Doc. 8595

15 December 1999

Non-formal education


Committee on Culture and Education

Rapporteur: Mr Cristian Dumitrescu, Romania, Socialist Group


      The Assembly recognises that formal educational systems alone cannot respond to the challenges of modern society and therefore welcomes its reinforcement by non-formal educational practices.

      The Assembly recommends that governments and appropriate authorities of member states recognise non-formal education as a de facto partner in the lifelong process and make it accessible for all.

I.        Draft recommendation

1.       The Assembly recognises that investment in education and welfare is an effective measure for the promotion of active citizenship and the prevention of social exclusion.

2.       The Assembly acknowledges that formal educational systems alone cannot respond to rapid and constant technological, social and economic change in society, thus they should be reinforced by non-formal educational practices.

3.       Non-formal education is an integral part of a lifelong learning concept that ensures that young people and adults acquire and maintain the skills, abilities and dispositions needed to adapt to a continuously changing environment. It can be acquired on the personal initiative of each individual through different learning activities taking place outside the formal educational system. An important part of non-formal education is carried out by non-governmental organisations involved in community and youth work.

4.       The Assembly recalls the Final Declaration of the 5th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth in which European countries were encouraged to promote equality of opportunity by recognising the training and skills acquired through non-formal education and by finding various ways of endorsing the experience and qualifications acquired in this way. It welcomes the setting-up of a "working group on non-formal education" in the Council of Europe.

5.       The Assembly encourages all those who will shape educational policies to acknowledge that non-formal education is an essential part of the educational process and to recognise the contribution that can be made by non-governmental organisations involved in non-formal education.

6.       The Assembly also encourages the application of the new information technologies to non-formal education and stresses the need to ensure an easy access to them at national and international levels.

7.       The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers call on Governments and the appropriate authorities of member states :

i.       to recognise non-formal education as a de facto partner in the lifelong learning process and elaborate effective evaluation systems of it (this could be done by the certification of non-formal educational activities so that they also can be mentioned in curricula vitae as professional experience and as internationally recognised skills and qualifications). A quality label could be given to educational activities of recognised organisations providing non-formal educational;

ii.       to make non-formal education accessible for all, through measures such as flexible working conditions (for workers who would not otherwise be able to attend, unpaid leave facilities, etc.), measures for people in remote areas (travel grants), measures for socially disadvantaged persons (poor people, marginalised youngsters, the handicapped, minorities);

iii.       to provide or improve training and re-training for trainers and teachers in non-formal education;

iv.       to support financially non-formal education activities (grants, tax reductions for non-governmental organisations involved in non-formal education activities, or for each participant at training courses, free use of official buildings or training centres, etc) and the production and distribution of non-formal education manuals and training materials. To create a library/lending service of non-formal education materials;

v.       and in parallel with the above measures, encourage more people to take advantage of non-formal education;

vi.       to monitor the implementation of the above measures.

8.       The Assembly further recommends that the Committee of Ministers promote non-formal education in the work programme of the Council of Europe and in particular in the youth sector and consequently:

i.       study whether any legislative restrictions exist in the different member states which might hinder the development of non-formal education, and assist in the elimination of these restrictions;

ii.       compare non-formal education activities in the different member states and publish a catalogue of “good practice”;

iii.       develop programmes of non-formal education that promote equal opportunities in co-operation with the social partners concerned and the non-governmental organisations working on these questions;

iv.       co-ordinate its work in the field of non-formal education with that of OECD, Unesco and the European Union.

II.        Explanatory memorandum by Mr Dumitrescu

1. What is non-formal education?

Education, as a lifelong process which enables the continuous development of a person’s capabilities as an individual and as a member of society, can take three different forms:

formal education- the structured educational system usually provided or supported by the state, chronologically graded and running from primary to tertiary institutions;

informal education - learning that goes on in daily life and can be received from daily experience, such as from family, friends, peer groups, the media and other influences in a person’s environment;

and non-formal education- educational activity which is not structured and takes place outside the formal system.

      The main difference between informal and non-formal education is the fact that the first is non-voluntary and mostly passive whereas the latter results from an individual voluntary action and is mostly active.

      Non-formal education covers two rather different realities: on the one hand education activities taking part outside the formal education system (for example a lecture on social rights organised by a trade union) and on the other the experience acquired while exerting responsibilities in a voluntary organisation (for example being a member of the board of an environment protection NGO).

      A more operational definition by OECD is that “the formal system refers to all those aspects of education within the sphere of responsibilities and influence of the Minister of Education, together with private schools, universities and other institutions which prepare students for officially recognised qualifications. The non-formal sector comprises learning activities taking place outside this formal system, such as those carried out within companies, by professional associations, or independently by self-motivated adult learners”. This definition is formally correct, but does not take into account the experience acquired in citizens’ groups or voluntary organisations.

      According to the more practical definition of the European Youth Forum, non-formal education corresponds to a collection of teaching tools and learning schemes that are seen as creative and innovative alternatives to traditional and classical teaching systems. Via personal interaction and flexibility in problem solving, people can discuss matters of relevance to their lives as citizens in society and integrate their knowledge. Different sorts of people take part in this process but the majority is to be found in non-governmental organisations involved in youth and community work.

      A Council of Europe "working group on non-formal education" has elaborated its own definition of non-formal education as a "planned programme of personal and social education designed to improve a range of skills and competencies, outside but supplementary to the formal educational curriculum. Participation is voluntary and the programmes are carried out by trained leaders in the voluntary and/or State sectors, and should be systematically monitored and evaluated, the experience might also be certificated. It is generally related to the employability and lifelong learning requirements of the individual person."

      Non-formal education is a way of helping societies to be more democratic and to respect human rights. It is a necessary supplement to formal education.

      Through involvement in non-formal education, citizens may get a chance to experiment and take on responsibilities. They are able to develop their curiosity and enthusiasm, to learn to work together and to practise democratic decision-making and negotiation, which is an important step towards active democratic citizenship. Moreover non-formal education develops personal, social and professional skills through experimenting in a relatively safe environment.

      Through different activities of non-formal education people can obtain experience that can be compared with traditional formal work experience and should be recognised as such. These activities involve democratic decision making and negotiating, participation, personal development and help them to obtain such qualities as commitment, involvement, responsibility, solidarity, democratic awareness, motivation, initiative, emancipation and empowerment, creativity, respect, tolerance, intercultural awareness, criticism, intellectual independence and self-confidence.

2. Types of non-formal education and those involved

      Different forms of non-formal education contribute to democracy teaching in different ways. This can be illustrated by some examples from European countries.

      Community work, which is particularly widespread in Scotland, fosters people’s commitment to their neighbours and encourages participation in, and development of local, democratic forms of organisation. This may involve dialogue with local policy-makers setting-up programmes aimed at improving the quality of life in the local area editing community newsletters, developing local opportunities for continuous learning and employment.

      Youth work generally focuses on making young people more active in society and committed to furthering their well being.

      Social work could also be linked to non-formal education. Informal education in Germany, alongside social workers help young people in residential homes to develop ways dealing with complex situations; foster more fruitful relationships between parents and children; bring together groups of careers, etc.

      Animation is a specific form of non-formal education found in France and Italy. It uses theatre and acting as a means of self-expression with community groups, children and people with special learning needs. It provides active participation of people and teaches them to manage the communities in which they live. Animation helps to build environments and relationships in which people can grow and care for each other.

      Youth organisations have always been considered as the main experts in non-formal education and they have reached a high level of achievement in this field.

      In youth and community organisations young people have the opportunity to discover, analyse and understand values and their implications and to build over time a personal set of values to guide their lives. They run work camps and meetings, recruit volunteers, raise funds, administer bank accounts, recruit and manage personnel, give counselling and psychological peer support, organise sport activities and cultural festivals, intervene in their communities and lobby institutions for social change.

