Adult Learning Policy

"Who Does It Cost? How greater investment in adult learners will strengthen Irish society"

Adult Learners' Festival 2024 Policy Discussion

Every year as part of the Adult Learners' Festival, we have a discussion on adult learning policy. This year, we will bring together AONTAS members and policy makers to explore policy solutions to the growing levels of poverty and income inequality for adult learners.

Education is widely recognised as a tool used for improving the conditions of people’s lives, and society.

Research shows that adult learning results in increased levels of personal happiness and wellbeing for individuals; a greater sense of belonging, social inclusion and inter-cultural understanding for communities; benefits to the economy; and a decrease in levels of poverty and inequality.  

Yet there is insufficient financial investment to meet the real costs of adult learning in Ireland.

"Greater investment in adult learning would help address growing levels of poverty, and work towards addressing inequalities in Irish society" - AONTAS CEO Dearbháil Lawless

There must be adequate and reliable funding to cover the real costs of returning to education as an adult, particularly for people from under-resourced communities. We must incentivise returning to education in order to work towards greater equality in Irish society.   

“Who Does It Cost?” will inform relevant policy makers about the cost and impact of insufficient investment in adult learning on Irish society, and what can be done to bring about positive change.

We will raise awareness about growing levels of poverty and inequality in Ireland among adult learners and their families, and how that impacts people’s ability to learn. 

Attendees will learn about the education policies that determine financial supports for adult learners, and what needs to change to bring about greater equality.

We will demonstrate the transformative power of adult learning, and the ongoing impact of educators and staff in adult and community education across the island of Ireland.  

We at AONTAS will soon launch a national campaign targeting specific financial policies relating to adult education in Ireland, and advocate for changes to make access to adult education easier. At this event, you will be invited to have your say, and work with us to bring about results that will help adult learners.   


Let's take a look back at "Stepping Stones and Stable Roots" from the Adult Learners' Festival 2023:

We explored the indispensable role of community education in Ireland, and debated its relationship to the new Unified Tertiary Education Systemfrom the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science, which seeks to better connect the education sector in Ireland.

One of the aims of this new policy is for “a more consolidated approach to inclusion across the whole of the tertiary system to enhance strategies to address socio-economic disadvantage and the underrepresentation of groups.”

At the event last year, we discussd what this means for community education. We explored the need for widespread recognition of the unique value community education can bring to communities, employers, and families across Ireland. 

We know that the provision of learning opportunities and experiences in local communities, by local people, forms the quiet and enduring backbone of access to education for many people across the country.  

Learning in local communities is sometimes seen as a “stepping stone” to further and higher education. But it also offers stable roots in a particular place, and a sense of belonging and identity for people, which are essential in times of challenge and change. We also shared the findings from our evidence-based “Lifelong Learning” research, which focuses on the most marginalised and disadvantaged in our society. Find out what happened at "Stepping Stones and Stable Roots"


Click here for more on the AONTAS Adult Learners' Festival 2024 

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