German Adult Education Conference 2022: “vhs 2030: Together in Diversity. Sustainable. Connected”

On 20 and 21 June, more than 900 participants, including around 75 international guests, came to Leipzig to be a part of what can be described as Europe’s biggest adult learning and education (ALE) event.

On 20 and 21 June, more than 900 participants, including around 75 international guests, came to Leipzig to be a part of what can be described as Europe’s biggest adult learning and education (ALE) event.

“We live in times of great challenges. We want to face these challenges. And grow from them!”  This quotation from the opening remarks of the President of the German Adult Education Association (Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband, DVV), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, captures the spirit of the conference very well.

Facing today’s challenges with a multifaceted approach

After three years shaped by the impact of the pandemic, the German ALE community reflected on the worldwide state of the sector, the tasks, and the challenges ahead. The focus was on four main issues:

  • Together in diversity” describes the role ALE plays in ensuring coherence in our societies and building bridges between various groups. It includes the immense tasks of integrating migrants and refugees, while not neglecting the idea of “leaving no-one behind” in a society with inequality that causes widening social gaps.
  • Sustainable” describes the role ALE should play to empower citizens to shape a new, sustainable economy and lifestyle. Without education, and especially adult learning, this “greening” process will fail.
  • Connected” describes the necessity to support all citizens in mastering the digital transformation. This goes far beyond teaching how to use digital tools and includes digital media literacy and the fight against untruthful news.
  • Finally, “vhs 2030” describes the challenges facing the transformation of the adult learning centres themselves (in German “vhs” = Volkshochschule/folk high school). This aspect includes the management of the generation shift, now very visible in the German vhs, and the need to adapt to the new demands, e.g. on digital learning beyond the place where one lives.

Shaping the future towards better conditions for ALE

By identifying the key role ALE must play in tackling this substantial transformation successfully, the conference came up with clear messages and demands as well. DVV’s chairmanMartin Rabanus described it in the following way:  

“We, as the vhs family, have some key demands and challenges that we will be dealing with in the coming years:

  • Adult Education Centres are an integral part of the education system. We therefore advocate that Adult Education Centres need to be integrated in the national further education strategy.
  • Education must be affordable. That is why we advocate for a facility-based VAT exemption for Adult Education Centres and a secure financial basis for all Adult Education Centres that allows room for development in order to be and remain innovative and sustainable.
  • In view of the rapid change in the digital sphere, we need a joint federal and state initiative for digital further education.
  • We are committed to strengthening the role of further education in the field of education for sustainable development (ESD) on a national level.
  • At the international level, the educational mandate within the German development cooperation framework must be strengthened on the basis of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Further education must be recognized for its capacity, to help foster democratic values and active citizenship, and must be financially equipped by the state to do so.”

The coming months and years will show whether or not these strong messages will be heard by the decision-makers at the local, national, European and global level.

Rita Süssmuth Award for the international Volkshochschule

DVV International, together with the Board of the German Adult Education Association, for the second time has honoured three Adult Education Centres with the Rita Süssmuth Award for the international Volkshochschule (Adult Education Centre). The Adult Education Centres Badische Bergstraße, Landkreis Cham and Weimar were awarded.

More information on the Rita Süssmuth Award (only in German)

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