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EU Leverage to Improve Participation in Lifelong Learning in Ireland

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The Clock Tower at the Department of Education and Skills hosted a full house for the AONTAS transnational seminar on the impact of the EU on Ireland’s adult learning policies and practices on 28th April 2016.

Niamh O’ Reilly, CEO, launched the AONTAS  ‘Taking the Next Steps’ Report which outlines the main outcomes of the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) Project and highlights the need to increase participation in adult learning of all kinds (formal, non-formal and informal learning) to acquire new work skills, for active citizenship, and for personal development. The Project is underpinned by the European Agenda for Adult Learning, the EU’s blueprint to increase adult participation in learning across 32 countries. During the lifetime of the Project, AONTAS, the National Coordinator, disseminated 10,000 information booklets, assisted over 18,000 people in accessing information and reached over 1 million people on social media. 

Over 1,300 learners attended events with 57 Learner Role Models, including Johnny from Cork Education and Training Board who shared his inspiring story through video. Hear about Johnny’s learner story here.

A cross-cutting and diverse audience shared thoughts and ideas on how EU policy can be used as leverage in the Irish context, speakers included: Liz Waters, AONTAS President; Per Paludan Hansen, President of EAEA; Gina Ebner, Secretary General EAEA and Niamh O’ Reilly, AONTAS CEO. AONTAS welcomed a delegation from the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) who brought perspectives from Austria, Denmark, the UK, Belarus, Finland, France, and Sweden to name but a few. AONTAS CEO, Niamh O’ Reilly, sits on this Board.

A number of ERASMUS+ funded projects were profiled by Léargas representative Denise Shannon which demonstrated best practice and innovative thinking in the sector with partners including Age Action, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the National Youth Council (NYCI).

A lively discussion followed, with many attendees reiterating the experiences and challenges faced by learners. They highlighted gaps in service provision as well as national concerns such as homelessness, drug addiction and the mental health of young people which underpinned calls for action.

AONTAS reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that, as National Coordinator, it will continue to work towards achieving the 15 per cent EU benchmark for participation in lifelong learning. Ireland’s current participation rate stands at 7.3 per cent.

AONTAS is currently undertaking the next phase of the European Agenda for Adult Learning (2015 – 2017). This will include the development and delivery of an in-service training for community education providers, engagement with employers to encourage workplace learning and the sharing of best practice by way of seminars and EPALE (Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe).