Case Study Report VHS Kursprogramm
Development of case study
In this case study report we describe the policy and practice of VHS Kursprogramm to the extent not already described in the case study on VHS Chance. For the more general information about VHS Hannover we refer to that case study.
For the desk research of VHS Kursprogramm we used the website, the mission statement, the printed program, leaflets and additional information from an administrative employee.
The 5 interviews have been carried out in in September/October 2019 in the institution in Hannover. The selection of interviewed people has been:
- The department head Foreign Languages – English: DH1
- The department head Cultural Education: DH2
- Two trainers out of different areas: T1: Trainer for stick fighting T2: Trainer for Photography and Design
- One office clerk responsible for service and organisation: C
In this way, we got different impressions about VHS Kursprogramm. The trainers are busy in different areas with different target groups. In addition we chose people who have been employed for a long time- period in the institution and those who have been working there only for a couple of years. We had one interviewee who is a migrant and four Germans. As the position of the headmaster is vacant at the moment we decided for getting a wider range of information to interview two different department heads, one for language courses, one for culture.
Description of the organisation
VHS Kursprogramm is part of the “Fachbereich Volkshochschule”, a department of the municipality of Hannover.
VHS Kursprogramm usually works under the leadership of a headmaster, but it is vacant at the moment (the new one will start in January 2020). The institution is divided in three sectors, each under a head of department:
- International: language courses in 26 different languages.
- Active: courses, events and exhibitions under the topics – communication and social competences, health, cooking, ecology, culture and for special target-groups.
- Political Education: lecture series, events, exhibition to relevant political themes.
VHS Kursprogramm offers courses for special target groups e.g. women, disabled people or seniors beside of the general program open for everybody. The work of the VHS is to be located in the field of non-formal education. In the field of pedagogical education, however, participants can acquire certificates. Since these certificates (VHS concept) consist of very different modules, there is close cooperation with other adult education centres in the region.
The aim of VHS Kursprogramm is to provide adult education for a fulfilled life, for enabling someone to participate in the society.
Institutional in the migrant society
In the development of the program the focus on migrants has been extended in the last years. So for example the program “New in Hannover” for “new arrivals” or the “Stories of 1001 night”: a cooking class with storytelling for 25 refugee women, young and old people are successful. Multilingual courses have been developed in the last time: painting, singing and crafting in English, cooking courses offered by migrants in German, trainers present their home country in German and so on.
In the public, the institution presents itself as an open one, which invites all people to come.
Human Resource Management
VHS Kursprogramm employ 19 contracted employees and more or less than 400 free-lancers. Furthermore there is an administration for the whole Fachbereich (accountancy, IT, service and organisation, technical support, caretaker) employing 21 people.
The contracted employees are divers in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, but only a few ones have a different cultural background (4 employees). Regarding the freelancer it is totally different: appr. 50% of them have migration background (there are no exact figures available). The migrants are working on several levels: Two are department heads and two are clerks.
In the job-advertisement “male, female and divers” are invited and people with migration background and disabled people are asked especially to apply. It is pointed out that a photo is not wanted attached to the application documents.
The institution offers flexible working conditions in the meaning that the start and end of daily work is flexible. In addition, someone can apply for a mobile working place for enabling someone to work partly at home. However, halal food or a prayer room are not provided (but for instance vegetarian food is provided every day and that meets the requirements of most religions). The VHS Kursprogramm is a secular institution and any kind of religion must be left out.
In the process of job-advertisement:
Everybody in the institution needs intercultural competence, because everybody gets in contact to clients. But the interviews showed a gap between the need of intercultural competence on one hand and the assessment of intercultural and social competence in the advertisement procedure in the other hand. The requirement of intercultural competence is a theoretical one and not practiced. E.g. a second language is not been asked!
It is compulsory to follow the interview-guide strictly. The expected answers are described as well. That guarantees comparability and provide a base for decision independent of the person.
On the level of leadership:
The internal agreement about development of leadership qualification as well as “leading in dialogue” includes that further training of intercultural competences for leadership is compulsory One module in the leadership qualification incorporates the critical analysis of own communication and the confrontation with unusual communication behaviour.
But in reality as expressed by interviewed:
“Not at all! There is a program for developing management competences but the need is higher than the offer. Managers are not well prepared; often they do not know how to act in their rule. It is a fault of administration! Social behaviour does not play a role in the decision about a manager. A feed-back of employees towards their chiefs is missing.”
The legal frameworks of collective wage agreement (Tarifvertrag) and those of municipality of Hannover do not allow employing somebody without recognized qualification, this is why comparable abilities, qualifications and professional experience are not acknowledged
VHS Kursprogramm is networking with a wide range of organisation and bodies, busy in different areas. Among them there are migrant organisations, e.g. Integration guides, binational associations, Migrant-Network, Migrant Associations and the Culture- Office which is among others responsible for the exchange with partner cities. They cooperate for developing the offer and organizing common events.
