Community Learning in... Germany

Participants in a course of "German as a foreign language" at the Adult Education Centre Bonn.

Adult Education Centres are educational institutions with
a long tradition. In Germany they were essentially founded along two lines: from the so-called university extension movement (towards the end of 19th and the beginning of the
20th centur y) and the emancipation movements for the education of workers. Below, I present the Adult Education Centre Bonn. It was founded in 1904 by professors from the University of Bonn, therefore it stems from the university extension movement.

Adult Education Centres are always a reflection of local
change processes. This is also the case for the former capital, known today as the Federal City of Bonn.

The Adult Education Centre Bonn has seven thematic priorities. The thematic focal points – each with a supervisory educational staff member – are referred to as Departments: The first Depar tment is Politics, Science and International Affairs. In this Department all the structural changes which have taken place in Bonn in the last ten to twenty years are clear. On the one hand Adult Education Centre courses, seminars and field trips to numerous companies and factories elucidate the structural change in the city, and on the other hand the work with numerous institutions of development cooperation make clear where the current key areas of urban and regional development are located. Dialogues on urban issues, with the mayor (the so-called civil dialogue) and other municipal representatives complete the of fer of this programme segment.

The second Department deals with issues of Lifelong Learning. Here the Adult Education Centre has offers for personal development and for everyday life and self-management as well as seminars and discussion events for specific target groups. Some examples: “Finally tidy” through “Learning to be an optimist” to “Do you really want to get angry? The anti-anger-seminar”. In the target-group-specific part of the programme of the Department of Lifelong Learning it is essentially about questions related to parenting and family
education as well as the challenges of intergenerational learning.

The former Bonner Town Hall is being converted to be the House of Education. In 2015 the VHS Bonn and the city librar y will move into the building (Image: architect's view).

Foreign languages and German and Qualification are located in Departments three and four of the Adult Education Centre Bonn. Given the growing impor tance of German as a language for immigrants, the two depar tments were split up several years ago, German is simply too impor tant for the qualification training mission of the Adult Education Centre: there are courses for functional illiterates as well as seminars for people who need to master German at native speaker level.

Department five is devoted to the topics Career and Qualification. Just as in German and foreign languages, qualified and certified credentials are offered here as part of the Xpert Series (computer, accounting, key skills). Individual coaching for career choice planning using the Profile Pass and other instruments can be added to that.





Cover of the programme booklet of the VHS Bonn for the second half of 2014.










The Department of Arts and Culture is the sixth field of
education of the Adult Education Centre Bonn. Here we are especially proud of our extensive and varied offers of cooperation. We work with almost all urban cultural institutions (including public library, theatre, City Art Museum, City Archives, City Museum), with nearly all other museums in the city as well as with the University and other universities. Many courses take place in the “museum as a place of 

“Having a local Adult Education Centre
is a calling card for a city.”

Department seven is entitled: Health and Nutrition. With nearly 150 of fers per semester, alongside the Language Department, it is among the larger ones. Prevention programmes are popular in all Adult Education Centres and have been favourites for many years in Bonn as well. International cooking classes are popular, and especially popular
for many people who work in an English-speaking environment in Bonn.

Having a local Adult Education Centre is a calling card for a city. It is oriented on the city’s special character (in the case of Bonn, among other things, the structural change from federal capital to internationally oriented federal city); it proactively engages future societal and social issues with partners (in areas of integration and demographic change); and it makes a commitment, through a wide range of services, toward securing qualified multilingualism, supporting working people with specific training and consulting services and is a veritable mirror of the cultural diversity of the city and supported by the health facilities so that work-life-balance
is not just an empty phrase.

The citizens of Bonn can attend 2000 events and courses each year. 30,000 participants attend the Adult Education Centre. Municipal Adult Education in rapidly changing urban societies is increasingly impor tant. In the best sense, its offers reflect the city’s profile, because no community would want to, nor can, do without this pre-eminently citizen-oriented, always inclusive educational institution.

More information (in German)

Dr. Ingrid Schöll, Director Volkshochschule Bonn,


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