Ag science teachers voice new curriculum concerns

The Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association (IASTA) has a number of concerns about the new agricultural science curriculum and how students will access farms due to Covid-19.

This is what the new public relations officer (PRO) of IASTA, Johnny Gleeson, told AgriLand.

“Like all other teachers, we have some concerns about going back in September. We hope the clarification will come soon,” he said.

In terms of ag science, we feel several issues need addressing. Firstly the incoming sixth years have missed a large proportion of their studies with Covid-19. We also have concerns about how students will access farms due to Covid.

There is also the concern of how students will complete experiments in class due to reduced numbers and the sharing of equipment, the PRO added.

“The new curriculum is a dramatic change to the previous one and teachers are still working to find new ways of implementing the new course.

“With Covid thrown into the mix, we need clarification on how the new project or individual investigative study can be completed by students,” said the new PRO.

“Further issues that need clarification are what form the exam will take next June. The new curriculum is challenging but we need to know what assessment these students will undertake,” said Johnny, who teaches at Coláiste Bhríde, Carnew, Co. Wicklow.

“As for this year’s students who will receive predicted grades, we welcomed the decision when it came as it relieved some of the stress on the students and teachers,” he said.

“We look forward to returning to our classrooms in a safe manner for both teachers and students.”

Meanwhile, the Central Applications Office (CAO) recently revealed that interest in agricultural courses had decreased compared to last year.

Numbers have fallen in recent years, but more institutions are creating new courses which are a slight change to normal ag science courses at third level but are very welcome additions.

“Hopefully, with the new courses, we can help improve the number studying some aspect of agriculture at third level and help boost the number working in such a vital native industry,” the IASTA PRO concluded.