Speaking about Intercultural Awareness Week which has been running from April 7th to 14th, today AONTAS Director Berni Brady supported calls from anti-racism groups for a comprehensive national intercultural education strategy, which would accommodate diversity at all levels within the Irish education system.
'We believe this strategy must also cater to the needs of adults who come to Ireland', explained Ms Brady. 'AONTAS has always called for a holistic approach to education. Adult and community education provide opportunities for immigrants to integrate, meet Irish people and learn about living in Ireland. Adult and community education initiatives also allow Irish adults to learn and experience other cultures and viewpoints.'
She continued, 'Through our own membership and activities we have come across many practical examples of how adult education contributes towards integration and promotes interculturalism. The Integrate Ireland and Language Training Programme, primarily works with refugees in Ireland. Classes are based around practical needs -in a class based on the theme of education, adults might find out about the education system in Ireland and tasks could include writing a note to their child's teacher, role playing a parent teacher meeting, or researching available courses. Another example is Fáilte Isteach, an initiative which sees older people in Meath delivering conversational English classes to immigrants on a voluntary basis. The success of Fáilte Isteach is not only due to the practical language skills learned, but also through the mutual learning and social interaction which takes place, creating a greater sense of community spirit.'
The CSO estimates that 10% of the population are non Irish nationals. These include migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers. Research indicates that many immigrants to Ireland are highly educated, but often experience difficulties having their qualifications recognised.
Asylum seekers are currently not entitled to access further education, apart from basic literacy whilst their status is being reviewed. NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre in Cork has already highlighted how the direct provision system already prevents asylum seekers from integrating. 'We believe that this situation is made worse as those seeking asylum are prevented from accessing education which would assist their integration both in the workplace and in wider Irish society,' concluded Ms Brady.
(AONTAS PRESS RELEASE)