Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values and attitudes.
We learn to acquire competencies and with the aim to get to know how to do something, mostly motivated by curiosity.
There are three ways of learning: formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning.
Formal learning refers to the structured education system that runs from primary school to university, and includes specialised programmes for technical and professional training. It is purpose learning and learning aims are almost always externally set, learning progress is usually monitored and assessed, and learning outcomes are usually recognised by certificates or diplomas.
Non-formal learning refers to any planned programme of personal and social education designed to improve a range of skills and competencies, outside the formal educational curriculum. It is purposive but voluntary learning that takes place in a diverse range of environments and situations for which teaching/training and learning is not necessarily their sole or main activity. The activities or courses may be staffed by professional trainers or by volunteers (such as youth leaders), are planned, but are seldom structured by conventional rhythms or curriculum subjects. They usually address specific target groups, but rarely document or assess learning outcomes or achievements in conventionally visible ways. Non-formal education empowers young people to develop their values, to define their role in the society.
Also informal learning takes place outside schools and colleges. It arises from the learner’s involvement in activities that are not undertaken with a learning purpose in mind: it happens accidentally. It is sometimes called experiential learning, since it is strictly connected with exploration and enlargement of experience. It can refer to various forms of alternative education, such as unschooling, homeschooling, outdoor education, self-teaching and youth work. It does have outcomes, but these are seldom recorded, virtually never certified and are typically neither immediately visible for the learner nor do they count in themselves for education, training or employment purposes. Informal education refers to the lifelong process, whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from the educational influences and resources in his or her own environment and from daily experience in everyday life contexts (in the family, at work, during leisure, in the community, by playing,…).
Formal, non formal and informal education are complementary and mutually reinforcing elements of a lifelong learning process.
Sonia Simpatico – JUMP Team