Heribert Hinzen

In his paper on the 25-year partnership between ASPBAE and the IIZ/DVV Heribert Hinzen give his personal impressions of this long friendship, how it arose, and what people have made crucial contributions on both sides. A major part of his paper concerns the Volkshochschulen and international cooperation. Prof.(H) Dr. Heribert Hinzen is Director of the IIZ/DVV.

Reviewing and Celebrating 25 Years of Cooperation between ASPBAE and IIZ/DVV

At the opening plenary session of the Beijing conference on International Cooperation for Adult Education in February 2003 I was given the opportunity to offer not just greetings and good wishes but also a few thoughts about cooperation past and future. I was particularly anxious to talk about the very productive partnership from the point of view of the German partner, and to show that it rested ultimately on the firm pillars of professionalism and solidarity. Since the Chinese and some other international participants, not to mention readers of this journal, could only have limited knowledge of the work of the German adult education centres (Volkshochschulen, VHS) and their international contacts, the relevant information was included in the presentation.


When cooperation began in 1978, two interests coincided. One was the attempt by committed Asian and Australian colleagues, notably Prof. Chris Duke, to arouse the Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE, founded in 1964) out of a relatively deep sleep. And on the German side, this effort was welcomed since the German Adult Education Association (DVV) had been present at the meeting at which ASPBAE was founded, in the person of its then Director, Helmuth Dolff.

The DVV, founded in 1953, saw its international activities in the 1950s in terms of a self-imposed commitment to “town twinning”, understanding between peoples and professional dialogue with European and overseas industrialized countries. In the early 1960s, during the first phase of decolonization, the DVV began to react positively to requests from the Federal Government to provide support for literacy and the training of adult educators as part of educational aid. These were delivered locally in individual countries, and in inservice training courses at the residential VHS in Göhrde for African adult educators, and in Rendsburg for Latin Americans. In the mid-1970s, discussions began within the DVV over how to extend future adult education cooperation to Asian colleagues. The result was the introduction of regional cooperation with ASPBAE and bilateral cooperation with Indian partners.

A project proposal was drawn up and submitted to the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Bonn, based on seminars and conferences, publications and travelling fellowships. This made it possible considerably to improve information and communication between state and university institutions, through national and regional meetings. New life was breathed into the ASPBAE Courier as a regularly distributed set of materials consisting of a journal and various information sheets and documents of a thoroughly innovative nature about various themes and organizational matters. Travel bursaries enabled colleagues to find out about a wide range of adult education situations across the vast Asia-Pacific region, and face-to-face meetings led to lasting professional friendships.

The VHS and the DVV

If I look back on my first professional contacts with ASPBAE, I shall never forget the hesitant curiosity shown in the questions I was asked during my annual visits to the region. These began in 1978, when our DVV colleague Bernd Pflug left us somewhat suddenly, saying that he wanted to go back to German grassroots education, although it was he who had launched the cooperation with our Asian partners. At that time we were only a small team concerned with international issues. The head of the relevant DVV department was Jakob Horn. I was responsible for a project devoted to development education in the VHS by means of initial and inservice training of multipliers, and media and materials that could be used in courses. Its aim was to find how to raise German public awareness of development policy and intercultural issues by strengthening and improving information via the VHS.

I was therefore surprised to find myself responsible for looking after DVV projects in Africa and Asia. And when I then visited partners for the first time in Indonesia and the Philippines I was glad that I knew a bit about adult education from my university studies and personal experience. Because these were the questions asked by Asian colleagues: What were the content and topics of adult education in Germany? How was it organized and structured? How was it funded? What was the role of the state? Doubts were also expressed: if we had had compulsory schooling for over 100 years, why did we still need adult education?

The questions raised in project consultations were already concerned more with adult education than development policy, although we at tempted to combine the two by coining the phrase “development oriented adult education”. We considered early on how we might describe the relationship between the VHS and their Land (provincial) associations and the DVV; our current Asia specialist, Dr. Hanno Schindele, later devised the chart shown in Figure 1 to demonstrate the connections. We are in fact an association that must deliver services for its members, who pay for these and will not go on doing so if the quality is not right. There is therefore a bottom-up approach. In addition to providing significant educational and organizational advice, the DVV is above all a lobbying body. There are 1000 VHS covering every corner of Germany and making accessible provision for young people and adults that has to take constantly changing demand into account and is based on a specific VHS philosophy.



The two professional adult education associations that thus began to work together in the late 1970s were willing to learn from one another. Not only directly, but often through common memberships or joint input into the planning of conferences. In 1953 the DVV had been a founder member of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), and subsequently gave it active support by taking on the roles of Treasurer, Chair and Vice-Chair in the persons of Helmuth Dolff, Prof. Günther Dohmen and Dr. Michael Samlowski.

