AONTAS Welcomes the Global Campaign for Adult Education and Learning, #weareALE
24 Mar 2021
On 22nd March, AONTAS joined with our fellow adult learning civil society organisations worldwide to promote the understanding and practice of adult learning and education. The International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) leads the 5-year campaign and notes the central role of adult learning in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the need for adequate funding and the value of ALE in a healthier planet and a better, more just world. The purpose is to speak with one voice in advancing the value of adult learning for all. As part of the “we are adult learning and education” (#weareALE) campaign,
AONTAS CEO, Niamh O’Reilly, compiled a short report outlining the context for Ireland, what is happening at a local level for learners, the rapidly changing policy context at the national level and notes pertinent European policy developments. Read the full report here.
Due to public health restrictions arising from the pandemic adult, further and community education is now provided online, resulting in a drastically different learner experience. Moreover, we know that online learning needs three things: devices, the internet and the skills to engage,
and digital poverty is a prominent issue facing adult learners, in addition to existing barriers to participation.
In pre-COVID-19 times (2019), the lifelong learning participation rate in Ireland was approximately 12.5%, yet for those with less than a Leaving Certificate level qualification, it is about 3%. As there has been an unequivocal exacerbation of educational disadvantage over this time, we are yet to see the actual impact on participation rates. The prolonged impact of the pandemic warrants a long-term commitment to addressing the fallout from COVID-19 on those most educationally disadvantaged across the tertiary education system.
AONTAS calls for:
An action-focused, resourced, strategy to address the long-term impact of COVID-19 on engagement, retention and progression across tertiary education, with a specific focus on marginalised learners and the community education and FET sector. This would include:
- An extended MAEDF that builds on the reported learning of round one of the fund
- Equity in learner supports (including financial) across community, further and higher education
- Addressing the ongoing issue of digital poverty (devices, broadband, skills)
- A resourced outreach and engagement initiatives to engage marginalised learner cohorts
AONTAS is committed to collective global efforts for educational equality and the kick-off of the #weareALE campaign is timely as we work towards inclusive recovery.
 Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund – financial package of €8million for community education