Adult Education in Ireland. Education is a never ending process of life. From the moment of birth, an individual is exposed to new concepts and ideas. The learning process refines him and makes him a better individual. If we evaluate the history, we can see that it is not the strongest species that survives, but it is the most adaptive one that survives and flourishes.
Educational System and Adult Education
The current adult education system in Ireland emerged from the 1930s, when the main infrastructure began to be in effect. Vocational Educational Committee (VECs), which now form the core of the adult education system in the state of Ireland, was started as a result of the Vocational Education Act of 1930. These constitutional boards, established in all the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland and in many of the major cities, had a responsibility to institute systems of Continuing Education in their respective region. Continuation education was given the definition as the education system to support that which is offered in primary school, including hands on training for employment in commerce, business, manufacturing, and industrial activities.
Along with formal education, an innovative faction emerged in Ireland during the early 1980s. This was the emergence of daytime learning classes prearranged by community oriented groups, known as Community Education. A large group of voluntary and community based crowd started to offer adult literacy programs, personal development sessions, second chance learning initiatives, and other training programs based on domestic learner requirements. Such training courses were mainly organized by women and the beneficiaries of the sessions were also mostly women who had a lot of barriers to avail education and learning. These obstacles included the inflexible nature of class timetable, the unavailability of childcare amenities and the inaccessibility to the women candidates who could not record themselves as unemployed as they did their business from home.
Women’s groups frequently managed social barring, though a different view of adult education where learning enthusiasts moved out of the legal learning system to establish their own learning requirements. Community education offered not only a social opening for women, but also a self esteem-building initiative for those looking to go back to employment.
The White Paper relating to Adult Education: Learning for Life, which the Irish Government published in 2000, explained adult education in Ireland as any “methodical learning done by adults who returns to learning having completed preliminary education or learning”. The perception is as stated below.
- Re-entry by adults to additional education
- Return by adults to the next level education
- Enduring education, guidance and specialized growth of people re-joining the employees, despite of their level
- Community learning
- Additional methodical learning done by adults in a range of settings and situations, both recognized and casual.
A wide consultation procedure informed the White Paper, ‘Learning for Life’and marked the acceptance of lifetime learning as the leading standard of the educational strategy in Ireland encouraging Science and Technology in Education. As Ireland emerges as a knowledge-based nation, a predominant challenge for education is to expand the needed combination of creativity and talents to react to the requirements of a emerging labor market. Research, growth and modernization are significant elements in attaining and preserving financial practicality and achieving sustained development. The presence of a sufficient number of skilled professionals in the fields of Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Biology related Sciences, latest technologies and Engineering will be a significant aspect in supporting this approach.
Adult Education in Ireland – New Strategies and Processes
For Ireland, potential economic expansion depends on the capability to magnetize and retain higher significance activities and better skills with a stress on aspects like research, quality innovation and unconventional design. This involves migrating from outdated technology based expansion to a dynamic innovation facilitated progress which is less susceptible to competition from lesser cost economy counterparts. A modified science syllabus at first level was introduced in mid September 2003. The general aim of the Syllabus includes:
- Developing a methodical approach to crisis solving which highlight understanding and productive thoughts.
- Promoting children to discover, expand and apply methodical ideas and thoughts by virtue of scheming and constructive activities.
- Nurturing children’s natural inquisitiveness to develop free inquiry and creative act.
This starts as early as the newborn starts its schooling and continues all through the primary cycle. At the second stage of education, the introduction of a variety of new syllabi in science related subjects at higher Cycle is near finishing point. A newly introduced syllabus in Junior Certificate Science was commenced in 2003, with a highly increased importance on real time student exploratory assignments and on the relevance of science method skills in all the student efforts. In Ireland, a Task Group on the Physical Sciences informed the Government in March 2002 offering a wide variety of recommendations intended at addressing the waning intensity of involvement in the physical sciences at the second stage and in the higher education sector and at guaranteeing the condition of a well emerged capability in this area. Its suggestions are executed on a chronological basis.
In the year 1998, the Government introduced the Program of Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI). The program, which is guided by the Higher Education Authority under the Ministry of Science and Education, provides incorporated monetary assistance for institutional research plans, programs and facilities.
Neoliberal Concepts and its Impact
There is a ‘second chance’ myth that surrounds the function of adult learning in Irish culture. The ‘second chance’ myth in fact provides all people an equal opportunity to access learning opportunities and to enhance their life. Recent expansions in educational policies are largely governed by neo-liberal thoughts that acclimatize adult education thoughts, such as lifetime learning and emotional liberation, for its own monetary and biased reasoning. This has significant aftereffects for adult learning, particularly because of its stress on impartiality of opportunities and public inclusion.
The expansion of concerns of traits like Human Resource Development, individuality, consumerist human behaviors and market competitiveness in adult learning strategies support a conviction in peoples’ own accountability to enhance their employability and opportunities for a better life. It promotes human resources related approach to adult education that facilitates to the benefit of incorporating financial flexibility for a worldwide and free work force. Adult learning becomes an element of the ‘symbolic gloss of popular democracy’ (Vincent, 1993:374).
This has a two-fold result where i) Thoughtful and vital study of how authority – particularly, financial and political authority – functions are ignored in favor of personal reflection; and ii) critical and decisive forms of adult learning are sidelined. Critical theories on learning explains that liberation through learning is achievable, but this needs to occupy the complete participation and proactive forces of the marginalized individuals themselves, an ‘education of equals’ which has its roots on the concept of ‘an active, dialogical, critical and criticism-stimulating method’ (Freire, 1974:45). Preferably, the political and financial system should be responsive to this type of learning, generating the room and backing support for it to happen. This is not easy in a market-based environment that promotes individual accountability and discourages the study of prominent financial and political systems.
Adult education is frequently explained as a ‘second chance’, providing adult individuals a chance to re-equip their learning scheme or to re-learn new concepts in learning skills and awareness. This vision of adult learning’s input to the people has been circulated in state debates, using the acceptance of the thought of lifetime learning. This practical view of adult learning emphasizes its inputs to the financial and political system. Adult education also has a significant community role, socializing people into mainstream society and promoting independent nationality and self esteem. After Jarvis’ (1985:25) counsel that ‘the concept of education will always be relative and reflect the social conditions of the time of definition’, we can examine the adult education strategies in Ireland, evaluating the prominent concerns that have evolved it in the past few years.
These conversations remain in synchronization with the evaluation that appears in trans-national research regarding adult education (Edwards et al., 1996; Hughes and Tight, 1995). In a recent assessment of adult learning in Ireland, Fleming (2004:15) explains that the Irish state has complexity performing in the benefit of this common society because, people would argue, it may be seduced, it may be corrupted, by the financial system to act based on its vested interests.
Hence, the inclination of the State is to hold up an idea of lifelong education and adult education that upholds the economy and principles that engages enhancing skills for jobs. In fact the administration sets as a main concern the knowledge that aids financial development. There is an expression of public inclusion and impartiality, but that also has a financial intention. There is a clear opposition between the dissimilarity the system wants (as per the Minister of Justice – Ireland) and the aims of social unity or the concept of social equality.
Theoretical perspectives on adult education
The practical idea that has governed educational policy explains that education adds to the socialization and training of citizens into the public value system and the prevailing social system. Completely absent from this learning idea is any report of fundamental change or significant action, such as those that come with the type of adult training proposed by Freire (1972) and by the feminist teaching school of thoughts (Weiler, 1996). Lynch (2000:100) explains that the socialization of education ‘is a normatively-orientated order with a much bigger focus on learning reform than radical change’.
As a result, fundamental and serious view-points have remained secondary in the conventional educational area. King et al. (2000:13) explains how important perspectives view learning as a procedure rather than a produce. Matters regarding control and authority, position, relations, perceptive of knowledge and teaching methods, and how they emerge themselves inside education are significant to their apprehension.
Significant theories have established some reverberation within the adult learning areas. Acceptance of these diverse and conflicting hypothetical approaches to learning is clearly seen in the discussions over teaching methodologies. Pedagogy is normally connected with the organizational structures of the educational institutions – a set syllabus and official recognition system that is controlled by the authorities. For the learners, it is a practical or ‘banking model’ of learning (Freire, 1972) where knowledge ‘comes from above’.
Adult Learning and related policy
Ó’Murchú (1984) explains how adult learning systems in the state of Ireland materialized from voluntary enlightening and agriculture related movements in the late 1900s. These newly emerged strategies were associated with in the fight for national sovereignty and sustained increase adult learning in the freshly formed State of Ireland. This voluntary foundation may support to make clear why the state participation in adult learning, decision making is a comparatively fresh system. As the 1995 Department of Science & Education (DES) White Paper explaining Our learning Future acknowledged, many of the expansion of Irish adult education happened in an ‘adhoc and amorphous manner’ (DES, 1995:73).
The state of Ireland recognized the impact of modernization and the poor financial condition during the earlier years as causes for the inactivity from the part of authorities (DES, 1998:40). Nevertheless, in the lack of solid support, regionally organized social groups started to appear in the 1980s, combined by the ant for achievement in two core areas – learning and Adult Education in Ireland for the unemployed youth and the women. However, the above mentioned categories experienced a lack of official acknowledgment by the State and also had problems with funding for the training.
