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20 Dec 2019

Romanian EAAL final conference in Bucharest

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Romanian EAAL final conference in Bucharest

As the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) 2017 – 2019 project phase comes towards a close, National Coordinators across Europe host their final conferences. Dearbháil Lawless, EU Project Officer presented at the Romanian EAAL final conference in Bucharest, Romania on September 16th.

These conferences not only offer National Coordinators the opportunity to present their work on implementing the Agenda during this cycle but also highlight the progress made in increasing the participation of adults returning to education. The conferences further strengthen relationships between each Co-ordinator across Europe and facilitate new learning opportunities.

Representing Irish adult learning policy and practice, Dearbháil spoke about the importance of authentic adult learner voice. This concept is one not yet embraced by many countries, including Romania. Dearbháil encouraged policy makers and providers to ask learners about their needs, experiences and perspectives engaging in adult learning, and the barriers they face in this process. Further, she encouraged participants to recognise their own privilege and understand how this assisted them to gain their current level of education and hold their professional positions. Education is a right but it may seem like a risk for people who don’t have financial backing or those with family or friends who have higher education who can assist them with their studies.  Living in poverty and struggling to pay bills means that engaging in full-time learning for long periods of time may place individuals at further risk of financial difficulty. Dearbháil promoted Community Education as a model for an inclusive, grassroots, and a meaningful method for engaging and supporting adult learners. Longford Women’s Link, Dublin Simon Community, An Cosán, One Family and other centres were detailed in her presentation as best practice examples.

In Bucharest, Dearbháil learned about the current context of adult learning in Romania, hearing from academics, policy makers, tutors and the Romanian National Coordinator. The context in Romania is different than Ireland in many ways including Ireland’s state led approach taken across the country within the education system. Passion for inclusion is evident with EU funding being utilised to support innovative projects and for the development of new teaching materials.

Dearbháil reflected upon these differences and felt that Ireland is fortunate in that it has strived towards an offering that includes a wealth of adult education programmes from a grassroots community development perspective and those offered and supported by the Irish Government including the Further Education sector and apprenticeships. However, our diverse adult learning sector includes multiple informal and non-formal opportunities with many of these being community based, and this diversity is what often brings the most marginalised and vulnerable learners back into the system. Someone who has lost trust in and/or fears institutions is more likely to take a step by step approach linking in with a workshop or short course and building on from this success will progress towards accredited programmes including Post-Leaving Certificate, Further Education, and Apprenticeships, or Higher Education.

Each country has its own unique history, context and culture. This is hugely relevant when considering education systems and supporting the needs of society. Ireland has much to learn but can take pride in its forward movement engaging with learner voice. The National Further Education and Training Forum led by AONTAS is a clear example of how well national programmes can and do work, building relationships between State bodies and NGO’s such as SOLAS and AONTAS fostered by the Department of Education and Skills.

 

AONTAS is National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning in Ireland. Our current project ‘Increasing Pathways, Increasing Participation’ will close in December 2019. For information on this project or our new one, please contact Dearbháil on dlawless@aontas.com