Demonstrates an understanding of the values and key principles of non-formal learningDesigning Educational ProgrammesDeveloping an educational approach based on the principles and values of non-formal learningKnowledge of the concept and values of non-formal learning as an educational practice.

The treasure of non-formal learning

Introduction: As trainers in the field of non-formal education, sometimes we are more aware of methodologies rather than the inner essence of the concept and values that are the basis of this approach as an educational practice.

It is very important to distinguish that when you plan the training activities, to understand why some methodologies have been created, but also to be aware of the “revolutionary” approach that non-formal learning, as an educational practice can have a holistic approach with different target groups and in particular with youth.

I choose this tool because as a trainer it is important to be aware of the values and principles that are guiding the non-formal learning and those should be the basis of the behavior instead of the trainers and to be based on the training elements.

The trainer should be aware of the values and key principles of non-formal learning as the basis of the daily work and, from time to time, even after many years of experience should look back and reflect on how he/she implemented them along the working years.

Main content:

Non-Formal Learning is a learning movement that contains a lot of values and importance for everyone carried out, from the formal education system. It helps us to acquire and maintain skills and abilities. It provides a completely new experience and a better understanding of yourself and your way to see the world around you. Non-Formal Education is supporting people in critical thinking and being aware of the environment in which they live (to decide how they would like to live in such an environment).

Non-formal education aims to ensure that the youth realizes their rights to basic education and lifelong learning. Another objective is to provide opportunities for youth and adults to access life skills.

Fordham (1993) suggests that in the 1970s, four characteristics came to be associated with non-formal education:

· Relevance to the needs of disadvantaged groups.

· Concern with specific categories of a person.

· A focus on clearly defined purposes.

· Flexibility in organization and methods.

Ideal-type models of normal and non-formal education

Formal Non-Formal
Purposes Long-term & general


Short-term & specific


Timing long cycle /preparatory / full-time short cycle /recurrent / part-time
Content standardized /input centered academic

entry requirements determine clientele

individualized /output centered practical

clientele determines entry requirements

Delivery System institution-based, isolated from the environment. Rigidly structured, teacher-centered and resource-intensive environment-based, community-related, flexible, learner-centered and resource-saving
Control external /hierarchical self-governing /democratic

(Adapted by Fordham 1993 from Simkins 1977: 12-15)

Clarified all the elements, we can identify these set of values as the inner part of many good practiced of Non-Formal Learning and Educational path:

Learner/human being centered Value the person
Voluntary (development primarily depended on the people and they have the power) Participatory/democratic
Inner competencies (each person has his own competence/talent that has a value that should be recognized) Self-responsibility
Group-based (the individuals are learning in group dynamics and as part of a wider environment- interdependency) Revolutionary (linked to the social and political changes and challenges of the society)


How to apply it in everyday life:

  • Look at any non-formal activity (it is not important if it is a training) and try to observe if these principles are visible and if they are making the difference in how the activity has been run. How do you evaluate the impact of non-formal learning?

Reflection questions:

  • How much am I taking into consideration these elements (or some of them) while preparing a session?
  • Will I overcome the discrepancies among these values and principles and the frame of work?
  • How much can I include these values and principles in my training session?
  • Am I able to transfer the values of non-formal learning or am I just “using” the methodology?

Federica Demicheli

A training focusing on participation as methodology (not only as topic) is based on a certain value premise that believes in the empowerment of all the learners and supporting the equal participation of the ones with fewer opportunities or in situations of disatatage (temporary or long term). The focus of participatory training is not just about ‘knowing more’ but about…

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