' N).
In the Guineo-Congolean zone the rainfall is bimodal
with a mean annual rainfall of 1200 mm. The mean
annual temperature varies between 25°C and 29°C and
the relative humidity between 69 % and 97 %. The
soils are either deep ferralitic or clayey and rich in
humus and minerals. The vegetation is made of dense
semi-deciduous forests and Guinean savannas. The
rainfall in the Sudano-Guinean zone is unimodal, from
May to October, and lasts for about 113 days with an
annual total rainfall varying between 900 mm and 1110
mm. The annual temperature ranges from 25°C to 29°C,
and the relative humidity from 31 % to 98 %. The
soils in this zone are ferruginous with variable fertility.
The vegetation of the Sudano-Guinean transition zone
is characterized by a mosaic of woodland, dry dense
forests, tree and shrub savannas and gallery forests.
In the Sudanian zone, the mean annual rainfall is often
less than 1000 mm and the relative humidity varies
from 18% to 99% in August. The temperature varies
from 24°C to 31°C. The Sudanian zone has
hydromorphic soils, well-drained soils, and lithosols.
141
A.E. ASSOGBADJO et al.
Figure 1: Map of Benin showing the biogeographical zones and location of main public universities
The vegetation of this zone is mainly composed of
savannas with trees of smaller size.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
In order to assess the current status of the higher
education sector in Benin to identify current challenges
and gaps and develop specific recommendations
towards enhancing their performance and their
contribution to the science, technology and innovation
at national level, the following activities were
undertaken:
Data collection
The documentary review method was used to collect
data. Documentary review is a method of research
that involves the analysis of texts and documents that
contain data that is pertinent to the research problem
(Enders, 2004). Data were gathered from main libraries
from the different universities, ministries in charge of
national educations, and alphabetization. We also
retrieved data from the internet using the computer
search function provided by Google and Google Scholar
using key search terms such as “higher education
system in Benin; financing the higher education system
in Benin, the challenges/problems facing Benin’s higher
education system”. More importantly, surveys were
conducted with responsible in charge of education in
ministries, the responsible of faculties or institutions
in charge of education (Deans, Vice-Deans, and human
resources manager), faculty or school members,
responsible in Ministry of Higher Education, Public
services, Secondary College of Agriculture, and Chief
of International Cooperation Officer at Universities. The
research questions investigated during the surveys
included the following:
(i) What is the current state of the Higher Education
in Benin?
(ii) What are the current statistics available on
Higher Education in Benin?
(iii) What are the gaps and challenges for Higher
Agricultural Education, particularly in the
various science related faculties?
7o0'0''N 8o0'0''N 9o0'0''N 10o0'0''N 11o0'0''N 12o0'0''N
7o0'0''N 8o0'0''N 9o0'0''N 10o0'0''N 11o0'0''N 12o0'0''N
0o0'0'' 1o0'0''E 2o0'0''E 3o0'0''E 4o0'0''E
0o0'0'' 1o0'0''E 2o0'0''E 3o0'0''E 4o0'0''E
142
Review of the higher education system in Benin
(iv) What do national universities need to do in order
to meet the articulated demand for high quality
skills and research that is needed to achieve a
food secure and prosperous Africa?
(v) What adjustments need to be done in the Higher
education system to help for the sustainable
development in Benin?
(vi) In which area and how can we incorporate new
approaches to Higher Education especially
Higher Agricultural Education Sector system in
order to stress its role for the sustainable
development?
Data analysis
The data obtained through literature review and the
surveys were synthesized to answer the
abovementioned questions. Graphs and tables were
used to present results using the Excel spreadsheets.
Findings presented in the current report are organized
into three distinct sections. Section 1 of the report
presents the state of the Educational system in Benin
through an overview, the organization of the education
system and the schooling system in Benin. Section 2
presents the higher education system in Benin
(organization, priorities in the field, improvement in
the system and the funding sources). Section 3 focusses
on the Higher Agricultural Education Sector, and
presents the funding sources, gaps and challenges in
the system.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
State of the Educational system in Benin: From a
historical perspective
Table 1 summarizes the higher education system in
Benin from colonial period to date; while Figure 2 shows
the structure of the higher education system in Benin.