      All these activities of NGOs enable people to acquire leadership skills and provide them with important practical experience in the process of democracy, decision making and responsible democratic leadership.

3. Activities of non-formal education.

      Non-formal education activities vary depending on the context of national and local traditions.

      The best way to illustrate different activities of non-formal education is to give examples from specific national contexts.

3.1       The Danish model.

      The Danish non-formal education system is one of the oldest in Europe. It started in the 19th century when the first democratic constitution was adopted. It is based on the concept of “Folkeoplysning” introduced by the Danish educational philosopher, N.F.S.Grundtvig. “Folkeoplysning” means socio-cultural activities, youth and adult learning, folk education, youth services to awareness building, consciousness raising. The philosophy of this concept has influenced all Danish non-formal educational initiatives, from the first “Folkeh°jskole”(Folk High School) in 1844 to the new “production schools”, a kind of second-chance schools for youth, established during the past 10 years.

      The educational activities within “Folkeoplysning” aim at creating opportunities for learning which the formal educational system has been unable to provide. When these activities proved valuable and stable, the public authorities started to support them financially and legislatively. “Folkeoplysning” includes not only specific non-formal educational activities but also the activities of national youth and sport organisations, which have in their statutes the task “to further the aims of “Folkeoplysning” and the Danish tradition of associative life.”

      The result of these traditional non-formal educational activities is that more than 20% of the adult population has experienced the responsibility of being a member of a board of a local or national voluntary organisation.

      As a response to the latest challenges in the Danish society, two new forms of non-formal schools have been created recently: the “productions-schools” and the “day-folk-high schools”, directed towards unemployed youth and adults. Other activities of the local Danish groups directed to the development assistance to the third world and co-operation with similar groups in the countries of central and eastern Europe were initiated as a reflection of the tradition of “Folkeoplysning”.

3.2       The Ukrainian experience

      The development of non-formal democratic education in the countries of eastern Europe is a quite recent phenomenon. After the Soviet system collapsed, in most of these countries, multi-party propaganda took the place of the communist ideological monopoly but no nation-wide system for civic education was established. The development of civic education through non-formal educational activities is one way of developing civil society in these countries.

      Ukraine continues to face numerous challenges and barriers to its successful transition to democracy and a market economy. The success of democratisation depends on the strengthening of civil society. Teaching such essential topics as human and civil rights, constitution and voting systems helps to entrench the philosophy of liberty in the hearts of young people. The institutional development of civic education in Ukraine provides for the establishment of a regional network of resource centres, professional organisations and NGOs as a means of sharing the best experience in this field. The activities of one such NGO, the Education for Democracy Foundation help to disseminate experiences and new forms of education based on democratic values. It provides resource support and training for local civic education NGOs. Such organisations as “The Centre for Educational Initiatives”, “The Eco-Political University” and “The Ukrainian Civic Education Action Plan” contribute to the promotion of civic society in Ukraine through their research, training and publication activities.

      Ukrainian non-formal educational organisations are active also in such fields as environmental and ecological education, gender education, economic and enterprise education and educational reform programmes. “The Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Centre”, for example, offers educational and vocational service training to disadvantaged, abandoned and disabled children.

3.3       The Romanian experience

      Non-formal education in Romania must be considered in relation to general education and vocational training. Aimed at young people as well as adults, both are organised within the official state system by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Sport and Youth and private education and vocational training providers.

      There are increasing numbers of private providers owing to the growing market for general and specialised foreign language courses, new occupations generated by the market economy (real estate agents, sales people, stockbrokers and insurance agents) and the considerable expansion of information technologies in recent years.

      One such provider is the Romanian Institute for Economic and Social Research and Surveys (IRECSON), which has been a member of International Eurogroup Consult - a European Union working body - since 1993. This institute trains specialists, such as human resources directors and analysts, sales directors, sales people and secretaries, according to market economy requirements. It has been very successful, and most trainees now work for major companies.

