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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.9 Awareness-raising about non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Information providers / counselling structures
  2. Awareness raising initiatives

Information providers / counselling structures

Under the Education Act, 1998 (Government of Ireland, 1998) guidance is an entitlement in post-primary schools. Guidance in schools ‘refers to a range of learning experiences provided in developmental sequence, that assist students to develop self-management skills which will lead to effective choices and decisions about their lives. It encompasses the three separate, but interlinked areas of personal and social development, educational guidance and career guidance’ (DES, 2005, pg. 4). This educational guidance should be available for both formal and non-formal learning.

Guidance in post-primary schools is a whole school activity that is integrated into all school programmes. The document Guidelines for Second-Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998, Relating to Students' Access to Appropriate Guidance (The Inspectorate, 2005), indicates that a guidance programme should be part of a school plan and identifies the central role of the guidance counsellor, as well as the important contribution of different members of staff. Guidance also forms part of the curriculum in the Transition Year Programme (an optional year following the junior cycle), and in the state exam which takes place at the end of the senior cycle of vocational school, the Leaving Certificate Applied or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.

Young adults who want to return to education and training, or who are already registered on a Further Education and Training (FET) programme within the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), can seek guidance from the Adult Educational Guidance Services (AEGS). The AEGS are managed by the ETBs. The AEGS provide impartial careers and education information, about formal, nonformal and informal learning. Some ETBs have designated education and training guidance service specifically targeted to 16- to 25-year-olds.

According to the Further Education and Training Strategy 2020 - 2024 (SOLAS, 2020), the nature and quality of guidance provision vary across the different access points into the FET sector. The strategy recognises the need for an integrated FET Guidance approach, discussed in Chapter 6.10. offers career guidance to young adults, as well as adults, including formal, non-formal and informal educational options. It was developed as a response to a report by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs Tomorrow’s Skills Towards a National Skills Strategy (2007), which recommended that Ireland develop a central career guidance portal. The site was officially launched by the Minister for Education and Science in April 2008.


Awareness raising initiatives

AONTAS (the national Adult Learning Organisation) and its Community Education Network promotes nonformal and informal learning through hosting training workshops for practitioners. AONTAS also run conferences, targeting practitioners and policymakers, where learners themselves highlight the benefits they have experienced through nonformal and informal. It also runs an annual adult learners’ festival, which promotes the value and availability of non-formal and informal learning to the public. AONTAS receives funding form the European Union and SOLAS (the national Further Education and Training Authority), among other sources.

The National Adult Literacy Association (NALA) promotes the value of non-formal and informal literacy and numeracy learning to the general public through media campaigns, such as tv and radio advertising. It aims to increase awareness of literacy and numeracy difficulties, and of the learning opportunities available. These campaigns particularly target these with lower literacy/numeracy levels, including early school leavers who may struggle in these areas. NALA also targets employers, through reaching out to employers directly, to encourage them to promote non-formal and informal literacy and numeracy learning opportunities to their workforce. NALA is a registered charity, which receives funding from SOLAS, government departments, state bodies, the European Union, and the private sector.

The Community Education Programme Operational Guidelines for Providers (DES, 2012) is aimed at the Vocational Education Committee staff managing, administering and delivering community education programmes funded by the Department of Education under the Adult Literacy, Community Education and Special Initiatives for Disadvantaged Adults Scheme. The guidelines acknowledge these providers’ key role in cultivating non-formal and informal learning. It establishes that Community Education Service should work in close cooperation with the Adult Literacy Service to develop a Community Literacy Strategy which promotes non-formal and informal learning opportunities. Moreover, the Community Education Service should be actively involved in the development of local awareness raising initiatives such as adult learners’ festivals and other promotional events that celebrate non-formal and informal learning and learner achievement.