Adult Education - <p>This section has information on adult and continuing education, including PLC, professional, and short courses</p>

Adult Education

People learn continuously throughout their lives in formal or non-formal, or informal settings; at home, in the workplace, in the community or in learning centres and institutions. No matter when – or at what level you finished your initial education, you have learned something new since. Learning can take place on a daily basis in many settings.

Examples of adult learners are people who...

  • Decided to do a part-time course in a local community centre or group
  • Left school at an early age but returned to learning to gain a formal qualification
  • Are improving their reading and writing skills through one-to-one classes
  • Undertook a course to learn how to use a computer
  • Got a degree then decided to do an evening course
  • Learn on the job in a training course
  • Never had the chance to go to college after school so enrolled as a mature student
  • Have updated their skills to improve their career or employment prospects
  • Learn a new language or undertake a hobby course
  • Participate in social or leisure courses
  • Participate in active retirement activities

Lifelong learning is a basic requirement for personal development and economic success, for individuals and society as a whole. People who take the opportunity to continually learn and develop their skills and capacities:

  • Make our economy grow and develop
  • Ensure that their children develop a love of learning and take full advantage of education
  • Actively participate in their own communities and civil society
  • Support and respect people with different cultural beliefs and abilities
  • Respect and protect the environment for future generations
  • Nurture creativity and imagination
  • Live healthy and fulfilled lives

Demands on individuals' knowledge and skills are continually increasing. Globalisation, the technical revolution and the aging of society are the main challenges in our times. Ireland's ambition must be to become a leading economy in the knowledge based society. To achieve this, traditional methods of training and ways of working are being revolutionised. Today everybody has to constantly update qualifications to further develop skills on the personal level to be successful in the labour market.

AONTAS is the national adult learning organisation, and provides extensive information on learning opportunities for adults in Ireland. You can browse an online version of their current Information Booklet here

Before choosing a course to study, adult learners should do a bit of research:

  • Find out what if any qualification they will be awarded upon completion of the course
  • Know the institution's awarding body

The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) is appointed by the Minister of Education and Science. Learners should always research what qualification they will receive upon completion of their chosen course. The two main awarding bodies in Ireland are;

The Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)- is the qualifications awarding body for third-level education and training institutions outside the University sector other than the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

The Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) is the national awarding body for all further education and training / PLC courses in Ireland.

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a ten level system that incorporates awards made for all kinds of learning, large and small, whether it is gained in schools, the workplace, the community, training centre's, colleges or universities. For each level of the NFQ, standards of knowledge, skill and competence have been set out, defining the outcomes to be achieved by a learner seeking to gain a qualification.

For a more complete list of Awarding Bodies click here 

Forms of adult education available.

Post Leaving Certificate Courses

Education and Training Boards (ETBs), through Colleges of Further Education throughout Ireland, provide Post Leaving Certificate courses in a wide range of disciplines and subjects.  These courses are offered to school leavers and adults who wish to return to education. 

PLC courses are designed to prepare students for work by giving them specific skills and training and also act as a stepping-stone to other third level qualifications at ITs, universities or other colleges.

The entry requirements for a mature student entering a further education course usually include either the standard Leaving Certificate or an equivalent qualification or experiential learning. Post Leaving Certificates (PLCs) are overseen by the FETAC awards scheme, and are free - they are funded by the Department of Education and Skills.

To read more about Post Leaving Certificate courses click here

Lifelong learning

There are thousands of courses run all over Ireland to suit the requirements of people of all ages. These courses range from one day hobby courses to those more aimed at providing essential continuous professional development for people in the workplace.

These courses can run as day courses or evening classes. Some are upskilling courses for general personal development, others provide essential workplace skills training.

More and more adults now chose to return to Third level courses and complete a Certificate or Degree program. Special facilities are available for Mature students (aged 23 or more) entering undergraduate courses in Universities, Institutes of Technology and Private colleges. Most colleges reserve places especially for mature students on a number of their courses. Special access courses are also available to help mature students prepare for life in third level colleges.

Distance Education is learning which is not linked to a physical location at fixed times throughout the academic year. It is fast becoming a new trend in education circles.  The main advantage of this type of learning is that it can be combined with domestic and work commitments.

To read more about the various forms of Lifelong Learning courses click here

Literacy and Community Education

A significant proportion of the Irish population has low levels of literacy. The ETB Adult Literacy Scheme, which is operated across Ireland, allows people with reading and writing difficulties to gain access to literacy education.

People who attend the Adult Literacy Scheme come from all walks of life and have different reasons for wanting to improve their reading, writing, spelling and maths, whether it be self-improvement, job advancement or just to helping their children with their homework.

Community Education is Adult Education located in the community. It adopts a person centred approach as opposed to traditional education where all power and knowledge is centred around the teacher. It takes into account the life experiences of the participants as a starting point. Throughout the country, there a wide range of community groups offering courses at various levels to various groups. Some Community Education courses are accredited by various institutions, such as UCD, NUIM and Waterford Institute of Technology. Not all community groups are affiliated with the ETBs, so keep an eye on local newspapers, newsletter and community notice boards.

To read more about Literacy and Community education click here

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