      Another private provider is the Franco-Romanian Institute of Business Administration, which focuses on different areas of management.

      Under regulations laid down by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour, private providers can obtain official recognition (operating authorisation) within the formal education system. Diplomas awarded to students by such private institutions may be taken into consideration when determining their occupational status.

      Reference should also be made to the former adult education institutes and a number of foundations, which offer updated, targeted programmes consistent with the new economic and social demands.

      There has been a sustained boom in non-formal vocational training in recent years. Many young people have been employed in areas such as advertising, the stock exchange and sales after completing training courses organised by their employers and/or actually performing specific activities in the workplace.

      There was previously no legal recognition of this form of education. A Council for Occupational Standards and Certificates was therefore set up to develop a new assessment and occupational certification system based solely on occupational skills.

      However, the number of people engaging in such specialisation is fairly small in relation to the actual economic needs. Likewise, trends in state and private education in Romania are still unclear in terms of market requirements.

4. The role of the new information technologies in non-formal education

      The new information technologies can be applied to non-formal education in different ways: they can provide training materials; be used as an aid in the educational process and fulfil a supporting function in organisational aspects of non-formal education .

      The results of a survey carried out by the “Adult Learning Information Centre Europe” (ALICE) have shown that 25% of the organisations in the field of non-formal education are using new technology such as CD-Rom’s, the Internet or multimedia. 60% of the organisations involved in non-formal education in the European Union are using the new technologies as a subject for training courses and also as content in their training activities.

      In the educational process the new technologies can be applied as a storage medium for teaching aids and also as a means of communication. It is used in such activities as advice and consultation, animation, policy determination and planning, promoting expertise, information services, international relations, research, training courses, teaching materials development.

      As an aid to the organisational aspects of non-formal education, the new technologies can be used in office automation and in acquiring, managing and processing data on the activities of the organisations. It facilitates the collection of statistics on non-formal education.

      However, the main problem in applying the new technologies to the work of non-formal educational organisations is access to its many and multiple possibilities. The majority of organisations encounter difficulties in the practical application and use of the new technologies.

5. The Council of Europe and non-formal education

6. Problems in the promotion of non-formal education

7. Conclusions

It is very important to acknowledge non-formal education as an essential part of the educational process and to recognise the contribution that can be made by non-formal educational organisations.

Reporting committee: Committee on Culture and Education

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.

Reference to committee: Doc. 7935 and Reference No. 2229 of 7 November 1997

Draft recommendation: unanimously adopted by the committee on 10 December 1999

Members of the committee: MM. Roseta (Chairman), Zingeris, de Puig (Vice-Chairmen), Arzilli, Bartumeu Cassany, Bauer, Baumel, Billing, Cherribi, Chiliman, Cubreacov, Diaz de Mera, Dumitrescu, Fayot, Mrs Fehr, Mr  Glotov, Mrs Granlund, MM. Hadjidemetriou, Haraldsson, Hegyi, Henry, Hornhues, Irmer, Mrs Isohookana-Asunmaa, MM. Ivanov, Jakic, Kalkan, Mrs Katseli, MM. Kiely, Kofod-Svendsen, Lachat, Mrs Laternser, MM. Legendre, Lemoine, Libicki, Mrs Lucyga, MM. McNamara (Alternate: Colvin), Mezeckis, Monfils, Mrs Moserova, Mr Nagy, Mrs Nemcova, MM. O’Hara, Pereira Marques, Pinggera, Polydoras, Mrs Poptodorova, MM. Pullicino Orlando, Radic (Alternate: Domljan), Ragno, Risari (Alternate: Gnaga), Mrs Saele, Mr Sağlam, Mrs Schicker, Mr Shaklein, Mrs Stefani, MM. Sudarenkov, Svec, Symonenko (Alternate: Khunov), Tallo, MM. Urbanczyk, Valk, Wilshire, Xhaferi.

NB: The names of those who took part in the vote are in italics

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul, Ms Kostenko