Open Letter of Minister Norma Foley – Agricultural Science Teacher Guidelines & Sample Papers

The following correspondence was sent to Minister for Education Ms Norma Foley TD, and other education stakeholders in the State Examinations Commission & National Council for Curriculum in Education yesterday on behalf of members of IASTA and all students of Agricultural Science in Ireland.

Dear Minister Foley,

We are writing to you on behalf of the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association (I.A.S.T.A.) to express the concern of our members about the new Leaving Certificate specification for Agricultural Science which was introduced in September 2019 and is due to be examined next June (2021) for the first time. We are attaching a submission on behalf of I.A.S.T.A.

The New Specification was very much needed and welcomed by teachers of Agricultural Science throughout Ireland. There was clearly a need for an updated specification and we welcome the greater focus on Scientific Practices and, for the first time, the inclusion of twenty mandatory student investigations in the specification. These mandatory student investigations will ensure that all students will develop a common set of fundamental laboratory practical skills.  In addition, there is a deeper emphasis on technology, genetics and genomics along with sustainability and safe working practises. All of these are very welcome.

However, we wish to bring to your attention some fundamental problems that exist with the specification and with its implementation in the classroom. Among these problems are the specification design and problems in the way the Learning Outcomes are written. Further details in relation to these issues are given in the attached submission. We believe that as an experienced teacher you will appreciate the concerns that we raise on behalf of our students and the members of our professional association.

From the outset, it was clear to the I.A.S.T.A. that the draft specification was a vague document. It is written using the same template as was used in writing the Junior Cycle Science specification, i.e. simply a list of Learning Outcomes with no depth of treatment provided or information about assessment which would enable teachers to interpret and implement these learning outcomes in a consistent way in the classroom.

The Executive of I.A.S.T.A.  met with an N.C.C.A. representative at our Annual Conference on the 4th/5th of March 2016 and subsequently for a full day on the 14th March 2016. We were promised by N.C.C.A. that a Teacher Guidelines document would be provided to accompany the new Agricultural Science specifications. This Teacher Guidelines document would guide and support the teachers in interpreting the depth of treatment of each learning outcome. We were told by the N.C.C.A. representative not to be concerned about the vagueness on the learning outcomes as everything would be made clear in the Teacher Guidelines document. However, although we are now well into the second year of teaching the new programme, with only months to go before the Leaving Certificate, neither Teacher Guidelines nor sample examination papers have been made available. This is a matter of considerable concern to our students, their parents and our teachers.

Furthermore, the N.C.C.A.  Agricultural Science in Practise Group has not yet been convened.

On behalf of I.A.S.T.A. we are requesting that the Teacher Guidelines document and the sample examination papers be made available immediately as a matter of urgency.

In appreciation of your favourable consideration on these matters.

Yours sincerely,

I.A.S.T.A. National Executive.



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