Wednesday, 29 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
204. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the Government agreed in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to establish a national adult learning council under the aegis of his Department and a lifelong learning task force under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in view of the fact that these bodies are doing similar work; and his views on whether there is duplication involved in this decision. [7993/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The National Adult Learning Council was first mooted in the Green Paper: Adult Education in an Era of Lifelong Learning, published in November 1998, and will be among the proposals to be provided for in the context of the forthcoming White Paper on Adult Education. The proposals envisage that the council will be established on a statutory basis to promote and co-ordinate the development of the adult education sector and provide for a major expansion in lifelong learning opportunities. The council will include representation from education and training providers, learners, social partners, community and voluntary interests, participants and accrediting bodies. Liaison with stakeholders in the field, development and monitoring of an agreed co-ordinated strategy and support for staff development and research will form part of the approach. It will take some time to put in place and is one of a phased series of developments proposed for the strengthening of the sector. The council's key focus will be to address the broad ranging needs of adult learners in the education sector, including those in the workforce and those seeking to enter or re-enter it, within the context of an integrated co-ordinated education and training strategy.
In the interim, and in the context of adaptation to continuing labour market change, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has established a lifelong learning task force in con junction with the Department of Education and Science. The task force includes the social partners and relevant implementation bodies, and will work intensively over a six month period to make recommendations to Government on a range of issues relating to the promotion and enhancement of competitiveness, the upgrading of skills in the workforce and for those seeking to enter the workforce, enhancing access to education and  training, removing barriers to access, providing supporting services, and meeting the challenges of change.
These issues are of major concern to both the education and training sectors, and both Departments are working in close collaboration. The future work and policies of the National Adult Learning Council will be informed by the recommendations of the task force's report.
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