It proposed a balanced advance to the adult learning scenario, by including financial thoughts within a wide arena of problems, including individual, cultural, social and ecological issues. The stress on economic particulars on the Green Paper emphasized a parallel financial foundation of the one earlier used by OECD (1989), and the European Union. Adult education’s inputs to the Irish society were placed within the context of an age of quick financial change and career design, where lack of learning and ability ought not to perform as a blockade to any individual in making a living. The Green Paper’s proposed consolidating present adult learning patterns and offering complete equality
Neo-liberalism and economic change in adult education policies
Education policy matters in the republic of Ireland and the OK have been governed in recent times by a discussion of financial strategy change, mainly through the entrepreneurial structures of liberalization and market competition. Adult education in Ireland has seen in the recent years, a form of ‘investment in human resources that will be the base of success in the information-based worldwide economy of the current century’.
Hughes and Tight (1995:291) explains economic elements as main features of the prevailing concepts relating adult education, with the output concepts which explains that a connection exists between learning and ‘personal earnings, institutional efficiency and national financial performance’. Hughes and Tight accepts that the connection between efficiency and transformation is ‘partial and hard to interpret’. Anyway, it is a concept that is even now worth analyzing due to its commonness as a system of present day globalized nations, including the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Higher Education scenario in Ireland
accountability for the growth and execution of higher education related policy matters are matters of concern of the government and the respective Department of Education, whereas the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has got a wider board of advisors and evaluating powers and is also the authority that funds for the educational institutions, universities and other assigned higher education organizations. In the Republic of Ireland, there is also a completely functional and proactive higher education system in operation in the private sector as well. Citizens who are not benefited out of the government assisted learning stream can thus avail the services offered by the private sector. Griffith College is a good model with the largest legal studies school in Ireland.
They are an interesting model of the viable success of a private sector training institution aimed at self financed domestic and global students. A worth-mentioning effort in place in this case is where the institution has introduced a new Student Exchange program, which offers a financial assistance as free tuition fees for students from Ireland whose parents provide space for the international students. The punch here is to catch the attention of students from other countries. In this way, Ireland looks forward to make the result out of on its education using English as the instruction medium. In this way Ireland could easily commercialize the area of higher education and could earn good national results out of IT. The Privatization of the higher education scenario also enhanced the Human resources demand for Irish companies too.
In Ireland, educational institutions offering higher education are under increasing stress to be more responsible and the resulting managerialism, which is thought to offer such responsibility is differentiated by a lack of trust of academics, and a growing sense of audit re-checking and control mechanisms initiated by the state and executed by top level and middle level academicians. This has witnessed the beginning of cycles of organizational reviews, which to a great extent neglected the reality that steps to analyze quality related to learning and teaching always existed ever since the beginning of organized social life. Indeed, academic enhancements are now asked to be valued by exterior examiners. Their instructional standards and research results are also evaluated. Analysis is done, whether they comply with personal workload systems and related academic action profiles.
They are also asked to produce yearly performance and progress reviews. Many of these processes are used to make the instructors accountable to their academic activities. The new initiatives will help in enhancing the quality of the educational system in the higher education scenario.
Adult Education System in United States of America
The explanation of adulthood in legal regulations relating to adult learning has changed very little during the last half a century. As per the Economic Opportunity Act, which came into existence in 1964, Adult Education needs to be provided for citizens who are eighteen years or older. In the year 1970, certain amendments were made to the Adult Education Act, which diluted the meaning of an adult citizen of the age of sixteen or older.
The amendment and the subsequent reduction of the age from eighteen to sixteen even persist to the present day. This age is considered when a candidate applies for programs funded in Title II of the Workforce Investment Act which was introduced in 1998. Today, in the United States of America, the number of adult citizens with eligibility, applying for adult education relies on United States Census information which provides the number of adults who are of the age sixteen years or older, who passed out of their school. The Citizens who have completed 12 years of formal education are exempted from availing the benefits.
Based on the implementation and signing of the National Literacy Act (NLA) in 1991, the United States Department of Education renamed its special division for Adult Education as Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). The interesting fact is that, just after a span of seven years the NLA of 1991 departed in 1998.
After conducting a detailed analysis of the Adult Education System in Ireland, it can be seen that the state offers great opportunities for citizens who wish to make a better living by getting involved in doing higher studies at a later stage of their life. Adult education allows an individual to spread his wings to the unlimited vistas of opportunities available in today’s globalized world. The new learning makes a professional more contemporary and up to date. Many of the business sectors like technical Industry, health care, hospitality sector etc prefers candidates who are willing to update themselves.