Nonformal Education (NFE) is any organized educational activity that takes place outside the
formal educational system. Usually it is flexible, learner-centered, contextualized and uses a
participatory approach. There is no specific target group for NFE; it could be kids, youth or
adults. There is a debate on the exact definition of NFE and what activities it includes and what it
excludes. NFE is differentiated from Formal Education and Informal Education.
The term just gave a label for already existing activities. If you think about how people used to
learn before the formal school system appeared, you will be thinking about a form of NFE
whether it's literacy program in a village, wise elderly men transferring their knowledge to
younger generations or a farmer teaching his aides how to plant crops.
The term NFE is mostly associated with the Development field and used in the Development
Discourse more extensively than the academic Educational Discourse especially by international
developmental organizations such as UNESCO, Council of Europe and local nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs). When the term first appeared it mainly focused on educational efforts in
the developing countries, though most of the discussions took place in North America and to a
lesser extent in Western Europe. These discussions continued throughout the 70s and 80s then
disappeared around 1986 to reappear again in the 90s. This time with a better understanding of
what it could achieve and what it can't, though with no agreement on the definition.
Principles of non-formal education
Non-formal education became part of the international discourse on education policy in the late
1960s and early 1970s. It can be seen as related to the concepts of recurrent and lifelong
learning. John Lewis, British scientist, suggests that whereas the latter concepts have to do with
the extension of education and learning throughout life, non-formal education is about
'acknowledging the importance of education, learning and training which takes place outside
recognized educational institutions'.Emily Fordham, American journalist, suggests that in the
1970s, four characteristics came be associated with non-formal education:
Relevance to the needs of disadvantaged groups.
Concern with specific categories of person.
A focus on clearly defined purposes.
Flexibility in organization and method.
Non-formal learning refers to the learning which takes place outside formal educational
curriculum. Non-formal learning activities involve people on a voluntary basis and are carefully
planned, to foster the participants' personal, social and professional development.
Informal learning refers to the learning in daily life activities, in work, family, leisure, etc. It is
mainly learning by doing. In the youth sector, informal learning takes place in youth and leisure
initiatives, in peer group and voluntary activities etc.
Non-formal and informal learning enables young people to acquire essential competences and
contributes to their personal development, social inclusion and active citizenship, thereby
improving their employment prospects.
Learning activities within the youth field provide significant added value for young people as
well as for the economy and society at large such as capacity-building of organisations, benefits
for communities, systems and institutions.
Non-formal and informal learning activities are complementary to the formal education and
training system. They have a participative and learner-centred approach, are carried out on a
voluntary basis and are therefore closely linked to young people's needs, aspirations and
interests. By providing an additional source of learning and a route into formal education and
training, such activities are particularly relevant to young people with fewer opportunities.
A high-quality non-formal learning dimension is a key-aspect of all projects. This is notably
reflected in the award criteria of the different Actions and sub-Actions, the supportive approach
of the Commission, Executive Agency and National Agencies towards the target groups of the
Programme, the definition of rights and responsibilities in European Voluntary Service, and,
finally, the emphasis put on recognition of the non-formal learning experience.
Formal education – Organized, guided by a formal curriculum, leads to a formally recognized
credential such as a high school completion diploma or a degree, and is often guided and
recognized by government at some level. Teachers are usually trained as professionals in some
Non-formal learning – Organized (even if it is only loosely organized), may or may not be
guided by a formal curriculum. This type of education may be led by a qualified teacher or by a
leader with more experience. Though it doesn’t result in a formal degree or diploma, non-formal
education is highly enriching and builds an individual’s skills and capacities. Continuing
education courses are an example for adults. Girl guides and boy scouts are an example for
children. It is often considered more engaging, as the learner’s interest is a driving force behind
their participation.
Informal learning – No formal curriculum and no credits earned. The teacher is simply
someone with more experience such as a parent, grandparent or a friend. A father teaching his
child to play catch or a babysitter teaching a child their ABC’s is an example of informal
Non-formal adult education” consists of forms of teaching and education that only to a limited
degree only are part of the formal, public educational system.
