The 20th DIE Forum for Continuing Education took place on 12 December 2017 at the Catholic Social Institute on Michaelsberg in Siegburg. Here you will find the accompanying booklet of the event with information on speakers, working groups and topics (German only):


DIE-Forum Continuing Education 2017 - Interfere, position, communicate. Continuing education and the public sphere.

Constructive debate is a necessary basis for democratic coexistence and at the same time a constant challenge for the culture of public debate. Organised adult education is part of this culture of debate by creating spaces for debate and practicing argumentative arguing or by behaving publicly on current issues. The lively discussions at last year's DIE Forum were an opportunity for us to shed light on the contribution of adult education to public and democratic opinion and knowledge formation.

Thomas Krüger, President of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, opened the DIE Forum with a lecture on the topic "#Demokratie: What can, may, must political education do for adults?" He described challenges for civic education arising from the changed conditions and structures of the public. His keynote speech was a plea for the promotion of the culture of debate and the mutual dispute. The present article originated in the keynote and has now found its way into the new issue of "weiterbilden. DIE Zeitschrift für Weiterbildung" with the title "Debatte" (debate).

In a total of four working groups, different foci were directed at the topic of public and adult education: the role of adult education for the public from a historical perspective, the current challenges in the face of digital public spheres, further education institutions as part of the public discourse as well as places of publicity. The contributions were a successful mixture of practice and science and offered space for intensive and lively exchange between the experts and the participants.

The event concluded with a "Philosophical Café", moderated by the philosophical practitioner Markus Melchers. With short statements on the topic "Between 'speech bans' and 'You will probably still be allowed to say that': How much debate does adult education need?" he initiated a lively discussion about the limits of what can be said in general and in the context of adult educational practice. In the course of the process, the difference between acting as a professional and as a private person was reflected and the difference between truth, truthfulness and legality was emphasized, the boundaries of which seem to be becoming increasingly blurred in today's culture of debate. This was a successful conclusion to the event, which not only focused on "publicity" and "debate culture", but also carried it out practically – in the tradition of the conference venue, the former Michaelsberg Abbey in Siegburg, the new home of the Catholic Social Institute.

It was exciting to see that the participants continued the discussions in small circles even after the official end, so that this year's DIE Forum can be seen more as an interim conclusion than as a summary of an important debate within adult education and beyond.

These were the 4 working groups

Group 1: From the public – for the public. Adult learning over time

The emergence of today's supporting and institutional landscape goes back, among other things, to social and educational policy debates of the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, further training was anchored as a publicly responsible mission, which still forms the raison d'être for many institutions today. Even beyond this state embeddedness, there are today a large number of institutions that claim an "educational mission" for themselves. Thus, in the 1970s and 1980s – from the environment of the New Social Movements – many institutions were founded that saw themselves as part of the public sphere, even as a "counter-public" and in this sense carried out a "different" educational work.

How has this educational mission between "public" and "counter-public" changed over time? Which debates and discourses were formative? How were the institutions influenced in their educational work? What positions did public, denominational or independent bodies represent? How has this changed the role of organised adult education in the public sphere as a whole? And how is this reflected in current debates and positions?


From left: Detlef Vonde (Bergische Volkshochschule, Solingen-Wuppertal), Matthias Alke (DIE), Susanne Maurer (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Andreas Seiverth (formerly Deutsche Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Erwachsenenbildung, DEAE).

Group 2: Interfere. Digital Public Sphere and Challenges of Adult Education

The digital space is increasingly establishing itself as a public place where exchange, discussions and opinion-forming take place and new forms of interference, engagement and political participation are made possible. At the same time, the digital space also generates a destructive force in that discourses proliferate and are fueled here under the protection of anonymity. Although social media in the digital space are able to bring people together over great geographical distances, they also undermine social cohesion in the face of fragmenting discourses through a multitude of partial publics. Participation, network education and media literacy are therefore becoming key challenges in the wake of an increasingly digital public sphere.

How can the digital participation of adults be supported? What skills do they need to exchange and interact online? What contribution can adult education make here?


From left to right: Jochen Robes (Consultant Human Resources, Corporate Learning), Tine Nowak (University of Cologne), Caja Thimm (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn), Peter Brandt (DIE)

Group 3: Position. Viewpoints of adult education in public discourse

Adult education has returned to public attention in the course of the debates on the integration of refugees. On the one hand, it has been made the subject of public debate and, on the other hand, individual institutions or associations have actively participated in the debates about adult educational tasks and questions of feasibility. In this respect, organised adult education actively shapes the public sphere and influences socio-political discourses.

Through which measures and topics does it help shape the public sphere and exert influence on debates? What interests does it represent and on which topics does it position itself? How do actors from the different areas of adult education play their role? How can the different actors (e.g. institutions, associations, networks, science) initiate discourses and contribute to an appropriate culture of debate?

From left to right: Walter Würfel (Federal Association of Vocational Education and Training Institutions), Ulrich Aengenvoort (German Adult Education Association), Prof. Dr. Ralph Bergold (Catholic Social Institute, Siegburg), Dr. Sabine Fandrych (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bonn), Dr. Sarah Widany (DIE)

Group 4: Communicate. Adult education as a space for public encounter and debate

A declared goal of adult education is to enable people to stand up for their interests and to participate in public discourse, for example by establishing forums for encounter, exchange and discussion or by offering education, knowledge transfer and skills development.

The working group focuses on spaces for public exchange created by adult education and addresses the following questions: For which topics does adult education create publicity? What are the current and future challenges? What role can and wants adult education to play and where are the limits? How tolerant can and may organised adult education be, what must it endure? What current experiences, projects, practical examples are there?

From left to right: Jan Rohwerder (DIE), Dr. Joachim Twisselmann (Evangelisches Bildungs- und Tagungszentrum Bad Alexandersbad), Dr. Sabine Koppe (Kreisvolkshochschule Vorpommern-Rügen), Prof. Dr. Helmut Bremer (University of Duisburg-Essen)


Beate Beyer-Paulick

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