The Adult Education Teachers Organisation (AETO) – the 5 Ws

Without adult education teachers there is no adult education.
Written By: Sinéad Hyland

Adult Education is the study of how we learn and develop as adults to collaborate in the creation of a just, equitable and sustainable society'. In the provision of education for adults who may not have been well served by the formal education system, adult education tutors provide a valuable service. The Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University works closely with many professionals in adult education including with adult education tutors. The Department promotes a view of education which recognises the importance of learning which promotes justice and equality in society. The AETO shares these values and can support our department in promoting these values in education spaces in which their members work and to promote adult education in broader society

Who is in the AETO?

The AETO is a National Organisation of teachers in diverse roles in adult education. Adult Education involves teachers who work in Community Education, Literacy, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and other sectors. Membership of the AETO is open to any teacher working with adults in Ireland, be they working with an ETB or for an organisation funded by an ETB. There are about 3,000 adult education teachers nationally and the AETO has been able to engage 300 adult education teachers in its group so far. We expect that many more teachers will join as we raise our profile nationally. 

A committee has been set up to further the work of the organisation. The Chair of the Association is James O’Keeffe who works in CDETB, the treasurer is Lorcan McNamee from MSLETB, Sinéad Hyland from CDETB is the secretary of the organisation and Avril Tierney from CDETB is the PRO.

The organisation can be contacted by email at

What are the aims of the AETO?

The AETO has various goals, all of which aim to improve the working lives of members and to help maintain a focus on learner centred education which will improve access, transfer and progression in the provision of adult education.

We believe that respect for adult learners involves respect for their teachers. The AETO provides a valuable network for teachers in adult education by providing support for them and in turn for the learners with whom they work.

Apart from those who have participated in adult education, there seems to be little public awareness of the work of Adult Education teachers. The AETO would like to inform the public of the work and practice of Adult Education Teachers and the life improvements that they help to bring about for students.  

The AETO would like the importance of our sector to be visible to the public and to the government. Our contribution to education for adults who are vulnerable and marginalised is specialised and of great value to the communities in which we work. We want to achieve working conditions that are merited by this contribution including:

  • a public service contract
  • recognition of prior service and a pay scale
  • recognition of teaching and other qualifications
  • terms and conditions that reflect these qualifications, service experience and status as teaching staff
  • a career path with progression pathways for teachers

We believe that this will encourage others to join us in the important work that we do and that will make our work sustainable.


Adult Education Teachers work in diverse roles and, so far, have had few opportunities to network. This national organisation provides a space for teachers to get to know and support one another and to share best practice in terms of their teaching.

There has been a realisation of late of the power of adult education and lifelong learning to address many of the issues that Ireland faces and to equip its population with the skills to survive and prosper in an ever-changing environment. Adult education teachers work with adults to develop skills which enable better communication. resilience and critical skills. 

The AETO recognises that, in the future, there will be a greater need for committed adult education tutors, to offer learning to adults who wish to re-engage or start out with their education. Many of the actions from the Learning for Life: The White Paper on Adult Education from July 2000 have not yet been put in place regarding adult education teachers. Since then, strategies have been published by various bodies including SOLAS (Future FET: Transforming Learning), Department of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science (Adult Literacy for Life- A 10 year strategy for literacy, numeracy and digital literacy) and Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI Strategy Statement 2022-2024) that depend on adult education teachers to deliver learning for adults to achieve the goals set out.

As a response to the fragmentation of the sector there is a need to engage colleagues who work in different areas. What is common to all adult education teachers is working with participants with various motivations, some of whom are returning to education having had negative experiences of education in the past. As such, their needs for support are complex. Adult education tutors are ready to provide those supports, allowing learners to develop whole person skills, as well as skills that can lead to work or further study.


There is representation on the group from all 16 ETBs.  There are also local groups based in ETBs who contribute to the national group and who organise locally.

Much of the communication is on the AETO WhatsApp group but we have had meetings face to face as well as online.


The AETO aims to unite adult education teachers in a safe and communicative space where we agree on actions together and can act as the voice for Adult Education Teachers in Ireland.

We are in contact with our members and are engaging in different ways to with Adult Education Teachers so we can ensure that we are representing the wishes of the group.

Without adult education teachers there is no adult education.

Sinéad Hyland is a Tutor and Researcher with Maynooth University Department of Adult and Community Education and City of Dublin Education and Training Board. Sinéad has worked on many projects in adult education and in her work on the Return to Learning Programme in MU has focussed on helping adults to make transitions to higher education.

By DACE Maynooth

This is the new blog for students, colleagues and friends of the Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University. We aim to promote diversity and inclusion in education using our online platform. Guest bloggers and friends of the Department will post about their research and experiences in Education. The views expressed by the authors of individual posts do not reflect the views of the Department of Adult and Community Education Maynooth University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s