Why did VHS fail

The adult education center in the municipal education association for Ebersberg, Grafing, Kirchseeon and Markt Schwaben recently joined the "Diversity Charter", an employers' initiative that is organizing its annual "Diversity Day" this Tuesday, May 18th. With numerous campaigns - online and offline, for the workforce and for the public - he wants to draw attention to the fact that the world of work is just as diverse as society. But how colorful is the VHS? Head Martina Eglauer explains how we want to live up to the charter in the future, which target groups are difficult to reach and why.

SZ: Ms. Eglauer, what does this charter initiative want to achieve?

Martina Eglauer: Promoting diversity in the world of work in general. There are already around 3700 companies, including some adult education centers, and now we too.

What does this signature mean?

In principle, this is a self-commitment to implement the goals of the Charter, to live them and to make them visible in practice. And it is a symbol of tolerance as well as against any kind of discrimination. It was a logical step for us, because diversity is part of the DNA, of the self-image of every VHS. Ultimately, our mission and goal are: Education for everyone.

Shouldn't the VHS then have to live with diversity for a long time?

Yes, and so do we. But we are quite self-critical, there is still room for improvement. Above all, because society is changing and becoming more and more colorful - and we always want to respond to this with the right offers.

When many people think of VHS, the first thing they think of is energetic retirees who work together to do things for their joints or improve their general education. That doesn't sound very diverse ...

That's right, but this impression is totally unrealistic. The participants in our adult education center are really very diverse. Especially in the integration courses, which make up a very large area, we have people from a total of 90 countries of origin, there are numerous languages, religions and cultures. And as far as age is concerned, we are positioned across the board. Vocational orientation and support with school-leaving qualifications are in great demand among young people. The elderly tend to be strongly represented in the health sector. And the middle group of 39 to 60-year-olds are generally our largest clientele, they mainly use the offers of vocational training. But there are also many courses, for example in languages, where the 18-year-old meets the 90-year-old, and generations can learn from each other. I always find that particularly beautiful.

And what about the gender distribution?

Well, there is actually a big imbalance: Two thirds of the VHS are female. In the health sector in particular, women make up 70 percent of the participants. In this respect, we have long viewed the challenge of making suitable offers for men as well. In general, we are now increasingly asking ourselves: Are we really there for everyone?

What target groups are there that the VHS would like to address even more in the future?

For example, people with physical limitations. We have purchased mobile radio systems, are cooperating with charities in order to be able to offer a pick-up and delivery service and, where possible, ensure barrier-free access. And now we have found that the digital offers are gratefully accepted by people who - for whatever reason - are tied to their home. That is why we will continue to have online and hybrid courses in our program after the pandemic.

How many people with disabilities attend the adult education center?

We don't keep statistics there. But basically we want to be inclusive in all courses.

What about people who have low incomes?

We want to continue to strive for this. Under the motto "Education for Everyone", all courses are available at a price of one euro per double hour, if the relevant evidence is provided. And those affected can also purchase the lecture card for just one euro. One thing is clear: money shouldn't be a hurdle!

Are there also target groups for whom the VHS has so far failed?

Yes, the functionally illiterate people are a very vulnerable group, i.e. people who cannot read and write sufficiently. And there are not so few: they make up twelve percent in Germany. But achieving them is extremely difficult for us. In this respect, we are always open to suggestions if someone should have an idea how the VHS can become even more open, better. We accept that gratefully.

The goals of the charter are also directed internally, towards the company ...

Yes, absolutely, in the organization like communication. As a team, we want to deal with the topic more intensively. We also want to rely on a colorful mix among our employees, which is already there, especially due to the growing language skills. It is also about maintaining a really good welcome culture in the service: foot stickers that show the way to registration, information material in lighter and several foreign languages, gender-appropriate expression, staff trained in international communication. Because we perceive diversity not only as a challenge, but above all as an enrichment. Dealing with other perspectives broadens the horizon and creates innovation. I am convinced of that.

The current semester topic is: "How do we want to live?". The charter's ideas go very well with that, don't they?

Yes. For us, sustainability is not just a question of ecology or economy, but also of society. The main thing is to create equal opportunities.