Feedback from Participants from Abroad

The foreign participants at the XIIIth Adult Education Conference were very impressed by the atmosphere and especially by the topics. They were impressed by the power of the Adult Education Centre movement and of what they could hear and see from the work of their German colleagues. It’s true that the problems addressed differ in context for each country, but in principle they affect everyone everywhere.

This Conference Was a Very Bright and Unforgettable Event

More than a hundred guests from abroad attended the Adult Education Conference. There were delegations from Latin America, Asia and Africa, who live and work under conditions which differ considerably from those that the German Volkshochschulen (Adult Education Centres) have to address. After the event, we wanted to have some feedback about what an event such as the Adult Education Conference meant to them. We asked them for brief reflections on the following questions:

Was your attendance at the Adult Education Conference significant for you personally and for your work?

  1. If so, in what ways?
  2. What impressions did you gather at the conference?
  3. Were the topics discussed in the keynote addresses and the various panels that you attended of interest and practical relevance for you and your work?
  4. Did you see any connections in the problems and issues dealt with in Germany with those you face at home?
  5. How do the issues discussed at the conference differ from those confronting you in your respective countries (in scope as well as in nature)?
  6. Were you able to make new contacts that may prove useful for future coop- eration?
  7. What messages and thoughts would you like to share with the other partici- pants at the event and, in particular, what recommendations or suggestions do you have for your German colleagues?

Here are some of the responses:

Chan Ramy from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, made the following points:

  • To me, attending the Adult Education Conference was certainly significant.
    Adult Education Centres are professional education institutions that provide education opportunities for all and do not ignore any one; old, young, handicapped, women or men. Everyone should deserve a good education and everyone should deserve personal growth that helps to achieve their goals in life.
  • For my work, it was very useful to see that many civil society organisations (CSO) across the continent are fighting for a better education for all. No one is left behind. I had a good chance to network with those CSOs and share and exchange knowledge and policies.
  • The event was very professional in terms of exhibition, opening and closing session, links to modern technology, and provided very meaningful panel discussions. I was surprised to see more elder participants than young people below 30 years old.
  • The topics were certainly relevant to me and my work. I was interested in the case for civic engagement for development, in the need for highlighting the gender issue in the strategic plan for education of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ, and the message that climate change awareness should start with the individual.
  • What Germany has been doing to improve education and fighting for Educa- tion for All, is what all countries in the world, both developed and developing countries, are working on. With education, it needs times and it takes time. I have noticed now that the developed countries are trying to reach a level of solidarity, civil engagement and meaningful participation of their people for social development. Education for All is very good, but people should be educated in such a way that they are not only able to earn their income and escape from poverty but can also participate in society and be active and committed citizens.
  • I understand that the participants were mostly German, but it was good to invite participants from other countries, many of whom are partners of DVV. Since it was an international conference, more documents should be avail- able in English. Question and Answer sessions should be open equally for participants. For participants from abroad, sending questions through mes- sages or email did not work. So they lost their chance to ask and express concerns or opinions.
  • The quality of our lives depends on the quality of our thinking. I believe that civic commitment through empowering and strengthening critical and analytical thinking could bring about positive changes for the societies as a whole.

Vocational training can be one part to help people achieve income and live comfortably, but without critical thinking they will not have a good quality of life, a life that connects them with society, a life in which they play a role as U active and committed citizens.

Alejandro Cussiánovich from Lima, Peru, sent us these reflections:

A Congress for Revitalizing Energies

The XIII German Adult Education Conference held in Berlin on 12 and 13 May of this year brought together a thousand and a half participants, both German citizens
and foreigners, who convened for the event focused on the proposal of the new government regarding the 10 major objectives that make concrete the proposal of the German government for the next five years and will also govern the priorities of international cooperation in educational matters.

The Latin American region was represented by a delegation of about 12 participants from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, N Chile.

Education as a Priority for Development

While this is a discussion heard repeatedly for at least three decades, in regard to the Peruvian reality, it’s more of a campaign slogan than a reality set in concrete. Two indicators suffice, investment in education for over a decade has been less
than 3 % of the national budget. That says that it is a political desire not backed by political will as expressed in the resources needed to serve the population, particularly the rural and indigenous. This is attested to by the results of the Pisa test and other newer ones in which Peru ranks among the lowest and deficient.

