The development of a new ag science syllabus is well under way. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) agricultural science development group has met on five occasions and expects to have a draft specification of a new syllabus ready by the end of the year. The group consists of 16 people and includes representatives from the Department of Education, the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Assocation (IASTA) and universities, among others. The broad areas of the syllabus are agreed and the three main categories are soils, grass and other crops, and animals. Many in the development group are teachers, so the group isn’t meeting during the summer, but work will continue on the specification regardless. Syllabus project officer with the NCCA for the new specification Dr Vanessa Woods (Agri Aware chief executive) and Bill Lynch of the NCCA are developing draft learning outcomes over the summer within each of the main areas. Once the specification is ready, it will go to the board for senior cycle. Then it will go through the NCCA’s own formal council, seeking approval for public consultation.
Public consultation will then take the form of a number of focus meetings. These will most likely take place for two months – from November at the earliest. At the focus meetings, particular groups that will be targeted for views include IASTA and representatives from third-level and second-level students. The document will also be published online with a link to a questionnaire seeking feedback. A draft specification will be presented to the Department of Education, which will decide exactly when the syllabus will be introduced.
Normally a specification is in schools a year before it’s introduced, allowing teachers time to familiarise themselves with the syllabus and for in-services to take place. It is therefore expected the syllabus will be with teachers by September 2016. The new syllabus must be teachable and learnable within 180 hours over two years. The current syllabus is 40 years old and is just five pages long, compared with, for example, the 52- page biology syllabus.