The master’s degree program in the alternative training system runs for 18 months and is divided into 5 units:
⇒ Unit I: building, reviewing and updating educational knowledge and practices;
⇒ Unit II: reviewing, refreshing and building career expertise;
⇒ Unit III: internships;
⇒ Unit IV: individual work;
⇒ Unit V: assessing the student.
The periods in this type of training will alternate between the Training Center and the student’s Institution.
Architecture of the Training Program
The 16 weeks at the regional centers will discuss the central themes through classes; lectures, reflections on cross-cutting themes, working in small groups, individual work, and debates.
Students will apply their teaching activities in a “laboratory” and complete their individual work during the week at the Center, assigned to them by their advisor (complementary activities by area).
This week includes conferences on topics that permeate all areas of the master’s degree (virtual classes).
The activities during the master’s candidates’ first week in the program will be held at the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro and will be reserved for meetings, discoveries, reflections, and knowledge individually, in groups (colleagues, teachers, advisors, and employees) and physical environments. It is also reserved for the methods that will be used during the process and the norms and rules that the candidates will be submitted to during the training period.
Throughout this week, the student candidates will work on preparing their Individual Training Path (ITP), assisted by their advisors. The first thing to be done will be to list all the possible elements that will help the individual to decisively organize and plan the process for individual training. This week includes an additional phase in which this data will be analyzed and interpreted by a pedagogical committee from the program that will, along with the candidate, establish their ITP.
Some of the questions that will be raised when preparing the Individual Training Path include:
1) Any personal reasons that led the candidate to apply for the training program.
2) Their goals and expectations concerning the program.
3) A diagnosis of their field and refreshing their area of knowledge. (Subjects or subjects taught).
4) A diagnosis of their field of expertise and refreshing their areas of knowledge in the related field.
5) Their professional background in terms of learning and teaching practices.
6) Expertise in methods as well as professional and pedagogical tools within their working environment.
7) The choice of a topic for individual work, which will be submitted at the end of the training program.
8) Their future expectations.
9) Research and describe the key methods that will be used during the training period.
10) Report on their teaching experience.
11) Common and divergent points between the personal project and the institutional project.
12) Their point of view on school, education, and their role within society.
13) Their bibliographic base (educational and professional).
14) Their knowledge of other languages.
15) Their IT knowledge.
16) Your ability to understand and interact with cultures that are different from theirs.
17) Their view on issues of public and private interest.
18) Their point of view on young people and their behavior
Tutoring and Mentoring
Two advisors are suggested for tutoring, as the program has a two-pronged approach: professional and investigative. These approaches will be clearly defined in the ITP of each master’s student.
One of the counselors will be represented by the Regional Coordinators, who will serve in a managerial role that assists the master’s students in conducting their work through contacts with specialists, bibliographies etc.
The second counselor will be a specialist (assisted or otherwise by an educational specialist) who will help the master’s student to accomplish their research.
Activities requested by the specialists and the Coordination will be tracked during the Training Weeks.
The following tools are used to do this tracking:
⇒ Electronic means;
⇒ A descriptive report on their activities, underscoring any advances in their ITP, as well as any obstacles, encountered;
⇒ Individual assignments that were given to improve their technical knowledge (complementary activities);
⇒ Theoretical/practical assignments required during the Training Weeks;
⇒ Seminars presenting the progress of their ITP and their research work (dissertation).
Final exams will be used to evaluate the subjects about the different topics, as well as the progress in the different activities of the program.
Approval will be required in all subjects and activities within the program to qualify for the Master’s degree, including a defense of a Master’s Dissertation Project that will be evaluated by a three-member panel.
Profile of Research Work
The dissertation will be an original work of research on themes related to the issue of agricultural schools.
Positive Aspects of the Proposed Model
The vast majority of graduate programs are based on the standard model that uses the week (40 hours) and the semester (two per school year) as the planning and scheduling unit. In this system, a credit is worth one hour of class per week/semester. A school semester corresponds to an average of 15 weeks. This means that the available work hours that can be used by the programs correspond to a total of 40 hours x 15 weeks x 2 semesters =1,200 hours. As the master’s courses are scheduled to be held in 24 months, the total workload available then becomes 1,200 x 2 = 2,400 hours.
Within the proposed model, the ideal time envisaged for training a candidate following with the principles and objective of the proposal is 18 full-time consecutive months or 72 weeks. In this respect, the total workload available for organizing and planning the proposal is 40 × 72 = 2,880 hours.
