TAKING part in a learning activity is a great way of getting out of the house and meeting new people. The setting in adult and community education is a lot less formal – you’ll get plenty of opportunity to mix with others in the class, to participate and discuss issues and events and mostly enjoy the fun of it all.
If you’re looking to go back to education, then the first thing you need to do is some research. AONTAS Information Booklet is a good place to start for anyone who isn’t sure of their options. The booklet outlines a variety of options open to adult learners, and also gives information about the financial supports available. It is available for download on www.aontas.com. AONTAS also operates an Information Referral Service – if you contact them they can help put you in touch with the right person for you.
Contact your local VEC. Adult Education Officers in your local VEC know about all the courses being run in their area. They co-ordinate an adult learning/education programme which operates in every VEC. The VEC also supports adult education classes in many community locations. The Community Education Facilitator will have information about what is available in your locality.
Contact organisations such as Active Retirement Ireland, www.fara.ie. Active Retirement Ireland is a federation of over 400 local community organisations, all of which aim to help people over 55 to live a happy and healthy retirement. Your local branch can help you find a course or learning activity which suits your needs.
Contact your local Partnership or Community Partnership – they often organise courses locally based on the needs of people living in the area.
The Adult Education Guidance Initiative is a free service and involves 38 guidance projects throughout the country. Their aim is to provide a quality adult educational service to participants in VTOS, literacy or other adult education. Anyone thinking of going back to education can avail of this, or if you are in existing education. The list of services is available on www.ncge.ie. If you are interested in third level education, the Admissions Officer or Access Officer in higher third level institutions will also help.
Local Employment Services (LES) employ mediators who can help people one-to one. Local Area Based Partnership Companies may have an Education Officer who would actively promote the participation of people in their areas in third level/second chance or further education.
University of the Third Age
The past few years in Ireland has seen a huge increase in popularity for the University of the Third Age – a global movement based on the notion of a co-operative, or learning circle. The movement operates with a strong ethos of lifelong learning and in Ireland takes the form of a number of local groups, which are supported by Age Action, a national charity which promotes positive ageing, better policies and services for older people in Ireland.
The philosophy behind the U3A movement is that everyone teaches and everyone learns. There is no qualification involved at the end of taking part in U3A, but there is none required either. Learning activities within the group are directed by the needs, interests and experience of those involved. To date, U3A organisations have run sessions on creative writing, stress management, discussions on the book “The Da Vinci Code”, visits to Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum, Botanic Gardens and many other places of interest.
Age Action can help put you in touch with an existing group in your area, or can support you and other people in your area to set up your own branch of U3A.
AONTAS has come across hundreds of success stories from people of all ages who have gone back to education and never looked back. More recently, AONTAS has worked closely with organisations such as Age and Opportunity, Age Action Ireland, Active Retirement Ireland and the Older and Bolder Campaign in order to highlight the benefits of learning.