Thinking about returning to education?

This a fantastic piece written for us by a client who describes perfectly the benefits of returning to education. We don’t all come from the perfect background or the perfect area but she captures brilliantly, how regardless of where you’ve come from, education is possible for everybody.


I first encountered the model of adult education used in modern Adult Education and Development settings such as community, further and higher-level courses, when I began a level 5 course in Maynooth University in 2016. I was unaware of the Adult Education model of learning at the time.

Until then I just had the usual learning experiences of anyone my age. I attended a modern, newly built national school in Tallaght from 1978. My abiding memory of my primary school education is anxiety, a feeling of dread that was ever present.

Methods of disciple included making children stand in the corner with their faces to the wall, pinning a ‘tail’ on any child that dared to transgress and even slapping. I remember one poor little boy who in hindsight must have had learning difficulties but whose life was made a misery by a teacher who asked him daily if he was deaf or just too stupid to answer the questions.

Mapping exercise

When I arrived in Maynooth I completed a mapping exercise. This involved listing and reflecting on experiences in any and all schools, classes and courses I had done over the years. I found that the exercise on mapping my education ‘journey’ of forced me to critically re-evaluate my formal education and helped me to articulate my own feelings toward it.  When reflecting on my early education I can only feel thankful that my own children had and are still having much more positive experiences.

My experience of secondary school

My local secondary school was a community school with all the mod cons. We should have enjoyed it but for the most part, we did not. We were streamed into classes depending on academic ability. Even at the time I thought this unfair. I was put in the top class and despite losing interest in school completely by the start of fifth year I managed to stay there up to Leaving Cert. I achieved a decent result but had no idea what I might like to do after school.

My preference was to get a job but my parents insisted I do a Post Leaving Cert Course like most of my friends. I remember a distinct lack of anything that approached constructive dialogue between staff and students in school with regards to colleges or courses. None of us were directed toward the civil service, nursing or the guards the way children from other areas of the country would have been. Secretarial courses were suggested for the girls and apprenticeships in the trades for the boys.

Years after leaving full time education I began to wonder why of hundred and fifty or so children in my year only a scant handful went to university, when for children in more affluent areas a third level education was a foregone conclusion. Frankly speaking, I have had more than a few lightbulb moments.

Next steps

Choosing to ‘have a go’ at going back to education and seeing whether it was a good fit for me has been one of the most positive decisions I have ever made. Using a skill I learned on my course a ‘mapping exercise’, allowed me to reflect on my own education in a meaningful way. Not just ‘what ifs’, but ‘whys’ and ‘how’s’.

It allowed me to ask questions about inequality in our education system and allowed me to view my experience of education in a new light.  What it mostly did though was open my eyes to the possibilities. Adult Education is a whole different ball game.

Final note

The possibilities are endless, the learning opens up new worlds as well as explaining the existing world. Four years on from choosing to take a chance I am still in college, still learning and still looking for new possibilities.

Author Anonymous