White Paper on Adult Education 2000
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The White Paper, Learning for Life, was published in August 2000. At the time of its launch the White Paper was warmly welcomed by a broad range of agencies across a number of sectors involved in the provision of learning opportunities for
adults. It marked a watershed for adult education which had been consistently underresourced for many years. Describing Adult Education as the last area of mass education which remained to be developed in Ireland, Mr. Willie O'Dea announced that the Government White Paper would have provided a framework for its future development.
Aontas response to the White Paper is Louder Than Words.
The White Paper defines adult education as "systematic learning undertaken by adults who return to learning having concluded initial education or training." As such it includes aspects of further and third-level education, continuing education and training,
community education, and other systematic deliberate learning by adults, both formal and informal. In setting out a role for adult education in society, six priority areas are identified:-
- Consciousness Raising
- Cultural Development
- Community Building
The Paper recommends that adult education should be underpinned by three core principles promoting:
(a) a systemic approach which recognises that the interfaces between the different levels of educational provision, and the quality of the early school experience have a critical influence on learners' motivation and ability to access and progress in adult education and training. This requires that educational policies must de designed to embrace the life cycle, reflect the multiplicity of sites, both formal and informal, in which learning can take place, provide for appropriate supports such as guidance, counselling and childcare, and for mechanisms to assess learning independent of the context in which it occurs;
(b) equality of access, participation and outcome for participants in adult education, with pro-active strategies to counteract barriers arising from differences of socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity and disability. A key priority in promoting an inclusive society is to target investment towards those most at risk;
(c) inter-culturalism - the need to frame educational policy and practice in the context of serving a diverse population as opposed to a uniform one, and the development of curricula, materials, training and inservice, modes of assessment and delivery methods which accept such diversity as the norm. This refers not only to combating racism and encouraging participation of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in education, but also to a recognition that many minority groups such as travellers, people with disabilities, older adults, participants in disadvantaged areas may have distinct needs and cultural patterns which must be respected and reflected in an educational context. It also envisages a more active role by adult educators in the promotion of Irish language and culture.