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Non-Formal Education

Non-formal Education (NFE) consists in a gathering of educational practices which are not included in the formal system of education. This branch of education promotes non-formal learning.

As one author says: „ According to my dictionary (Webster’s, 1988) “non-” is a prefix which means “not: absence of; reverse of”… in other words the “opposite of’ something. But nonformal education is not the opposite of formal education. In many ways they are similar or overlap.

NFE is a methodology, which translates in carefully adjusted to the participants and structured practices (although the activities are seldom associated to conventional rhythms or curriculum subjects) which foster the personal, social and professional development of people, on a voluntary basis; whereas informal learning is related to what one can learn during daily life activities (work, family, leisure, etc.) being considered learning by doing. Informal and non-formal learning can empower youngsters in important conceptions, as social inclusion, anti-discrimination and active citizenship, as well as contributing to their personal growth. 

Moreover, NFE can be seen as an educational approach which may act in a complementary way with the formal educational system. 

The learning activities within NFE are created to attend the young people’s needs, aspirations and interests, on a voluntary basis and learner-centered. The methods used in NFE are very diverse and are mainly based on creating healthy environments of trust and sharing experiences. This type of education provides added value for young people, for the economy and society in terms of capacity-building of organizations, systems and institutions.

This education takes place in a diverse range of environments and address specific target groups and subjects, facilitating the inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities.

Formal, Non-formal and Informal education

By many authors non-formal education is seen as the “ideal’ form of education, far better in all respects than formal education. By others however it came to be seen as a sub-system of education, certainly not superior and by some as considerably inferior as formal schooling. By some non formal education could be described as a temporary “necessary evil in situation of crisis until formal schooling could be restored. Let’s look at the basic definitions of different kinds of education.

Formal education : the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded 'education system', running from primary school through the university and including, in addition to general academic studies, a variety of specialised programmes and institutions for full-time technical and professional training.

Informal education: the truly lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment - from family and neighbours, from work and play, from the market place, the library and the mass media.

Non-Formal Education: any organised educational activity outside the established formal system - whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity - that is intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles and learning objectives.

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. Tight (1996: 68) 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’. Fordham (1993) 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 methods.


YEU has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727066