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The Education Summit Must also Focus on Continuing Education

 

Germany Needs a National Agreement on Continuing Education

Use the Opportunities Presented by the Summit

The Deutsche Volkshochschul-Verband e.V. (DVV) expressly welcomes the Education Summit held on October 22, 2008, in Dresden, between the Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the Federal States under the headingQualification initiative for Germany Advancement through Education. The meeting was held to reach agreements on a common package of measures which should give a boost to an improved education system.

The DVV sees a positive signal in the meeting because in the future the federal government and the states intend to coordinate their national responsibilities in education in the context of Federal Reform I. However, support from local com munities is also very necessary, since they are engaged in various ways in the education area and should therefore take part in the Education Summit through their central associations.

The Education Summit offers the participants a huge opportunity to set down guidelines regarding financial, programmatic and regulatory policy to continue the future development of Germany into an Education Republic.

That is why continuing education over an entire lifetime must play a key role. Rapid globalization and technical change can only be mastered by people if their chances of participating in work and social life are constantly renewed. This will also reinforce the thinking behind the newly conceived parent and family educa tion program. This is exactly why the continuing education sector is here, with its short-term and long-term programs and courses. The singular importance of continu ing education for the individual and for the economic and social development of Germany has long been undisputed.

Performances of the Adult Education Centers

German adult education centers have a large portion of responsibility for securing the future through education in Germany. This was proven by the 2007 annual report:

  • Each year approximately 9 million people use the services of the publicly administered adult education centers.
  • 967 adult education centers with their 3,500 branches offer access to lifelong learning for the entire population particularly for remote and disadvantaged groups – through centers which are open, affordable and local.
  • Through the 562,000 courses offered by adult education centers, people can engage in learning for life in all fields: vocational education, languages, mental health and health education, political and cultural education as well as basic education.
  • Adult education centers are where integration and intercultural contacts take place in local communities: Since 2005, approximately 200,000 immigrants participated in integration courses there. In autumn 2008, adult education centers were given the duty of administering naturalization tests on behalf of federal and state governments.
  • The international focus of German adult education centers comes to the fore in the programs and courses offered by association member Institute for Interna tional Cooperation where over 100 people work worldwide in 60 locations in cooperative projects for international development and education.

Urgent Tasks

So far, the federal government has not sufficiently followed up on its announced goal of making continuing education the fourth pillar of the education system. To get closer to this target of recognizing continuing education as the fourth pillar of the education system, the following tasks are particularly urgent:

1. Second chance through continuing education

In Germany in particular, the outlook for work and life is strongly determined by social origin. It must be made bindingly possible for every adult – independent of their income to attend literacy programs, and to make up work for primary and secondary education as well as for university and vocational training.

2. More education support for over-30s

Despite new or newly reworked financing instruments for continuing education (education premiums, loans, further development of the so-called Masters financial assistance program), people over 30 are still offered too little support and too few incentives nationally to help them maintain or continue to develop their knowledge and qualifications. This applies particularly valid when seen against the back ground of demographic challenges. Germany needs a transparent, goal-oriented and consistent financing system for continuing education, which particularly ad dresses the needs and possibilities for the socially disadvantaged as well as for people who are in the second half of their working life.

3. Learn locally

The success of education is also decided in local communities. The various courses offered by the centers have to be better coordinated and transitions must be made more visible. In this respect, the quality of local education management takes on enormous importance since it decides education policy for the entire learning life of the population. As experienced administrators and coordinators of regional education, the adult education centers will bring special skills with them into the learning locally initiative.

4. Access for all

Lifelong learning for everyone can only be implemented if the federal government, as well as states and local communities guarantee a comprehensive and affordable basic education which offers general education, political education, and cultural and vocational continuing education which is open to all. Financial barriers should not be put in the way of any group within the population desiring continuing educa tion. With its adult education centers, Germany has an infrastructure for lifelong learning which enjoys high acclaim at home and abroad. The cuts made in the past in allocations for adult education centers need to be readjusted.

5. 6 % of the education budget for adult education

The European Union in the framework of their policy of support for lifelong learn ing regards adult education as independent and of particular value. (See: EU Memorandum to Lifelong Learning, 2000 through to Action Plan, 2007). In the future, the financial configuration of continuing education in Germany must orient itself on European developments and international benchmarks. The target is to get 6 % of the entire national education budget for continuing education including lit eracy programs and basic education programs (GCE Standard, Global Campaign for Education). With this type of financial security it could be possible to participate in the Literacy Decade and reach the target set by the UN to halve the number of illiterates around the world by 2015.

6. Reevaluation of general continuing education

State support for continuing education (e.g. education premium) has for years concentrated on measures which are aimed at attaining value in a particular line of work. Left out of the equation completely is the fact that general and political continuing education plays an important role in the development of each person, as well as for the bonds of society. That is why they have to be funded according to their functions.

7. Creation of a reliable framework for continuing education

It is in the interest of quality and the demand for continuing education that it is necessary for the federal government, the states and local communities to agree on standards and a binding framework analogous to the education standards set for schools. There areas to be regulated are: among others, security of access, qual ity assurance and development, certification (also of informally acquired skills) as well as the time requirements for learning. Continuing education takes on a special meaning as a consultative structural prerequisite for successful lifelong learning. Adult education centers will make their experience and resources available for this (see education premium).

National Agreement on Further Education

In view of the problems outlined above, there is an urgent need for action in the area of continuing education, in particular because of the increasingly obvious need for trained specialists. In order for continuing education to be able to develop its huge potential in the short-term for the future of the country, broad social and political consensus is needed, as well as investment and a structural program based on it. It would be a trailblazing success for the Education Summit if the foundations for a national continuing education agreement could be laid between the federal government, the states and the local communities including businesses, religious institutions and continuing education providers to address the problems of con tinuing education in a reform process. The final report of the expert commission on financing lifelong learning and the recent recommendations by the innovation roundtable on continuing education appointed by Annette Schavan, the Federal Minister of Education, present politicians with even more instruments for the neces sary revaluation of continuing education.

Bonn, October 2008

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