Non-decontextualization of the Professional:
Teachers remaining in the region and at the school with a minimum teaching load are considered a positive and methodological factor in this model. The teacher’s class load in training through the Alternating Learning method is counted as practical work. This is where the candidate applies or tests the new knowledge, methodologies, or models discussed and presented in the program. The fact that teachers are not disconnected from their primary work and their non-contextualization of the region, their work environment helps make these new concepts, knowledge, and models that are discussed and presented in the program become contextualized, included and tested immediately within their realities, with outcomes evaluated in subsequent sections.
From a cost point of view, the proposal presented does not include the hiring of a substitute, nor are scholarships provided. The teacher in training remains with a minimum amount of teaching hours. The candidate is not obligated to transfer, but as a rule, if accompanied by the family to other regions, the teacher can remain for at least two years. The program is more cost-effective compared to other models, where these expenses appear as fixed costs per departed teacher.
Travel expenses and per diems for placing candidates are not included here, which would greatly increase the difference described.
Strengthening and Entrenching the Reform:
Admittedly, the most significant obstacle to adopting and implementing the reform undertaken by the MEC since 1997 within the agricultural professional education system was the teaching staff’s lack of preparation and the relative misinformation of this professional contingent on the purposes, objectives, contents, and methodologies contained in the reform project. In the proposal presented here, one of the primary goals that need to be achieved is to prepare and instrumentalize the teaching staff and work on educating professionals in agriculture. This is done so they can act as agents capable of understanding, evaluating, judging, conceiving, and implementing the recommendations contained in the national curricular frameworks for professional education in their areas, notably those directed towards the agricultural sector.
Emphasizing the School as a Fundamental Location:
Within the design of the model presented, the agricultural school is placed as the fundamental locus in the process of regional development. The school will be the promoter of the process for restoring cultural heritage and will build a new concept of development on it. The school can no longer be considered as just a center that conveys or relays knowledge. Rather, it will be an integrated regional development center, interacting directly and permanently with society and its institutions. It will be established in an integrated regional development center that interacts directly and permanently with society and its institutions. It will also be promoting and participating in the creation of new knowledge.
International Support and Cooperation:
The project to be implemented has been built and worked on over the past two years in close collaboration with the École Nationale de Formation Agronomique de Toulouse (France). This cooperation, which has been so vital for the project to have reached this level, should continue because the application of the proposed model under Brazilian conditions will require permanent monitoring, at least in the first few years.
These precautions will be observed so that the excellence and quality of the program are not affected by the possible challenges that need to be overcome and adjustments that may be required. As such, the experiences shared between the teams from UFRRJ and ENFA-Toulouse is timely, because ENFA has been gathering knowledge and experience regarding the training of agricultural schoolteachers for at least 30 years.
Contacts have already been made with the University of Buenos Aires (two professors from UFRRJ went to UBA in November 2001, and three professors from UBA came to UFRRJ at the same time), creating a joint commission that could establish a work agenda on the project to extend it within the scope of Mercosur. These conversations are already in full swing and are expected to include the participation of a specialist teacher in Education Sciences at UBA in step to train educators.
Strengthens Regional Reference Centers:
The creation of regional training centers reinforces the idea embedded within the reform to develop regional reference centers. The internalization and the democratization of knowledge, reaching the furthest and most distant corners of our country, are part of the project to strengthen and redefine the role of Agricultural Schools and Universities within the context of education and Brazilian agricultural production. Imperative factors within this proposal include respect for regional culture, with the development of the program observing and complying with the conditions and potential of each region.
Breaking Down Historical Isolation:
This program definitively breaks down the existing barriers between Agricultural Schools, Universities, and Research Institutes. The isolation of the EAFs, which kept them distant from centers for training, creating, and generating knowledge, will finally be surmounted with the implementation of a program bearing these characteristics. With the permanent and continuous flow of candidates and trainers, an open communication channel will be established that connects these institutions in both directions, providing the certainty and guarantee that a new era of relationships and exchanges will be established that will serve as a positive change for the current situation and the future of these institutions.
Adoption of Modern Methods and New Technologies:
The design of this proposal is based on including state-of-the-art methods and technologies in Educating Agricultural Professionals. The Alternating Learning methodology, associated with assisted education, interdisciplinarity, and project teaching, are now part of the educational transformation process that the major European nations are going through, and their educational models have always served as a benchmark.
The program needs to be evaluated on an annual basis by a committee of three postgraduate specialists appointed by MEC-SEMTEC. Their role will be to evaluate the program in terms of its principles, objectives, goals, and methods.
This commission will have complete freedom to work and can review the documents, interviews, and make visits to the centers. In the end, they will submit a report containing their observations on the program. This report will be submitted to MEC-SEMTEC. The UFRRJ, who will be informed of it, will act appropriately to satisfy any possible ongoing and pertinent recommendations.