11th German Adult Education Conference

7-9 November 2001

Congress Centrum Hamburg

An invitation from the German Adult Education Association

“The 2001 German Adult Education Conference will focus on the future of learning. It will ask what people will learn in the future and what learning arrangements and learning cultures will in future be typical of adult and continuing education.

The first message of the Conference is that “The future needs learning”. Together with their partners around the world, the staff of the Volkshochschulen (German community adult education centres, VHS) will be facing up to the challenges of the information and knowledge society, updating the image of the Volkshochschulen, and creating a modern model of the VHS for the 21st century.

The second message is that learning also needs a future. Sustainable improvements need to be made to political and financial conditions if the change-over to the information and knowledge society, with its huge demands on people in terms of flexibility and mobility, is to be achieved successfully.

The notion of “public responsibility” has therefore gained in importance: the responsibility of politicians and society for “their” VHS is the counterpart of the social responsibility accepted by the Volkshochschulen themselves.

The Conference will not be able to answer all the questions raised by social and global change. But it will be stimulating and inspirational, and may even prove to be a mild irritant. Above all, it will provide the encouragement to try out unusual ideas. You are warmly invited to come to Hamburg and join us at the 2001 German Adult Education Conference.

Rita Süssmuth Doris Odendahl President Chair

The Themes of the German Adult Education Conference

  • Learning as a fundamental right - public responsibility for continuing education
  • Learning through international cooperation
  • Learning through regional networking
  • Learning in the information and activity society
  • Learning with a sense and with all our senses
  • Learning organizations: the VHS


“The concept of ‘education as a civil right’ is a part of our understanding of democracy and therefore implies that everyone should have access to education regardless of background, previous education, income, nationality or – particularly – gender. Education is meant for all, but it is clearly not enough merely to say so: we need to act as well to remove the social barriers to education that remain.”

Rita Süssmuth

“The continuing education landscape of the future will be more varied and complex, and to some extent less easily grasped than is the case today. It is not by chance that the term ‘continuing education market’ has passed into current usage. I like to think of it as a street market full of a rich variety of stalls, both large and small. There is a wide range of goods, high-class fresh produce alongside rotten eggs and mouldy fruit. And within this market, the Volkshochschulen have a big central stall offering first-class goods at sensible prices.”

Doris Odendahl

The Future Needs Learning

Adult and continuing education are of crucial importance in the information and knowledge society. There are new demands for vocational training in the light of structural changes in the economy, for language learning for the global society, and for media skills, personal and social skills for all areas of life. “The future needs learning” means that the Volkshochschulen must respond to the challenges of new areas of knowledge, new learning cultures and new learning arrangements.

Learning Needs a Future

There needs to be further development in the conditions under which adult and continuing education are provided. The demand that continuing education should become the “fourth pillar” of the education ­system, which has been widely accepted for decades, still remains largely unfulfilled. Public responsibility is divided between the local communes, the Laender, the Federal Government and the European Commission, and falls within the remit of all sorts of different departments at each of these levels. Furthermore, general continuing education is given far lower priority than vocational training. In the view of the Volkshochschulen, this situation is unsatisfactory. The Conference will suggest some new ways of approaching political advocacy. “Learning needs a future” means the need for a new, appropriate legal and economic framework for the work of the Volkshochschulen and for all those operating learning networks.

Invitation to Hamburg

The 2001 German Adult Education Conference in Hamburg will offer plenary papers and working groups, seminars and discussion forums. It will be accompanied by a continuing education fair, where there will be a chance to find out about and try out all manner of products and services associated with continuing education.

To whom is the Conference addressed?

  • Are you a teacher or administrator in a continuing education establishment?
  • Are you the head of an adult education centre? Are you respon­sible for adult or continuing education policy in local or regional government?
  • Are you a decision-maker in a government ministry or a voluntary association?
  • Are you a researcher or lecturer in the academic discipline of adult education?

If you are any of these, the 2001 German Adult Education Conference will offer you an interesting, varied and stimulating programme:

  • Find out about new developments in education policy and andragogy.
  • Listen to presentations and papers from experts working in a variety of capacities in a broad range of adult education provision.
  • Enjoy the opportunity for discussion with colleagues from Germany, the rest of Europe and the entire world.
  • Learn about examples of best practice and innovation.

The German Adult Education Conference – Your Forum for Presentations

The innovative potential of the Conference stands or falls by the variety, timeliness and originality of the individual contributions.

  • Is there an innovative project at your establishment which you would like to present as an example of best practice?
  • Are you involved in successful regional or international cooperation?
  • Have you found new ways of mobilizing resources?
  • Or is your establishment setting new standards in quality management, marketing or the introduction of new learning cultures?

German Adult Education Conference – the Continuing Education Fair

  • Do you represent a company marketing products or services for continuing education?
  • Are you seeking to work with the Volkshochschulen in the fields of language learning, health education, vocational learning, culture and the arts, basic education and literacy, politics and society, or marketing and quality management?
  • Do you work for a publisher, a producer of teaching materials or a software company?
  • Would you like to give a presentation about an organization, an institution or an association?

If so, we invite you to make use of the Conference to show your wares. It will provide a unique opportunity directly to address decision-makers and multipliers from continuing education associations, and the 1000 Volkshochschulen.

The German Adult Education Conference – a Media Event

Did you know that more than nine million citizens attend a VHS every year?

That the number of courses is growing by five per cent a year, and has doubled in the last 20 years?

That more people attend a VHS than all the football matches in the ­German Federal League?

The Volkshochschulen are part of the civil society in Germany and in Europe. The German Adult Education Conference is an event which will set the agenda for the future and concerns people.

Federal President Johannes Rau will open the Conference. Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Education and Culture, will give a keynote address.

The Volkshochschulen will present their programmes, projects and plans. They will be using the Conference to update their image and to enhance public awareness.

  • Are you a journalist writing about culture and education?
  • Are you a news editor with an agency, in television, radio or the press?
  • Do you work in publications or information services for a voluntary association, some other organization or a political party?

If so, you should make a note of 7–9 November 2001 in your diary.

“If learning, in all its many and varied forms, is to be a ‘popular sport’, we need many and varied ‘learning networks’. And we need them where people live. Providing programmes that people will use. At prices that learners can afford. In short: we need Volks­hochschulen. ... The Volkshochschulen are the tried and tested cornerstone of the German model of adult education.”

Former Federal President Roman Herzog at the 1996 German Adult Education Conference in Leipzig

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