Christiane Stürmann

Adult Education in Europe, with its learner-centred and communicative teaching methods, has very different methodological approaches than those pursued in countries where teaching is still predominantly frontal. However, the example of a guest seminar carried out by a German Adult Education lecturer at the University of Addis Ababa shows that students are receptive to new methods, in which the instructor is limited to the role of facilitator. But the German teacher could also expand her horizons and develop intercultural skills which will benefit her in her work at home.

Communicative Methods of Adult Education in Ethiopia – a German-African Seminar

Situation of Adult Education in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is divided into 16 federal “states” and every “state” controls the implementation of its educational policies.

The illiteracy rate is 70 %. The Ethiopian government has set up a “basic education” Master Plan for the next few years, according to which five million people are to be made literate in ten years. To achieve this ambitious goal, meantime, among other things, the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (DVV International) is responsible for its implementation in 9 regions.

An education system for the third sector, for adults who have left school and college, hardly exists beyond the literacy campaign.

Background to the Short-term Implementation

Except for the fact that students at the University of Addis Ababa (UAA) had complained about non-adult oriented teaching methods, the request originated after a guest-seminar on new methods of Adult Education, which took place at the “Teaching and Learning Support and Skills Enhancement Centre” at the University in Addis Ababa.

The “Service and Resource Centre” Institute, which works in Adult Education as a cross-cutting issue, is in the Education Faculty. The responsible professor, Dr. Dessu Wirtu, planned, in October 2010, in cooperation with DVV International, the week-long guest-seminar to be led by a person with practical experience from a German Adult Education Centre. 25 students from the part-time Masters in Education Science and 17 regular students registered. Upon successful completion of a Bachelor degree, studies for the Masters lasts a year (in daily attendance) plus three months for the Masters thesis. The course of study can be conducted part-time, with extended duration, evenings and on weekends. All 43 students, including three women, attended regularly and received a certificate upon completion. Some of the part-time students worked in “Community Skills Centres” and thus had experience in Adult Education. These centres work partly in cooperation with DVV International. Adults over 15 get literacy instruction and guidance in arithmetic and in simple handicrafts. Theory and practice are integrated. Among the regular students were some who had completed their Bachelor degree in Economics and had been assigned to study for a Masters degree in Educational Science.

The seminar was held at the UAA from Monday to Friday, always from 08:30 to 12:00. I got technical support (material, room equipment, etc.) from two DVV International colleagues. In addition, I was available on Wednesday afternoon for personal questions about the course from students and on Thursday afternoon repeated my introductory lecture in front of an interested audience in the Ministry of Education (MoE).

My seminar on Monday morning began with a PowerPoint presentation on the work of the Adult Education Centre in general and in my Adult Education Centre in Verden (Lower Saxony) in particular. During this time, Dr. Dessu Wirtu, more university professors and the Project Manager of DVV International, Mr. Quincke, were present. The idea was that local university professors would pick up topics from the guest-seminar and work on them further with the students. This has, to my knowledge, not been done.

After the introduction, I presented the program for the week and on a flip chart also made available for discussion the program for each day.

Participants in the seminar




Participants in the seminar
Source: Christiane Stürmann




When queried about the expectations of the students the following were keywords:

  • achieve additional knowledge
  • own business
  • help adults
  • supporting people
  • teamwork, co-operation
  • empowerment
  • to achieve something
  • protect the environment
  • be creative
  • to hit the target
  • gender equality
  • educational journey
  • modernisation

I was able to deal with most keywords during the week. This form of participation was new for the students and was well received.

On the first morning and on every morning following, I implemented various playful methods for learning names and for team building. Thus it was made clear to the participants that a personal approach is a prerequisite for valuable communication.

On Tuesday, the topic was the determining of learning objectives. We talked about rough and fine learning goals, the cognitive, affective and psychomotor aspects of learning objectives and managed the transfer into practice or to the experience environment of the student.

On Wednesday we dealt with the selection and structuring of educational materials, through a deductive and inductive approach as well as a constructivist definition of learning, using examples from me and from the students. As regards teaching content, students often chose basic education, numeracy, writing, reading, improving the income of the adult population of Ethiopia, and conservation of the environment/reforestation. Except for the environmental topic, I could transfer the examples well to my own area of work.

The second block discussed the changing role of the teacher, which up to that point had only been referred to as a “facilitator”. All the tasks of a learning companion were gathered into groups. In the working groups there was a dedicated, concentrated learning atmosphere, and the participants were extremely interested in the experiences of their colleagues.

On Thursday, I directed the role-play “access to medicine”, which lasted all morning. It was about an excerpt from the “Manual for human rights education for young people”. The students got to know not only the role-play method, but were given all the role-play cards in order to use the material later with their own groups of participants. The roles were: South African government, pharmaceutical industry, NGO campaign, Judge. In this situation, it had to be decided whether South Africa could buy cheaper, copied AIDS drugs from Indonesia in order to reach more infected people. The human right to property was set against the human right to life and dignity. The participants identified strongly with their roles, so heated confrontations resulted.

