On 10th March, almost 100 attendees took part in the AONTAS EU Seminar- ‘European Union: Solidarity in a time of Uncertainty’. The event marked the closing event of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2017.
The agenda included 10 speakers, spanning from academics, to practitioners, to learners. Twelve Slovenian adult learning practitioners and learners also participated in the morning’s proceedings, as part of a week-long study visit to Ireland.
Delivering the Opening Address, Minister John Halligan acknowledged the important work of AONTAS in supporting adult education in Ireland. He highlighted the wider benefits that learning has to health, personal development, social engagement and community development, and noted that Ireland is leading the way in making a commitment to learner representation at both national and regional level.
David Mallows - University College London and UK EPALE Thematic Coordinator
Keynote speaker, David Mallows shared his thoughts on the development of adult education policy and its impact on learners. He recognised the creative and innovative work undertaken by AONTAS. David went on to detail how the EU Upskilling Pathways recommendation recognises the need for new skills, including professional learning with a view to the development of human capital to drive economic competitiveness. However, David cautioned that programmes should be designed on interests and skills in order to create meaningful upskilling pathways.
He also highlighted that participation in adult learning is narrow and skewed towards those who are already educated. In order to ensure that opportunities are provided to those who were previously overlooked, we must increase and widen participation.
David finished by emphasising the important role of the learner voice at the centre of discussions.
A panel of experts, including Dr Jane O’ Kelly, DCU, Una Buckley, adult learner and Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL), Slovenia discussed the added value of engagement at EU level.
EPALE Ambassador Dr Jane O’ Kelly, underscored her support for European programmes and the value of communities of practice. EPALE continues to develop and its shared focus highlights many commonalities amongst EU Member States.
Una Buckley spoke of her experience, representing adult learners at the European Vocational Skills week in Brussels last December. Una spoke of the importance of investment in adult learning and the ripple effect adult learning can have on communities and family.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik spoke of the Slovenian Learning Festival which is currently in its 22nd year. Zvonka outlined the learning taken from the Irish context – the promotional and outreach work, analysis of the needs of learners and learner engagement models, as well as the value of community education and volunteer work and the use of the media to engage policy makers and other stakeholders.
Denise Shannon, Léargas
A whistle-stop tour of cooperation on values in European Education Programmes was delivered by Denise Shannon, Léargas. The presentation can be viewed here.
‘Learning Today for a Better Tomorrow’
Saorlaith Ni Bhroin, AONTAS, gave a brief synopsis of the ‘Learning Today for a Better Tomorrow’ Project, before Liz Waters, Director at An Cosan VCC gave an overview the ‘Community Education for a Better Tomorrow’ virtual training. A short video overview of the work of An Cosan VCC can be viewed here.
Fidelma Yore participated in the ‘Community Education for a Better Tomorrow’ virtual training hosted by An Cosan VCC. Fidelma shared her experience as a learner, and as a practitioner, explaining that her motivation to join the programme was driven by an opportunity to learn, understand and meet fellow colleagues in a varied field. Fidelma went on to detail how she used some of the principles garnered on the programme to assist her own learners in expressing their ideas and questions, to allow for a critical discourse and analysis to develop in class.
For those who missed the seminar, it can be viewed on Facebook here.