A pioneering agribusiness programme developed out of St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton is poised to mark its 10-year anniversary, and hopes to have 120 New Zealand schools and 4000 students on board this year.
Agribusiness in Schools evolved out of a 2013 St Paul’s parents survey that concluded it was not meeting the needs of its students with rural backgrounds in encouraging them to consider pathways into the primary sector.
In its 10 years the nationwide scheme, which began as a private partnership in association with Dairy NZ and Beef+Lamb NZ and 11 other business partners, has grown from a piloted plan to being in more than 100 schools across the country. It will celebrate its 10th anniversary on March 29 with a function at St Paul’s Collegiate.
The programme takes knowledge from the sector and uses it in the classroom, highlighting how careers in fields such as law, medicine, tourism and marketing can be incorporated into the sector.
Curriculum project director Kerry Allen told Farmers Weekly in an interview last year that teaching agribusiness has not been without its challenges. It was a new teaching subject without any recognised standards.
Early on, Allen used achievement standards from other subjects and recontextualised them for teaching agribusiness.
This led to her pitching to the Ministry of Education in Wellington in 2017, motivating for the creation of a new agribusiness subject and new achievement standards.
“There were a lot of barriers in the way because it was the first time a sector group had gone to the ministry to propose a subject. Usually, it goes the opposite way and the ministry tells you what everybody needs,” she said.
But a year later, Allen got the subject its own achievement standards.
Ten schools came on board to trial the new standard, including state and privately run schools.
It was a St Paul’s initiative, but Allen said she has always seen the curriculum as something bigger.
At the end of stage two of the programme in 2021, 107 schools and 3207 students had been taught agribusiness achievement standards.
Goals for the programme this year are to have 120 schools teaching agribusiness, and 4000 students studying. There are also plans to improve and strengthen regional engagement with primary sector businesses and schools and increase trainee teacher numbers and teacher capability in agribusiness.
Meat Industry Association chair and former minister for primary industries Nathan Guy, who is guest speaker at the event, was involved in early discussions about the programme and was thrilled to see where it has ended up today.
“Agriculture was lost in the curriculum and had pretty much vanished. There was concern from a lot of agriculture leaders that agriculture was being dumbed down in schools – “if you’re not achieving or doing very well, you should go ahead and be a shearer or fencer, or go and milk the cows”.
“And agriculture is a lot broader than that now.
“Quite often in these higher skilled jobs, you need well-qualified pupils that can go on and grow agricultural businesses.”
Guy said the difficulty with big-picture thinking is visualising that it will work, “and St Paul’s proved that it could”.
The celebration is a chance for the programme’s leaders to thank their sponsors and business partners over the years.
It will also be an opportunity for agricultural industry leaders to network and discuss how to support and facilitate career pathways from education into the primary industries sector.