The National Farmers’ Federation is calling for greater investment in agricultural education after a study by the Primary Industries Education Foundation found that student and teacher knowledge of Australia’s food and fibre sector is alarmingly low.
NFF President Jock Laurie said the study, which found that 75 percent of students believe cotton is an animal product and 65 percent do not associate farming with innovation, is a call to action for the agricultural sector, parents and teachers.
“The agricultural sector is under no illusion that there is a very real and ever-widening gap in terms of students’ knowledge and understanding of basic farming practices,” Mr Laurie said.
“This should be of real concern to parents, teachers and society as a whole: if children do not understand food or where it comes from, how can we expect them to be able to make healthy, nutritious and sustainable food choices?
“Food and clothing are among the most basic of all human needs, and it seems incredulous that children are not taught more about where these vital products come from, or what goes into growing them.
“The release of the PIEF study highlights the gap in the knowledge of our children, and demonstrates the need for a long-term whole-of-government approach to school education which will help Australia meet the food security challenges of the next 50 years,” Mr Laurie said.
“Last week we issued the NFF’s Farm Facts 2012, which shows that Australian agriculture is a vitally important contributor to Australia’s society, economy and environment. The growth in the farm sector has consistently outperformed other sectors and was a key reason we avoided a recession during the global financial crisis. And the prospects for agriculture are huge, with the need to feed and clothe a booming world population.
“We have thousands of jobs available in agriculture and this will continue to grow as the current generation of farmers retire, which means there are enormous opportunities for students. But unless the next generation learn about agriculture and food and fibre production, it seems unlikely that they will ever consider these areas as a career.
“The NFF supports the PIEF’s call for food and fibre production to be directly included in the sustainability component of the national Curriculum, to ensure that students are taught about these vital areas.
“We also call on the Government to maintain its commitment to the PIEF, the peak body for primary industries education in Australian schools, in the upcoming Federal Budget – ensuring that they can continue their important work,” Mr Laurie said.
The NFF is a strong advocate for the PIEF, and was one of the bodies responsible for its establishment. The PIEF is a collaboration between the agricultural industry and the education and government sectors.