Network partners are invited to all events frequently.
The educational staff is divers, because appr. 50% of the trainers have migration background. The aim of the educational work is to integrate all participants independent of their preconditions. So the task of the trainer is: to treat everyone equally, keeping in mind that everybody has the same rights and duties, bring the group together and integrate all. The trainers work in a holistic approach and generally do not provide specific support. As most of the courses offer informal learning and do not finish with a common certificate, the goal is not to reach a common standard of knowledge for a certificate but to get individual learning progress.
The methodologies in the courses promote integration. The wide range of interdisciplinary courses (e.g. Greek cooking and photography) to integrate different culture into the offer fosters also integration. The basics of this methodology are openness against other behaviour, patience, and very important: to agree binding rules and to enforce them consequently.
Personal Impressions of interviewed people
|Positive||Negative / Challenges|
|“Diversity” in the institution
The institution keeps it in mind, the interaction between all the people from different origins works on eye-level.
The idea that everybody can learn from the others enrich the offer and the content. Various trainers are important for various participants.
All the staff of VHS Kursprogramm is very supportive in all challenges related to diversity.
A lot of different activities are carried out to enforce the dealing with diversity: Japanese week, cooking classes of women (where women out of different countries are cooking together), story-telling, exhibitions.
Diversity in the institution is visible:
Interest in “Diversity”
It is not important for the quality of work but for the cooperation and interaction: Divers trainers are important for diverse participants.
The society is divers thus the public institutions have to be it as well. It is part of the main idea „Education and Training for everybody “, which is the guiding principle of Volkshochschule.
Thus the institution has to be accessible for everybody, everybody should feel being welcomed.
Acceptance, openness and tolerance are values of the institution. VHS Kursprogramm has to show, that it realizes definitely these values.
The diversity of human resources (trainer), the openness towards all kind of colleagues, the communication on eye-level, the support for the trainers is positive.
Further training for staff to learn a foreign language in their working-time and for free is provided by the municipality. But the staff should be strongly motivated to do so.
Training in intercultural competence for all employees is provided as well and more or less compulsory.
The institution does not present the diversity of society, lack of migrants, in the top management no one (middle management yes). The institution aims to employ more migrants but actually there are no qualified applicants. The institution has a selfperception of openness for everybody. But it realizes it only partly, e.g. no information in other language than German are provided, second language is not compulsory for staff in a higher position (e.g. department heads).
Other important diversity categories
Better integration of disabled people, barrier liberty is not guaranteed in all places. The participation of disabled people in the general courses should be supported. There are only very few ones in the general courses. Gender is no more a topic. “When I started, for me as a woman it was a challenge to train men in IT. Nowadays the communication is on eye-level, they accept me totally.” (trainer) But gender in the meaning of all kind of gender, not only man and women and different sexual orientation should be on the focus as well.
The Educational Process
|Diversity in the educational process
Generally spoken the view is on the participant. The idea that everybody can learn from the others enrich the offer, the content. There are various participants in the courses: different language, unemployed and employed, disabled people, etc. But they support each other.
|The most relevant obstacles to attend courses successfully:
Challenges for trainer
Commitment with mission statement and diversity policy
Important, it demonstrates the openness, the neutrality obligation, the target to educate responsible and participative people and the engagement against anti-democratic tendencies. The social togetherness is required and supported: “We can be proud on the institution; it is a discrimination free place. Nobody gives somebody a strange look because of his/her specificities.” (trainer). But the interviewees conceded that they did not acknowledge the mission statement for a long time. Generally the interviewees agreed with the statement, but it should be actualized, because a lot of formulations do not fit to the actual challenges and program. It is only written on paper but the institution, the staff does not live it! The mission statement is theory; it is overcome and should be actualized and more orientated on the practical work.
One trainer did not know the mission statement.
What should be changed?
The mission statement should be discussed on all levels and probably revised. A diversity policy should be added.
Decreasing the bureaucratic barriers under the aim to realise the successful work in a better way. That would be a benefit for all the clients. Unfortunately, it would not be possible, because of the obligatory legal framework.
Improving the counselling procedure (time and kind) e.g. implementing counselling per chat.
All information should be provided in two languages (English).
In the application process and the assessment, the second language should be an obligation and social and intercultural competences should play a more important role and be assessed.
Beyond the topic diversity: more networking between the trainers to exchange the challenges in the courses. A concept “how to deal with difficult participants” should be implemented, because nowadays a couple of participants get aggressive for nothing.
What should not be changed?
- VHS Kursprogramm is a place of social contact; people get in contact to those they never would have met in their own environment. That is important for the social interaction.
- The efforts to create a place for developing social togetherness and a discrimination-free zone.
- The openness, tolerance and the communication on eye-level with each other, dealing with all in a fair way need to be continued.