Indeed, political decision sustains education and
research systems in Benin. Several ministries are
involved in the education system in Benin.
Unfortunately, all those ministries are autonomous and
Table 1: Brief summary of education and research history in Benin
Period Characteristics
From colonial period till 1976 Research and education sectors were under the supervision of the Republic of France
As such a similar teaching and research programme as in France was designed in
French institutes: Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), Institut de Recherche,
etc.
Agronomique Tropicale (IRAT) for all West African French speaking countries and
teaching and research were mostly performed by teachers and researchers from France.
They were sent to Africa as missionaries
1976-1986 The Department for Scientific and Technical Research (DRST) under the Ministry of
Education was created in the Republic of Dahomey (current Benin). All the activities
carried out by the French institutes were fully transferred to the abovementioned
department. Thereafter, other research institutes were created but there were no
formally established links and coordinated actions between those institutes and the
DRST. No coordination and control within the education system of the country was
set in place.
1986-1992 A key event in the reform of education in Benin was the national Conference on
Education (Etats Généraux de l’Education-EGE) held in 1990 which adopted a national
policy and strategy to improve education. Beginning in 1991, the government of
Benin introduced significant changes within the Beninese education system. A
National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (NCSTR) was created to
improve the role and fill the gap that the DRST was encountering
1992 to date All research and education activities are directly managed by the Ministry of
Education (primary, secondary, and higher education) and national scientific research
institutes within the country. Major advances have been made in education, especially
in the areas of access and teaching/learning conditions. The gross enrollment
rate has increased from a base of 49.7% in 1990 to 96% in 2004 and girls’ enrollment
from 36% in 1990 to 84% in 2004. Gender balance and geographic equity have shown
significant improvements in gross numbers of girls and children from disadvantaged
areas attending primary schools. Nonetheless, major constraints and challenges
remain.
143
A.E. ASSOGBADJO et al.
Figure 2: Organization of the education system in Benin
there was no consensual work among them. Generally,
no real coordination actions have been developed for
scientific research and education in Benin. As a
consequence, there was no existing formal link between
the different levels of education hence no linkage
between the needs for local development and the
education systems in the country.
Schooling system in Benin
The Republic of Benin operated a 6-4-3-3-2-3/4
system:
(i) Primary school: 6 years
(ii) Junior high school: 4 years
(iii) Senior high school: 3 years
(iv) Bachelors degree: 3 years
(v) Masters degree: 2 years
(vi) Doctoral degree: 3-4 years
Education is compulsory for children between ages
six and eleven. After spending two to three years in
kindergarten, they took six years to complete and take
the primary school certificate. Overall it was required
seven years to complete both junior and senior high
school. At the end of the four first years of junior high
school, the students had to take the O-level (Brevet d’
Etudes du Premier Cycle: BEPC). Then after three years
the students had to take the A level (Baccalauréat: BAC)
exam which was the equivalent of the U.S. high school
diploma. Some take university studies and got their
BSc after 3 years of study and their Master 2 years
after the Bachelor degree. Only those willing could
further study for their doctorate for a total of three to
four years studies depending on the programme and
the graduation school.
Although its education system used not to be free, Benin
had abolished school fees (especially at Primary level)
and is today carrying out the recommendations of its
2007 Educational Forum. While enrollment rates
indicated a level of commitment to education, they do
not always reflect children’s participation in school.
An increase is currently noticed in the enrollment rate.
The overall adult literacy rate is nearly 40% with only
25% of literate women (World Bank Group, 2012).
Higher education system in Benin
Tertiary education in Benin was administered by the
“Higher Education Law” Education Act 75-30. The
Presidential decree that established and organized the
university and higher education in Benin was taken in
1970 and amended by another decree signed in 1973.
The university and higher education fell under the
responsibility of the Minister of Higher Education and
Scientific Research (formerly Minister of National
Education) while the rectors lead the University. The
history of governance of the University system has
been closely related to the evolution of the country’s
political situation. The appointment of senior
management of the university (rector and vice
chancellors, the general secretary, and the deans and
heads of specialised institutions) was the exclusive
prerogative of the government. Some improvement
have been noticed and for oldest public universities,
the leading staff (rector and vice-chancellors, directors
and dean) are now being peer-designated through vote.
