The leaving certificate home economics – general – syllabus has been in existence since the majority of teachers in the system began their careers. The leaving certificate home economics – social and scientific – syllabus was introduced in the 1970s. Clearly, there are changes in society and in education that warrant a change in syllabus at this stage. The elements of the syllabi most in need of updating are in the area of food science and the legislation affecting food, resource management and social studies. Another change, much sought-after by teachers who found the old syllabi very difficult to cover in the time available, is the reduction of the two old syllabi to one, and the reduction of teaching time to 180 hours. This has been achieved by a streamlining of content and by the introduction of a strong element of choice. Perhaps the most important change from the point of view of quality of learning and teaching is the new emphasis on practical work in the revised syllabus. It is clear from the above that if schools were to continue to teach material that is now outdated and to use methods that are no longer helpful to learning, students would be increasingly badly served by the teaching offered to them.
Inservice training for teachers of the revised leaving certificate home economics syllabus has been in place since September 2001. A seven-member support service has planned and delivered a programme that is offered to all teachers. To date, 80% of all teachers of leaving certificate home economics have attended round one of the programme, which ran from October to November 2001. So far, about 8% have attended round two, which is running at present and will continue up to 22 November 2002.
This face-to-face delivery of in-service training was accompanied by the provision of draft syllabus guidelines available at in-service; syllabus guidelines issued to schools; teachers' notes prepared for the national in-service days which are available on request from the support team; materials available on the support team website.
The Association of Teachers of Home Economics has consistently expressed its concerns over the last few years about the delay in implementing the revised home economics syllabus. I noted that the association had expressed its disappointment when the proposed introduction in September 2001 was deferred for a further year.