AED through the ages

A short history compiled by Heribert Hinzen and Ruth Sarrazin

The early international activities and programmes of the German adult education centres (Volkshochschulen, vhs) and the German Adult Education Association (DVV) were part of the reconciliation and decolonisation processes, and were institutionalised with the founding of DVV International in 1969. Ever since then, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has been financing and supporting cooperation with adult education partners on a project basis. Most of the projects are related to work in countries and regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. In addition, there have been special cross-cutting projects related to information and communication, training of trainers, and global learning in vhs.

The longest-running project of DVV International is the journal Adult Education and Development (AED). It was launched in 1973 with the aim in mind to share information on activities in our field and to provide a platform to exchange ideas and experiences. While the early issues had a print run of only 500 copies, the peak distribution reached 20,000 copies that were sent out to colleagues and partners around the globe. To understand the growth and relevance a bit better, we have compiled some milestones in AED’s history for you.


DVV International publishes the first issue of AED, intended as a follow-up for the participants in the further training courses organised by DVV International and for the staff of projects abroad. All three languages (English, French and Spanish) are collected in one volume comprised of 36 pages. AED will appear twice per year until 2013, and yearly after that until 2019.


Circulation and readership are growing quickly, making AED a forum for adult educators from all over the world. The focus is – and will remain – on practice. Most of the readers and authors are from countries in the global South. Each language is now published in a separate volume, giving much more space for contributions. Issue 10 focuses on education and health.


The journal also analyses different forms of development cooperation and its impact, often taking a (self-)critical look, as demonstrated in this cartoon from AED 19. Amongst other things, this issue includes one chapter on “cooperation for development”. Partner organisations of DVV ­International supported translations into more languages for wider dissemination and use.


Literacy is one of the crucial topics that recurs in many issues of AED. The United Nations declared 1990 to be the International Literacy Year (ILY). DVV International decided to contribute to the preparation of this year by publishing a special issue of AED on the topic.


UNESCO’s Fifth International Conference on Adult Education, CONFINTEA V, took place in Hamburg, Germany, in July 1997. It brought together almost 2,000 people from more than 150 countries. AED has closely followed these and other international debates and processes over the past decades, making the outcomes and discussions available to a worldwide readership with often limited access to such in­formation. 


This issue places the focus on Paulo Freire, the great educationist who died ten years earlier in 1997, and whose thinking lives on in theory and in practice to the present day. In 2007, AED is no longer a print-only publication. Following the digital trend, AED also starts appearing online. All issues from the year 2000 onwards can be read online article by article, making it easy also for colleagues with low Internet bandwidth to access the contents.


AED reinvents itself, with a new concept and a new layout. An editorial board is established consisting of ten adult education experts from around the globe. The International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) becomes a cooperation partner, organising virtual seminars for each issue. The first “new” issue 80 deals with the post-2015 era, after Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


AED writes its final chapter. The latest and final issue of AED is now in your hands. Project financing is coming to an end, and DVV International has to close down its journal. With all the positive feedback from our readers, contributors and partners, we feel that this is a loss for our efforts for the profession of adult education in development. However, we are also thankful for 46 years of support, of cooperation, learning and sharing!

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