AUSTRALIA, Rockhampton. A new survey by the Central Queensland University (CQU) finds that Australia’s students severely lack agricultural knowledge. Researchers call on the government to promote agricultural literacy as a measure to tackle the growing labour shortages in the farming sector.
Central Queensland University (CQU) published the findings of its survey on agricultural knowledge among Australia’s school students.
In the largest ever survey of its kind, CQU’s Agri-tech Education and Extension research team, led by Dr Amy Cosby, surveyed more than 5,000 primary and secondary students across Australia about their knowledge of agriculture.
The study found that many students regarded agriculture to be a low-tech industry, with four in five primary students and three in five secondary students believing commercial milking of dairy cows occurs by hand rather than by machine.
“Agriculture is in a period of rapid technological advancement, but modern farming practices are not being adequately portrayed to Australian students,” Dr Cosby said.
The study showed that student awareness of agricultural careers was also limited, with many only able to recognise traditional roles such as a ‘farmer’ and ‘beekeeper’ as jobs in agriculture.
Dr Cosby said this was likely a contributing factor to the industry’s current skilled workforce shortage. “If students are not being shown an accurate vision of modern agriculture, they are unlikely to recognise that agricultural jobs can be highly skilled, well paid and possibly located outside rural areas,” Dr Cosby said.
While agricultural knowledge is developed through both formal schooling and informal experiences, agriculture as a subject is not a mandatory inclusion in most Australian schools. The exception to this is in New South Wales, where agriculture is part of the compulsory curriculum in Years 7 and 8.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s consumers, and their future purchasing decisions will be shaped by their understanding of things like animal welfare, environmental sustainability and healthy eating practices,” Dr Cosby said.
Dr Cosby said the study also highlighted the need for a formal framework to assess students’ agricultural literacy, similar to what is in place in the United States under the National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes (NALOs).
“The absence of an agricultural literacy framework in Australian schools is a significant deficit and limits the capacity for a comprehensive assessment of the agricultural education that is taking place,” Dr Cosby said.
Source: Central Queensland University