UPDATE: Teachers of the Leaving Cert agricultural science courses have said the science syllabus is 40 years out of date and has been neglected by the Department of Education.
This is according to Damian Phelan, chairman of the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association, which represents 400 agri teachers across Ireland.
Speaking to AgriLand today the IASTA chairman said: “It is very hard for agri-science students to achieve an A1. It is the toughest subject on the Leaving Certificate, which is linked among of factors, that there is no detailed syllabus for teachers to follow. The course is extremely ad-hoc and it is outdated by 40 years.”
More than 55,000 students across Ireland received their Leaving Certificate results this morning, including thousands of agriculture science students. The State Examination board predicted 7646 students would sit the agricultural science paper in 2013, when in fact results published this morning show 7,137 students sat the subject. Some 5951 students sat the Higher Level Paper where 3.6 per cent achieved an A1, a slight decrease compared to last year’s 4.5 per cent.
“If you compare all the Leaving Certificate subjects, agricultural science is among the most difficult to get an A1. This is mainly because of the lack of a syllabus. This needs to be examined,” Phelan insisted.
In terms of the Ordinary Paper for 2013, 1463 students sat the paper and .1 per cent achieved an A1. The IASTA chairman noted in this level the number of students failing this paper was particularly high, at 3.6 per cent. “This needs to be looked at. Why is nearly 4 per cent of students failing?”
“A key feature is simply that the agricultural science course has not changed in 40 years. Students need to be given a modern syllabus to work with. There are no teacher guidelines,” Phelan claimed.
The IASTA chairman, who is also a maths and biology student, said in his other teaching subjects a 230-page teacher guidelines is allocated by the Department of Education. “There is only a five-page syllabus that is all for agricultural science teachers. There is nothing else, no in-depth analysis or in-depth guidelines at all.”
The IASTA chairman is calling on the Department of Education to examine the matter as a matter of urgency. “The number of agri-science teachers has grown 8 per cent accumulatively the past seven years. This represents a big increase in the agri course for secondary school students across Ireland and a big increase in the sector. The syllabus needs to change.”
Huge rise in demand for agri course
Indeed recent CAO statistics show agriculture and food college course courses have experienced the steepest rise in demand in 2013, up by 10 per cent.
Secondary school students eyeing up the sector have pushed up CAO points for entry to farming courses. Seven years ago, 315 points would have secured a place in the University College Dublin School of Agriculture and Food Science, but that has since jumped to about 450. For September 2013, the school received 4,217 applications, a 65 per cent increase when compared to 2003.
The first round of CAO offers will be issued next week.
Meanwhile, students still have time to apply for a college grant. Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), the grants awarding body, said yesterday it would continue to accept applications, but the sooner students applied the sooner a decision on grant applications would be made.
This story was updated at 11.36 with an interview with Damain Phelan of the IASTA and results published by the State Examinations Office