It has been a week of high emotions and excitement as students across Donegal received their Leaving Cert results.
But it’s not just secondary school teens who are celebrating achievements in education this week.
A number of adult learners had also taken the exams this summer to gain the skills to boost their education and job prospects.
We spoke to two members of the Leaving Certificate for adults class of 2019 with Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service to find out about their education journey:
June was a busy time for Donna Smyth when she sat her Leaving Cert exams, while her son did his Junior Cert at the same time!
The Letterkenny woman left school at 15 years of age and was a stay-at-home mum until she returned to education two years ago.
“I found it hard to get work without my Leaving Cert. My son is 15 and I’m 37 this year and I thought – ‘I want to do something now for me’,” she said.
Donna and her son helped each other out with their studies as she did the Leaving Cert for adults with Donegal ETB in Letterkenny.
Signing up for the course was a big step, she said.
“I didn’t really know what the ETB was until I applied. Now you see it everywhere. The application interviews were so relaxed and they were so helpful that I knew I was doing the right thing. Going back to education is a huge step to take on, especially with a child and a house to run.”
Donna enjoyed the new style of learning at Donegal ETB, where all learners study English, Maths, History, Geography, Biology and Business.
“It is classroom based learning but it’s not like school. It’s more relaxed and everyone talks and bounces ideas off each other. I would have stayed in school longer if it was like that!” she said.
While Donna originally intended to do the Leaving Cert for adults to improve her job prospects, the learning has helped her discover her potential for more self-development.
“It has opened my mind up to do other things. I thought if I get through this I can do more. Over the summer I will apply for courses. Before this I thought college wasn’t for me, but I want to look at the bigger picture now,” she said.
When asked if she would recommend the Leaving Cert for adults to others, she said: “100%, especially for mothers who were at home with children. It gets you back out there again, you are having adult conversations, your mind is working at a different level and it does make you think of new goals.”
Similar to Donna, the adult learning experience has inspired Colin Chambers to broaden his horizons.
Colin (40) is about to begin a Bioscience degree in LYIT after sitting the Leaving Cert in June.
The Ballybofey native left education after primary school, so he had a lot of ground to cover when he began studying with Donegal ETB.
Colin, who had previously worked as a computer engineer, was motivated to gain the qualification after meeting a major job hurdle.
“I was applying for an apprenticeship programme when the first box that came up was that you had to have your Leaving Cert. That propelled me to go back to be prepared for anything like that that came up again,” he said.
Going back to learning does come with a certain amount of anxiety, Colin said, but the ETB tutors made it easy: “The teachers are so good at what they do. Most of them have 20 years of experience so they know exactly how to teach people who have been away from school. There’s nothing to be scared of.”
Studying six subjects for the Leaving Cert, as many will know, requires hard work and focus. As a dad of three, Colin found that he had to balance family life and learning.
“It is difficult, but it’s not impossible and it’s all very beneficial in the end. After leaving school in sixth class, I’m proud to have got this far.
“Another benefit of this is that I’ll be able to help the kids with their homework when they come to that age, particularly with maths.”
Colin’s studies led him to discover that he had a flair for Biology, and so he is switching career paths from computing to Bioscience this new semester.
He is keen to recommend the Leaving Cert for adults to other people considering third level education.
“This course doesn’t just prepare you for exams. It prepares you for bigger things,” he said.
Donegal ETB’s Adult Education Officer Charles Gorney said learners can gain much more than a Leaving Cert qualification from the programme.
“Learners often gain a confidence they felt they didn’t have before. Doing the Leaving Cert as an adult is a big step but we have an excellent pass rate and many learners go onto higher education programmes afterwards.” said Charles.
“For anyone thinking about going back to do the Leaving Cert this September 2019, don’t be afraid to call us. That is the first step. Call our guidance staff on 0749178088 and they can discuss the course with you and answer any questions you may have. You can apply online too if you prefer to apply that way.”
Visit www.donegaletb.ie to find more information about the Leaving Certificate for Adults with Donegal ETB starting in September 2019 at the Letterkenny FET centre or email email@example.com with course inquiries.Tags: