ABCami (Literacy and Adult Education in the Mosque)

Country Profile: Germany



Official Language


Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

4.81 (2011)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2005)

Female: 99 %
Male: 99 %
Total: 99%


Programme Overview

Programme TitleLiteracy and Adult Education in the Mosque (Alphabetisierung und Bildung in der Moschee or ABCami)
Implementing OrganizationInternational Academy for Innovative Pedagogy, Psychology and Economics gGmbH (INA), a national non-governmental organization
Language of InstructionGerman, Turkish
FundingProject funding comes from the Adult Literacy Programme ( of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung or BMBF), through its Job-oriented reinforcement of adult literacy and basic skills programme (10/12–03/14).
Programme PartnersDITIB (the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs), BMBF, the Berlin Adult Education Centre (Volkshochschule Berlin-Mitte) and GIZ e.V. (the Association for Living Together in an Intercultural Environment
Annual Programme Costs€ 389,000

Country Context

Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Germany faces significant challenges when it comes to the skills levels of immigrants to the country. Migrant groups in Germany are typically at a high risk of marginalization in terms of education, with low learning achievement compared with their native counterparts. According to the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) cross-country analysis, this disparity in academic performance is wider for young immigrants who are newly arrived and do not practise the host language at home (Cobb-Clark et al., 2012). The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) released by OECD in 2013 confirms that, in most countries, immigrants with a foreign-language background have significantly lower proficiency in literacy and numeracy than native-born adults. Moreover, only a few of Germany’s prospective teachers have been taught about student diversity and have limited understanding of students’ cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds (EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2014).

In order to address the danger of social exclusion the German government has established ‘integration courses’, which aim to help migrants to develop German language skills. However, the courses have not been a complete success, with participants sometimes failing to complete them successfully. The International Academy for Innovative Pedagogy, Psychology and Economics gGmbH has launched a series of adult education programmes to address cultural and religious diversity in classrooms and make participants aware of the importance of learning the language of the host country in order to combat exclusion and get better job opportunities.

The institute focuses on the area of cross-cultural, socio-pedagogical learning and development in a specific social and societal context. Its main thematic objectives are to:

Programme Overview

Cami is the Turkish word for mosque, an institution which plays a crucial role in the lives of the Muslim target group. ABCami conducts courses to foster literacy and basic skills at three mosques designated by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet Işleri Türk-Islam Birliği or DITIB) in Berlin. With the cooperation of the mosques and other partners in the districts, ABCami seeks to engage people who have difficulty in reading, writing and numeracy yet are willing to overcome these difficulties so as to improve their job prospects and participate more fully in social and cultural life. The programme’s education and support services aim to ensure that participants develop a love of learning and an appreciation of their own achievements. The classes, therefore, deal with issues of relevance to the everyday lives of participants, including, for example, parenting, nutrition, dealing with authorities and mobility in the city.

Source: ABCami, 2014: [Accessed 9 April 2014.]

Source: ABCami, 2014: [Accessed 9 April 2014.]

Aims and Objectives

The project aims to:

Programme Implementation

ABCami is implemented through the Institute for Social Pedagogy at the International Academy for Innovative Pedagogy, Psychology and Economy (Internationale Akademie für Innovative Pädagogik, Psychologie und Ökonomie gGmbH [INA]) at the Free University of Berlin.

The programme aims to reach adults aged 15 years and above, especially women and girls and minority groups. The ongoing adult literacy courses (which started in July and November 2013) have engaged fifty participants in three mosques: Merkez mosque in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Yunus Emre mosque in Mitte, and Kocatepe mosque in Berlin-Spandau.

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The situational approach used in the programme has been developed over 40 years to deliver ideas and support for education within an intercultural context. The approach is based on sixteen principles in five areas of education: participation, equity, difference, environment orientation, and unity of content and profile.

The method of ‘contrastive literacy’ is used, which means including words from the learner’s mother tongue, to show the appraisal of their mother tongue.

The curriculum and the learning material are developed and improved through weekly meetings. The content of the curriculum is determined within the ABCami project team and is based on analysis of the level of skills in each group. The teacher develops and adapts the learning material used, working with colleagues from the project team and supported by teaching assistants. It is adjusted to three different literacy levels and consists of work sheets based on the issues considered most relevant to the learners. These might include real-life situations affecting the women’s families, environment or workplaces, finding one’s way around the city, and communicating with a doctor or an employment adviser. A work sheet may, for example, represent a shopping list, and be supplemented by games and other materials, such as advertisements or cash vouchers, which the women bring to the lessons.

Other themes of the programme concern promoting a better understanding of the education system, including how to support one’s children in school or kindergarden. There is also content dealing with opening a bank account, managing a household budget, looking for a job and managing one’s time at work. Some of the topics are worked through repeatedly, to an increasingly advanced level.

One or two courses are run in each of the mosques and each group meets with the teacher twice a week, with the support of one ‘multiplier’ or co-teacher. Multipliers are young people who belong to the community of the mosque and are interested in learning more about literacy and adult education methodology. It is hoped that the multipliers will gain enough knowledge, practical skills and confidence to go on with the courses without the direct support of the teacher, though with regular supervision from the project’s pedagogical counsellor.

The socio-pedagogical counsellor offers thematic group sessions once a month in each mosque and individual sessions take place on demand. The literacy classes and the group counselling sessions take place in the mosques’ seminar rooms. Individual counselling is arranged according to the needs of the clients.

Learning in a group involves a combination of social activities and individual support, which means that different and specific learning needs can be taken into consideration.

Source: ABCami, 2014: [Accessed 9 April 2014.]

Source: ABCami, 2014: [Accessed 9 April 2014.]

