Community Education: The non-formal approach to education

Community education refers to informal adult learning which aims to empower people and support local communities

Written by spunout


If you are interested in adult education that offers flexible learning opportunities, support and a chance to contribute to your local area, community education might be for you.

What is community education?

Community education is adult learning that takes place across local communities in Ireland. It generally takes place outside of the formal education sector. Community education involves short and part-time courses that place a strong emphasis on personalised learning. If you take part in a community education programme, you will be involved in all aspects of the course development. This includes identifying your needs, designing the programmes and adapting them on a regular basis.

As community education also focuses on contributing to society, the courses are developed with the needs of the local community in mind.

Community education also provides extra support to ensure that adults can successfully use the programme and further their learning.

These supports include:

  • Mentoring
  • Continuous feedback
  • Childcare

What’s involved in a Community Education course?

The learning material in a community education course varies depending on the subject that you are studying. For more information on the types of community education courses available in your area, you can contact your local ETB or AONTAS.

Community education courses normally use a combination of assessment methods. These include:

  • Assignments 
  • Projects
  • Learners’ records
  • Observations
  • Demonstrations of skills
  • Exams

Who is responsible for providing community education?

Community groups who are interested in providing community education can do so with the support of Community Education Facilitators. These facilitators work within the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and provide assistance and support to new or existing community education groups. They also provide information on sources of funding to community education groups.

Can I take part in Community Education while receiving a social welfare payment?

Under the Back to Education Initiative, it is possible to keep your social welfare payment so long as you still meet the conditions required for the payment.

If you are on Jobseeker’s Allowance or Benefit, you can look into the Part-Time Education Option if you’d like to take part in a course while keeping your payment.

How can I find community education courses near me?

For more details about community groups running community education courses in your area, you can contact your local ETB or AONTAS.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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