Literacy and Basic Education

Ein Patienten übt in der Praxis eines Logopäden mit Kärtchen auf denen einzelne Worte stehen

Those who cannot read and write or can only read and write with great difficulty are excluded from many opportunities to understand the world and to participate in shaping society.

One in eight adults in Germany cannot read and write sufficiently. The 2018 LEO study by the University of Hamburg states that 6.2 million German-speaking adults aged 18-64 live with low literacy, i.e. their level of written language skills is below text level. Work instructions, safety instructions, instruction leaflets, timetables are major hurdles for these people.

Berlin Strategy for Literacy and Basic Education

If adults cannot read and write sufficiently, this has an impact in many areas of life, e.g. in the family, at work, when dealing with authorities and in leisure activities.

In order to reduce low literacy among adults, the Senate of Berlin had three main goals with the Senate Strategy on Literacy and Basic Education – Promoting Basic Education – Strengthening Participation (2015 to 2018): the expansion of learning opportunities, the promotion of the institutional competence of public institutions with regard to the target group, and raising public awareness of the topic of “low literacy among adults”.

In an externally commissioned stocktaking by k.o.s GmbH in 2020, the successful development and expansion of the field of action of basic education within the framework of the Senate Strategy was acknowledged. In addition, recommendations for further development were made, which will be incorporated into the state concept for literacy and basic education that is now to follow.

Within the framework of the state concept, existing structures in the field of literacy and basic education are to be strengthened and new structures are to be established. In order to achieve this, two central goals are in the foreground: the effective anchoring of basic education in the districts and the strengthening of district alpha alliances, as well as the dovetailing of labour market promotion and basic education, so that poorly literate people can be better reached and passed on to needs-based offers.

The state concept is developed and implemented in a participation-oriented process that involves numerous actors with their different perspectives and experiences, e.g. decision-makers in the administration, specialised agencies, actors with practical experience and/or access to the target group, basic education specialists, people who see themselves as jointly responsible for the target group due to their work, employment agencies and job centres, and academic staff from colleges and universities.

The Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family is supported by Ramboll Management Consulting GmbH in the implementation of the participation process and the development of the concept paper.
The participation of the stakeholders in the implementation of the state concept is to be realised through the development and establishment of existing and new networks and cooperations.

The development of the state concept is planned by the end of 2023 and its implementation from 2024.

  • Promoting basic education - strengthening participation

    Senate Strategy on Literacy and Basic Education 2015 to 2018

    PDF-Document (2.3 MB)

  • Inventory and recommendations for the Senate Literacy and Basic Education Strategy 2015-2018.


    PDF-Document (713.9 kB)

Contact Point Basic Education Berlin

The Contact Point Basic Education was established in autumn 2012 as the coordination point for literacy and basic education of the Land of Berlin at the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family. It serves as an information centre for administrations, providers and social partners and offers counselling for interested parties and those affected. It organises and coordinates activities on the topic of literacy and basic education in Berlin and looks after the network partners of the Round Table from numerous Berlin facilities and institutions.

Round Table "Literacy and Basic Education"

In 2013, the Berlin Round Table on Literacy and Basic Education resumed its activities. It was established by the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family and has since developed into a Berlin-wide network for literacy and basic education.

Participants include administrations, adult education centres, providers of literacy services and basic education measures as well as institutions and associations from business and society, the Federal Employment Agency and the German Federation of Trade Unions. The Round Table serves to pass on information, meets for biannual conferences, which in particular provide an opportunity for professional exchange, and advises the Senate Department on the implementation of its measures.

The Round Table is also represented by a member in the Adult Education Advisory Board according to the Berlin Adult Education Act.

Logo Grundbildungszentrum

The Berlin Basic Education Centre

The Berlin Basic Education Centre opened in 2014. It is a competence centre and central contact point for information, counselling and networking on the topic of literacy and basic education in Berlin.

The Basic Education Centre regularly offers awareness training, workshops and further education on the topic of basic education for employees of Berlin institutions and organisations and has been awarding the Berlin Alpha Seal since 2016.

The diverse activities of the Basic Education Centre also include adults who are currently learning or improving their reading and writing skills in a course or who have only learned to read and write in adulthood.

A lot of information is available on the website of the Basic Education Centre

  • Berlin’s course and counselling offers for low-literate adults can be found in a directory of offers. The offers can be filtered by category and by Berlin districts.
  • The information and material collection provides information, materials and specialist literature for those affected, course instructors and interested parties.
  • Under News you will find information on the topic of literacy and basic education, also beyond Berlin’s city limits.
  • Dates, training courses, further training for course leaders, workshops and specialist events in Berlin and nationwide are announced under the heading Dates.
  • Job offers in the field of basic education in Berlin are published in the job exchange. Course instructors can also be listed in the job exchange if they are looking for a job.

ESF funding programme 2021 - 2027 – "Basic Education for Low-Literacy Adults

In the 2014 – 2020 funding period of the European Social Fund (ESF), the state of Berlin established a funding programme for literacy and basic education for the first time.

This funding instrument will be significantly expanded within the framework of the Berlin ESF PLUS programme 2021-2027 and includes five funding priorities:

A: Basic education offers
Educational offers for low-literate adults to improve their basic skills, e.g. in the areas of family / parental work / parental education, health, finances and household, work, digitalisation, political participation and basic political education, equal rights and equal opportunities.

