Adult Education

Second level schools play an important role in the provision of adult education services throughout the country.  Such services include evening classes, courses under the BTEI programme and courses for parents.  Circular 46/00 below provides a system for the administration of adult education in schools.  Insert Link to Department Circular 46/00
Directors of Adult Education in second level schools have a professional body, National Association of Community Education Directors. Link to

AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, is the umbrella body and policy agency for the adult education community in Ireland –

Director of Adult Education Allowance

Following representations by the teacher unions at the Teachers' Conciliation Council, the Department of Education and Science agreed revised criteria for the payment of allowances which will make the establishment of adult education services more attractive in smaller schools and voluntary secondary schools. The new arrangements, which will be backdated to September 2004 or the date of appointment (if later than September 2004) are as follows:


No. of adult enrolments

Enrolment hours


















Adult Education Organisers

Adult Education Organisers are employed by the VECs to support the development of all adult education activities in their area, including those provided by secondary schools. The AEOs provide advice on organising courses, accessing funding, local agencies and partnership processes. A full list of AOEs and information on their role and work is available from the website

Adult Guidance Service

A Pilot Scheme for Adult Guidance is currently in operation. The aim of the scheme is to develop models for the effective provision of guidance counselling to adults to promote their involvement in further education and training. It is planned to have a national scheme in place by 2006.


AONTAS is the Irish National Association of Adult Education, a voluntary membership organisation. It exists to promote the development of a learning society through the provision of a quality and comprehensive system of adult learning and education which is accessible to and inclusive of all. AONTAS provides an information and advisory role. Its website provides a comprehensive introduction to all aspects of adult education and the learning society. Contact:

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland was established under the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, 1999. The Authority’s role is to develop a national framework of qualifications which will ensure that the standards of education and training outside the formal school system are maintained and which will provide a framework for the development of access, accreditation and progression systems for adult learning. Contact: NQAI, 4th Floor, 6-9 Trinity Street, Dublin 2, Tel: 01 6127 080.

Higher Education and Training Awards Council

The Higher Education and Training Awards Council – HETAC – is the qualifications awarding body for higher education established under the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, 1999. It provides awards for higher education and training, including those formerly made by the NCEA, other than those provided by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the universities. Contact: HETAC, 26 Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1, Tel: 01 8556 526.

Further Education and Training Awards Council

The Further Education and Training Awards Council – FETAC – is the qualifications awarding body for further education established under the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, 1999. It provides awards formerly provided by NCVA, FAS, CERT and Teagasc. FETAC will validate programmes for providers of further (including adult) education and training.

Schools which provide PLC courses and other courses should contact FETAC for information on awards, examinations and staff inservice training. Contact  FETAC Floor 2, East Point Business Park, Dublin 3, Tel: 01 – 8531910.

National Adult Learning Council

Following the publication of the Adult Education White Paper, the National Adult Learning Council was established in 2002 as an executive agency of the Department of Education and Science to fund, co-ordinate and monitor the delivery of adult education services. It has an advisory role in relation to policy for adult education and will  undertake research and other support activities. The Council will represent key stakeholders in adult education and training. The ASTI has a representative on the Council.

Local Adult Learning Boards

Following the publication of the Adult Education White Paper,  Adult Learning Boards will be established on a regional basis to plan and co-ordinate the delivery of adult education services at local level. The 33 Boards will replace the existing VEC Adult Education Boards but will be administratively based within the VECs which will serve as the employer for staff employed by the Boards. A wide range of representatives will sit on the Boards including a representative of each second level school sector in the area.

Community Education Facilitators

Community Education Facilitators are financed under the Back to Education Initiative and will work to promote community models of education, access funding and co-ordinate community education activities. The Facilitators will be employed by the VECs and will work under the Local Adult Learning Boards.

EU Memorandum on Lifelong Learning

In  November 2001, the European Commission adopted a Communication on Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality. This Communication aimed "to identify coherent strategies and practical measures with a view to fostering lifelong learning for all". In doing so, it makes an important contribution to achieving the strategic goal set at Lisbon for Europe to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society in the world.  Lifelong learning is defined in the Memorandum as being about:

  • acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interests, knowledge and qualifications from the pre-school years to post-retirement. It promotes the development of knowledge and competences that will enable each citizen to adapt to the knowledge-based society and actively participate in all spheres of social and economic life, taking more control of his or her future.
  • valuing all forms of learning, including: formal learning, such as a degree course followed at university; non-formal learning, such as vocational skills acquired at the workplace; and informal learning, such as inter-generational learning, for example where parents learn to use ICT through their children, or learning how to play an instrument together with friends.

Learning opportunities should be available to all citizens on an ongoing basis. In practice this should mean that citizens each have individual learning pathways, suitable to their needs and interests at all stages of their lives. The content of learning, the way learning is accessed, and where it takes place may vary depending on the learner and their learning requirements.  Lifelong learning is also about providing "second chances" to update basic skills and also offering learning opportunities at more advanced levels. All this means that formal systems of provision need to become much more open and flexible, so that such opportunities can truly be tailored to the needs of the learner, or indeed the potential learner.

The full text of the Memorandum and supporting documentation on the learning society is available on the Department of Education and Science website, in the further education section.