Guests from abroad




Guests from abroad
Source: DVV International


We live in the paradox of a country with sustained economic growth and poverty rates over the past 10 years, but particularly of unconcealed inequalities.

During this Congress the conviction was renewed that education should be a priority to ensure a development which is real, comprehensive and sustainable.

Young People and Adults as Primary Subjects

For realities such as the Peruvian one, with a high percentage of the population under 30, we consider this concern as a political success and a strategy for the foreseeable future. Although the general education law 28044 considers alterna- tive basic education and the creation of Alternative Basic Education Programs for Youth and Adults (PEBAJAS), the nationwide extension of strategy of reaching young people and adults has not progressed beyond being a kind of pilot program. The Berlin Congress emphasised this component of the life cycle, not only at the level of primary and secondary education, but in terms of university education or no university education. In this sense, the visit to the Adult Education Centre which took place on the 11th of May, provided an excellent immersion in an experience that showed the combination of community, municipal government, the government of the region and the quality of the open offers and the real needs of the popula- tion of those who provide the service. During the Congress, at the Forum on the Environment, one of the scientist exhibitors presented himself as a graduate of an Adult Education Centre. This left us with the conclusion that it was not just to comply with a formality in education, but it was of excellent scientific quality.

Between the Washington Consensus and the Educational Complex

We said it in our comments on the basic text that we got before the event in Berlin. The proposal made at the Berlin Congress, to our knowledge, did nothing to take up issues already raised about the organisations that have economic power like the World Bank as regards the subject of education. In this sense, finding out that a portion of teachers, including those of the Adult Education Centres, have been under time-limited contract for years – including better pay – led us to think that even at the level of countries like our host, the Washington Consensus recommendations regarding labour flexibility had been introduced, evidently with the differences that this can mean in countries like Germany in respect to the same situation in our countries in Latin America.

A Proposal that Should Include not only Integrate

We’re not just dealing with a linguistic modulation. Integrating is to leave the system untouched. Inclusion is to get involved in the effort for accountability, of criticism, of emancipation as social actors who enjoy equal rights. In other words, it is to think that those who integrate bring along their own projects regarding life, society, country and that they should fit in there where other social projects have become hegemonic. Education should serve to do just that. This debate was not so clear, we E believe, in some of the forums, nor in the keynote lectures that were given prominence at the Congress. Most notably, in the case of populations of migrant origin, integration is almost an act between a courtesy and an instrument. The presence of Turkish citizens marked the event’s general climate in which Latin Americans as well as Asians took a somewhat secondary place, the exception being some very high level interventions by representatives of India and our region. However, all this is understandable, given the significant Turkish presence in Germany.

Some General Considerations

The approach outlined in the text of the speech by the President of Germany raised some points relevant to our situation in Peru:

  • Overcoming educational deprivation as a top priority.
  • Vocational education and training.
  • Promote education starting from an holistic basis.
  • Higher education and research.

We believe without a doubt that it is necessary to take into account the following aspects, necessary in our view, for an approach that provides the overall context of that which the German state aims to promote in education, even though at the moment it has to prioritise education for youth and adults.

There is a lack of mention at all regarding early childhood when referring to educational deprivation. For most of the regional countries this is a very hot topic, precisely taking into consideration the rural and indigenous communities.

It becomes a generality when referring to “replace outmoded concepts with innovative approaches in education”. This is of course a particular feeling. The reason why is an obvious narrow point of view both from the strict western focus of the global approach and because the dominant educational system is supposed to just only be made up. New concepts also come from our different non-western cultures. It could be interesting for an instant to consider the hegemonic concept of development and that of Suma Qamaña or BUEN VIVIR as Andean people say.

The original people of the Andes and Amazon region used to advocate for what they call Iskay Yachay, that is to say BOTH KNOWLEDGE – their own traditional one and that coming from modern society. This becomes relevant when it comes to international cooperation to prevent their actions being seen as a subtle new form of colonisation.

Talking not only about Adult Education, we wonder why popular organisations, new social movements like children, youth, women, rural people and so forth are not considered as important actors. From the point of view of what we recognise in Latin America as Popular Education, those are real important actors for anything that concerns them. Experts without the real participation of the people directly concerned are at risk to fail again.

