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What is community education & how can I access it?
"Community education refers to adult education and learning, generally outside the formal education sector, which aims to enhance learning, empower people and contribute to society. It promotes personalised learning and flexibility within the learning group. Participants are involved as equal partners in identifying needs, designing and implementing programmes, and adapting them on an ongoing basis.

The goals of the community education sector include not just individual development but also community advancement, especially in marginalised communities.

A key feature of community education programmes is that they provide the supports necessary for successful access and learning, particularly guidance, mentoring, continuous feedback and childcare.

Community Education Facilitators
Community Education Facilitators work within the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to give support to local community groups. This includes giving technical/administrative help, supporting the development, maintenance, and co-ordination of community education groups and strengthening links between the formal and non-formal education sectors. They assist and support the development of new community-based educational initiatives. The Community Education Facilitators Association (CEFA) is their professional organisation.

Back to Education Initiative
The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) provides opportunities for second-chance education to adult learners and early school-leavers who want to upgrade their skills. The initiative allows learners to combine education with family, caring or work responsibilities.

Role of ETBs in community education
The Community Education Services operate within the ETBs and give support services to community groups who are interested in community education as follows:

Community Education Facilitators provide assistance and support to new or existing community education groups. They provide information on sources of funding and help community education interests to access funding.
Assistance is also available for community education groups to develop their own educational programmes and courses. This backup may include technical, administrative or educational input.
They also facilitate networking with other groups and organisations with an interest in community education, and sharing good practice from other sectors.
Education and Training Boards

Accreditation and qualifications
Community education courses generally use a combination of assessment methods such as assignments, projects, learners’ records, observations, skills demonstration and examinations. Accreditation has always posed challenges to non-formal education providers as it is not always a goal or a necessary outcome for all learners. However, the validity of learning in both the formal and non-formal environment has been recognised and worked into the National Framework of Qualifications - a single system against which all learning can be mapped. It allows for learners to move from non-formal into formal education, from basic to further education, and from further into higher education in a relatively straightforward way.

How to apply
For more details about community education courses in your area, you should contact your local ETB or AONTAS.

Community organisations and groups applying for Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) funding should apply to their local ETB. The BTEI guidelines are available on the website of the Department of Education and Skills. "
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