What is formal education 1

Formal Education – Definition:

“Learning that occurs in an organised and structured environment (such as 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 certification. Earning that occurs in an organised and structured context (in a school/training centre or on the job) and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of objectives, time or learning support). Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically leads to certification.”

“What students are taught from the syllabus.”

Formal education is an organized education model which is structured and systematic. This model presents rather a rigid curriculum that corresponds to laws and norms. It’s a presentational education. This means that there are students, teachers and institutions involved. Schools and universities use this method to teach their students. Formal education institutions are administratively, physically and curricularly organized and require from students a minimum classroom attendance. In formal education teachers and students have to observe, this involves intermediate and final assessments in order to advance students to the next learning stage.

In formal education you receive a degree or diploma at the end of the formation but there are also desired behavioural objectives. These objectives are rarely operationally established.

Assessments have a punitive, obeying and mono-directional methodology, and this fails to stimulate the students.  But it also fails to provide for their active participation during this progress. There’s also another cause to this failure: the students’ standards, values and attitudes are not considered in this education model.

It happens that in this kind of education teachers pretend to teach, students pretend to learn and the institutions pretend to really catering the interests of students and the society. Shortly this means that formal education fails to fulfil the real needs of students and the community.

Informal Education – Definition:

“Informal education is that learning which goes on outside of a formal learning environment such as a school, a college or a university, therefore it is learning outside of the classroom/lecture theatre; however more can be said by way of providing a definition of the term. Informal education can be seen as ‘learning that goes on in daily life’, and/or ‘learning projects that we undertake for ourselves(Smith, 2009).

“learning that goes on in daily life and can be received from daily experience, such as from family, peer groups, the media and other influences in a person’s environment” (Oñate, 2006).

“It encompasses a huge variety of activities: it could be a dance class at a church hall, a book group at a local library, cookery skills learnt in a community centre, a guided visit to a nature reserve or stately home, researching the National Gallery collection on-line, writing a Wikipedia entry or taking part in a volunteer project to record the living history of [a] particular community.” (DIU&S, 2009: p4).

Informal education covers a vast array of learning that all people take part in, in their lives every day. It covers activities like individual and personal research on a subject or interests for themselves by using books, libraries, informal trainers, the internet or other resources. Informal education also includes aspects whereby the individuals seek or want to learn a specific skill or when they look into a certain area and don’t use formal or non-formal ways to learn. But informal education means also learning things without the learner realising that he learned it. This can be any kind of information that the learner picked up from the television, radio, conversations with friends and/or family.

Informal education is often used in formal or non-formal education as a method of teaching. When television programs, films or internet are used to illustrate points, you may conclude that you are using an informal method. What not means that this is always informal. Even in the informal education some aspects are more informal than others.

For example:

  1. Student led discussion;
  2. Students use their biography and self-learning to complete a project;
  3. Work based learning or practical placement where learning is done outside of the classroom/lecture theatre. Increasingly in use by educators;
  4. Use of DVD or television shows, podcasts developed by teachers. Often these approaches use informal means – however these still support a transmissions mode of education.

In this example 1 being very informal and the higher the number the less informal it gets.

Non-formal Education – Definition: 

“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 in most cases unintentional from the learner’s perspective.

  1. Informal learning outcomes may be validated and certified;
  2. Informal learning is also referred to as experiential or incidental/random learning.”

Non-formal education has an adopted strategy where the student attendance is not fully required. The educative progress in non-formal education has a more flexible curricula and methodology. The activities or lessons of the non-formal education take place outside the institutions or schools. Here the needs and interest of the students are taken into consideration.

There are 2 features in the non-formal education that need to be constant:

  • Centralization of the process on the student, as to his previously identified needs and possibilities;
  • The immediate usefulness of the education for the student’s personal and professional growth.

Because of the importance of the interests and needs of the students, this form of education meets the individual needs better. Non-formal education is focused on the student and this will have as result that the student participates more. When the needs of the students change the non-formal education can react quicker because of its flexibility.


Formal educationNon-formal educationInformal education

·         Formal
·         Rigid
·         Program
·         Classroom-based
·         Educational standards
·         It does not consider the students’ standards, values and attitudes

·         Drop-in: attendance is inconsistent
·         It doesn’t result in a degree/diploma
·         Teachers are not trained but have experience

·         tends to be unpredictable
·         Going with the flow
·         Conversations or internet may have wrong information


Formal educationNon-formal educationInformal education

·         Known form of education
·         Trained teachers
·         On a regular basis
·         Leads to a formally recognized credential

·         Informal
·         Flexibility in organization and methods
·         Acknowledging the importance of education
·         After-school programs
·         Community based organizations
·         Can lead to greater confidence in formal classroom

·         Anywhere and anytime
·         can take place in almost any other location
·         use a variety of methods
·         lifelong education


So we can conclude that when the needs and interests of the students are taken into consideration, the student will be more interested and more willing to participate in the activities.

A formal education gives a more negative view on the education because of the punitive and obeying features. The curriculum is based on the norms and laws given by the government/institution while the students’ needs and interests fade.

Non-formal education on the other hand succeeds to convert the interests and needs of the students in a flexible and adapted formation.


Definition formal education: Source: Cedefop, 2008. http://www.shortly.nl/peZ
Definition non-formal/informal education: Source: Cedefop, 2008. http://www.shortly.nl/peZ
Disadvantage, advantages and information:


by Laura López Ruíz