The two regional associations ASPBAE and EAEA were then the godparents when the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) was established in 1973. The Third UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education, known as Confintea III, was held in Tokyo in 1972. Behind the scenes the question was raised whether there should not also be an international non-governmental organization to complement the governmental bodies and to represent the interests of adult education from a global (although the term was not yet current) perspective. Among the founder generation of the ICAE were Prof. Roby Kidd from Canada, Dr. Malcolm Adiseshia from India, Paul Mhaiki from Tanzania, the Dane Paul Bertelson working for UNESCO, and the Director of the DVV, Helmuth Dolff.

The System of Community Adult Education Centres (VHS) in Germany

Figure 2, which lists the names of people and organizations regarded by ASPBAE and the DVV as important in international adult education can only be an incomplete draft, and needs to be expanded and revised; I shall welcome suggestions for additions. But it does show clearly how important ties between professional associations were at national, regional and international level. And anyone who knew the individuals involved will also be aware of the significant part played by professional friendships in lasting cooperation.

1949 Helsingör: After World War II        
1953       Founding Year Becker, Ebbighausen
1960 Montreal: Developing Countries        
1964     Founding Year Founding Member Dutta, Hely, Dolff
1972 Tokyo: Professionalization       Bertelson, Kidd, Dolff, Mhaiki
1973   Founding Year   Founding Member Kidd, Dolff, Mhaiki
1976   Dar es Salaam: Adult education + Development     Kidd, Mhaiki, Hall
1977     Cooperation with DVV in Chiang Mai Start work in Asia and India Duke, Heslop, Horn, Pflug, Hinzen
1982   Paris: Authentic Development Two Country Program   Lim Hoy Pick, Hwang
1983     Regional and In-country Summer Course for Asians Leumer
1984     Visit to China VHS Global Learning in Asia Horn, Lößl
1985 Paris: The Right to Learn Buenos Aires: Peace     Vio Grossi, Hall, Duke, Horn, Hinzen
1986     Special Program China Opening Up    
1987       Journal: Adult Education in China Dong Mingchuan
1990   Bangkok: Literacy     Kowit, Kasama, Samlowski
1991     Tagaytay: First General Assembly   Tandon, Wijetunga, Ariyaratne
1994   Cairo: Woman and Literacy     Ana Maria Quiroz, Lößl
1995       China Exchange, Study Tours Hutterer, Oels, Ufer
1996     Darwin: General Assembly and Declaration   Maria Khan, Om Shrivasthava, Schindele
1997 Hamburg: Lifelong Learning       Bélanger, Süssmuth
1999     Chiangmai: Learning to make a Difference   Usa Duongsaa, Maria Khan
2000 Dakar: Education for All (EFA)   EFA: Exept for Adult?    
2001   Ocho Rios: Democracy and Participation     Hans Pollinger
2002       Office in Tashkent for Central Asia Uwe Gartenschlaeger
2003     25 years of cooperation with DVV - Celebration in China   All



Professionalism and Solidarity

Each new generation of colleagues working for ASPBAE or its associates asked why the DVV was engaged in this cooperation. Where did it get the money? And then the explanations started: the DVV was not a donor agency, but an umbrella association of local adult education centres in Germany providing services for its members. These had always looked beyond national borders, at first within Europe, and then to industrialized and developing countries in other continents. The DVV had pursued this purposefully, thereby developing an extensive network of international partnerships and projects, which are sketched out briefly in Figure 3.

It was these services of a professional association provided within Germany which led the BMZ to ask us whether we could make use of our know-how, in modified form of course, in international development. After all, we had plentiful experience and knowledge of educational policy-making and legislation, basic education and literacy, vocational education and income generation, community work and self-help, and organization and management in the context of the VHS and the DVV. These could be of benefit in development cooperation. Similarly, the then Federal Government asked other professional associations in the fields of social policy, youth work, the cooperative movement, social work and appropriate technology, how they could supplement state development assistance. A separate heading was created in the federal budget for this, and the organizations have now formed their own association, the Social Improvement Network (AGS ) in order to exchange professional information and conduct joint lobbying.


Particularly since it set up a separate Institute for International Cooperation (IIZ/DVV) to cope with the constant growth in projects and partners, funding and staffing, the DVV has thus been continually exploring how to combine professional adult education and develop- ment-oriented solidarity. This discussion was given an added boost at the end of the 1980s, when the issue of the so-called countries in transition arose, both the states in the North emerging from the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, and the previously socialist developing countries which needed to find their place in the new global economic order. New ways of combining professionalism and solidarity had to be found once again in cooperation with adult education partners in these countries.