But for new and emerging universities the rectors are
nominated by the minister responsible for high
education.
EDUCATION SYSTEM IN BENIN
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Review of the higher education system in Benin
Priorities for scientific research and education in
Benin
There is very limited planning for research in Benin.
Most of the time, each researcher has his/her own
research priority in the research centers and universities
in the country. However, the five following topics can
be considered as priorities for the government of Benin.
(i) Food security and nutrition
(ii) Life and health sciences
(iii) Basic and engineering sciences
(iv) Human and social sciences
(v) Information technology and communication
sciences
Very few of these priority sectors involve local
knowledge in the curricula developed for students.
Overall, there is a big gap between the political decisions
and the development needs of the country. Moreover,
the ministries and public sectors in-charge of these
sectors are not complementary because they do not
coordinate their activities.
Improvements in the higher education system and
recent innovations
Some innovations have been proposed to improve the
higher education system in Benin. As such a decennial
plan of development of the education sector has been
set up: creation of a committee for supervising the
decennial plan, creation of a steering committee for
the decennial plan and installation of a coordination
committee of the decennial plan.
Indeed, only one university existed in Benin till 2000
called National University of Benin (ex-University of
Dahomey). In late 2001, a new university was created
and called the University of Parakou (due to increase
in the number of students per year in the first one). As
such, those two public universities have been offering
higher education in Benin until 2008. But from 2009 to
2014, two new public universities were created. Few
months later, some reorganization were made and three
more universities were created (April 2015) raising the
current number of universities to seven. As such the
most recent list of public universities in Benin is as
follow:
(i) University of Abomey-Calavi (created the 21
August 1970) with a Faculty of Agricultural
Sciences
(ii) University of Parakou (created the 18th September
2001 under decree N°2001-365) with a Faculty
of Agronomy
(iii) Agricultural University of Kétou (under decree
2013-140 of 20 March 2013)
(iv) Polytechnic University of Abomey (created in May
2014)
(v) University of Sciences, Arts and techniques of
Natitingou (created the 17th April 2015 under decree
No 2015-211) with the High National School of
Agronomy
(vi) University of Lokossa (created the 17th April 2015
under decree No 2015-211)
(vii) University of Porto-Novo (created the 17th April
2015 under decree No 2015-211)
Overall, the University of Abomey-Calavi remain the
most populous university in Benin with high annual
students’ recruitment (Figure 3; for other universities,
the statistics are not made available). So severe is the
crisis of overcrowding that it is common to find
students standing inside or outside of lecture halls or
even perched on windows during lectures.
From a decennial plan of improving the higher education
system in Benin, some 100 assistant professors are
Figure 3: Fluctuation in the number of students registered at the University of Abomey-Calavi over the last ten years
145
A.E. ASSOGBADJO et al.
recruited annually to supply the lack of Professors at
national universities. This number was shared among
four main universities and priority was given to faculties
with plethoric students’ number. Now with three newly
added universities (Figure 4), the number becomes too
small and is now insignificant based on the current
system needs. In addition to these public universities,
some private ones exist (with increasing number each
year) and contribute to absorb the annual high number
of scholars. However, those universities are not always
of the recommended standard and the graduate are
not trained as required.
Funding higher education system in Benin
The main donors for each category of education sector
in Benin over the last decade are as follow:
(i) Primary education: Government of Benin; USAID
(U.S. Agency for International Development),
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization)
(ii) Secondary Education: Government of Benin,
UNESCO
(iii) Higher and Professional Education: funds here
could be split into three categories.
