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Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband

Key tasks of German Adult Education Centers

How we must strengthen lifelong learning

1. Ensuring more equal opportunity in education

No one should be excluded from lifelong learning because of where they come from or because of past difficulties or failures in the school system. Those who lack continuing education, low-qualified and low-income groups need to be addressed in a targeted way – with better education support and additional offers, especially in the areas of literacy, basic education and the completion of school-leaving qualifications.

In addition, public welfare-oriented services that are of particular importance for social cohesion and the future development of the country must be developed. These include, for example, basic digital literacy courses, second-chance and basic education courses, as well as family and parental education.

Adult education centres will consistently pursue tasks that are of particular public interest and serve to achieve greater equal opportunity in education.

2. Promoting intercultural continuing education

Germany is a country of immigration. In order to cope with the increasing integration requirements, adult education centres are developing into intercultural centres for continuing education and community centres. They are expanding their services for the social, cultural and economic integration of people with a migration background. They are increasing their efforts in the teaching of foreign languages and intercultural skills. And they are working to make their own programme, organisational and personnel development more intercultural.

By offering space for meeting and mutual learning between locals and immigrants, adult education centres foster intercultural understanding and contribute to people's positive experiences of diversity. In this way they strengthen cohesion in an increasingly heterogeneous society.

3. Promoting the potential of skilled workers

The demand for skilled workers is increasing in a number of sectors. A special contribution of the adult education centres to the qualification of skilled workers is the promotion of untapped educational resources of different target groups. The adult education centres pay special attention to learning and educational counselling, documentation and certification of the existing skills of participants, addressing target groups, preparing for training and vocational qualifications as well as for university studies. In addition, the adult education centres will continue to modularise their vocational and cross-occupational offerings, refer to European and national reference frameworks and participate in cooperative qualification networks – including in the interests of improving the transfer opportunities in the education system.

4. Targeted support for all age groups

"Less – older – more colourful" – this is how the consequences of demographic change for the population structure can be summarised. The education opportunities offered by adult education centres promote social participation and quality of life at all ages. Adult education centres also respond with a differentiated age-appropriate education that takes into account not only the different phases of people’s lives, but also the different educational interests and social orientations of the participants. They are expanding their programmes for older people who like to learn with people in similar life situations. This also includes job-related offers for older employees.

At the same time, they are increasing their efforts to provide better and more targeted support for young people in their education. With their broad range of courses and their openness to people in different life situations, adult education centres make cross-generational learning possible in a special way.

5. Developing municipal education networks

Only close cooperation between all educational stakeholders and the pooling of their capabilities will lead to a sufficient and high-quality supply of all population groups in the region with educational and learning opportunities throughout their entire lives. Adult education centres therefore support the development of municipal and regional education networks.

They contribute their rich experience in innovation projects, network moderation and their stable cooperation with universities, schools, employment agencies, joint ventures, churches, associations, trade unions and chambers of commerce. This ability to cooperate and their biographical orientation enable them to partner with people throughout their educational career.

The adult education centres are thus important players in local education policy.

6. Enabling access to digital development

With the rapid technological change of the past two decades, digitisation has made its way into all areas of life. It has changed communication behaviour as well as information and work processes in a lasting way.

The great opportunity to expand the opportunities for social participation through digital offerings is offset by the risk of a digital divide in society, because parts of the population are at risk of losing touch with digital development.

Since the 1990s, when IT education programmes were developed and implemented nationwide throughout Germany, adult education centres have been making a name for themselves as mediators of IT skills for private and professional use. This range of services has been continuously expanded and adapted to the latest technical developments and learning needs.

Today, the need for Digi-vhs to provide qualifications for people of all ages to prepare them for the challenges of digital change – both in everyday life and in the professional context – is becoming ever more pressing.

Today, digital learning offerings often complement face-to-face learning in courses. E-learning and webinars can also reach people who have not been able to participate in lifelong learning due to their life situations. New teaching and learning formats are being developed in all programme areas and the technical infrastructure created to develop a digital learning environment, including in structurally weak regions. Strengthening people's judgemental and user competence is always a key concern.

7. Strengthening commitment to Europe

Adult education centres make it possible to learn European languages and base their offerings on uniform European standards. Their language certificates and professional qualifications are recognised throughout Europe. They therefore support people in their professional mobility and in their interest in cultural exchange.

Not only in their language courses – which always convey cultural backgrounds and regional aspects – but also in their cultural offerings, adult education centres promote mutual understanding and demonstrate European unity and diversity. Visual arts, literature, films, cooking and dance courses make Europe a tangible experience. Twinning agreements and cross-border projects ensure direct encounters.

Especially in times of increasing EU scepticism and growing nationalism, European political education at adult education centres is regaining importance. The adult education centre is a place of political learning where different population groups can discuss their views on Europe in discussion forums and citizen dialogues, and where they can discuss the European idea with political representatives.

More about the German Adult Education Association

Erläuterungen und Hinweise


  • Bernhard Ludewig 2012