From the project work of this Institute we know that our partners are greatly interested in adult education in other parts of the world. We imagine that most of our readers share this interest. Generally, people are not concerned with comparative education for its own sake, but are intrigued to see whether the difficulties that they face in their own work are reflected elsewhere, or whether conditions are easier and better. This leads to a desire to learn about the situation in other countries and to hear of new ideas that might be useful at home.

Every five years the German Adult Education Association organizes a conference of Volkshochschulen. This year’s is the eleventh. It is chiefly an occasion for professionals to show off their work, and to exchange information about the state of Volkshochschule activities, and about adult education and lifelong learning in general in Germany. But it has always had an international dimension. Perhaps as a result of accelerating globalization, the international element this year – in terms of both participation and topics – is stronger than ever before. Participants will have the opportunity to attend over 100 events and to discuss these with over 1000 colleagues. We wished to present at least a few experiences and ideas here, looking both at the historical perspective and at the present day.

We also know that many of our partners in the South feel that we in the North should do more to move towards environmental and living ­conditions that will promote sustainable development. Ecology and economics, which are often seen as diametrically opposed, need to be reconciled. Global learning, for which development education may be a precursor, tends in this direction. Its importance is growing, and not only in the industrialized countries. In this field too, we need to learn from one another and to network our activities. We also need to find out more about one another. Practical and theoretical approaches which are currently favoured in Germany may play a part in this ­process.

In recent issues we have paid more attention to the debate about improved basic education as a crucial prerequisite for the achievement of Education for All. Much of this has taken the form of declarations. The results and recommendations of recent international conferences therefore deserved to be published and made more widely available so that they would lead to greater insistence and commitment. The ­focus is now once more on actual needs and experiences. In forthcoming issues we should like to give yet greater attention to these. And that is an invitation to our readers!

In the final section we consider individual concerns, some of which take up topics discussed earlier, such as the new media or Adult Learners Weeks, while some deal with new potential issues (why does adults’ willingness to seek continuing education vary so greatly?). Here too we invite you to contribute your ideas so that these issues are taken up as articles or themes in the journal.

Heribert Hinzen