Tech-focused school STI and Tony Tan Caktiong, chairman and founder of the fast-food chain Jollibee, recently signed an agreement to boost and modernize agricultural education in the country.
Under the agreement, STI and Tan Caktiong will establish an academic institution with programs in agro-entrepreneurship, agricultural technology, logistics, and quick-service restaurants among others that are more responsive to the needs of the labor market.
The STI campus in Tanauan, Batangas will become the initial vehicle for the joint collaboration.
The new school will house state-of-the-art agriculture facilities and equipment such as greenhouses, field laboratories, livestock and poultry farms, as well as a rainwater harvesting system for irrigation and other uses.
It will also be equipped with industry-grade simulation laboratories, air-conditioned classrooms equipped with flat screen TVs, student activity centers with Internet connection, a covered basketball court, and multimedia centers among others, aimed to provide a more conducive learning environment.
“My experience in JFC (Jollibee Foods Corporation) has given me unique perspectives on the challenges and importance of having a consistent and reliable supply of high-quality agricultural products. I am excited with this collaboration as it will help to uplift the agricultural and related sectors through education, another potential means for us to contribute to nation-building,” said Tan Caktiong.
Recent studies show that the average age of farmers is 57 years old, which raises alarm over the possible future gap in human resource requirements for agriculture and poses a threat to food security and sustainability, unless a new generation replaces the current farmers, who are expected to retire in a decade or so.
The condition of farmers in agricultural areas also dissuade the youth from pursuing higher education in related courses, and even a typical farmer would not encourage his children to get into agriculture as a career.
“While there are many multifaceted factors that affect food security and sustainable development in agriculture, education plays a critical role in changing mindsets and remains to be a key element in addressing these threats and challenges,” said Eusebio H. Tanco, chairman of STI.
He pointed out that among the critical issues in the 21st century will be the relevant changes and adaptations required in agricultural education to attract young Filipinos and revive their interest in agriculture by positioning it as a viable career option. These will effectively contribute to improved food security, sustainable agricultural production, and rural development.