On Friday there was time for review and questions, and each student was given a handout with the seminar materials.

Added Value for Both Partners: Students in Ethiopia and Adult Educators in Germany

Added value for students in Ethiopia

The majority of students took an active part in the learning process and distinguished themselves through constructive group work, securing good results and pleasurable discussions. This is encouraging, because they said, on the other hand, that in other seminars no active participation takes place.

The students had well-developed social skills, as evidenced by the fact that they treated each other respectfully, let people finish talking and gave each other positive feedback as well as showed interest in each other. They learned from each other and from me, what it should be like in Adult Education.

Many concrete examples put into practice by the guest lecturer, in particular for the “warm up” phase at the start of the course and result-securing at the end of the course, were able to be taken by the students for their work. Communicative methods such as flash, pair and group work, presentation of group results by students as well as role play were new for them and were well received. A high turnout for a large group was only possible through a variety of methods.

In the personal consultation, which was intended to ensure that the students could turn to me with questions about their Masters thesis, the most common concern was, “How can I get to Europe?” This showed the understandable desire to improve the personal situation before a responsibility for the development of Ethiopia.

Participants in the seminar




Working group
Source: Christiane Stürmann



Personal Experience of the German Guest Lecturer and Profit for her Own Work in Germany

I was able to learn a lot about a certain kind of serenity that is sometimes lost to us Europeans in everyday life. Lack of group rooms or power failure at the university were mastered with aplomb. Whoever works in this country has to improvise from day to day and this succeeds best when one does not live and work alone but can draw on a network of partners.

An added value is of course always there for everyone, also for me, through new experiences, intercultural dialogue and insight into new worlds. This view then sharpens the view of the work in the Adult Education Centre at home. Even in the school completion courses of the German Adult Education Centres there are functional illiterates which we cannot reach through traditional ABC learning, but through learning which incorporates the experiences of the learners. The programs in Germany for long-term unemployed unfamiliar with learning are constantly looking for qualifications that are in demand in the market and don’t overwhelm the participants. This initial situation is similar in Central Africa and highly developed Germany. In both cases, the contents must be taken from the contexts of life and the people themselves must be involved so that the success is sustainable.

A week is too short for sustainable further development. Many students said that they will use the newly learned techniques. Since no support is offered for this, the implementation must be called into question.

Therefore, sustainable development will only be possible if these students are obliged to work as multipliers or in the “communities”. The teaching profession is poorly paid and without great social prestige. The students select the program not necessarily voluntarily. So no one can blame them if they take up more lucrative offers, such as in tourism. It would therefore be good to clarify whether a financial incentive would bring more qualified teachers into the “communities”.

Various Scenarios for Further Work






Source: Christiane Stürmann




  1. A repeat of the one-week seminar at universities in other Ethiopian cities. But the students, along with participation, should make a commitment, namely: to be committed either as a multiplier for teacher training or to work in a community for a certain period. The practice phase after a week in the seminar could, like in an internship, be accompanied by a teaching session visit with evaluation by a DVV International employee
  2. An internship (2 – 4 weeks) for the Ethiopian education teachers at a Ger-man Adult Education Centre would raise awareness of Adult Education. The accommodation and care could be organised at low cost on a private basis. Visas and travel expenses should be provided from public funds.
  3. A two-week seminar with “practitioners” from agriculture, trade and/or crafts. Imaginable is the concept “learning to teach”, as is offered at Adult Education Centres for new teachers from non-teaching professions. Here too, when they are later in service, the “practitioners” should at the very least be accompanied by the visit of a further education teacher with an evaluation discussion.
  4. A concept for the development of part-time basic education teachers in Ethiopia should include the following topics:
  • Learning to learn as an adult
  • Communication between learners and learning consultants
  • Moderation and presentation techniques
  • Learning goals definition and course planning
  • Methodological tools (start of the course, end of the course, group work, role play, etc.)

Participant receives his certificate




Participant receives his certificate
Source: Christiane Stürmann




  1. The gender distribution described in the guest seminar was extremely uneven, with 40 male students and three female students. This represents the distribution of female and male students in Masters degree Education Science and therefore could not be changed. A program for recruiting women for (parttime) Adult Education is planned by DVV International and should compensate for this deficiency.

From the experience gained and my belief that Adult Education institutions live from the diversity of their part-time lecturers, I think points 3 and 4 are well able to be set up in order to turn multipliers from the universities and external qualified people from the “middle” of Ethiopian Society into further education teachers, which later, in addition to their professions, can deliver basic education with practical skills to the illiterate population.

Naturally, the main initiative has to come from Ethiopian stakeholders (ministry, university, regional governments), including local further education teachers/ practitioners. From the German side, only help in implementation can be given.


Important notice: If you click on this link, you will leave the websites of DVV International. DVV International is not responsible for the content of third party websites that can be accessed through links. DVV International has no influence as to which personal data of yours is accessed and/or processed on those sites. For more information, please review the privacy policy of the external website provider.