9 Mar 2020

AONTAS calls for a renewed commitment from Government to adult and community education

Friday, 6th March 2020

AONTAS calls for a renewed commitment  from Government to adult and community education

Twenty years on from the publication of the landmark policy paper on adult education ‘Learning for Life’, Ireland needs a renewed commitment from Government if the sector is to achieve it’s potential.

This need was discussed at the AONTAS Annual Policy Day in Dublin on Friday, 6th March 2020 as part of the Adult Learners’ Festival 2020.

Speaking at the event, Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO, said: “The very real challenges facing primary and post-primary schools and the higher education sector are well documented and are clearly high on the political agenda. However, research shows that independently managed community education is poorly funded.

“It is 20 years since the landmark policy paper on adult education, Learning for Life.  Given the crucial role adult learning plays we are reiterating our call for the next government to increase investment in adult and community education. In particular, we want to see a Minister of State appointed with special responsibility for Adult, Community, and Further Education and Training.”“There are more than 50,000 people participating in community education across Ireland.  Community education supports people who benefit least from the formal education system.  It is an essential part of the further education and training system, as it provides a stepping-stone into accredited programmes and employment, particularly for people who left school early or who have had very negative experiences of education in the past.  It can have a transformative impact on the lives of individuals, their wider families and their communities.  As such, it offers huge value for money for government, but there appears to be no recognition of this in political circles.

The event brought senior civil servants together with community education learners, educators and academics to reflect on community education 20 years on since the publication of ‘Learning for Life: White Paper on Adult Education’ and re-visit the potential of community education to meet current national policy priorities.

Professor Tom Collins, special government adviser in the development and publication of the white paper spoke at the event. Reflecting on the development of the white paper and its influence 20 years on, he said:

“We need to account for the wider benefits of learning. When people participate in education, the costs to society from poor health and social exclusion are reduced”.

The policy event rounded off the annual Adult Learners’ Festival 2020, a week-long celebration of learning, organised by AONTAS from 2nd – 6th March.

View our new video highlighting the work of 5 organisational members of the AONTAS Community Education Network (CEN) below.

Adult Learners'  Festival 2020

Regional events may be found through our One Step Up calendar - The full programme for the Festival is available at:

To find out more, follow the links below:

Adult Learners' Festival 2020 - events taking place nationwide

AONTAS Annual Policy Day 2020

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