The RAS Foundation is offering $10,000 scholarships to help encourage more ag teachers into high schools.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo Jonathan Dear/Vibrant Photography

Five new $10,000 scholarships are being offered by the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Foundation to help agricultural graduates become high school ag teachers. Those with relevant bachelor degrees, such as agricultural science, environmental science, agribusiness or horticulture, who qualify for a 2-year Master of Teaching are invited to apply until January 21, 2024.

According to Jim Pratley, RAS Foundation board member and professor of agriculture at Charles Sturt University, there is a shortage of at least 100 ag teachers in Australia. “Some schools have advertised for ag teachers 5 or 10 times in 2023,” he says. “Between January and November across Australia, there were 93 schools that had advertised for ag teachers. In NSW alone there were 47 schools. These positions are in public and private schools, metropolitan and regional areas.”

Because of the teacher shortage, some schools are not able to offer agriculture as a subject at all, and others have elected to have non-ag teachers taking classes. “There are just not enough ag teachers to teach the subject,” says RAS Foundation manager Cecilia Logan. “They have to give it to the science teacher or maths teacher or whoever is available. But we think it’s really important to have teachers who are passionate about agriculture.”

Cecilia says passion to teach ag is one of the key attributes the foundation is looking for. “Maybe it’s someone who has just finished their ag degree and has a propensity to teach or a mum who has raised kids and is returning to work,” she says. “It might be someone who says ‘I’d love to be a teacher, but it’s a big expense to do a Masters’. This scholarship might push them over the edge.”

The scholarships are part of a long-term RAS Foundation strategy to increase the number of young people moving into agriculture degrees, by focusing first on high school education. “There are about 6 or 7 jobs for every graduate in agriculture, and that’s been the case for several years now,” Jim says. “So, we need to increase the supply of schoolkids going into university.”

“Ag is no longer cow and plough – it’s so varied,” Cecilia says. “There’s technology, food science, you can operate drones, you can be a farmer or you can work in a bank.”

Cecilia says interest in the Master of Teaching scholarships seems high, with the first applications received within hours of the request for submissions. “We’ve only got 5 to give out this year in NSW and the ACT, but pending more funding we’d love to go national.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #152

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2024