ARALE: Adult learners’ festival in Ireland

AONTAS: The National Adult Learning Organisation


The Adult Learners’ Festival is a nationwide celebration of adult learning coordinated by AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation. In the last seven years, the Festival has become a firm fixture on the adult learning calendar with events taking place nationwide, including anything from information sessions, taster workshops and sample lectures to small gatherings of people who love to learn.

AONTAS believes that all adults in Ireland should have equal access to learning opportunities. We believe that adult learning has a hugely important role to play in the economic and social future of Ireland. We know that adult learners and adult learning centres do vital work on a daily basis.

The Adult Learners’ Festival is all about celebrating adult learning and the achievements of adult learners, showcasing the work of adult education providers, promoting the work of AONTAS and the adult education sector and ensuring that adult education is placed firmly on the political agenda. In 2013, it took place from the 25th of February till the 2nd of March.

The STAR Awards received 115 nominations from around the county, competing for the most outstanding adult learning project in each of the four provinces and nationwide. The number of nationwide events for 2013 rose to 418. There were also high levels of collaboration among participant groups with 46 % of organisations working together to promote and celebrate adult learning.

From information collated from the evaluation forms, the majority of the event holders aims and objectives were to:

  • promote a service and what it offers
  • promote adult learning and its benefits
  • create awareness for a variety of issues

There was also an international aspect to the week, with a visit from a Danish study group who were interested in participating in some of the Adult Learners´ Festival events. 50 % of events gained media coverage and 99 % of respondents were interested in holding an event for the Adult Learners´ Festival in 2014.

We had a nationwide promotional campaign, which encompassed both traditional and new media. All aspects of the media campaign were successful as they each target a different audience of learners. The one thing we did discover is that online advertising needs to be very visible otherwise it can get lost among all the other advertisements on the web. We also held a launch for the Festival where 25 adult learners were brought to different cultural sites to discover a side of Dublin City they weren’t aware of. This was highly successful and resulted in coverage in one of the national papers.

The key elements of the success of the campaign were a strong promotional campaign, country wide networking and collaboration among participant groups.