New ag science specification to be introduced in September

The Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association (IASTA) has welcomed the news that the new agricultural science specification for Leaving Cert will be introduced to schools next September. The first Leaving Cert exam based on the new syllabus will be in June 2021.

“Schools received an official circular in December to say it would be introduced in September 2019. Most teachers have seen these new specifications for the first time this week,” said Willie White, IASTA PRO.

“This is the first official confirmation of a new specification and the first ever overhaul since the Leaving Cert agricultural science syllabus was introduced in 1972, so we welcome it and are very much looking forward to implementing it,” said Willie, who teaches at St. Peter’s College in Wexford.

Changes in technology

“We had been calling for decades for the updating of the syllabus to reflect the changes in modern agriculture. Agriculture in Ireland in 2019 looks very different to what it did in 1972.

The new syllabus will reflect the changes in technology and the emphasis on sustainability. The 25% for practical work will remain, which we welcome, and we expect sample assessments to be available at a later stage.

Willie said that there have been significant efforts from agricultural science teachers, supported by IASTA and the Professional Development Service for Teachers, to ensure that modern farm and agri-food practices were included in class delivery.

Agricultural economics scrapped

As part of the overhaul, agricultural economics, a separate subject with a low uptake, is being scrapped, Willie said. “There will be an element of the subject in the new agricultural science syllabus.”

The IASTA PRO said that teachers are happy with the developments and will take time to digest them. “This is only the first step; the next stage is about implementation. Training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of teachers will be required to help implement the new course.”

Since the introduction of the new biology syllabus in 2002, which meant that students could study both agricultural science and biology for their Leaving Cert for the first time, the numbers taking agricultural science have grown from under 3,000 to close to 8,000, Willie said.

The practical component of the exam takes pressure off and is particularly interesting to those who are not from a farming background, he said.

“Hopefully, more young people from both farming and non-farming backgrounds will be taking the subject which is acknowledged as a science subject for entry into third level. We all eat food so we are all connected to agriculture.”