Education is a wider approach and cannot be reduced to schooling. This topic must be carefully revised or at least mentioned in order to better focus on the whole draft. Again this could help to have a better understanding when the draft refers to free media and to community participation.

Education and the lack of real employment policies have become one of the essential paradoxes for the new generations. In countries like Peru, social and protection policies look directly at the problem of employment, in particular when the economic model cannot ensure a real right to work for most of the people unless under their own risk. Even if education could better, the particular employability, the global scenario, shows us the increasing strategy of being self-employed just in order to survive. But this tendency also touches the so called industrialised countries where the welfare state is in crisis.

An Unparalleled Opportunity to Learn and Coordinate

The Congress offered us Latin Americans an important opportunity to learn what is being done in education for youth and adults and the rich production of learning materials, products for fair trade, in material for language learning and modern technologies and in the points of dialogue with ancient technologies. But in addition it also allowed us to meet with representatives of countries and try to establish cri- teria for joint action, of a significant presence in a continent simultaneously diverse but requiring common things in education, both social and economic.

Therefore, it has been an extraordinary experience that elicits a collective respon- sibility and invites us to a consciousness that transcends our institutional projects and places them in this stream of action and thought that values the community, all the actors and all the cultural contexts as a source of social, political and pedagogical imagination. We went away from Berlin renewing energy and enthusiasm. It was worth the trouble. All those who made this experience possible deserve our thanks. It is up to us to provide continuity for what has been proposed.

The festival of the congress




  The festival of the congress, Source: Heidi Scherm

Mouhamadou Diagne from Mali replied:

Attending the Adult Education Conference was significant to me because I discovered that I really appreciated German culture, and I understood that Germany was A making great efforts to help developing countries through their several development T agencies (GIZ, DVV, DVV International, and others)

  • Concerning Adult Education, we have many similarities around the world, particularly among developing countries. We are facing the same problems in both developed and developing countries. Adult Education has some similarities. The main objective is to improve communication skills and vocational training through learning how to read write and calculate but capacity building in vocational training is also important. But the main message that I have learned is that there is no direct link between education and good behaviour: For example those who got big diplomas are no less violent against women, and they are not the ones who have greater respect for the environment.
  • The impressions gathered at the conference were that Adult Education is considered a crucial topic in Germany. The presence of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany at the opening ceremony, but also the participation of her Excellency the Princess of the Netherlands, who is a great activist for Adult Education, and other great personalities can attest to this. I got the feeling that Germany is a step ahead in Adult Education in comparison with others countries. Particular importance is attributed to the issue.
  • Two discussion panels particularly caught my attention and were interest- ing in respect to our field work. Both concerned citizenship engagement for developing AE.
  • The main connection I see with the problems and issues dealt with in Germany with those that I face at home is the lack or insufficiency of financing for Adult Education. One problem which is really common to all of us, I think, is the treat- ment of Adult Education teachers. They are underpaid and enjoy no social secu- rity, no pension, no medical fees etc. The weakness of civil society advocacy for this issue is also common to all countries even though realities are not the same.
  • In one discussion panel which dealt with Adult Education in a computerised world, I felt that even if the subject was pertinent, that it was quite far from the realities our grassroots communities are facing. They are essentially facing the problem of access to potable water, health, education and don’t have even the minimum to buy copybooks, pens and all the materials necessary for literacy. Often the helper organisations are the ones who furnish all these items and pay the facilitators in order for the course to take place. In Germany it is the learners themselves who carry most of these costs.
  • I was able to meet most of the DVV International colleagues who welcomed us in a very friendly way. I got many new contacts from the ex-Soviet Republics, Asia and the Middle East, but also new contacts in Africa. Apart from the relationship of personal friendship we established with some people like the Vice Minister of Armenia, we had the opportunity to have contacts with well- known activists whose experience can be very useful for us.
  • The message that I would like to share is this: Advocacy for Adult Education is a long process with many barriers. We, the organisations who believe that we can bring some change about, should join our forces and share our ex- periences. The principal recommendation I have for German colleagues is to keep continuing their efforts to make DVV International a bigger organisation because it is among the only ones who care about Adult Education and really believe that Adult Education can change the world. My personal wish would be that the German colleagues help us develop the exchange of experiences throughout the different regions of Africa but also between Africa and the other parts of the world where DVV International has been working with partners and developing interesting projects.
  • My last point concerns the new document concerning education strategy of the German Ministry for Economic cooperation and Development, BMZ. We need to follow up that with some commitments, for example, doubling help for Africa by the end of 2013, would be effective. We expect our colleagues to make special advocacy for non-formal education as part of the education strategy.

