Informal and non-formal education

Not a single day goes by that does not lead to additional skills, knowledge and/or competences for all individuals. For people outside the initial education and training system, adults in particular, it is very likely that this learning is a lot more important, relevant and significant than the kind of learning that occurs in formal settings. People are constantly learning everywhere and at all times. However, learning which takes place outside the formal learning system is not well understood, made visible or, probably as a consequence, appropriately valued. Also in research it is defenitely under-represented: most research has focused on learning outcomes from formal education and training, instead of embracing all types of learning outcomes.

In 1996, a confederation of education ministers of several countries agreed to develop strategies for “lifelong learning for all”. It is an approach whose importance may now be clearer than ever and non-formal and informal learning outcomes are viewed as having significant value. Policy-makers in many countries in the Western emisphere (and beyond) are therefore trying to develop strategies to use all the skills, knowledge and competences individuals may have – wherever they come from. At a time when countries are striving to reap the benefits of economic growth, global competitiveness and population development, informal and non formal learning are essential tools to develop stronger, more flexible adaptable and proactive individuals, ready to face the challenges of an always-changing world.

So, which are the categories of learning?

  • Formal learning is always organised and structured, and has learning objectives. From the learner’s standpoint, it is always intentional: the learner explicit objective is to gain knowledge, skills and/or competences. School, workplace training, various courses: these are all forms of formal education.
  • Informal learning is never organised, has no set objective in terms of learning outcomes and is never intentional from the learner’s standpoint. It is often referred to as learning by experience or just as experience. The idea is that the simple fact of existing constantly exposes the individual to learning situations, at work, at home or during leisure time for instance. Informal learning consist in facing the world which surrounds us every day, and trying to deal with it: informal education can be defined as that which one gets from life itself.
  • Mid-way between the first two, non-formal learning is the concept on which there is the least consensus. Why that? Simply, non-formal learning implies such a wide variety of approaches in this case makes consensus even more difficult. Nevertheless, it seems clear that non-formal learning is rather organised and can have learning objectives. The advantage of the intermediate concept lies in the fact that such learning may occur at the initiative of the individual but also happens as a by-product of more organised activities, whether or not the activities themselves have learning objectives. In some countries, the entire sector of adult learning falls under non-formal learning; in others, most adult learning is formal. Non-formal learning therefore gives some flexibility between formal and informal learning. In other words, non-formal education can be defined as that which one does not get from the formal public/private school system and it is often directly coming from the person’s will of increasing skills and knowledge on a determinate field. Examples of non-formal education can be signing up for guitar lessons, learning a new language, taking singing and dance lessons, and other things done with the purpose of enriching the minds outside of the box.

The recognition of non-formal and informal learning is an important means for making the ‘lifelong learning for all’ agenda a reality for all and, subsequently, for reshaping learning to better match the needs of the 21st century knowledge economies and open societies.

Tratwa and non-formal education

Non-formal and informal education is one of the main topics implemented in the European Project carried out by Tratwa. For two years, from 2017 until 2019, inspired by all the educational activities carried out during their project a group of volunteers decided to put them on paper, to be used as a resource for future educational activities. And that’s how Project Edukado is born.

Project Edukado is an online collection of educational games and activities created and put together by a team of international European Solidarity Corps volunteers. These games have been tested by them during the workshops they performed with students between 5 and 20 years old, as part of the Jazda z Pomysłami – “Let’s Go with Ideas” educational initiative. This online guide, together with the e-book you can download below, were created in order to help, support and inspire the educational activities and workshops of youth workers, teachers, animators, trainers and parents worldwide.”

Check the project on the official website:

Source: OECD official website

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