15 Aug 2019

Beyond School: Adult Education Can Be Your Time to Shine

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The release of Leaving Certificate results brings back memories of school and exams for many people; happy associations for some and pangs of regret and frustration for others. In this blog, AONTAS EU Projects Officer Dearbháil considers the different obstacles that can hinder progress in a traditional school setting and looks at how we as adults can find new and alternative ways of learning that help us to nurture what we are passionate about and realise our potential.

A formal classroom environment is not necessarily the best way of learning for everyone. You might have found that learning at school didn’t suit you, you didn’t enjoy it or perhaps that environment didn’t cater for your learning needs. If you were very independent and had a lot of responsibility at a young age you might have found that having to follow strict rules did not encourage your love of learning. You might have found studying subjects that didn’t interest you and having to memorise poems, facts or figures off-putting.

There may have been an undiagnosed learning difficulty, a teacher who you felt didn’t like you, or family issues at home. There are so many reasons why many of us aren’t given the opportunity to excel in school, and if that was the case for you, you’re not alone – but there are many other learning settings that could be perfect for you now as an adult.

We are all intelligent in different ways: you may be good with your hands; you may be a fantastic public speaker; good at sports or dancing, or a good listener and someone who can empathise with and support others. We each have our different strengths and they are all equally valuable and important. It is this diversity of strengths and talents that strengthens our communities, and without it they wouldn’t function or progress.

Adult education offers us a new opportunity. It’s not like school: you are treated as an adult whose life experience and perspectives are valued. Conversations are welcomed and your personal situation, family or work circumstances are accommodated and respected. You can choose to do something new entirely and pick an area or subject that excites you. You will have the opportunity to meet new people and learn in a fun and supportive environment. Assessments won’t be all test-based but will involve continuous assessments where you might learn how to make portfolios, use a computer, develop individual and group projects and give presentations. If you need help, all you have to do is ask. You will make new friends of different ages who are from all walks of life. You will learn things about yourself that make you feel brave, confident and proud of yourself.

 At AONTAS, we regularly meet adult learners from across the country and they often tell us that going back to education was the best choice they made. Do it for yourself because you deserve to do something you are passionate about, something you enjoy.

Adult education is about personal growth, new opportunities and empowerment. In Ireland, there are a variety of learning options including: community education programmes; QQI-accredited courses; work-place learning; further education or Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses; apprenticeships; and higher education diplomas and degrees.  If cost is a barrier for you, you might qualify for a grant to support you financially with course fees. If childcare is an issue, there may be child care available in different education centres. There is also support offered with assignment writing and using computers for learners coming back to education.

For More Information Visit One Step Up

You can start with One Step Up and let us help you find your learning pathway. One Step Up is a free Information and Referral Service that informs adults about the range of education and training options, and support services, available in Ireland.

You can access information by calling the Freephone helpline at 1800 303 669 or visiting The new One Step Up website is full of useful resources to help you on your way, including videos of adult learners sharing their experience of going back to education, a calendar of Open/Information Days happening across the country and a Frequently Asked Questions section.

One Step Up is part of the Increasing Pathways, Increasing Opportunities 2017-2019 project under the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL). AONTAS is the National Coordinator of the EAAL in Ireland, and you can find out more information about it here or by contacting Dearbháil Lawless, AONTAS EU Projects Officer at