Cooperation and ... Exploitation?

Another constant theme of discussion that I regularly encountered in my cooperation with ASPBAE was the question of the interests lurking behind fine-sounding phrases and concepts. Was the DVV not somehow part of a system whose overall aim was not to end poverty, exploitation and oppression? Was it not allowing itself to be used for other purposes, and was it some kind of fig leaf?

Cooperation itself was then often called into question. The discussions between us were conducted with passion, probably partly because we were bound up in a similar debate in our respective home countries. Today I find it rather easier to appreciate the various underlying fears, which were often pragmatic but also sometimes less obvious, as can be seen, for example, in the cartoon shown in Figure 4.

IIZ/DVV Cooperation with ASPBAE and other Asian Projects from 1977 to 2002

Frequently there was also discussion of the nature of cooperation. What did it amount to? What were its strengths and weaknesses? What was there between ASPBAE and the IIZ/DVV that was unlike other partnerships? Needless to say, we did not always find answers. But very often we found ourselves talking in terms of trust and mutual respect. Trust in the sense that we could rely on each other. Respect not in the sense of awe, but of acknowledging the services which the other was willing to contribute to the cooperation.

An Unfinished Story

It is also interesting that the financial scale of the cooperation always remained relatively modest, by comparison with the huge needs of every individual country in the region and the sums that could be spent on cooperation projects. Colleagues in ASPBAE and the IIZ/DVV often had to content themselves with the concept of seed money, and we even prided ourselves that so much could be achieved with so little if it was made available regularly, reliably and for an extended period. This was in fact the case, as Figure 5 shows. The portion of the budget devoted to Asia was unquestionably disproportionately low, while ASPBAE accounted for a disproportionately large amount of expenditure in Asia. At any rate that is so if I compare the regional and national work of the IIZ/DVV in other continents.

Cooperation is demanding

Another term used to describe the financial support has been “oil for heavy machinery”. It is not as if there is no money for adult education in Asian and Pacific states. Today there is certainly more than there used to be. In the 1970s there were already large-scale World Bank adult education projects in Indonesia and Thailand, and further projects will probably be added under the umbrella of Education for All. ASPBAE was also active in this field, setting up a two-country programme and using its modest funds where these could be most effective to lubricate the wheels of bureaucratic agencies and ease friction. That also implies that regional and international activities are no easier and not necessarily of any greater value than local and national activities. All developing countries are for ever pushing the rock up the hill (Figure 6). And finally, the increasing regional focus on goals and programmes is an expression of the strategic questions posed by ASPBAE and the decisions it has made where possible to increase the added value of the funds used by adopting regional approaches. It is unquestionably a sign of good partnership that there has been an active dialogue between ASPBAE and the IIZ/DVV in this process, not only in the move from good old-fashioned letters to new e-mail communication, but more particularly in our continual consultations with the Asian region and in those of ASPBAE colleagues with the VHS and the DVV.

We shall need to monitor together the further changes that will occur in the funding of projects that form part of development assistance. We sense a reduction in volume, a shortening of timescales, a greater focus on specific themes and an increasingly flexible reaction to crises. The cooperation between ASPBAE and the IIZ/DVV has already been extended to fresh experiments in the areas of combating poverty, anti-terrorism and cultural dialogue between Europe and Islam. Additional special funds have been used, and these have been significant in comparison with total volume. New types of cooperation may also develop: joint proposals and applications perhaps, to the European Union, the Development Banks or foundations? We shall need to look at these ideas together and discuss them.

The international adult educator or Cooperant in development

Much remains to be done. In 1997 we wondered at Confintea V in Hamburg why, if adult education was so important and offered so much potential, it was not given greater support by governments and international organizations. We shall soon have the opportunity at Confintea V+6 in Bangkok to assess realistically whether the situation has improved. And we shall definitely have to examine the question posed by the Secretary General of ASPBAE, Maria Khan: “Does EFA stand for – Except for Adults?”; she has suggested that it be replaced by EFAA = Education for All Adults. We shall need to think about how to change perceptions. And from all these discussions it will probably become apparent that we have not yet reached the end of this wonderful relationship. Rather, we shall want to make use of new opportunities for the benefit of the cause, of the people, of the institutions and of our cooperation. This conference is therefore a stepping stone. I should like to thank all those who have helped to prepare and conduct it, especially our Chinese hosts.

Adult Education and Development


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