In an interview with an Egyptian TV news channel , Dr. El-Kaffass of GFAR Secretariat discussed the necessity for a new paradigm of transformational learning in order to qualify youth to overcome the challenges of the present and the future in agricultural development, and to realize the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The interview took place on the eve of the GFAR Partners’ regional meeting on Transformational Learning and Student Leadership Development, which took place in Cairo, Egypt on April 1-3, 2018.  The meeting was held in collaboration with the Union of Arab Universities, the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA) and the Arab Organization for Admissions, Registration and Student Affairs, together with Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt. Commenting on the meeting and its recommendations, Dr. El-Kaffass explained the GFAR Collective Action which started in Africa – securing the buy-in of more than 30 universities – has now been scaled out to Asia and the NENA region.

Dr. El-Kaffass asserted that the GFAR Collective Action considers that education is at the core of all development in all countries. She further explained that young people, when they find a nurturing environment, grow strong and reflect on what they learn in their daily lives, thus impacting development around the world.

The GFAR Collective Action on transformational learning in agricultural universities applies a concept of comprehensive human development that addresses five developmental aspects in the youth: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and professional. According to this approach, learning institutions should be a “one stop shop” for students where all their developmental aspects are addressed through tailored, state-of-the-art programs, and where they are mentored to develop methodically in every aspect. Universities – in addition to providing top-notch academic education to students – need to cater to these five aspects of learning.

Dr. El-Kaffass explained that physical development includes sports platforms, healthy nutrition on campus and medical follow ups. Intellectual development includes reasoning, analysis, decision-making, and professional negotiation and dialoguing. Emotional development includes appreciation of the other, affiliation with the institution and community involvement. Spiritual development engages the student in different arts, music, painting, performing and in nature through exploration and appreciation. Professional development – which currently receives considerable attention from universities in addition to academic life – is the acquisition by the students of skills needed for employability. These include communication skills, organizational skills, time management, stress management and team work.  It is important for our universities and schools of agriculture to target the five aspects to ensure a balanced, comprehensively developed graduate.

Finally, Dr. El-Kaffass asserted that requirements for success of the initiative are that the role of the instructor changes into that of facilitator of learning and development for students; that the staff and student evaluations are changed to reflect the new objectives; and that the university becomes a “platform with no walls” where students and the outside environment interact continuously to create collaborative learning experiences that prepare the student to serve the wider communities upon their graduation.

Find out more about GFAR’s focus on Transformational Learning and Student Development HERE