Activities of Teachers, Multipliers and Volunteers

The aims of ABCami are realized through a multidisciplinary approach. The teachers apply a model based on the interrelation of thinking, discovery and application, combined with an intercultural approach, which trains learners in the basic capacities required for extracting meaning from the things they read, write and calculate. Six staff work as multipliers, mostly students in the fields of psychology and the educational sciences or people who have graduated from vocational training. They are part of the mosque community and offer support to the teachers. They work on a voluntary basis but receive an honorarium in appreciation of their contribution. Two professional teachers, trained as adult educators and specialized in pedagogy and ethnology, work for the project on a part time basis and are paid accordingly.

At the beginning of each week, the teacher holds a meeting with colleagues from the ABCami team to discuss and review, from a pedagogical perspective, his or her experiences with the classes. The meeting is also used to talk about possible topics or suitable tasks to be worked on with participants.

In line with contrastive methodology, the teachers, though bilingual, use the German language. They are supported by the multipliers/volunteers who principally speak Turkish, but are supervised to encourage the learners to express themselves increasingly in German.

A social education worker, trusted by the learners and the mosque community, liaises between the women and the ABCami team and coordinates activities in three different mosques. He has set up conversations with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, local imams and key members of the mosque communities in order to make them aware of the problem of illiteracy and to inform them about the activities of ABCami. Special attention was paid to engaging the imam as he is in a position to encourage people to take part in the courses. The social education worker also provides socio-pedagogical advice and support to course participants.

The programme’s advisory committee consists of deputies from the job centre, DITIB, the city council education department and the senate department for education. Together, they offer advice and perspectives from different fields of activity in the three areas of the city where the mosques are located.

ABCami has not, thus far, provided training in this field but in the future it might consider supporting and supervising projects or teams interested in building up a similar literacy initiative in the intercultural field.

Recruitment and Enrolment of Learners

The programme’s target audience are women aged between 45 and 65. Many of them went to school in Turkey and have either been working in Germany for a time or raising their children there. Their German reading and writing skills are often not fostered at school or at home, while the pressure of daily life can lead to them losing language skills already obtained. As a result, they can lack confidence in their own ability to learn. The majority of the women are functionally illiterate. Some are starting from scratch in learning to read and write German. Nevertheless, all, at a certain point in their lives, have decided that learning how to write and read in German is valuable.

When learners struggle with the work the programme offers them help. If a learner falls behind and needs to develop basic skills, for example, individual support is provided by a multiplier.

The social education worker actively looks for interested young people, willing to work as a multiplier in the mosques. ABCami tries to attract male as well as female participants, but it is usually easier to engage women, for whom the issue of poor basic skills is less of a taboo subject.

Learners’ needs are determined in a process-oriented way. Once they have signalled their interest in taking part in a course, they will have an initial interview with the teacher and be asked to write down their names and give some written contact data. Step by step, their reading and writing skills are assessed and a decision is be made as to whether they should be in the beginners’ group (primary level) or the advanced group (secondary level). Usually, learner and teacher agree about the appropriate level, and only on rare occasions does a participant ask to change groups.

Innovative Features

One special feature of ABCami is that the multipliers who volunteer from within the mosque communities can, if they wish, qualify as assistants, enabling them to participate in the enrolment, acquisition and supervision of the various learning groups.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme has in place a scientific monitoring process which ensures the accuracy of the results of the project so that it can be replicated in other mosques. This process-driven system is part of the project and ensures regular communication with the project team through feedback cycles. A summative evaluation is foreseen for 2015.

The impact of the programme is not yet systematically evaluated, but evidence is gathered wherever possible.

Impact and Challenges

For women, the stigma attached to illiteracy seems to be less of a barrier to participation than it is for men. It is a challenge to engage men within the community and get them to face up to the problems caused in their daily lives by illiteracy and to start to improve their skills. The programme is considering the different options for engaging this group of learners.

For the learners the programme has succeeded in engaging the impact is significant. Many of the participants have failed in the official German course system (the ‘integration’ courses) and the programme offers them a safe and trusted space in which they can try to improve their literacy skills.

The facilitators have built up a knowledge base on how to work effectively with learners who need very personalised support and there is growing experience of how to work with heterogeneous groups. For the community, the opening up of the mosque (which is not only a religious space) and its transformation into a place of learning and sharing intercultural experiences is an added value.


The programme’s main achievements include:


There was some staff turnover during the first year of the project and the team composition in the mosques had to be rearranged. At the moment, there are some learners in the advanced-level groups who are trying to improve their German speaking skills but are a little bit too advanced for a literacy course. This has prompted the programme to reflect on how to rework and improve diagnostic procedures at the beginning of courses. Although it has made some progress in recruiting male participants, they are still much harder to recruit than women. The women are emotionally more open and tend not to be as ashamed of their literacy problems as men, who are less communicative about their needs and their feelings concerning reading and writing.

Lessons Learned

The adult education centre in the centre of Berlin has been an important collaborating partner. The ABCami team has organised meetings with them, including workshops and monthly special counselling, in order to reflect on the latest relevant teaching and learning methodologies.


The attendance of the multipliers is an important element in securing and maintaining sustainability. Once the programme is concluded, it is hoped that they will continue its work independently.

The experiences of the programme are summarized in a report, which includes recommendations for literacy and basic skills courses within mosques in other urban districts. Some of the most crucial results of ABCami’s work are published at

Funding from government means that the programme is financially sustainable until at least 2015.

The feedback from the project community has been very positive and there are indications that potential partners would like to replicate the ABCami approach.



Dr Britta Marschke
INA Institute for Social Pedagogy
Reformationsplatz 2
13597 Berlin
FAX: 030 - 303 98 709

Last update: 16 July 2015