Non-formal education is a purposeful and systematically organized form of learning that generally occurs outside the formal educational institutions. It is designed to meet the learning needs of educationally disadvantaged persons of different ages and backgrounds, flexible in terms of organization, time and place and may cover basic and continuing educational programs to impart basic literacy, including life skills, work skills, general culture, and facilitates lifelong learning and enhancement of earning capabilities for poverty reduction. It ensures equity in access and human resource development; it may or may not follow a “ladder” system, and may be of varying duration.





Although Non-Formal and In-Formal Education antedate Formal Education but after the Sixteen Century education was seen as schooling alone. But the educators like Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire started to raise their voices against the schools in Latin America because they thought that the formal schools only serve the purpose of rulers and rich people subjugating the ruled and the common people in general.

School education emphasized on rote learning of book. The schools did not care whether the education they teach was relevant to people’s life or not. So they strongly advocated for innovation in Education to make education practical and empowering to people. This was actually the beginning of Non- Formal Education. So it could be said that Non- Formal Education was born as an innovation to education system.

John Dewey, the pioneering American educator was also an innovator. He promoted pragmatism in education in North America. He inspired to set up land grant colleges to teach the farmers how to carryout improved farming. After Ruby Kidds promoted adult education to improve work situation of working adults and Malcolm Knowles developed adult teaching and learning method called ‘Andragogy’. In Europe Non-Formal Education had been adult education to train workers for factories. Japan promoted social education and miscellaneous schools to provide family education and education in the workplace. They are all examples that all the so called developed countries also carried out innovation in education introducing non-formal education when they have to make education practical and useful to the working people. But they continued to expand formal education to provide education for all.

But the developing countries were not able to provide basic education to all children, youth and adult through schools, they also have to carry out innovation to provide basic education to children and youth through Non-Formal Education. There are two approaches to provide non-formal education to children, youth and adults. One was a Program Approach under which literacy programs are implemented to provide basic education through alternative methods. Since the alternative education also needs teachers, curriculum, textbooks and building, it was experimented in some places and based on experiment only they were expanded. So this approach was also called 'gradualist approach'. At the same time some socialist countries of Asia like China and Vietnam launched a Mass Literacy Campaign Approach to provide basic education to masses mobilizing all forces of the society. In the mass literacy campaign all school teachers, students, government staff, party workers, housewives etc. practically everybody in the society were asked to play the role of either learners or teachers. It was space bound, time bound and result oriented. They were the most famous innovations in Non Formal Education. The non-socialist countries also found that the literacy campaign could be a useful short-term solution to provide civic education, therefore South Korea, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia also launched literacy campaigns in 1950s and 1960s. After sometime, a group of countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and others institutionalized the Non Formal Education creating a separate Department of Non-Formal Education, under the Ministry of Education.

In 1970s UNICEF had asked Philip Coombs and Mansoor Ahmed to study Non-Formal Education.In the course of their study, they defined non-formal education something like this “Non Formal Education is an alternative education which would be organized systematically outside the framework of the formal system to provide functional learning relevant to particular subgroups of the population, both adults and children.”

Characteristics of Non-Formal Education

1. Non Formal Education Program emerges as an innovation to solve pressing problem in a given society.

2. Therefore it is goal and purpose oriented not certificate oriented.

3. It emphasizes on tackling specific problems and rather than learning abstract subject matters.

4. It may help to initiate a program or a project after an experimental phase.

5. It is flexible, learner centered, and participatory.

6. It is more practical rather than theoretical.

7. Autonomy at the program level and less chance for external control.

8. More economical because it could use existing facilities.

9. It is continuing life long process.