Ireland´s 300,000 adult learners will be called on to demand their right to learn at a rally organised by AONTAS, the National Association of Adult Education, in Dublin this morning (Thursday, 10 May 2007).
The organisation will urge people to demand their right to learn by only voting for general election candidates that have pledged improvements for adult learners.
AONTAS is demanding that the next government of Ireland takes immediate steps to improve structures, funding and supports for adult learners. The organisation´s campaign has garnered considerable support to date,
- Commitments in the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour election manifestos to abolish fees for part-time courses at higher level
- A joint commitment in the Fine Gael / Labour strategy on tax and jobs to introduce two weeks annual paid training leave, targeted at low-skilled workers
- Commitments in the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael manifestos to provide dedicated funding for English language training for speakers of other languages, and
- A commitment in Labour´s election manifesto to provide a dedicated annual budget for women´s community education.
Over 1,000 people have signed an AONTAS petition to demand their right to learn, including 24 general election candidates. The campaign has also attracted attention in Dáil Éireann, with over 20 parliamentary questions on adult learning raised in the Dáil before its dissolution.
John Ryan, President of AONTAS, said: "No matter what the outcome of the election, we will continue to put pressure on the new government to ensure the various parties honour their pre-election promises and improve the situation for adult learners. There is a huge learning deficit in Ireland at the moment - nearly one third of our workforce left school with only Junior Cert qualifications or less. Unless the next government takes immediate steps to upskill those who have been short-changed by our education system, there will be serious repercussions for the Irish economy and for society as a whole."
AONTAS´ election rally takes place in the Royal Dublin Hotel, O´Connell Street, Dublin 1 at 12.15pm today (Thursday, 10 May 2007). It will be attended by representatives of adult learning groups from throughout Ireland and will be preceded by the AONTAS AGM.