B: Learning houses at VHS
In learning houses at adult education centres in Berlin, full-time courses are held which are intended to enable participants to connect to gainful employment, to vocational preparation measures or to courses to catch up on school-leaving qualifications.

C: Development of a national programme “Parents’ Groups for All
In a low-threshold and participatory offer at schools, the support competence of parents is strengthened by teaching basic skills and thus increasing the educational participation of their children. (Implementation by the Berlin Adult Education Centres)

D: Outreach political (basic) education work
Projects to promote political participation. This funding priority is planned and supervised by the Berlin State Agency for Civic Education.

E: Sensitisation of multipliers
Projects for the training of multipliers or key persons who, after the training, can appropriately address low-literate persons, support and competently advise them and refer them to a learning offer, in particular also employees in offices and authorities close to the citizens.

An overview lists the projects with contact details that are currently being supported with ESF funding and funding from the state budget.

As a service provider, Investitionsbank Berlin implements ESF funding in the Land of Berlin together with the specialist offices in the Senate administrations.

Further training for Berlin course leaders in literacy and basic education for German-speaking adults

The “Berlin Basic Training for Course Leaders in Literacy and Basic Education” was developed by experienced practitioners on behalf of the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family and has been offered in Berlin in an annual cycle since autumn 2017. It is aimed at course instructors who work in the field of literacy and basic education for German-speaking adults and at interested persons who intend to take up such work.

Concept with a holistic learning approach

The concept of the further training follows a holistic learning approach by enabling the course leaders to take into account the individual life situations and learning biographies of the course participants in their support. In addition, possible connections to reading and spelling difficulties in adults are addressed.

Planning and implementing further training

The concept can be used by organisers of qualification measures for adult education to plan and implement further training aimed at basic qualification of course leaders for work in literacy and basic education of German-speaking adults. However, parts of the concept can also be used for a further training course.

  • The training concept will be updated soon, here still under the former title “Further training of course leaders in offers for German-speaking functional illiterates and adults with reading and spelling difficulties”.

Registration for participation

In Berlin, an annual round of the training takes place in the period from October of one year to June of the following year on eight seminar weekends (Friday afternoon and Saturday). Binding registration must be made using a prescribed form and observing a registration deadline. An information letter contains all important details on the contents and organisational issues.

The specific dates of the next course, the registration period and the prescribed form are announced each spring before the start of the course.

After the registration deadline and during an ongoing course, interested persons can be added to the waiting list. The form for entering the waiting list is included in this information letter.

Berlin Alpha Alliances

In recent years, alpha alliances have been founded in all Berlin districts.

They serve the local networking of counselling centres, citizen-oriented offices and authorities as well as institutions with citizen contacts at the district level. They contribute to raising awareness of the topic of “low literacy among adults” and to breaking down access barriers to counselling and information services for the target group.

Since 2017, the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family has been funding the establishment and networking activities of the alliances. The Grund-Bildungs-Zentrum Berlin advises and accompanies the Alpha alliances at the professional level and organises the exchange of expertise between their coordinating offices.

Logo AlphaDekade

National Decade for Literacy and Basic Education (Alpha Decade) 2016 - 2026

In the coming years until 2026, the Federal government, the Federal states and additional Partners will be making extensive efforts as part of the National Decade for Literacy and Basic Education to counteract low literacy among adults and to increase the level of basic education, for example, by researching the causes of low literacy, by professionalizing teachers in literacy and Basic Education by providing needs-based advice, learning and support offerings.

The Decade partners have summarised their objectives and recommendations for action for the National Literacy and Basic Education Decade in a policy paper with a work programme. The federal states have further specified their plans in a 10-point programme.

In addition, a conference is held every year for nationwide exchange and discussion on specialist topics. The documentation of the AlphaDecade Conferences is available on the AlphaDecade website.

The AlphaDecade emerged from the “National Strategy for Literacy and Basic Education” (2012 – 2016), in which the federal government, the states and partners agreed on a joint approach to reduce low literacy among adults. A final report on the National Strategy lists, among other things, the state of development and the results in the individual Länder up to 2016.

Further information on the National Decade for Literacy and Basic Education 2016-2026

Project funding

A logo was developed as a common brand for the AlphaDecade partners. The logo is intended to draw the public’s attention to the topic of literacy and basic education, especially to the long-term efforts of the federal government, the Länder and the other Decade partners.

In the Land of Berlin, all institutions and organisations funded by the Land and also network partners are advertised for the use of the logo on print products and websites. The AlphaDecade logo and the guidelines for logo use can be downloaded from the AlphaDecade website.

Project funding

Within the framework of the AlphaDecade, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds research and development projects that aim, among other things, to transfer proven model projects on literacy and basic education.

In a joint initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, funding is also provided to multi-generation houses to improve adults’ literacy and numeracy skills. In Berlin, twelve multi-generation houses are currently receiving additional funding for this.

Reading and Writing - My Key to the World

Having difficulties with writing is still a taboo in Germany. In order to reach those affected and their environment on the one hand, but also to raise public awareness of the problem, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has launched the nationwide information campaign Reading & Writing – My Key to the World.

ALFA Hotline