The concept of ”Non-formal adult education” is associated with the Danish philosopher, poet,
educational thinker and clergyman, N.F.S. Grundtvig, and his thoughts concerning free
educational opportunities. The concept first arose in the 19th century and is one of the special
features of the Danish education system.
Non-formal learning activities are frequently based on private initiatives by non governmental
organisations (NGOs). Non-formal adult education comprises:
Independent non-formal educational activity: evening schools and voluntary activity in
University extension courses
Day folk high schools
Private independent boarding schools (folk high schools, home economics schools, arts
and crafts schools, and continuation schools)
No particular school or professional qualifications are required for participating in liberal adult
Independent non-formal adult education activity
Private non-formal adult education activity is based on fellowship/community and the
philosophy of the individual providers.
This activity can be divided into:
1. voluntary non-formal adult education
2. voluntary adult learning in associations
The private non-formal education activity must be established by a non-formal adult education
association with a statute in order to be eligible for a grant and to be allocated facilities. In 2005
there were approximately 19,000 associations, of which approximately 2,100 were in the field of
non-formal adult education and 17,000 were voluntary associations.
The local authority sets the financial framework and the rules for how it is to be administered.
The local authority can appoint a non-formal adult education committee consisting of a minority
elected by the local authority from among its members of the municipal council and a majority
consisting of a broadly composed representation of users. The committee carries out
administrative tasks such as making concrete decisions regarding, for example, non-formal adult
education associations and their activity, assigns facilities and distributes grants.
Non formal
Education today
Non-formal education includes a wide range of educational initiatives in the community and is
closely linked to lifelong learning.
Some examples include home-based learning and community initiatives. Non-formal education
is diverse and should be complementary, not seen as a substitute for an inclusive formal system.
It often tends to be targeted at specific disadvantaged groups and has specific objectives.
For some learners with disabilities, non-formal education can be more flexible and effective
than the formal education system, and can provide either preparation, a supplement or an
alternative to formal schooling.
Non-formal education is supported by article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of People with
Non-formal Learning Situations
Non-formal learning situations differ from informal ones in several ways. While informal
learning is never organized and has no set goals, non-formal learning is organized and has
defined learning outcomes. Examples include seminars, training sessions and conferences.
Recognition for Non-formal Learning
While formal education usually receives recognition because it results in a degree or certificate,
non-formal education is often considered part of the employment commitment and therefore is
not recognized as anything out of the ordinary. Employees are often expected to attend training
meetings and seminars as part of their work day, and therefore receive no recognition for the
additional education they receive.
As globalisation continues to confront the European Union with new challenges, each citizen
will need a wide range of key competences to adapt flexibly to a rapidly changing and highly
interconnected world. Education in its dual role, both social and economic, has a key role to play
in ensuring that Europe's citizens acquire the key competences needed to enable them to adapt
flexibly to such changes.
Skills acquired through Non-formal Learning (NFL) methodology are nowadays very much
appreciated in almost all sections of personal and professional development. Many studies have
shown that individuals who have additional, to their formal educational background, skills and
competences have more opportunities to find a well paid job and continue their lifelong learning
What is the difference between "informal" and "non
formal" learning?
Formal learning is the learning that occurs in an organised and structured environment (e.g. in an
education or training institution or on the job) and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of
objectives, time or resources). Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It
typically leads to validation and certification.
Non-formal learning is a learning which is embedded in planned activities not always explicitly
designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support), but
which contains an important learning element. Non-formal learning is intentional from the
learner’s point of view.
Beside this, Informal learning means a learning resulting from daily activities related to work,
family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support.
Informal learning is mostly unintentional from the learner’s perspective.
Colegiul National Economic Theodor
Centro de Educación Permanente
América (CEper América)
Yahyali Anadolu Imam Hatip Lisesi
Romania- coordinator
Biedriba ""KapNes""
Wspierania Poland-partner
Centro Territoriale Permanente no. 2 c/o Italy-partner
IPSSAR “Karol Wojtyla”
Sint-mSintThe Netherlands-partner