The language regarding diversity within the organisation
The institution has a self-perception of openness for everybody. But it is it only partly realised, e.g. no information in other language than German are provided, second language is not compulsory for staff in a higher position (e.g. department heads).
So the language skills of staff are not sufficient and need to be improved. The offer to learn a second language for free in the working time is not demanded as expected.
Related to the dimension “Gender” the institution uses a neutral language (female, male and third gender are included using a star: e.g. Lehrer*in).
The reflection about the own speech under the question “Is their discrimination in it?” should be initiated.
Significant differences in the way people are looking at and thinking about the diversity in the organisation
The interviewee working in the administration has a more negative view on the stage of diversity management in the institution comparing to the pedagogues. But he considered that:
“In the administration it is not implemented. There is a gap between knowledge and practice, and it is a long way to close this gap. Everything is presented only in German! Everybody knows that something has to be done, but nothing happens. In the pedagogical practice it works better.”
So that would be an explanation for this difference. In addition he named concretely what the institution has to improve. The pedagogues (trainer and department heads) described the challenges and problems, but they pointed out their high contentment and identification with the institution. They reflect the pedagogical dealing with the participants; the administrative has a more institutional view.
Arrangements and power relations
The institution is integrated in the municipality of Hannover and obliged to follow their rules. For example: There exists a binding policy for gender equality and a gender commissioner. Some interviewees requested to change it into a diversity policy. But that’s a task for the city council and not the institution. If the institution decides to carry out further training in diversity awareness, the budget for this training has to be confirmed by the city council. So, the scope of action is limited and the first and important step should be: what can be done within the limits?
Actually everybody speaks about diversity, but the power to start implementation procedures is in the hands of the headmaster (vacant at the moment) in collaboration with the department heads and their teams. The administrative sector has to be involved.
Motives and motivations to work on diversity policy in the organisation
The motives are different: One is to follow the general idea of Volkshochschule, of the requirements of a public institution, the goals in the mission statement foreseen to integrate everybody in the Adult Education. And “everybody” means that migrants should be integrated.
Another one is visible in the view of the trainers who work practically with the different groups. On one hand they see that diversity empower learning processes, on the other hand they face the challenge to teach divers groups in their daily work. So for them it is more the requirement to get a supporting environment for their work. Partly they are migrants their selves and know the problems and challenges to be integrated and want to support their participants.
The view of department heads (and administrative) is also that migrants are part of the society and thus should be participants in the courses. The figures (number of participants) play a role in this thinking, for sure. Inviting migrants in the institution needs an institution which reflects their diversity management.
Possible benefits for the learners
- Getting information about education in an adequate way (language, time, communication channel).
- To attend courses which match their specific situation (geographical, payable, language knowledge…)
- Finding people from similar culture in the institution makes them more familiar with it.
- Getting to feel familiar with this helpful institution. Getting information about education in an adequate way (language).
Stage of the organisation
|7. intercultural organisation|
|6. intercultural diversity management|
|5. cross-cultural HRM policy|
|4. inflow of migrant workers|
|3. intercultural service management|
|2. service to migrants|
|1. monocultural organization|
Scroll over then names of the stages to get a definition of them
- My organisation has migrants among its clients.
- In my organization an intercultural training has been done aimed at improving sales to migrants.
- My organisation has a policy aimed at improving sales or services to migrants.
- My organisation employs (a) migrant worker(s).
- My organisation has a policy aimed at the influx of migrant workers.
- In my organisation there has been an intercultural training on how to improve intercultural cooperation or leadership.
- My organisation has an intercultural personnel policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of diversity policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of general quality policy with regard to sales/service provision and personnel.
It is visible, that the institution is on an advanced level in their intercultural and diversity management. The outcome of the test for VHS Kursprogramm is stage 7: specific intercultural policies and training are an integral part of the organisation’s quality policy. Cultural diversity has become an added value. The benefits for the organisation are clear and everyone experiences them as such, although there exist different views on how diversity is practised. The long democratic tradition of the institution and the situation in a multi-cultural city are main reasons for this positive result for sure. But nevertheless there is some improvement necessary. So on the next pages we will identify at first what “change” would be expect and what would be the benefit for different stages of the institution. At the end we will formulate some recommendations how to proceed with the improvement of diversity management in the institution.
Change and consequences
What is change here actually?
The vision of implementing a real change management is for the institution unrealizable (it is part of the municipality). We may improve things but not totally change them. Improvements could be:
- Sensitizing staff for cultural awareness through additional training and coaching
- Improving the information for participants (multilingual, adapted to the needs of target group)
- Discussion and revision of mission statement
- Development of concept how trainer could deal with difficult participants (including the challenge to integrate migrants).
- Enhancing the cooperation among the departments and clarifying the interfaces.
