The Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science curriculum is designed to provide pupils with the necessary skills, practical experience and knowledge in a range of agricultural and scientific principles. The subject involves the study of the science and technology underlying the principles and practices of agriculture in Ireland. It aims to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that promote the sustainability of agricultural resources, and places emphasis on the managed use of these resources.
It is a broad but interesting course, which examines the principal farming enterprises in Ireland (dairy, beef, sheep, pig, tillage crops, potatoes, forestry, poultry) while also giving a deep understanding of the science underpinning these enterprises. Plants and animal types associated with agriculture are studied, and investigations are undertaken into such aspects as soil, ecology, plant and animal physiology, farm crops, farming practices, genetics and microbiology.
The course is typically aimed at students with an interest in agriculture or horticulture, or perhaps those who wish to pursue a career in Veterinary medicine, but in reality the subject has broad appeal, even in city schools, and an agricultural background is not necessary. In 2014, nearly 8000 students sat the Agricultural Science exam in their Leaving Certificate (more than Physics and just shy of Chemistry). Young people are more interested in where their food comes from these days, thus the subject has increased in popularity over the past number of years.
As well as being classroom and lab orientated, the subject is also deeply rooted in farm practice and most schools will arrange a large number of field trips and excursions to farms, universities and laboratories during the two years of study. Throughout the two year course the pupils are required to maintain a portfolio of their practical experience, which will be assessed and contribute to their overall grade in the Leaving Certificate. The terminal exam, worth 75% of the total marks, is a 2 1/2 hour paper assessing all elements of the curriculum.
The Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science curriculum is currently being reviewed. The NCCA have recently drafted a 'Background Paper,' which creates the platform for the development of a new syllabus. A syllabus committee is currently being formed which will produce draft specifications for the new curriculum over the coming years. It is an exciting time in the development of the subject.
In the early 1980’s the Dept. of Education considered combining the two subjects, Biology and Agricultural Science, into one subject for the Leaving Certificate Examination. At this time, Agricultural Science teachers were all working in isolation, without in-service or support from any source, except their own individual notes and resources. However a group of Agricultural Science teachers, in the south – east were meeting independently, sharing their ideas on how they could improve their own teaching of the subject to their students in their classrooms.
Alerted to the thinking that was happening in the Dept. of Education, and the spark of resistence that was lit in the South-East, word spread to other like minded Agricultural Science teachers throughout the land. In 1985 the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers Association [IASTA] was founded. Mr. Marty Barrett (St. Peter’s College,Wexford) and Mr.Willie Considine, (Bridgetown Voc. School, Co.Wexford) were elected first Chairman and Secretary respectively.
They worked tirelessly travelling to meetings in each province to promote the primary aims of IASTA. The Dept. of Education listened to our representations and Agricultural Science continued to be a stand alone laboratory science subject in the Leaving Certificate examination. The next step for the fledgling organization was to promote the development of a new syllabus for Agricultural Science to replace the one that was in existence since 1972.
The role of the organization became widely recognized as a representative organization for Agricultural Science; Mr Willie Considine represented IASTA on the N.C.C.A. syllabus committee and was nominated as Chairman. Other IASTA members represented their teaching Unions etc over the years .The need for a new Syllabus arose due to the tremendous new Scientific developments and advancements that had taken place in agriculture following Ireland’s entry to the E.E.C. (now E.U.) in 1973.
The draft new Agricultural Science Syllabus was produced in 1994, before many of this year's 8000 students will sit their Leaving Certificate exam. Although this syllabus had been approved by the N.C.C.A., and the Department of Education and Skills, it was never implemented. It is, of course, out of date already and a new syllabus is in the early stages of draftsmanship.
Since the foundation of IASTA, a strong link has been established and maintained with numerous agricultural interest groups, including the Agricultural Science Association (A.S.A.), The Farmers Journal, AgriAware & Teagasc, to name but a few. These collaborations have led to initiatives like the Farmers Journal Study Guides, weekly articles on elements of the coursework, the textbook 'Pastures New' and most recently a Revision Aid. This collaboration have also yielded a 'Dictionary of Essential Agricultural Science Terms' and the 'Agricultural Science Experiments' Booklets. IASTA are always on the look out for new collaborations and our members can look forward to increased benefits in the future. Recently, Airfield Farm & Gardens have decided to offer a reduced membership to IASTA Members.
IASTA’s website was set up in 2011 with a complete redesign in 2014 (including the design of a new logo for the association). The website now manages all membership online and includes a wide range (and ever expanding) series of resources.
Chairperson: George Dennis, Kilorglin Comuunity College, Co Kerry (Retired)
Vice Chairperson: Pat Curtin, Colaiste Mhuire, Buttevant, Co Cork
Secretary: Ross O’Donovan, Copsewood, Salesian College, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick
Assistant Secretary: Louise Gallagher, CBS, Roscommon Town
Treasurer: Stephanie Flannery, Our Ladys School, Terenure, Dublin 6W
Assistant Treasurer: Jenny Behan, St Fintans High School, Sutton, Co Dublin
ASA representative: Elma Nolan, Colaiste Brid, Carnew
Webmaster: Humphrey Jones, St Columba’s College, Dublin