“We want to show the work of the providers and place adult education on the political agenda,” said Berni Brady. But Adult Learners Festival in Ireland is not just public awareness campaigning: “We also want to celebrate the achievements of the learners.”
400 events took place nationwide as part of the Adult Learners Festival in Ireland this year. There are lots of good reasons to invest resources in the festival according to Berni Brady, who is the director of AONTAS, the national adult education organization.
“Participation in lifelong learning in Ireland is still relatively low, and the adult education sector is often overlooked in mainstream media. Currently all the focus is on training and upskilling, but we need also to highlight the social value of adult education – and the fact that learning happens in many different places,” she said.
Each day of the week put focus on a special aspect of adult learning:
“The festival is about showcasing the work of adult education providers and promoting the work of AONTAS and the adult education sector. In addition we want to ensure that adult education is placed firmly on the political agenda,” Berni Brady told the audience, but she was very keen to get another message through to conference participants:
“Celebrating adult learning and the achievements of adult learners is as much important as creating public awareness. That is why we put so much effort into our STAR awards in different categories. We want the learners to really feel that they accomplished something.”
AONTAS does not only celebrate the learners. The organization gives the learners the opportunity to contribute actively to policy development.
“We want to draw on the experience of the learners, and we make sure that the message of the learners is brought to the politicians. Sometimes by the learners themselves, like when we organized a round-table with learners and decision-makers including the Minister for Training and Skills,” said Berni Brady.