- Implementing standards for checking the intercultural competence and second language in the application procedure.
What does it mean for the education process?
- Better access to the courses
- More comfortable communication with the institution, feeling more familiar
- Getting to know in an easier way what the aims of the institutions are.
What does it mean for the management?
- Looking for resources to support the process (human, financial, intellectual resources, time)
- Persuasive efforts
- Reflecting their own competences
Regarding these requirements, it is obvious that the human resources department must be involved.
What does it mean for the staff?
- New challenges and development of competences
- Accepting, that they are not perfect, they have to learn
- Spending time for other things than business as usual
- Being better prepared for dealing with the diverse trainers and participants
What does it mean for the organisation?
- Staff need time for training and discussions
- Reflection about the aims of the institution
- Spending time and money for the measures
- Getting better qualified staff and better performance in the public
- Probably more participants/trainers/staff with migration background
VHS Kursprogramm is definitely on an advanced level of intercultural organisation. Nevertheless some lacks and subjects of improvement could be identified:
- All interviewees knew the mission statement but they complained that it is too long and partly not understandable. The aim of being a diverse institution is not explicitly mentioned. Our recommendation: discussion about the mission statement and its revision e.g. through a reflection day and/or by external guidance. Probably the mission statement could be more compact for facilitating the reading and understanding. An explicit diversity policy should be included.
- The institution has a self-perception of openness for everybody. But it realises it only partly, e.g. no information in other language than German are provided, second language is not compulsory for staff, not even for the leaders. So the language skills of staff are not sufficient and need to be improved through additional training. The offer to learn a second language for free in the working time is not demanded as expected. Our recommendation: motivating employees to learn a second language in the provided programme. In the application process and the assessment, the second language should be a duty and social and intercultural competences should be assessed in a standardized way.
- As mentioned above all information about the programme, the organisation, opening hours and so on are only provided in German. Our recommendation: the long-term objective should be a bilingual website (German, English), in short-term perspective the basic information (e.g. opening hours, enrolment, counselling, contact for different languages) should be reorganized. The implementation of alternative counselling procedure should be considered.
- VHS Kursprogramm works with a lot of free-lanced trainers. They face the challenge of integrating different kind of participants in their courses every day. However, a feed-back procedure is not implemented yet. Only the participants are asked frequently for feed-back, not the trainers. Our recommendation: implementing a feed-back procedure for trainers for getting to know which kind of problems they have to face in their courses and what could be done for creating better circumstances and could be the first step for implementing a concept how trainer could deal with difficult participants (including the challenge to integrate migrants).
Summarizing in the “small picture” (the short term perspective) the VHS Kursprogramm should disseminate a readable and well-known mission statement, providing bilingual (or trilingual including French) information on the website, improving the language skills of staff and implementing feed-back procedures for trainers. On the long-term perspective (the “big picture”) the VHS Kursprogramm needs to develop and implement a continuous reflecting and monitoring system for diversity policy to assure that it is alive (maybe implementing a yearly reflection).
The institution is organised in a hierarchic way but interaction and communication, the work in teams, play a huge role. Thus an approach is important which integrates the people and avoid top down processes. An open exchange about the reception of the diversity in the institution could be the starting point.
What is the right approach for this way of changing?
There are different views on the stage of diversity in the institution, but nevertheless some lacks have been pointed out of all interviews. Thus an open exchange about the reception of the situation, the gap between theory and practical work, the organisational requirements should be the right way. In some dimensions the organisation is definitely advanced in dealing with diversity, other need improvement. The institution is organized in a hierarchic way but interaction and communication, the work in teams play a huge role. Thus an approach is important which integrate the people and avoid top to bottom processes.
Based on the colour model of De Caluwe & Vermaak, which demonstrates colour thinking as an accessible expression of different change management traditions, we advise in this case the following “greenprint” approach for change. This brings people together in a learning process and makes them finding solutions together. Interventions such as training, coaching and open systems planning by a supervisor, who supports people targeting setting and communication, could be very helpful. The result is outlined, but not absolutely guaranteed: the pitfall lies in excluding people who definitely needs to be involved and it could be a lack of action, when discussion is not transformed in decisions.
Commitment with Management and Staff
Summarising, I can consider that planning and organizing a whole change process is too huge for this institution and its situation. The institution is integrated in the municipality of Hannover and that is why it is obliged to follow their rules. For example: There exists a binding policy for gender equality and a gender commissioner. Some interviewees requested to change it into a diversity policy. But that’s a task for the city council and not the institution. If the institution decides to carry out further training in diversity awareness, the budget for this training has to be confirmed by the city council. So, the scope of action is limited and the first and important step should be: what can be done within the limits?
The organisation is a huge one with different departments. So what we can do is identifying the lacks and the gaps in their dealing with diversity and supporting them to solve he gaps and to improve their work. The management is requested to operate and act as problem owner.