Funds to universities: Government of Benin; Students
registration fees; The Netherlands Fellowships
Programme (through Niche and ARF projects), French
Embassy, German Fund (through DAAD), European
Union (through INTRA-ACP, Edulink, other research
funds), Bill Gates Foundation, Government of Koweit,
Government of Iran, ECOWAS ( Economic Community
of West African States through competitive research
funds), WAEMU (West African Economic and
Monetary Union through competitive research funds)
and BAD (Belgian Agency for Development ex-CTB
through VLIR-UOS and CUD), CORAF-WECARD,
WORLD BANK (through Excellence centres creation);
Funds for schools and faculties: Netherlands
Fellowships Programme (through ARF projects),
ECOWAS ( Economic Community of West African
States through competitive research funds), WAEMU
(West African Economic and Monetary Union through
competitive research funds), CORAF-WECARD,
WORLD BANK (through Excellence centres creation);
Funds for individual researchers or laboratories:
Small grants (BES, IFS, RUFFORD, PTES, NSF,
VAVILOV), CORAF-WECARD, RUFORUM, ANAFE,
Embassy (Japan, Venezuela, Iran, Côte d’Ivoire, Iran),
OMS, UNICEF, PNUD, World Bank (through
internships funding), etc. Although, statistics are not
available on the amount and number of donors and
funders of the universities, a global trend of increase
is noticed in the number of donors. The vision and
mission of the donors were usually divergent. While
some focused on development project others provided
the universities with infrastructure or fellowships/
scholarships (full or partial) for training the graduate
students. This gave rise to an absence of link between
the various levels of the education system in the country.
More recently some universities have decided also to
fund the research through the competitive funds for
research. The University of Abomey-Calavi is currently
funding research through Master and PhD students
training. At the end of the first cohort (3 years project)
all the theses should be defended and an assessment
of the results will be made.
Higher Agricultural Education Sector in Benin
The value of agriculture as an intrinsic part of the rural
school curriculum has been acknowledged as a manual
Figure 4: Trends in the creation of universities in the Republic of Benin
146
Review of the higher education system in Benin
activity, added on to the school curriculum in Benin.
Currently, Bachelor-Master-PhD system, which has
been in practice in the United States since a long time
and adopted and extended to most European
universities, was introduced a few years ago in higher
educational system in Benin. Some faculties among
which the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (University
of Abomey-Calavi) have quickly adopted (due to
benefits i.e. equipment, lab, resources, capacity building
of lecturers and researchers for the trial) and made
full use of while others were reticent. Since the
academic year 2011-2012, the system has been
generalized in all faculties and schools including at the
faculty of Agronomy (University of Parakou), the
University of Kétou, and the High National School of
Agronomy of Djougou (currently under the University
of Natitingou). However, some difficulties are noticed
in this new system implementation (students’
management, recognition of the diploma, organization
of the exams, organization of field training, etc.). The
number of students has been increasing for all faculties
or Colleges of Agriculture in Benin (as shown for the
University of Abomey-Calavi; Figure 5). Although the
main tendency has been overall increasing, some
decrease has been noticed during the academic year
2008-2009. The main cause being the creation of a
new University of Agriculture in Ketou.
Gaps in the higher agricultural education sector
In 2003, the objectives of the higher agricultural
education in Benin were defined in the Law of
orientation of Education, following three large axes as
follow:
(i) to train adults equipped with spirit of initiative,
having the passion for research, and being self-
employed and able to contribute effectively to the
development of the country;
(ii) to train technically qualified and balanced adults;
(iii) to be used as means of transformation of the
country.
This lawful framework governing the system presents
nevertheless insufficiencies, in particular with regard
to the piloting of the system, namely:
(i) inexistence of an operational planning system
based on the definition of an overall strategy of
the sector;
(ii) unsuccessful implementation of the Bachelor-
Master-PhD system leading to not well trained
student and as such not good candidate for a good
job;
(iii) the lack of basic laboratory supplies and
equipment;
(iv) the absence of a precise mechanism of
management of flow, on the one hand, and on
the other hand, by reference to the labour market;
(v) the low adequacy between the training provided
by agricultural schools and the current needs of
the markets;
(vi) the absence of a framework of dialogue between
the university world and the world of the
companies/industries which the industrialists
constitute;
(vii) lack of collaboration between the private and
public universities.
