Education sector must modernise “to keep pace with the economic recovery” - Head of SOLAS

Friday, February 13, 2015 - 00:00

The challenge within the Further Education and Training (FET) sector is to modernise and keep pace with the economic recovery to ensure participants are equipped to actively contribute to the labour market and our communities, attendees of Maynooth University’s Education Forum heard today.

Addressing more than 100 strategists, policy makers, researchers and practitioners in education, Paul O’Toole, CEO of SOLAS, said that the opportunities presented by a renewed FET sector, if addressed in an appropriate and timely way, will result in a high-quality learner experience with better outcomes for participants and enterprises.

“There is an opportunity for FET to become the fourth pillar of our education system. Ireland’s FET Strategy is a mandate for the sector to work collectively and to combine our respective expertise to derive benefits for the economy and society,” O’Toole said. “The challenge is to modernise ourselves in order to keep pace with the economic recovery to ensure our beneficiaries are equipped with the appropriate skills to actively participate in the labour market and in our communities.”
The Education Forum at Maynooth University interrogated the links between education and work. Exploring the situation in Denmark, Professor Henning Salling Olesen from Roskilde University said while we should recognise the work-oriented agenda of lifelong learning, we must learn to educate to work collaboratively, not competitively.

“A few decades ago ‘lifelong learning’ involved highlighting individual access to learning facilities throughout life. From the 1990s it became the mantra of CEOs and political leaders and adult learning became a strategic issue, but it was largely perceived in a narrow sense with individuals responsible for their own maintenance. We need to embrace the new opportunities for work related learning, but there is a critical need for proactive education provision, which will provide long-term competence development and teach us to work collaboratively.”

Addressing the Forum, Dr Anne B Ryan of Maynooth University said that a key aim of the political economy must be to achieve high levels of human wellbeing combined with low energy and resource use, healthy ecosystems and deeper democracy.

“A diversity of work, paid and unpaid, is essential in the cultivation of higher degrees of personal, community and national resilience. An enabling state will put structures in place that support such diversity. Progressive education, which responds to real societal needs, will also be required to contribute to that project,” she said.

Now in its third year, the Maynooth Education Forum has established itself as an important space where education policymakers and stakeholders come together to exchange ideas and reflect on key issues in Irish education. The Forum is structured to facilitate discourse and critique among delegates and there is a strong focus on developing solutions for the future of Irish Education.

Caption: Inset - Paul O'Toole, CEO of SOLAS, after speaking to attendees at Maynooth Education Forum 2015.