Top marks to St Paul's

Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014

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OPINION: St Paul's Collegiate School, the Hamilton-based independent day and boarding school, has announced an $8 million development including building a cutting-edge learning hub, expanding the school's music block and rebuilding a boarding house, Williams House.

The fourth project is the launch of a Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Science and Business. The school deserves top marks after declaring its hope the centre will change the face of agribusiness education in this country. It describes the initiative as one of "national significance" in educating the next generation of agribusiness leaders. Headmaster Grant Lander says industry, businesses, professionals and tertiary institutes have been involved in developing a curriculum that will produce tertiary-qualified students for the sector. That's commendable, too.

Significantly, the agribusiness courses (at NCEA level 2 and 3) aren't intended just for St Paul's students. The programme has been designed with the whole country in mind, Lander says. His school will set the template and work with a group of lead schools next year.

It will host a national conference and workshops in 2016 for teachers interested in delivering the new curriculum, and will offer the curriculum to secondary schools across the country in 2017. It's a blot on our education system that St Paul's can claim this will be the first structured programme in NZ to promote careers in agribusiness. Figures worked out in conjunction with DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb show about 1200 graduates are required for the sector each year, but only 250 or so are coming out of our universities. Yet the sector can claim to be the country's most productive and innovative, and entry-level jobs provide pay packets significantly higher than those of arts graduates entering the workforce. Most critically, the need to feed a steadily growing global population means the agricultural sector is poised to boom. A shortage of skilled workers threatens to hold it - and the economy - back. Waikato University professor of agribusiness Jacqueline Rowarth has championed both the need for a better understanding by students of agricultural career opportunities and curriculum changes to include agriculture in NCEA science subjects. She is bound to applaud the St Paul's initiative. So should we all.

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- Waikato Times

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