Challenges in the Higher agricultural education and
rural development
Higher Agricultural education is experiencing serious
problems that impact on the quality of the education
Figure 5: Trends of increase in the number of students registered at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the
University of Abomey-Calavi
147
A.E. ASSOGBADJO et al.
provided and bring into question the relevance of the
programs offered. Issues of concern include inadequate
funding, often-increasing enrolment, insufficiency of
social and teaching infrastructures, lack of teachers,
poor infrastructure, the declining quality of research
and teaching (in some faculties), and high graduate
unemployment rates. This meant that increases in
enrolments were not matched by commensurate
increases in resources. In addition, faculties (or High
national schools) of agriculture have to find an
increasing proportion of their resources through
research contracts, as national subventions are often
insufficient to cover the needs. As such, the heads of
these faculties (or High national schools) have to
struggle for more efficient research, teaching, and
management methods such as maximizing class sizes,
or invest in more collaborative or regional research
projects. Similarly, faculties of agriculture enlarged their
mandate to cover new areas, not always related to
agriculture (Forestry, Aquaculture, Fisheries, etc.). The
profile of students entering agricultural programs has
also changed. Students in higher agricultural education
system are no longer purely rural in origin or necessarily
from a farming origin. No longer is the student intake
from among the best secondary school graduates.
Agriculture is no longer the first choice of many of
those who pursue degree courses in agriculture. The
urgency of “getting a degree” often swells the ranks
of Higher Agricultural Education (HAE) but the impact
of HAE graduates on agriculture or rural development
is not necessarily strong. These problems (Table 2)
and others, are generally not being dealt with because
of internal and external factors that include:
(i) the declining power of agronomists/agricultural
workers in some rural areas especially
extensionists,
(ii) the impact of low prices for agricultural products
leading to low return on products sales,
(iii) the low diversification of agricultural sector
(cotton remains the main crop of interest),
(iv) the maladjusted mechanization scheme leading to
ambiguous improvement in the field
(v) the lack of integration of science and technology
in agricultural channel and development and,
(vi) the absence of policies for higher agricultural
education.
The crisis facing HAE has been identified and debated
in national and international meetings but despite a
plethora of exhortations and suggested solutions, change
has been slow. The “new” conception of the agriculture
sector is more inclusive, reflecting the use of off-farm
resources in food production systems, recognizing
consumer concerns for quality and food safety, and
including the skills and technologies that integrate the
physical farming part of the food chain with all the
post-harvest human uses and impact. HAE has a key
role to play in ensuring that:
a) critical knowledge and skills are imparted to
teachers and students; and
b) other rural development actors appreciate the role
of agriculture and sustainable natural resources
management, and the synergies involved in working
together to build human resource capacity.
Accordingly, HAE institutions have to act quickly
to:
(i) clarify their roles and missions for a sustainable
development,
(ii) establish their legitimate place in the higher
education system, and
(iii) make the organizational and administrative
changes necessary to make a meaningful
contribution to both the professional and
general stakeholders concerned with rural
development. In this context, there is a critical
need for HAE institutions to initiate and lead in
articulating a vision for the future that serves
the needs not only of agriculture but also of all
who inhabit the rural areas.
Sustainable development in Benin: Necessary
adjustment in the Higher education system
Traditionally, universities in Benin, including
agricultural universities, have focused most of their
attention on national development through the two
missions of research and teaching. Universities have
often seen themselves as institutions to prepare
graduates for national and international labor markets,
and to address research problems. Academics have
had to rely on national and/or international collaboration
for the quality of their research and teaching, and this
has sometimes been at the expense of making a greater
contribution to local economies and communities. Only
a small share of the university community appears to
have developed strategies to contribute to the
development of community education and to support
local development. Furthermore, higher education and
basic education have coexisted in Benin with relatively
little interaction. Despite the impact of the quality of
university teaching and research on the state of the
educational system of the country, there has been a
tendency for universities to pay little attention to the
primary and secondary levels of the school system.
Yet, it is increasingly recognized that all types and levels
of education other than basic education, including
higher education, must contribute significantly to the
pursuit of Education. Notably, the World Conference
of Higher Education (1998) proclaimed that one of the
missions of higher education is “to contribute to the
development and improvement of education at all
levels”. In the context of formulating lifelong learning
148
Review of the higher education system in Benin
policies, and crafting more coherent, seamless, and
flexible education and training systems, universities and
especially agricultural institutions are likely to have an
important role to play in supporting teaching and
learning at all levels. Yet, the extent to which national
universities already support basic education and the
nature of this support are not well known. While some
universities are keen to demonstrate their contribution
to territorial development, and most have some links
with other educational institutions in their locality, the
exact roles and priorities of universities in relation to
supporting rural development remains to be further
specified. There must be a national policy on Higher
Agricultural Education and specifically on education
for rural development in general. The already existing
actions dealing with HAE need to be connected with
the ones on education for rural development included
in the higher education system rather than with the
established agricultural education. In addition, HAE
institutions must be able to advise and guide policy-
makers on the problems and solutions to the provision
of education and training for agriculture and rural
development.
