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Complex Contexts: Women's Community Education in Ireland
2016-09, Quilty, Aideen, Barry, Ursula, McAuliffe, Mary
Education is not a neutral process, it can be used to establish and maintain conformity or be part of a process of liberation and social change (Freire, 1979; hooks, 1994). The Irish State’s failure to acknowledge this lack of neutrality has characterised the formal education system in Ireland since its inception. From the introduction of the National School System of education in 1831 to the present day, the ruling force of the Catholic Church within education is evidenced in the gendered and conformist nature of this formal education landscape. Systems of privilege have been maintained and reproduced through education, in which power is exercised by means of exclusion, coercion and control. However, simultaneously individuals and groups of women have challenged this formal, religiously infused conformist education system. Their demands for full and equal access to mainstream education at all levels, including within the academy, served to challenge this hegemonic force. They also pioneered the development of innovative and radical forms of adult and community education as a means toward individual and community empowerment. This paper seeks to highlight women’s educational interventions historically and socially through an explicit gendered lens and with a particular focus on community-higher-education.