The Volkshochschule Bonn, the adult education centre, is a municipal education institute and was founded in 1904. One of the founding members was Bonn University, with whom the Volkshochschule, or VHS, still maintains very good relations.
The work of Volkshochschule is based on the Further Education Act (Weiterbildungsgesetz - WBG) of North-Rhine Westphalia, which was revised in 1999 with re-prioritisation and new focuses. In addition to the director and director’s staff, there are eight full-time educators working as heads of the various departments; they are supported by about 20 staff members. In accordance with the goals of the amendment of the WBG, the participants of VHS courses should gain social, societal, political and career-related qualifications.
The VHS programme is published twice yearly in the course catalogue. There are seven subject areas, two of which have been newly introduced: the multi-disciplinary “Lifelong learning” and “German and Integration”.
The main focus of the VHS’ current work lies on the following areas: “Cross-subject and interdisciplinary work”, “German and Integration” and “Career and Qualification”. In addition, we strive to foster the international profile of the former capital, Bonn, through relevant and appealing events in the area of political education. Furthermore, we are continuing to expand our work on special projects, particularly on issues of integration and career education. In the city of Bonn, the VHS is a leading institute for the coordination of all language-related integration measures. This responsibility encompasses the coordination and conceptual consulting of all community actors involved in the area of languages and language training.
We have contact with numerous institutions located in the area, including educational institutions such as the Deutscher Volkshochschulverband – the German Association of Adult Education Centres – , the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB) – the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training – and the Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung (DIE) – German Institute for Adult Education. The VHS also has contacts with developmental aid institutions that came to Bonn as part of the national and international structural change of Bonn (Bonn-Berlin Treaty) including the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, a number of UN offices, etc. The VHS is also working on expanding its network with the telecommunication institutions located in Bonn. As already mentioned, the VHS cooperates in various ways and programmes with the University. In Bonn and the region, there are various educational institutions with more or less intensive working contacts to the VHS, such as the Andreas Hermes Akademie (which focuses on agricultural education).
The VHS Bonn is a member of the Landesverband der Volkshochschulen Nordrhein-Westfalen, the State Association of Adult Education Centres of North-Rhine Westphalia, and thus a member of the national association.
The Director of the VHS Bonn was the speaker of the municipal adult education centres for Germany, Austria and Switzerland from 2002 to 2008 and is a member of the academic board of the German Institute for Adult Education (DIE). She is also a member of the editorial board of the Hessische Blätter für Volksbildung, a national magazine on adult education, as well as a member of the committee on further education in the State Association of Adult Education North-Rhine Westphalia.
Through jury activities of the VHS director, there are connections to the Adolf Grimme Institut of the German Association of Adult Education Centres. The international network of the VHS is in the process of expansion. Some working contacts have been established with further education institutes in Caucasus. Moreover, through dvv International, Institute for International Cooperation of the German Association of Adult Education Centres, the VHS hosts international guests, who come to learn about the German system of further education. We take part in a Grundtvig-Project in the area of fundamental education (Integrall – Paths to Integration), in which we incorporate the experience of our educational staff from their previous activities. We are also seeking new contacts in Southern Europe and Scandinavia. Indeed, we seek an exchange on issues of integration, not only from a linguistic standpoint, but also in multiple facets. For example, we are working on deepening contacts with the international partner cities of Bonn (Buchara, Uzbekistan; La Paz, Bolivia; Chengdu, China; Minsk, Belarus; Ulan Bator, Mongolia; Salzburg, Austria; Reykjavik, Iceland).
On the regional level, we are already networked with the Adult Education Centres (Volkshochschulen) of the district of Cologne. The largest member institutes of this district are Aachen, Cologne, Leverkusen and Bonn. There are also regional and local networks with general further education institutions. The VHS Bonn is a member of LerNet e.V., a regional cooperative association for vocational training that organises a Learning Festival once a year in the city centre of Bonn.
On the administrative level, the VHS Bonn advances all forms of internet-supported communication. More than fifty per cent of our participants register on-line and we are expanding internet-supported software tools even further. Through the profile of the international city of Bonn, we are interested in networking with educational partners from different regions.