One of the LEAP project’s aims is to apply the project-based learning (PBL) model in a non-formal education setting. When people talk about education, they immediately think about school, university or professional training. Nevertheless, this is just one kind of education, the so-called “formal education”. In our complex society, formal education is often not enough. Working with young people also requires a different approach, less formal and more oriented towards experiences and direct participation. This is where the so-called “non-formal education” comes in.
The Council of Europe defines “non-formal education” (NFE) as “what happens in places such as youth organisations, sports clubs and drama and community groups where young people meet, for example, to undertake projects together, play games, discuss, go camping, or make music and drama” (Council of Europe*).
NFE does not substitute the formal education but acts in a complementary way. It is more flexible and for that, it takes place in different situations. The most important characteristic of NFE is its voluntarism. Its focus is not only “what you learn” but also “how you learn it”, focusing on the process of learning.
It has different approaches and methods. Instead of frontal lessons or exams as in the formal education, the activities could include creative workshops, discussions, games, icebreakers, sharing ideas and so on. NFE helps people to acquire skills and abilities in a new and funnier way. However, NFE’s activities could also include more complicated activities such as political education, pre-school education for children, programmes against school drop out. You can find a lot of great examples on the LEAP partner organisations’ websites: CSC Danilo Dolci, Sapere Aude and Udruga Mladi EU carry out a wide range of different non-formal education activities with young people
Other advantages of NFE are that it can take place at any time and place and it could adapt to different contexts faster than formal education, which is more rigid.
Non-formal education should not be confused with informal education! This is the “daily life learning” and it happens watching TV, experiencing or just being with your family. You can find a more thorough explanation of the distinction between formal, informal and nonformal learning in this video.
The activities of our project are part of non-formal education and aim to stimulate the direct participation of young people and to create a collective and shared learning process.
* Council of Europe, https://www.coe.int/en/web/european-youth-foundation/definitions