100 Years of Volkshochschule in Germany


Community-based adult education is an important component working towards a system of lifelong learning. Institutions of education, training and learning change in many respects in the age of globalization and digitalization. But in as much as we believe in the importance of kindergarten, schools, vocational and higher education and struggle to support them as institutions, adult education also needs an institutional back-up.

Policy, legislation and financing are required for each sub-sector of education. The Volkshochschule (VHS), literally translated as the folkhighschool, more broadly as adult education centre, is such an institution. It has similar traditions in other countries historically. These are not only as seen in the examples of the Nordic countries, but we should also see them in the context of workers education, reading and study circles as well as of university extension. Of course there are also many differences and variations. But one key element of the success story of the Volkshochschule was that it got strong support through the constitution of the first democracy in Germany after the collapse of WW1, and the end of the emperor system. The constitution of the Weimarer Republic from 1919 has a clause: “Adult education should be supported from national, provincial, and community level, including the Volkshochschule”. In that year the University and the Volkshochschule of Hamburg were founded and grounded in the same document.

The celebration of 100 Years of Volkshochschule will be a high level event in Germany as many local VHS will be one hundred years old; others are even older or some are younger. It will be celebrated in a decentralised way. However, the national association of Volkshochschulen, the Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband or the German Adult Education Association (DVV) is preparing for the major ceremonial event on 13th February 2019 in the Paul´s Church in Frankfurt where the President of the Constitutional High Court will deliver the keynote. A special stamp of the postal service to mark the occasion has been agreed by the Minister of Finance. A major publication is under preparation where DVV and DIE, the German Institute for Adult Education, are joining hands. A project team has selected 100 events, and individual authors are writing stories as contributions to a book on “Volkshochschule - 100 Years in 100 Stories”. In advance to this important year, the Editorial Board of the journal Bildung und Erziehung agreed earlier to have a thematic issue on 100 Years of Volkshochschule to discuss historical roots, provide evidence of developments, dig into urban as well as rural examples, and look into the future. This edition has just been printed, and is now distributed withf 2000 copies distrubuted to all VHS, and representatives of Ministries, Parliaments, and other institutions in education and research. It is thus paving the way to prepare early to inform colleagues involved in adult education in Germany, Europe and globally. Attached is the translation of the table of content.

By the way the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education, in short DVV International, was founded in 1969. We look therefore to a double jubilee – 100 Years of Volkshochschule and 50 Years of DVV International. This will be celebrated alongside the next Adult Education and Development Conference in May 2019. If you are interested in more information you may want to contact [email protected]

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