What makes Community Education special?

5 Sep 2023
This September, we're running a national campaign to encourage all community education groups and organisations across the island of Ireland to Put Yourself On the Map. Our new AONTAS Community Education Map will be a valuable resource showing the breadth of community education work happening across the country, and in the future it will be used as evidence of the impact of community ed in discussions with funders and policymakers. Join us this September and Put Yourself On The Map.

Writing by Dr Kate Smyth, Strategic Comms Officer

Take a Look at the Map

Community education often helps people who have been let down by the traditional education system in Ireland, and who need some care and guidance to get back into learning again.

77% of community education learners are women and more than half of learners are over 55 years of age, according to the 2021 Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) report on the impact of community education and data from the SOLAS Data Analytics Unit. 

Graphic reads What is Community Education hashtag put yourself on the map hashtag neaal
A cross-reference of SOLAS data with Pobal’s deprivation index shows that over two-thirds of learners are in areas with above-average levels of deprivation, with 22% of learners in areas designated as “disadvantaged”.   

Many of the people in these categories have been let down by the State and by traditional education.  

According to the ETBI report: 

“There is substantial Irish and international research evidence that participation in community education and adult literacy programmes has a positive personal and social impact on individuals and communities. These wider benefits include improved confidence and self-esteem, assertiveness, active citizenship, improved health, greater community involvement, preparation for work and a better sense of personal wellbeing.” 

Many people come from homes and communities where staying in school or going to college just doesn’t happen. Or people have a lot to cope with, including disabilities, caring responsibilities, or the impact of the pandemic or the cost-of-living crisis. Many people are impacted by addiction. Many are living in Direct Provision. Many people – an increasing number – find themselves homeless. These people cannot be ignored in the Irish education system. 

Community education can be a place of safety for them, and offer a way to learn that is tailored to encourage them to believe in themselves and discover their own potential.  

However, the ETBI report states that “these wider outcomes of learning do not currently form part of data reporting requirements at national level, and there are no administrative systems in place to capture and track these outcomes.”  

Our new Community Education Map shines a light on all of the amazing groups and organisations doing this work, every day, in villages, towns, and cities across the country. It forms an essential part of our ongoing advocacy work for sharpened awareness among politicians and policymakers in Ireland of the need to recognise the impact of community education on people’s lives, to fund it appropriately, and to see that by focussing on people from every kind of background and experience, we are making Ireland a better place for all.  

We developed the Map in close collaboration with Community Education Facilitators, who support community education groups across the country.

Community Education offers that chance to people who never had it.  Let's show everyone that Community Education Is Here. Be part of the Community Education Map. Learn more.  

Find us on social media and the hashtag #PutYourselfOnTheMap

X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIN 

This campaign is part of AONTAS' 2022-2023 project ‘Inclusive Recovery and Transformation: Adult Learning Post-Covid-19’ as part of the New European Agenda for Adult Learning.