AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, has welcomed the increase in Ireland’s Lifelong Learning participation rate from 6.5% to 8.9%.
Commenting today, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “While we welcome an increase in Ireland’s lifelong learning participation rate, the focus should be on widening participation to ensure a more inclusive society.
“We know that the value of lifelong learning is far-reaching, from the perspective of civic, social, economic, health and well-being benefits to increasing tolerance, trust, and community engagement.
“However, our concern is the trend of widening inequalities in lifelong learning participation in Ireland. In 2017, degree graduates were at least three times more likely to participate in lifelong learning than those who left school before attaining a Leaving Certificate (circa 2.5%). That is despite reports that early school leavers benefit far greater from adult learning engagement.”
The Action Plan for Education’s (2016–2019) goal of increasing the lifelong learning participation rate to 10% by 2020 and 15% by 2025 appears possible however Ireland is still lagging behind the European average of 10.9% with our closest neighbours, the UK, at 15.7 per cent, Denmark, Sweden and Finland generally at a rate around 30%.
AONTAS believes that to further increase and widen lifelong learning participation in Ireland the most educationally disadvantaged learners need time and support when they return to learning.
O’Reilly said: “In Ireland we have a proven method to engage those learners - community education builds the capacity of learners to fulfil their educational aspirations in a supported environment. To ensure a more effective measure of successful lifelong learning initiatives and policies in Ireland, community education needs state investment. It needs to continue to have the ability to offer accredited programmes, and it needs to have the outcomes of its work measured in a way that accurately reflects its impact beyond only labour market outcomes.”
Contact: Katie O’Rourke, Communications Lead AONTAS, Tel: 01-4068220/ 086-1579418, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.