“EU funding programmes support adult learners in Ireland to acquire new work skills, contributing to active citizenship, and personal development.” That’s according to Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO who was speaking at ‘The European Union: Solidarity in a Time of Uncertainty’ conference in Dublin today (10.03.17). The conference was organised by AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation.
“Funding we receive through the EU Erasmus+ programme supports us to lead out on the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) in Ireland with the aim of increasing participation in formal, non-formal and information learning.”
“EU membership also allows us to promote and profile the work of adult learning in Ireland, from policy to practice. It provides an opportunity to learn from our EU neighbours and bring new ideas back to Ireland.”
Leading experts from across the European Union (EU) gathered to debate the important role of the EU in adult learning at the conference.
Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD delivered the opening address. The Minister commended AONTAS for the important work they do in supporting adult learning in Ireland.
“We must ensure that everyone benefits from our EU membership. Returning to education and supporting lifelong learning are key priority for this Government and over the lifetime of the National Skills Strategy to 2025 and we aim to more than double current participation rates.”
AONTAS is committed to ensuring that access to lifelong learning is widened, in particular for early school leavers. Lifelong learning includes all activities which improve knowledge, skills and competence for personal or professional reasons.
Commenting further at the conference, Ms. O’Reilly said, “Degree holders are four times more likely to participate in lifelong learning than those without. As a nation, we must look at widening participation in adult education, particularly for early school leavers. Ireland’s participation rate stands at only 6.5 per cent. Our closest neighbours, the UK, has a participation rate of 14.7 per cent while Denmark leads the EU at 28.9 per cent.”
Also speaking at the event was Una Buckley, an adult learner and early school leaver, who said “Ireland is leading the way by committing to listening to learners at national level. I was given the opportunity to speak about my experience of returning to education at an EU Conference in Brussels in December 2016, and other countries must now follow Ireland’s lead in including the learner voice in their policy development”.