Community schools still have a vital role to play in adult education and lifelong learning. That’s according to Dr Leo Casey, Director of the Centre for Research and Innovation in Learning and Teaching in the National College of Ireland.
“Recent strategy documents are based on the premise that the sole purpose of education and adult education is to prepare people for employment, through pre-employment skills or upskilling,” he said. “What about lifelong education? What about people who participate in non-work activities, who are active at community level, in micro enterprises or sustainable development.”
Educators – including community schools and adult education directors – should not necessarily follow the labour-market driven and qualifications approach slavishly. “The very name ‘community schools’ indicates a link between the school and society – that the school is a part of its local community.” This closeness to its community allows schools to inhabit the space of lifelong education, whereby the needs of people change from practical career or parenting concerns to larger societal issues as they get older.
Community schools are satisfying the need for lifelong learning. “That might not be in vogue, but it’s not wrong,” he said, adding that lifelong learning – in topics such as psychology, social justice, mentoring – contribute towards democracy by facilitating people to engage in active discourse and to make complex decisions about their lives and society. “Is it possible to have a functioning democracy without open, informed and truthful discourse among the citizenship? Perhaps we are so busy ‘training’ people to develop instrumental, economically viable skills that we overlook the ‘skills of democratic participation’ such as reasoning and critical literacy.”
And, those values are in danger of being forsaken. “I’m very much in favour of qualifications but not an over-engineered approach to delivery and outcomes – that’s a flawed approach.”
Instead, it would be better if we regard “learning as part of life itself, it is something that we continue to do so long as we live. Learning may be regarded as a gift we give to our future selves and, so long as we have a future, we will need to learn.”
This article originally appeared in the NACED May 2016 newsletter
Collaboration Counts: Wexford and Dublin schools join forces to enhance the adult education experienceRead Now
Schools within the NACED organisation often co-operate on classes. In fact, in April 2018, St Colmcille’s Community School in Dublin’s Knocklyon and Gorey Community School, Co. Wexford collaborated on a Saturday workshop in metalcraft.
Twelve men from the Metalcraft class in St Colmcille’s travelled to Gorey to receive instruction in traditional ironcraft from master blacksmith Finin Liam Christie. Finin runs a very popular night class in metalcraft in the north Wexford school. Based in Coolgreaney, Co Wexford, he is passionate about traditional steel and ironworks - nothing is welded. He makes traditional gates, railings, tools, swords, axes, commissioned sculptures, bottle openers, hammers and train sets.
For the Dublin class, this was a great opportunity to learn from an internationally renowned craftsman, who sells to Australia, Brazil, the UK, the US, Germany and further afield - all from his Facebook page!
The class proved a great hit and is an example of how schools can collaborate with each other – to the benefit of class participants!
Pictures above (left to right) Blacksmith Finin Liam Christie passing on his skills to the Metalcraft class from St Colmcille’s Community School in the Gorey Community School workshop where Finin is a tutor; Just one of the pieces produced at the workshop; No class is complete without a cup of tea!