Minister says we have further to go re adult education

by Rachel Cunningham
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Minister Niall Collins TD has said that Ireland’s adult educational system has further to go, as its emphasis shifts towards lifelong learning.

Eurostat figures for 2021 showed that just under 14 per cent of workers aged 25 to 65 participate in upskilling to bolster their professional development in Ireland, significantly less than rates in Sweden (34.7 per cent) and Finland (30.5 per cent). 

Responding to this data, the minister told the Dublin Gazette: “We know we have further to go.”

In late 2021, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science commissioned and worked with the OECD to carry out a comprehensive review of our skills strategies and systems, which is now in the final stages. 

“One of the key areas of focus for that review was to examine how we can do better on lifelong learning. What we know is that it is critical to have a holistic enabling framework for engaging individuals to take advantage of upskilling, reskilling and learning opportunities,” said Minister Collins. 

“Better career and skills guidance, clearer navigability of the offering, more flexibility in how, when and where course are delivered and appropriate supports to free up time to participate in learning opportunities are all interlinked and crucial facets in the embedding of a culture of continuous learning. Each country and context is different.

“Ireland can’t necessarily replicate what others have may have in a wholesale or uniform way. But we can build from our strong base, and use evidence, expertise, and our relationships, across the EU and elsewhere, to advance forward.”

“While data shows Ireland meeting and exceeding current EU average rates for participation in adult learning, we know that full success hinges on benchmarking ourselves against the best in class,” added the minister.

Under the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, Ireland defined an ambition of annual participation rate in Lifelong Learning of 64.2 per cent of all adults (25-64 year olds) by 2030, increasing from 53.9 per cent in 2017.

Minister Collins stated that the establishment of the department in 2020 emphasised at Cabinet level that the education, learning, upskilling and reskilling agenda for Ireland is a government priority.

“Learning has changed. Education is no longer something formal that happens to someone young. The 21st Century model of learning means updating our skills and knowledge base throughout our lives, in a way that is intertwined with our working lives,” he said.

“The pace of change is massive when it comes to the digital and green skills revolutions underway and the opportunities endless. Lifelong learning could not be more important.”

The minister said the department is determined to leverage the opportunities of digital transformation and climate adaptation and mitigation, to ensure that Ireland embraces a fully transformed 21st century model of learning, talent and workforce development.

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