What is informal education?

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WHAT IS INFORMAL EDUCATION? We are going to discuss what informal education is. To understand informal education, we need to have an understanding of formal education. This allows us to compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the two subjects. Coombs et al (1973) stated that formal education would be said to be: “The hierarchically structured, chronologically graded ‘education system’ . . . of specialised programmes and institutions for full time technical and professional training.” Formal education is measured with exams, tests and qualifications. It is typically set in a structured, formal classroom environment whereby the educator, typically the teacher, has control over that environment. There are regulations and rules, uniforms are sometimes worn and discipline standards are set. Formal education is a deliberate effort by a person to learn the skills and techniques considered important for a particular job or activity. And it is sometimes compulsory. Conversely Coombs et al (1973) state that informal education is: “The truly lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge. . . from family and neighbours, from work and play, from the market place, the library and the mass media.” Informal education is typically set within an individuals or groups own environment; at the shops, the youth club, the park, etc. It is voluntary and co-operative, usually with no set agenda, however informal education can and does still take place in more formal and structured settings. An informal educator will take opportunities as they present themselves to facilitate informal education, for example over a coffee or through general conversation before or after a structured session. Building, developing and maintaining relationships is fundamental to informal education. It is difficult to measure in
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