printable version of page Printer-friendly page

Overview of the Adult Literacy System in Ireland and Current Issues in Its Implementation

Volume 6: Chapter Seven
Inez Bailey

In Chapter Seven, Inez Bailey provides an overview of Irelandís adult literacy system, highlighting the significant growth in the system over the last ten years. Bailey begins the chapter by providing a history of Irish adult literacy education. She points out that adult literacy has been a low priority in Ireland for many years and notes efforts to raise awareness of the literacy problem and offer services to address it. She shows how economic downturns of the 1980s helped to increase emphasis on adult literacy, leading to the establishment of an adult literacy service by the 1990s. Bailey highlights a key moment in the history of adult literacy in Ireland: The release of the International Adult Literacy Survey, which revealed that 25% of Irelandís population scored at the lowest level of the survey. She discusses how the IALS results raised the profile of adult literacy and led to major funding increases for literacy services, and she provides an overview of major components of recent expansion and improvement efforts.

In the next section of the chapter, Bailey describes the present system of adult literacy education, highlighting the philosophy of literacy as encompassing both basic skills and aspects of personal development. She discusses the important role of the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), first established in 1980, in providing support to the field through national coordination, policy advocacy, and training activities. Bailey gives an overview of the structure of adult literacy services, noting key components of the system and pointing out challenges faced by it. She notes additional efforts to provide literacy services, such as through distance learning, and describes the need for growth in areas such as ESOL, family literacy, and workplace basic education.

Bailey concludes the chapter by reviewing current issues and challenges facing Irelandís adult literacy system. She briefly describes a national system for certifying adult learnersí knowledge, skills, and competence, from low levels of learning up to a PhD. She notes difficulties in recruiting and retaining adult educators; the need for more funding to meet increasing demand for services; the importance of partnerships to better integrate adult literacy into the education sector; and the need for investment in research and evaluation of the adult literacy service. Finally, Bailey notes the challenge of maintaining a learner-centered ethos while meeting increasing demands for accountability and calls for partnerships across public, private, and voluntary sectors to address the full range of adult literacy learner needs.

 Chapter 8  arrow

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL