Differences Between Informal and Formal Education
Education is the practice of enabling people to acquire knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, beliefs, and skills through the process of teaching, training, practice, storytelling, critical thinking, and directed social learning. Educational systems may include conventional schooling, vocational/trade schools, preschools, home schooling, and other programs. The teaching practices in education vary considerably from country to country and can take various forms such as lesson-planning with teacher-led reading, writing, and instructional music. Most educational systems are developed on the basis of a framework that includes values, objectives, learning theories, instructional methods, practical application, assessment, leadership, student learning and parental involvement.
Informal education refers to the learning process that involves extensive communication between learners and teachers, which is an informal method of education. Students can adopt informal learning through various strategies such as self-help, group discussions, discussion boards, forums, blogs, wikis, and others. These learning strategies facilitate the critical and experiential elements of formal education such as the presentation of ideas, interaction with others, use of technology, critical thinking, group projects, and the evaluation of different learners. Informal education differs from formal education in its wider definition of learning that includes experiences outside the classroom, which includes informal encounters, time spent with parents and friends, and reflection on various aspects of daily life.
The key benefit of informal education is its accessibility and flexibility, as well as its ability to accommodate changes in the learning environment as it occurs. Informal educators may incorporate various approaches such as inquiry-based learning, cultural diversity, self-monitoring, problem solving, intergenerational contacts, and promotion of individual educational goals and objectives. Informal education also facilitates group decision-making, open communication, and respect for individual views. On the other hand, formal education focuses on controlled processes, discipline, routines, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and reward and punishment.
Formal education usually involves a structured process guided by teachers and approved guidelines. It usually has set structure; instructions are followed strictly, feedback is provided when necessary, and controlled by rigid processes. Students are usually required to perform pre-requisites before entering the class and are limited to performing the entire class workload. Formal education requires students to understand the subject matter and acquire specialized skills for approaching it, while informal education enables students to acquire these skills and be flexible enough to learn on their own.
However, formal education is usually perceived as more effective than informal education. This is because formal methods to teach students concepts and ideas through systematic processes and theories, whereas informal methods allow multiple alternatives for approaching the same topic. Informal education also offers greater creativity and flexibility, as it allows the learners to explore and develop new skills and approach the subject. On the contrary, formal methods usually focus on content, delivery, method, format, and pedagogy. Thus, while formal methods to teach how to learn, informal methods to facilitate the process of acquiring the knowledge.
The difference between non-formal education and formal education is that non-formal education does not require uniformity and strict guidelines. Also, unlike formal education where there are set stages of instruction, non-formal education allows the freedom to explore and learn on one’s own. Furthermore, in non-formal education, students may decide to work at their own pace, using resources that they find relevant and available. In addition, non-formal education gives students a broader perspective on learning, making them better students and citizens.