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Exploring the role of adult education centres in building learning cities

28 May 2017

Adult education centres are central to the provision of lifelong learning opportunities in cities around the world. Directors of around 60 adult education centres from cities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland debated the role of adult education centres (Volkshochschule) in their countries at a three-day conference, from 26 to 28 April in Stuttgart, Germany. They were joined by a number of experts in the field, including a representative of the Coordination Team of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) and a delegate from the city of Cork in Ireland, a UNESCO-recognised learning city.

The conference revolved around the UNESCO concept of a learning city. In the course of the discussion of this concept, the perception emerged that adult education centres have relevance to a range of factors pertaining to building a learning city, including community learning, learning for and in the workplace and advancing information and communication technologies in education. Furthermore, they are present in almost every city in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Even though the work of adult education centres remains largely within the non-formal education sector, the broadness of their remit, the variety of people they reach and the strong network they have in German-speaking countries make them potential drivers of learning cities. It should also be noted, however, that one of the fundamental conditions of building a learning city is the involvement of all stakeholders. While adult education centres have a hugely significant role, it is evident that they cannot build a learning city alone; for the project to be successful, the involvement of different sectors across the city is required.