What Is Non-Formal Education?

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Non-formal education is a loosely defined term that refers to schooling that takes place outside the formal education system. Non-formal education includes programs that do not have or provide formal certification or curriculum, but have more structure than informal learning, which refers to learning absorbed from daily experience.

Examples of non-formal learning include swimming lessons, conference-style seminars and sports programs. The goals of these programs are focused less on education and more on emotional benefits or practical knowledge. Non-formal learning is also different from formal learning in terms of its structure. Non-formal learning is self-governing, whereas formal learning is usually structured by the government and often presented in a hierarchical manner.

Not all countries recognize non-formal education as a valid from of knowledge. The countries that do recognize it include Austria, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Korea, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Malta, Slovenia, Canada, Hungary, Mexico, Switzerland, Chile, Iceland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Ireland and Norway. All of these countries also identify the difference between non-formal and informal education, especially when it comes to education in the workplace.

Non-formal learning is generally short-term in its length and can be a recurring experience. An example of this would be swim lessons that typically occur weekly or biweekly only until the skill is acquired.