BASIC ADULT EDUCATION
In the German debate on further and continuing education the term "Grundbildung" is a relatively recent
one and has not been introduced in all fields yet. Often the term "Elementarbildung" is used instead, or
the even more traditional term "Alphabetisierung". "Grundbildung", however, refers to an additional
development, not covered by the other two notions.
The suspicion, aroused in Germany as well as in other industrialised countries during the mid-1970s,
that despite a well developed school and educational system a considerable number of adults could not
properly read or write (in "operational" terms) was soon confirmed. According to UNESCO estimates
three to five per cent of the German population were illiterate. As a result, literacy training programmes
These educational programmes were characterised by an in-depth discussion of adult education issues,
concerning not only possible ways of reaching the target group, raising motivation and bringing
down barriers to access, but also the difficulties in initiating individual learning processes in small groups
within the existing system of adult education. Thus the analyses of literacy programmes have also had a
considerably stimulating effect on the study of adult teaching and learning in general.
The seminars for literacy training have also shown that the basic cultural techniques - following the
changes in social conditions - are undergoing changes as well, shifting within their overall structure and
bringing about new demands and requirements: this regards for example the necessity to understand
messages conveyed by the media and judge them critically; to use the new media in a self-confident
manner; to have reading, writing and speaking skills not only in one´s native tongue but also in a foreign
language; to integrate communicative cultural techniques with organised ones.
The term "Grundbildung" covers the whole set of cultural techniques, changing over different historical
periods, by which people are empowered to live in an industrialised society in an autonomous way
and in accordance with their own interests. "Grundbildung" in Germany embraces today:
• reading, writing, calculating skills in one´s native tongue,
• the mastery of one or two foreign languages in speech and writing,
• "reading" pictures and critical use of the media,
• planning and conducting one´s career and life.
This concept of "Grundbildung" will necessarily have some consequences as regards the restructuring
of the subjects and contents taught at school. It also calls for a more open and integrated structure within
the educational provision for adults. In any case, thanks to the "Grundbildung" discussion, the traditional
debate on literacy programmes in Germany has conspicuously widened.
Franzmann, B. (ed.) (1998) Handbuch Lesen, Wiesbaden
Meisel, K. (ed.) (1996) Alphabetisierung / Elementarbildung. Stand und Perspektiven, Frankfurt (DIEMaterialien