AONTAS is the National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) in Ireland. The EAAL seeks to strengthen the place of adult learning in the participating countries across Europe.

In 2014 AONTAS was nominated by the Irish Department of Education and Skills to become the National Coordinator for implementing the EAAL This means that AONTAS facilitates cooperation with the other EU Member States and the European Commission in implementing the adult-learning agenda in Ireland.

This EAAL project, “Inclusive Recovery and Transformation: Adult Learning Post-Covid-19 (2022-2023)”, began in January 2022. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and co-financed by Ireland’s Department of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science through SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority.

Through research, engagement with our members, and support from our adult learners, AONTAS has been capturing the impact of the pandemic on education in Ireland. A long-term commitment is needed to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic on those most educationally disadvantaged across the tertiary education system.

The main aim of the project is to tackle educational inequalities widened by the Covid-19 pandemic. The project will involve learner-centred assessments and activities, effective stakeholder engagement, capacity building and well-being programmes, a community of practice for educators, and the development of policy submissions. It will support the implementation of Irish and European adult learning policy, promote and enable lifelong learning, and support marginalised and vulnerable learners.

The project activities have been developed based on the Recommendation of Upskilling Pathways and the 2020 European Skills Agenda. They include:

  • A Project Advisory Group, including 25 stakeholders, providing governance
  • One Step Up – an information and referral service providing learners with information on learning opportunities. There is a website; a freephone helpline; a messaging service; an information booklet; promotional materials; national campaigns; and outreach activities (fairs, exhibitions, events) 
  • Recognition of Prior Learning: Given the success of the Recognition of Prior Learning Research, the case study, and the Level 7 course funded by the previous EAAL project, AONTAS will develop and implement a Community of Practice Group for adult education practitioners who complete the course and support them in building coalitions between themselves.
  • Learners as Leaders: Learners as Leaders is a learner-centred flexible programme that brings adult learners together from across Ireland, empowering them to share their stories, build their capacity and become advocates for the sector and their communities.
  • Capacity Building for Practitioners including: Management and creativity-oriented workshops for practitioners highlighting the importance of learner-centred design; Well-being workshops highlighting the importance of keeping the physical and mental well-being; and Blog posts about practitioner stories
  • National coordinator Network Meetings: The National Coordinators from across Europe collaborate through meetings and peer learning activities. There is huge value in this mechanism as Coordinators build relationships, share best practices, identify and discuss challenges, and continue to build the adult learning sector.
  • Hosting Study Visits: Supporting transnational cooperation with Ministries, National Coordinators and other education bodies.
  • Adult Education Summit: AONTAS will host a Summit as a closing event for the current EAAL project by 2023. AONTAS will bring stakeholders from across the adult learning sector in Ireland and invite representatives from National Coordinators and the European Commission to recognise the achievements of the EU Agenda.
  • Communications and Dissemination: AONTAS promotes adult learning by communicating the transformative impact it has on learners by sharing personal stories, blogs, research, podcasts and using social and print media. Utilising a multi-channel approach, the EAAL project runs two national campaigns per year, disseminates activities, and offers information and support directing learners to relevant services, including One Step Up. In addition, AONTAS staff present at conferences and events, bringing learners to share their experience and help build understanding for the capacity building of the sector in Ireland and Europe.

AONTAS has always placed sustainability at the heart of EAAL projects. This means building on successful activities and ensuring that the impact of the project continues into the future. This project builds upon the previous EAAL projects and is complemented by other national and international projects from AONTAS.