Slight ramblings…

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Teach the Teacher (Relief)

March 6th, 2012 · 1 Comment

There was outrage on twitter today, thankfully not after something i’d said (this time…) but over an article in the media that reported the findings from a Primary Industries Education Foundation showing a lack of basic knowledge in Agriculture. While the report is concerning, it’s not the “wake up call” that Cameron Archer (PIEF Chairman) stated today. It really isn’t, the really alarming thing is that we are shocked by this!

There is an ever increasing gap between the person who grows our food and the people that eat it and while its not the main point of this particular blog post, it is something that needs to be kept in mind.

The first thing I will say on the findings of the study is that not matter how much money we tip in to the education of young Australians, we will never ever have results that say that 100% of kids know that cotton doesn’t come from an animal but a plant! We should pour a lot more money in to it just the same and we should aim high as rely


So lets think about this, how do we teach Kids some basic ag knowledge, im not talking about teaching grade 3 students about yield calculations or programming the autosteer inputs (though they may be better at it) just basic knowledge because Agriculture is NOT in the National Curriculum .

This is very important to know, as the National Curriculum is what teachers rely apon all over Australia to tell them what they need to teach kids to make them competent. Very (very) basically the National Curriculum is a program to teach school aged children from Kinder to Year 12, it is designed to bring all states and territories on to a level playing feild.

The National Curriculum is being developed in three phases for different subjects:

      Phase 1: English, Mathematics, Sciences and History – started in 2011


      Phase 2: Languages, Geography and the Arts


    Phase 3: Health and Physical Education (HPE), Information & Communications Technology (ICT), Design & Technology, Economics, Business and Civics & Citizenship

Did you spot the problem?? No? Well go and read that list again, I’ll wait here…

Back? Good, by now you will have noticed that Agriculture is not on the National Curriculum. Sure you can argue that Ag fits in to science and you could even bundle it under the Design & Technology banner too, but why cant Ag have its own category?? Arts does, Languages too and even Geography squeezes in there, so what’s so different about Ag?

But the fact above does do one thing, it stops people from just saying “Start teaching Ag in schools again”
No, We cant just teach Ag because student can not be assessed against Ag because it isnt in the Curriculum, People who say that simply show that they just want to move the problem from their plate instead of coming up with solutions to fix the problem long term

So how do we target kids in schools if they cant be graded?? Well im glad youve asked, (and that you are still reading!) because the answer is easy, we need to shift our focus from teachers to relief teachers. We need to make it so easy for them to take worksheets that the ag industry produce and use them, that they dont look anywhere else. Relief teachers are brought in when the regular class teacher is away so they are only there for 1-2 days at the most* (*usually) Sometimes the regular teacher has set work for them do do but often the will be at the schools photocopier at 10 past 8 printing off maths worksheets and spelling tasks, so lets make them Ag related!

They dont have to be totally Ag related but why cant we design a maths task around how many litres of spray I will need it I need to fill an 800 litre tank if the fill ratio is 1 part water to 0.32 parts chemical and then have another task to see ho much is costs? (not a perfect example by a long shot but I’m sure you get the jist)

A great positive of the Ag Industry is the variation of careers that a person can do, so why not utilise that? Im not saying it’s perfect, but while others are fighting to get Agriculture on the Curriculum, Lets work with the current system to at least start getting some general Basic Agriculture in to the current classroom of kids! Geography is a topic in the Curriculum, why dont we do up some worksheets about rural Australian Geography? For the older students may the worksheets could contain some information about some of Australia’s wine regions?

An even simpler easy win might be to piggy back on current worksheets that are being used to ones with simple Ag facts around the outside.

The last part of this lecture is is to get you to make it EASY to get info on Ag! This isn’t just for teachers, its for everyone, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to learn about Ag, all it takes is people asking basic questions and we will be half way to education the public about Agriculture in Australia, the second half? Well Agriculture as a whole needs to be willing to answer those questions and invite people to ask more.

Back to making it easy for teachers (both relief and regular) to use recourses that the Ag industry supply that they cant NOT use them!

If you still want to go down the regular teacher route than make sure you make it easy for them to use and fit in to a topic on the National Curriculum that is already there.
Australian Agriculture is full of smart people so this will be easy! LETS MAKE IT HAPPEN!

And finally, lets stop bagging teachers, they have a hard enough time as it is with out another industry piling it on, just like Farmers they need a break too

Leave me a comment

Tags: Agriculture

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 OzPIEF // Mar 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Hi Sam,
    Its great to see you discussing the issue.
    PIEF (I know talking about ourselves is rude) has launched as a start to make it easier for teachers by putting resources in one space.
    Still along way to go as we are hamstrung by funding, but it is a start.
    In your review of the curriculum you left out the cross-curricula priority of ‘Sustainability’.
    Our push is to have Sustainable Food and Fibre included there. Therefore you are still assessing against maths, english, science and history, but using the context of the primary industries.
    The next trick is to source funding to produce quality, easy to use resources for teachers to use to , as you said, make it easier for them.
    This will not happen without a decent business case and the results of the survey are certainly a call to action.
    Developing a solid research base of what works and why is also a crucial step, rather than the scatter approach of the past.

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