This page provides some background information about community education and community education providers. If you are interested in taking up community education, then you can contact the Community Education Facilitator in your local Education and Training Board, or contact AONTAS on 01 406 8220. AONTAS co-ordinates a Community Education Network with over 100 voluntary providers of community education.
The website www.onestepup.ie can help you make contact with your local Education and Training Board, or you can contact the Freephone Helpline on 1800 303 669.
What is Community Education?
Community Education works with adults who wish to return to or continue their education, offering a learner-centred approach involving personal supports and tuition leading to positive personal, social and economic outcomes. It focusses its work on people who are distant from education and the labour market, and is generally developed in local community projects and centres. Community Education is grounded on principles of justice, equality, social inclusion and citizenship. Starting from people’s current situation, groups are facilitated to work together in creative and participative ways to set and achieve goals such as employment, personal and social change, formal certification of their learning up to Level 8, and community activity.
The AONTAS Community Education Network defines Community Education as:
Community education is a process of personal and community transformation, empowerment, challenge, social change and collective responsiveness. It is community-led reflecting and valuing the lived experiences of individuals and their community. Through its ethos and holistic approach community education builds the capacity of groups to engage in developing a social teaching and learning process that is creative, participative and needs-based. Community education is grounded on principles of justice, equality and inclusiveness. It differs from general adult education provision due to its political and radical methodologies.
Who delivers Community Education?
Community Education is delivered all over Ireland by a range of providers including independently managed not for profit groups and statutory organisations. It takes place in a wide variety of community projects, resource centres, voluntary organisations etc. 140 providers are members of the AONTAS Community Education Network. These groups are funded from a variety of sources including government departments, Education and Training Boards, SOLAS, local development companies, drugs task forces, private trusts, learner fees etc.
In the statutory sector community education is co-ordinated through Community Education Facilitators based in Education and Training Boards.
Who participates in Community Education?
Community Education is open to all. However providers generally focus their programmes on people who experience disadvantage or have been out of education for some time. These groups can include early school leavers, parents, long term unemployed people, ethnic minorities, older people, people experiencing physical and mental illness, addiction, homelessness, etc.
- Over 30,000 people engage in Independent Community Education every year
- Over 20,000 FETAC awards were made to Independent Community Education learners in 2011
- Over 56,000 learners engaged in community education in the VECs in 2012
How does Community Education support learners?
Community Education focusses on supporting people who find it hard to access education by-
- Being rooted in local community projects and resource centres
- Having skilled outreach development staff to connect with “hard to reach” potential learners and encourage them to participate
- A holistic approach to working with learners
- Offering supports such as childcare, mentoring, guidance and counselling.
- Offering long term supports after formal courses are completed.
What kind of courses does Community Education provide?
Community Education offers a diversity of courses to meet the needs of a diversity of learners. These include -
- courses leading to certification from Level 3 (Junior Cert) to Level 8 (Honours Degree)
- informal and non-formal courses which are not accredited
- Introductory courses of one morning per week for 8 weeks to full time year long programmes.
- courses in everything from lifeskills to professional qualifications.
What are the outcomes for Community Education learners?
A number of research reports have shown that participating in Community Education supports people towards many different outcomes at a personal, family and community level. These include -
- New skills – both personal and vocational
- Mainstream employment
- Pathway to continuing education
- Work experience programmes
- Personal development and confidence building
- Active citizenship, community activity and empowerment
- Social Inclusion
- Improved quality of life for individuals, their families and communities.