Developments: New framework highlights the value of community education
The situation of adult education in Ireland has improved over the last year. In July 2020, Ireland launched a new Further Education and Training Strategy which will continue until 2025. This new strategy includes a Community Education Framework which is a positive step for community based and non-formal education and adult learning. In recent years adult education policy in Ireland has been almost exclusively focused on reskilling, upskilling and more broadly an agenda focused on skills for employment. The new FET Strategy highlights the value of community education and the broader purpose of adult learning and education.
In 2019, a new Government Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science that covers the tertiary education sector with a new Ministerial position was set up. In addition, AONTAS’ CEO was invited by the Department of Education and Skills to chair a tertiary-wide working group on mitigating educational disadvantage during COVID-19. Furthermore, the Government has now committed €8 million to mitigating educational disadvantage as part of the 2021 Budget.
Summary of significant policy developments in Ireland
The most recent and significant policy developments in Ireland have been:
- The creation of a new Ministerial position alongside a new Government Department
- The launch of a new Further Education and Training Strategy (FET) by SOLAS, the statutory body with responsibility for Further Education and Training
- The remit by the new Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, responsible for policy, funding and governance of the Higher and Further Education and oversight of the state agencies, includes the adult and community education sector, taking over from the Department of Education.
- The new FET Strategy recognises the valuable contribution adult and community education providers play in the adult education sector and will develop the first ever national Community Education Framework with collaboration from SOLAS, Education and Training Boards, the FET sector, community education providers, learners and other relevant stakeholders (including Departments, and civil society organisations, like AONTAS).
The European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) has been implemented in some areas, but AONTAS is not aware of a civil society consultation process at present. The European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) is one of the elements that was promoted by the EPSR, promoting cross-collaboration and keeping a policy spotlight on important developments. AONTAS is the national coordinator for the EAAL in Ireland and has, alongside EAEA, successfully advocated for a continuation of EAAL past December 2021. Upskilling pathways has been implemented in some areas and there have been some new strategies for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal, closely linked to the EPSR.