Nodir Rakhimov from Uzbekistan writes us:

Participation in this conference was for me one of the major activities in my life. I have been committed to the field of further education since 2002. The new trends that are happening in further education always awaken my interest. I see the Adult Education Conference as a measure which plays an important role not only for Germany but also for other countries in the world. In my view, the activities of the Adult Education Centres and DVV can be a role model for other countries, particularly for developing countries.

  • The VHS and DVV are a real force recognised not only by the population, but also by the political elite. In the speech by the President of the Federal Republic one can find many confirmations of this.
  • I’m still impressed that many decision-makers who can contribute to the solution of many of the problems that were discussed attended the conference.
  • One of my colleagues said on the first day: “I cannot imagine how so many people can be catered for. We will probably remain without lunch today.” But the reality showed us otherwise. Therefore, also the logistics for the conference were very good.
  • All topics and lectures have inspired my personal and practical interest. Especially interesting to me was the forum “After Kyoto and Cancun: How do we change our lifestyle?” I was impressed by interesting lectures, the skill of the presenters and the course of the discussion on the question of the role Adult Education Centres can play in solving environmental problems. I am convincing myself more and more that it is very important to start this debate in my country so that everyone can be aware of the risk of environmental problems. This is where I see the most important role for educational organisations.

Benito Fernández, Denisse Hanna and Wilfredo Limachi from Bolivia provided us with this reflection:

  1. It was important to participate in the Congress because it allowed us to learn about the vitality of Adult Education Centres in Germany, through their leaders, to find out that there is important leadership by the DVV in Germany and their capacity for advocacy with government authorities.
  2. The visit to an Adult Education Centre in Berlin allowed us to have a more accurate picture of what it is and its potential to develop the general education of young people and adults in response to the right to education. This allows us to relate our experiences in the Centre of Alternative Education and Adults in Bolivia as a projected image of what would be necessary to promote in Bolivia, since it gives us some guidelines and also confirms certain assumptions that we work with in Bolivia and in the Andean region.
  3. We got a good impression from the organisational capacity in terms of the forms and methods of exposure, location and characteristics of the environment in which the event took place, the cultural component that was integrated into the dynamics of the Congress and the communications support. We would have liked, however, to have simultaneous translation into Spanish and increased participation of exhibitors from Latin America.
    The conference seemed too focused on the size of DVV in Germany, marginal- izing the international dimension of the Institute which is in 11 regions around the world. This was tacitly stated because no specific time was devoted to the international dimension of DVV. A full day would have been desirable. At the same time, the conference also failed to express the richness and diversity of the work of DVV in the different countries.
  4. We found all the topics to be very relevant and pertinent, except that the contextualisation of the topics did not take into account the diversity of the international context. For example, the European vision about the issue of integration is different from the ideas that we have in the Latin American context, which more strongly emphasises inclusion.
  5. The topics have much to do with those we have in our country, like the is- sue of funding, the responsibilities of local governments in Adult Education, and the use and access to new technologies, sustainable local development, migration, multiculturalism and the issue of older persons. However, the Latin American contexts are different.
  6. The political processes of our countries and levels of development and living are far from the context of Germany because the priorities and content of the topics are different. For example, the issue of funding from the local level is very embryonic in Bolivia. Another issue is multiculturalism, which in Germany has to do with migration and integration, while in Bolivia it is linked to diversity and inclusion of nationalities, peoples and cultures that make up the country, so the challenge is to build a country despite the differences.
  7. The event helped us strengthen the exchange and coordination between the Andean Region and Mexico Region, in the perspective of a Latin American identity for Adult Education. Very important steps were taken for coordination and cooperation.
  8. It would be important to have a greater exchange of experiences at the level of the German Adult Education Centres and Adult Education Centres in Latin America working with DVV. At the same time it would also be interesting to link this to information on thework of DVV in other regions. It is necessary to give DVV a Latin American dimension which allows it a greater impact on and information about young people and adults in different Latin American platforms, the platform following CONFINTEA VI (UNESCO), the Goals for 2021 (OEI) and others. It is also necessary that these platforms take into account the voices of the movements of teachers and schools with the objective of having a greater presence and greater involvement with the issue of youth and Adult Education in Latin America.

