New Initiatives in Adult Education, 2002
The Minister of State for Adult Education, Mr. Willie O'Dea T.D., announced a number of major initiatives in adult education on Wednesday, 16th January, 2002:
- The establishment of a National Adult Learning Council (NALC) as an executive agency of the Department of Education and Science. The Council will be resourced and staffed to act as an important catalyst for change and development in adult education. It will represent education, training, social partner, community and voluntary sector and learner interests to ensure a co-ordinated strategy in the provision of adult learning. The Council will advise on policy, promote co-ordination and liaison, engage in research and staff development, and support international co-operation. It will also have a specific remit to progress such issues as workplace learning, community education, an equality strategy, and to establish an advisory group on the integration of people with physical and learning disabilities into adult education
- The implementation of a Back to Education Initiative, providing some 4000 extra part-time places under PLC, Youthreach, Traveller, and VTOS programmes, including part time senior cycle or equivalent options, principally aimed at young people and adults in the population with less than upper secondary education. There will a further 2000 places from September/October. Information packs on the initiative will be issued at an early date to all interested parties. 10% of all expansion will be earmarked exclusively for community education providers, and discussions with the relevant interest groups will be initiated shortly to adapt the scheme to cater for this sector. An Adult ICT Skills programme will be implemented as part of the measure. The initiative will be expanded over time with a view to having 20,000 extra part time places per annum in place by 2006.
- The appointment of 35 Community Education Facilitators throughout the country. These posts will be based in the VECs, and their work programme will be determined initially by the ad hoc Adult Education Boards, and in future years by the Local Adult Learning Boards when they are established. The role of the facilitators will be to support the development of new community-based learning groups, to network providers and help them access funding, to share good practice and monitor quality, and to promote the development of partnerships with the statutory sector, particularly in relation to outreach and referral.
- An increase of €2.92 million, 21.5%, bringing the funds for adult literacy to €16.47m. in 2002. This will enable the service to continue to expand, building on the existing highly successful initiatives, such as the TV series 'Read Write Now' and extending family learning and work place literacy provision, special needs provision and programmes for those for whom English is not the mother tongue ;
- The further extension of the emerging adult educational guidance service, supporting students in literacy, VTOS and adult and community education programmes. Phases 1 and 2 are already under way, with a service now operational in 19 areas. Newspaper advertisements have already been placed seeking proposals for an expansion to further areas in 2002. The aim is to have a comprehensive national service in place by 2006. In addition, a feasibility study is under way with an IT consultancy firm to develop a publicly accessible database of adult learning options, integrated with a national telephone helpline. This will help address difficulties in accessing information which is currently fragmented over a range of providers.
- The appointment of two Co-ordinators of Further Education Development -- Ms. Mary Kett and Ms. Bernie Judge, based in the City of Dublin VEC office in Parnell Square, to help progress the White Paper agenda in adult education.
- A feasibility study on the development of a computerised Further Education Management Information System, which will enable the progress of specific groups to be monitored over time as part of an equality strategy.
The developments in adult literacy, Back to Education Initiative, adult guidance, and the management information system are funded as part of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. Of these, the adult literacy strategy and the Back to Education Initiative receive funding from the European Social Fund.
The Minister said: "I am very pleased to be able to announce this integrated package of measures. Building on the progress already made, particularly the establishment of the National Qualifications Authority and the Further and Higher Education and Training Awards Councils in 2001, these initiatives will help to progress the White Paper agenda and put in place a strategic framework for lifelong learning. It will take the sustained commitment and partnership of all -- Government, education and training providers, business, trade unions, communities, voluntary organisations and individuals - to meet the challenge of bringing this concept to reality."