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Challenges and outlook: Widening digital divide

As in many other European countries, the digital divide widened in Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who already had very good digital skills were able to continue learning in a digital environment and further improve their digital skills. However, those who had no, or good digital skills usually dropped out of learning activities altogether or had significant problems following learning activities and requirements. EAEA's members also noted that it was particularly challenging to reach the target groups due to the lack of digital environment (poor internet connection, no access to digital devices, etc.). Outreach work in general was much more difficult than before the pandemic.

The continuation of learning programmes suffered greatly in part due to the pandemic. Some programmes had to be discontinued completely, while others were shifted entirely to digital instruction. Some programmes were able to continue hybrid, i.e. partly online and partly face-to-face. This required major changes in terms of teaching methods, platforms, tools, technical equipment as well as digital skills. For face-to-face training courses, learning providers had to implement a number of COVID-19 safety regulations.

Advocacy to increase funding for adult learning and education

The pandemic led to a more difficult financial situation for education providers. On the one hand, they lost income from course fees for courses that could not be held or could only be held in part, and on the other hand, they had greater expenses for new technical equipment and train-the-trainer programmes to improve the digital skills of teaching staff.

EAEA’s German members also report a slight deterioration in ALE funding and a change in priorities following the federal government elections, which resulted in a new government that places more importance on digitalisation.

DVV is doing several lobbying activities around ALE funding in Germany:

  • lobbying in the context of the federal election
  • advocacy to prevent a VAT obligation for educational services
  • lobbying for federal support for digitalisation at the state level and
  • cooperation with the Ministers of Education of the Länder ("Kultusministerkonferenz").

The current focal points of work in Germany include the areas of digitalisation and the prevention of VAT on educational services in the field of adult learning and education. The DVV's annual theme for 2022 is "Together in Diversity", which is part of the multi-year work programme on "The Volkshochschule 2030: Together in Diversity. Sustainable. Connected."

DVV recommendation to the German Government Ministries is to drive digitalisation forward and continue to support affordable education for everyone.