Learning City bid to focus on closing education gap for poor
Dublin City Council has set a target for the capital to become a Unesco Learning City.
The initiative is being spearheaded by universities and other third-level colleges in the city, with the focus on tackling educational disadvantage and encouraging lifelong learning to underpin social and economic development.
The annual Feeder School tables published by the Irish Independent this week show that despite high college entry rates in the vast majority of schools, the most disadvantaged communities are still lagging well behind.
As well as promoting social inclusion, other features of a Learning City, as defined by Unesco, include learning for and in the workplace and the use of modern learning technologies.
The over-arching aim is to establish sustainable intergenerational learning communities.
Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring launched the initiative to coincide with the awarding of 40 1916 Leaders and Learners bursaries to those who face social and financial barriers to third-level education.
The scheme now falls under the remit of the Learning City initiative.
One of the recipients of last year's bursaries, Aisling Byrne (40), is a third-year student of English, media and cultural studies at the Institute of Art and Design, Dún Laoghaire (IADT).
As a single parent, she said the biggest obstacle to returning to education after years working in the home was financial, and she worried about having the money for petrol to get herself to and from Dún Laoghaire daily.
Single parents are one of the groups under-represented in higher education.
When Ms Byrne saw the bursaries, which support students through their undergraduate studies, advertised in IADT, she applied.
She said being awarded one "has significantly eased my financial struggles and enabled me to purchase a laptop".
With assistance from IADT staff and lecturers, Ms Byrne has been able to make schedule changes, allowing her to attend lectures and get work done while accommodating daughter Teagan's schedule.
"Most importantly, I was able to enrol my daughter in more after-school activities than previous years, meaning I am able to stay in college later in the afternoons than before," she said.
As well as IADT, the other colleges participating in the Learning City project are University College Dublin (UCD), Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Marino Institute of Education (MIE) and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD). It is funded by the Higher Education Authority's Programme for Access to Higher Education.
:: Due to an error in production, there was a misrepresentation of the student intake data for Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) in Feeder School tables published yesterday.
The tables have been updated online to take account of the correct figures.
In a separate update, the number of students in Ulster University attributed to Maccartan's College, Monaghan, now reads five, rather than zero.