Strategies to improve the higher education system in
Benin
For a successful implementation of the higher education
system programme at country level and their
contribution to development:
(i) it is necessary to develop the intensive use of the
factor work in the technological choices of projects
and programs of development;
(ii) it is essential to reinforce more than in the past the
social dialogue and set concrete action, by
associating all category of actors to the process;
(iii) one needs reallocation of the resources provided
especially based on the needs and productivity.
Higher Agricultural Education institutions have to act
quickly to clarify their roles and missions, establish
their legitimate place in the higher education system,
and make the organizational and administrative changes
necessary to make a meaningful contribution to both
the professional and general stakeholders concerned
with rural development. In this context, there is a critical
need for HAE institutions to initiate and lead in
articulating a vision for the future that serves the needs
not only of agriculture but also of all who inhabit the
rural areas. These can be achieved through the
following strategies (Table 3; supporting information):
(i) Strategy 1: Redesign the teaching-learning process
to make it more practical and hands-on;
(ii) Strategy 2: Increase the visibility of Agricultural
faculties and college;
(iii) Strategy 3: Insure a fair availability of infrastructure
needs in the national universities;
(iv) Strategy 4: Reinforce partnerships between public
and private universities.
CONCLUSION
Higher education system as it exists today in Benin is
broken and fundamental reforms are urgently needed
for the system to play a catalytic role transitioning the
country from a subsistence economy towards a
knowledge economy. Higher agricultural education,
embedded in science culture, is relevant for training
present and future leaders and producers for a
sustainable future by providing students with relevant
academic skills and best attitude. Certainly, the
contribution of education to development extends far
beyond the school context. Hence, the discussion on
education and rural development should include various
forms of non-formal education, including adult literacy
programmes.
Science and Technology should be mastered in a
systemic manner and used to get better perspectives
for agriculture to feed Africa population but also as
economy driver at all levels. The best science agenda
for HAE could be effected through the integration of
research institutes and their facilities to academic
laboratories. That will enhance skills and scientific
knowledge sharing for various end-users.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We thank the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity
Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) for providing
financial support for the survey. We are very grateful
to all the respondents who voluntary took part in the
survey.
STATEMENT OF NO CONFLICT OF
INTEREST
We the authors of this paper hereby declare that there
are no competing interests in this publication.
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... Furthermore, only about 2% of BSc, MSc and PhD holders and 6.38% of DEAT holders expressed that their job was irrelevant to their field of study. These agriculture graduates did not voluntarily choose mismatched jobs, but instead driven into it because they couldn't find work in their field since agricultural training institutions produce a larger number of (4) 3.4(4)* 3.52(4)** DEAT Supply 1.45(1)** 1.89(2)** 1.76(2)** 1.52(1)** Actual 3.65(4)** 3.96(4)** 3.95(4)** 3.84(4)** Bachelor Supply 1.51(1)** 2.00(2)** 2.16(2)** 1.59(1)** Actual 3.76(4)** 4.14(4)** 4.07(4)** 4.02(4)** Master Supply 1.61(1)** 2.05(2)** 2.24(2)** 1.65(1)** Actual 3.97(4)** 4.25(4)** 4.20(4)** 4.11 (4) graduates in those disciplines, which are relatively less in demand in the labour market (Assogbadjo et al., 2016). For example, statistics collected from agricultural training institutions in Benin showed that between 2015 and 2019, 1,069 DEAT-level graduates had been trained in the forestry speciality. ...
... This mismatch is explained by the absence of a training system closely linked to the needs of the labour market (employers). In fact, recruiters of agriculture graduates do not usually work with agricultural training institutions to discuss the inclusion of soft and digital skills in the curriculum (Assogbadjo et al., 2016). Therefore, the training supplied by agricultural training institutions does not allow beneficiaries to develop soft and digital skills. ...
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