For many of us, the thought of school sends shivers down our spines.

No matter how long we’ve spent there, it can often hold some difficult memories. 

This would explain why so many people are hesitant to return to education.

Fionnuala Carter is the Adult Literacy Organiser with the Coolock Darndale branch of the City of Dublin ETB adult literacy service and she revealed that this idea couldn’t be further from reality. 

She says:

“It’s very different to a traditional school setting. First off, it’s adults coming back to education, so everyone is bringing so much experience with them that, a lot of the time, tutors would say they learn more from students than the students learn from them. Students learn an awful lot from each other aswell.

We’re guided by our students as to what we deliver and what we teach, so it’s not structured in the same way as school. You follow courses, but it’s very much self-directed. Students have complete control over what they’re learning here.

Another concern people have is that they may not be skilled enough, young enough or confident enough to go for something like this. 

Fionnula explains:

“We meet people from all walks of life in the centre here. We have people who are in the 20s and people in their 80s. So, the biggest message is that it’s never too late.

We have students who are coming back to education to help their kids in school, or maybe they’re getting a promotion in work and they need to upskill in computers or report writing. It could be any number of reasons.”

At the moment, there is currently 60,000 adults attending ETB adult literacy courses around the country and it’s also completely free to attend. 

Fionnula says:

“The service is free and confidential and that can put people’s minds at ease, because it can be a bit nerve-wrecking going into something new. It also doesn’t affect payments, so if you’re on social welfare, coming to adult literacy doesn’t affect any of your payments.”

All of these elements make the entire process easy and enjoyable for students, and Fionnula says the results for them are just incredible. 

She says:

“Confidence is always the very biggest thing. I think when people aren’t confident in their reading and writing skills, it has a massive knock-on effect for participating in the community. If someone wants to sit on the board of their local football team or get involved in their neighbourhood watch… If their reading and writing isn’t up to a standard that you might like it, it might stop you from doing a lot of those things.

You see people coming in the door after a little while of classes and their head is up high and their shoulders are back. They find it much easier to engage and to socialise and to put their voice forward.” 

You can take part in one-to-one and group tuition in your local ETB adult literacy service or you can work with a tutor over the phone or online with NALA’s distance learning service.

The service is completely free and you decide what you want to learn, where you want to learn and when you want to learn.

 For more information on how you can get back into education with the National Adult Literacy Agency, you can phone 1800 20 20 65, text ‘learn’ to 50050, email [email protected] or head to takethefirststep.ie.