Chapter 6: Rising to the challenge of realizing lifelong learning for one and all: the role of community adult education in widening participation for traditionally marginalized groups in Irish society and beyond
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The impact of education on an individual’s options in life is unequivocal (European Commission 2011a). Lifelong and ‘life-wide’ learning has a fundamental part to play in addressing social exclusion and the intergenerational cycles of educational disadvantage and poverty. Educational policies and practices aimed at widening participation in educational activities for marginalized groups are a prerequisite to successfully meeting the challenges of promoting social inclusion and reducing poverty (Cedefop 2009; European Commission 2010). A recent European Union (EU) Commission examination of the impact of ongoing educational policy reform on the adult learning sector affirms these principles: ‘in a very real way, adult learning can help to overcome the main challenges related to demographic change, poverty, social exclusion, early school leaving and low literacy and thus provide opportunities for all individuals, notably the most disadvantaged groups’ (European Commission DG EAC 2010). Furthermore, in its 2011 review of the impact of its 2007–2010 Action Plan for Adult Learning (European Commission 2007), the European Commission (European Commission 2011b) highlighted the multiplicity of challenges that must be addressed to ensure that the most disadvantaged groups, particularly early school-leavers and low-skilled adults, have access to lifelong learning (LLL) opportunities.

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