Adult education


Adult education courses can help you to return to education in a way that suits you.

They take account of your particular needs and circumstances as an adult. There are part-time and full-time courses available. A number of organisations provide specialist help and advice about returning to education.

Some education and training schemes and supports can support you to return to education and training.

Courses with low or no entry requirements

You don't need to have qualifications such as Junior Certificate or Leaving Certificate to take part in many full-time and part-time courses.

There are many courses provided by your local Education and Training Board. These include adult literacy programmes and courses for early school-leavers. There are opportunities to return to study for the Leaving Certificate or other certificates and a wide range of vocational training linked to business and industry.

Community Education

Community education provides flexible learning options in your community. Education programmes are based on individual and local community needs.

Programmes may be organised by the Community Education Services within the local ETB or with the help of local groups. Courses are part-time. A typical course may be 2 hours a week for 8 to10 weeks.

Community education programmes provide supports for participants to access education and learning.

Evening classes

Evening classes can offer you a social way to learn or to gain a qualification.

Evening classes take place during term time in Education and Training Boards (ETBs), schools, colleges and universities throughout the country. The courses on offer vary from centre to centre so it is worth looking around if you have a particular interest you would like to pursue.

Courses with an entry requirement

Some courses are generally only open to you if you have completed your secondary education. These include Post-Leaving Certificate courses and college-based training courses for apprentices, as well as full-time and part-time third-level courses. However, you should check the entry requirements with the school or college as some courses make exceptions for mature students.

Back to Education Initiative

The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) provides further education courses mainly to adult learners and early school-leavers who want to upgrade their skills. The courses are part-time. The initiative allows you to combine education with family, caring or work responsibilities.

Can I get a qualification with adult education?

Your achievements can be recognised and validated through the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

The NFQ describes all levels of qualifications across the Irish education and training system. It allows for a learner to move from informal education, perhaps starting with a community education course or evening class, and progressing to further education and then to higher education.

Accreditation for non-formal education is not always a goal for providers or learners, but you can get advice from your local ETB.

How to apply for adult education

Your local ETB and college will be able to give you details on the courses in your area and when they begin.

For more details about community education courses in your area, you should contact your local ETB or AONTAS (the Irish National Association of Adult Education) which promotes adult education and lifelong learning. Local groups can contact their local Community Education Facilitator (CEF) within the local Education and Training Boards for more information on setting up community education programme.

Enrolment takes place around mid-September, again in mid-January and, in those centres with a summer term, around mid-March. They can be advertised locally in your local newspaper, community centre, school or parish hall.

You can also search for courses on the further education and training course hub. You can read more about sources of information on returning to education.

Page edited: 9 March 2022