Plenary sessionPlenary session





Plenary session
Source: Heidi Scherm

Sajeda Atari from Jordan is another colleague who seems to have been positively impressed: Personally, I fell in love with Germany. I have new friends from different counties, and I have seen very beautiful scenes and places. As regards the conference, I am still touched and impressed with the speech of the Princess of The Netherlands at the conference!

  • For my work, I have gained new experience, I have new ideas, and I have made significant connections with people from my country, and from DVV, and now, after I got back, I am preparing for a new proposal to implement a project with DVV in Jordan.
  •  The conference was very well planned and organised. It presented new ideas and significant speakers. It was amazing to see that the President of the Federal Republic of Germany showed his interest in the conference, also the Princess of The Netherlands, and Dr. Rajesh Tandon from India. The idea of gathering people and professionals from more than 40 countries in one event was stunning.
  • For me, the concept of “Adult Education,” as it was presented by the German point of view, was new to me. It is true that in my organisation we conduct trainings and facilitate vocational training but I believe it is not systematised and designed like I saw it in my German experience.
  • In my work, I have projects that target elderly persons, and it was amazingly useful for me to attend a session where the relation of the elderly with technology and the digital world was discussed. After my return, I discussed the idea of filling this gap for our beneficiaries with my team, and we are planning to conduct a computer training program for this target group.
  • The problems and issues dealt with in Germany are connected in some way with those in my own country, but on a much more advanced level! In Jordan, Adult Education programs mostly focus on illiteracy programs and basic vocational training. I was surprised to see the great role of the governmental sector in the Adult Education programs and the support which is given to it. I was also impressed by the variety of options in Adult Education programs in Germany, which we don’t have in Jordan.
  • Attending the conference in Germany gave me the opportunity to meet colleagues from the relevant ministries of my own country for the first time, and we were able to discuss some plans for future cooperation. Also, I am still in contact with the staff of DVV, some people from Spain and South America, and Palestine. So, being in Germany was a success for me. I hope that one day we will share at least one success story of an Adult Education initiative from my country.

And finally one more voice of feedback from Central Asia. Irina Razilova from
Tashkent wrote us:

This conference was a very bright and unforgettable event both for my profes- sional life and for me personally. It was my first visit to Germany during my work in DVV International (since 2004).
There was a real friendly and relaxed atmosphere! Everybody could feel that the mood of the participants was high. But the genuine highlight was the VIP status of the speakers, particularly Germany’s President. It confirms the importance of Adult Education for Germany.
As concerns the conference’s content, of course, many issues were about the progress agenda. I was interested in the discussion concerning education for migrants. Sometimes that discussion was sharp, but very frank and open. It was a pleasure to see the heartfelt desire of Germany’s representatives to find effective instruments to integrate the immigrants in their new homeland. The dispute was about educational measures for them. How to teach the newcomers to feel Germany as their new homeland and adopt its history, everyday life and future. I would like to note that the conference was interpreted not only into German and English, but also into the Turkish language.
Education for migrants touched me because there was an opportunity to face “the dark side”. Uzbek labour migrants leave their home and go to many countries around the world, including Germany. Usually we discuss the migrants’ problems as that of labour suppliers in favour of other countries. But the conference made it possible to understand the position of the country that receives the migrants.
Unfortunately, the conference’s participants are unable to enter all of the topic sessions at the same time. But all of the topics were definitely attractive. For instance, the ecological topic is beginning to enter our projects more, and the number of such projects increases day-by-day. But we have just started on our revolutionary road, and the German and international experience is very useful for us. I hope that the conference’s website will continue to publish materials about the various topics, including information from parallel sessions.


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