AONTAS has long argued that community education has a proven track record in effectively engaging the most educationally disadvantaged learners and providing quality educational experiences that meets their needs. The AONTAS Community Education Network was established in 2007 and comprises over 130 independent community education organisations which work collectively to gain recognition for community education, raise its profile and lobby to ensure it is adequately resourced.
This week adult learner, Rowena from the SAOL Project shares her experience on how returning to education has helped her to gain confidence and skills which have transformed her life.
Tara Farrell, Deputy CEO Longford Womens' Link and AONTAS Executive Member
The past two year period has seen the further education and training sector experiencing the most dramatic reform agenda in its short existence. The establishment of SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards along with QQI have significant implications for how community education will be supported and delivered. For the sixteen Education and Training Boards, recent milestones include the appointment of new Board Members following the Local Elections 2014 and the completion of the transfer of FÁS Training Centres. For the community education sector, the reform process is not over. An ambitious reform agenda led out by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will reconfigure the local structures that organisations will have to interact with. Community education receives funding from a range of government departments and initiatives and will need to actively engage in this process.
Jim Prior with members of Limerick Community Education Network - 'Being part of a national organisation has many benefits.'
Jim Prior - Adult Educator, Activist and AONTAS Executive Committee Board Member explains how the organisations he is involved with have benefited from being part of AONTAS.
Why become a member of AONTAS?
Working in adult and community education can be challenging due to its low profile and uncertain funding structure. It is vital that the value of adult learning is visible and all education providers and learners unite in a common voice to ensure that both the public and the policy makers support it. For that reason the organisations, both statutory and voluntary, I am involved with are all members of AONTAS: City of Limerick VEC, Southill Family Resource Centre and Limerick Community Education Network (LCEN).
How did your organisation benefit from membership?
Longford Womens' Link - a member of AONTAS and the CEN
The Community Education Network (CEN) is in the process of putting together a position paper on the challenges facing community education during a time of change. Community education organisations operate outside of the formal education sector and are funded through a variety of sources.
Since the establishment of the CEN in 2007 the context for community education has changed dramatically, from the absorption of Community Development Projects (CDPs) into Local Area Partnerships, reduced funding, increased demands on services, and changes to the FETAC process. Now the sector must retain its identity within SOLAS and the new integrated Further Education and Training Service.
This blog has been pretty quiet over the last few months, but that's not reflective of the level of activity within AONTAS, we can assure you. Over the last few months we've been busy watching developments as the new training and further education authority SOLAS begins to take shape. We made an extensive submission to the consultation process earlier this year and also held an event at the end of February where thirty adult learners met members of the Implementation Group to discuss their experiences of accessing further education and training. Based on what our members have told us, here are five priorities for further education in Ireland.
Last week AONTAS held the first ever conference on community education in Ireland. Over 200 attended the conference, called 'Making a living, making a life'. The purpose of the conference was to focus on the dual role of community education, supporting people to get employment but also in social inclusion. A practical outcome of the conference was to get those attending to propose how community education might fit within the new SOLAS training and education authority. What really came across was the richness and diversity of community education. Those attending included tutors, learners, community education facilitators, community education providers based in the community and voluntary sector and people with a role in policy formulation.
Professor John Field on the challenge of measuring the value of community education.
Community based adult learning is paradoxical. Everyone commends it in principle, but in practice it always has to justify its place. This has been the case for all of my working life time, so the idea that we need to argue our corner is not new. What is new is that funding agencies now demand evidence of impact, a demand that can only grow as pressure on resources intensifies. And what is also new is that we can now marshall a very clear and powerful case for the positive impact of community based learning.
What is the only form of education that gives you skills for employment, builds your confidence and creates healthy, critically thinking, active communities?Community education emerged in Ireland in the 1980's, as a response to consequences of the recession such as unemployment, addiction and disenfranchisement. Now, in the midst of another recession some thirty years later, community education is coming into its own again, providing education which is relevant, learner centred, and sowing seeds for social action.
Natasha Bailey, Researcher, Seamus Hempenstall, Further Education Section of DES and Martha Bolger, CEFA at the launch of 'More than Just a Course' during the Adult Learners' Festival 2011.
Some interesting European research came out last week about the benefits of vocational education and training.
The economic return on investment in education is the case continually put forward by different sections within education - whether it is the link between third level education and economic competitiveness, or the long term savings to public services such as health and social welfare. The American academic James Heckman has argued that investment in early childhood education reaps huge economic rewards based on his studies in the States.