Ich will lernen (I want to learn)

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 TitleIch will lernen (I want to learn)
Implementing OrganizationGerman Adult Education Association (Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband e.V.)
Language of InstructionGerman
Programme PartnersThe Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Date of Inception2004

Context and Background

Germany has one of the most advanced educational systems in the world. The Federal Republic spends 4,6% of the GDP on education and is thus able to provide free and compulsory education to all persons aged 18 years and below. The result of this strong support to educational development is manifested by high enrolment rates in primary, secondary and tertiary education (averaging at 95%) and high youth and adult literacy rates (99%). Yet in spite of this impressive record, 9% of students are unable to complete their schooling and as such, as of 2004, about 220.000 young people had basic education while 0,6% adults were totally illiterate, and between 6,5% and 11,2% (or four million) were functionally illiterate. In most cases, youths and adults with limited basic literacy skills find it difficult to re-enroll in the formal education system due to family commitments and the fear of being stigmatized.

Recognising the existence of these socio-economic and psychological barriers to education, the German Adult Education Association (GAEA) initiated the Ich-will-lernen (I want to learn) Programme in an effort to provide functionally illiterate adults and youths an opportunity to learn how to read and write through the use of the internet. The e-learning programme is founded on the basic and practical principle that the use of the internet as a learning tool not only creates anonymity and thus dismantles the psychological barriers that prevent illiterate adults from resuming their studies but also enables them to balance their work, family and learning commitments by learning at home at whatever time is suitable to them.

The «Ich will lernen» Programme

The internet portal for the Ich will lernen adult literacy programme was established in September 2004 with funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The programme provides free and distance learning opportunities to illiterate and semi-literate youths and adults who dropped out of school without acquiring a school leaving certificate. Learners are encouraged to join the programme at any given time but only after taking an internet-based self-assessment or diagnostic test to determine the starting level of their studies. Afterwards, learners are free to self-regulate and organise their learning process and progress. As such, the programme does not have a pre-determined period during which learners should complete various modules or even the entire course.

The curriculum of the programme has been continuously developed and expanded through the addition of new literacy modules and subjects of study. Currently, the programme provides basic and secondary level learning instruction in German, Mathematics and English (as a foreign language) and prepares learners for the secondary education examinations. Each of these subjects is provided at 16 different learning levels: 6 for the basic literacy course and 10 for the secondary education course. In addition to these courses and in order to stimulate interest, the programme also covers issues and subjects that are more relevant to adult learners such as labour, human relations, media, politics, nature, public administration and family relations. Plans are also underway to provide learning opportunities in basic economic education.

Aims and Objectives

The programme endeavours to:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

The programme employs two basic teaching / learning approaches: home-based and self-regulated distance learning and centred-based group learning. In the former case, learners undertake their studies anonymously supported by online-facilitators (that is, they visit and learn from the website privately) while in the latter case, learners undertake their studies at one of the around 1,000 adult education centres spread across the country. However, most learners prefer to combine the two strategies in order to maximise the learning benefits.

Regardless of the adopted learning method, learners at all levels are provided with individual learning packages containing daily practice units and interactive reading, writing and mathematical calculation exercises (each subject has about 3,000 interactive exercises). The practice units and exercises are supported by animated audio-visual materials and symbols in order to enhance the learners’ understanding. In addition, learners also receive assistance from trained and qualified adult education facilitators / tutors, either online or by visiting them at the adult education centres or other educational institutions. For this reason, the project team trained about 750 trainers or facilitators in the last two years.

Monitoring and Evaluation

While an external evaluation to determine the impact of the programme is yet to be conducted, participants’ learning progress is monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis through the use of internet based self-assessment or diagnostic tests and interactive exercises. These tests and exercises are conducted at the end of every chapter and the results are automatically evaluated and documented and help to determine the learner’s progress. Learners are only allowed to advance through the curriculum when they successfully mastered one topic. Further assistance is provided to learners if they fail the said tests and exercises.

Apart from monitoring the progress of learners, the number of registered and anonymous learners is also automatically recorded on the website. To date, records indicate that about 200,000 learners have used the portal since 2004 while a further 10,000 different learners use the website monthly. Further information on the number and progress of programme participants is provided by programme facilitators and ongoing feedback from learners. These processes of evaluation are critical in shaping the development of the programme.

Impact and Challenges

The programme has had some discernible impact on the provision of educational opportunities to the public. As noted above, over 200,000 learners have benefited from the programme and about 10,000 learners use the website every month. Hence, the programme has had a positive impact on the dissemination of literacy materials as well as the provision of technical literacy skills training assistance to disadvantaged people and because of this, it has received three prestigious rewards for its work: the Comenius Medal 2005; the European E-Learning Award eureleA 2006 and the national Digita 2006.

However, funding remains a major challenge. Currently, the programme is temporarily funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research but in the next few years it will be necessary to find new sponsors to cover the annual costs of about 300,000 €.

Lessons learned


Since its inception in 2004, the programme has grown and continues to grow in popularity in German adult education centres. As noted above, about 200,000 learners have benefited from the programme since 2004. Currently, about 10,000 learners visit the website monthly. Due to this success, the German Ministry of Education and Research has expressed their interest to implement the programme in the formal school system. Furthermore, more and more prisons use the portal to promote and support the rehabilitation and re-socialization of prisoners. Hence, given both the public interest in and State support, the programme has great potential for long-term sustainability. Nonetheless, improvements are also needed to make the programme more attractive to learners.



Project Manager
Ms Christiane Tieben
German Adult Education Association (Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband e.V.)
Hans-Boeckler-Strasse 33
D-53225 Bonn
Phone: +49 (0)228 – 620947580
Fax: +49 (0)228 – 43 36 708
Email: tieben (at) dvv-vhs.de
Web site: http://www.zweite-chance-online.de or http://www.dvv-vhs.de

Last update: 19 April 2011