Formal, non-formal and informal learning.

A report was brought to my attention, see below. I skimmed the report, looking for useful information. To me it just seemed like a very long-winded bureaucratic, “touch all the politically correct bases”,  statement of the obvious fact that we all learn all the time, and not just in formal situations.

There was no new useful information about how to make literacy and language learning more effective, nor much else of genuine interest to me. I am sure, however, that there are all kinds of people prepared to discuss these well-worn themes at a few conferences, at public expense.

 If anyone has the patience to read this, let me know if I missed something. Needless to say this report is widely copied and has met with much praise.

formal, non-formal and informal learning: the case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in canada 

In this report Sarah Elaine Eaton investigates the links between formal, non-formal and informal learning and the differences between them. In particular, the report aims to link these notions of learning to literacy and essential skills, as well as the learning of second and other languages in Canada.

[From the Executive Summary]

Read the report 

The philosophical underpinnings of this research are:

• There is value in learning of all kinds.

• Learning is a lifelong endeavour.

• An interdisciplinary approach is valuable.

Notions of formal, non-formal and informal learning may be briefly outlined as:

Formal learning This type of learning is intentional, organized and
structured. Formal learning opportunities are usually arranged by
institutions. Often this type of learning is guided by a curriculum or other
type of formal program.

Non-formal learning This type of learning may or may not be intentional or
arranged by an institution, but is usually organized in some way, even if it
is loosely organized. There are no formal credits granted in non-formal
learning situations.

Informal learning This type of learning is never organized. Rather than
being guided by a rigid curriculum, it is often thought of experiential and

(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development / Organisation de
Coopération et de Développement
Economiques (OECD), n.d.; Werquin, 2007)

Examples are given for literacy and essential skills, as well as second and other languages for each of the categories mentioned above.

Finally, the examples of systems developed value different types of learning using asset-based approaches are given. The tools developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada are explored for the case of literacy. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages developed by the Council of Europe is considered for second and other languages.

Read the report 

First placed in the archives February 2010 with permission of the writer.



One thought on “Formal, non-formal and informal learning.

  1. I read it and I didn’t see anything about how to make literacy and language learning more effective. If this document has been widely copied and praised then I suspect it must be within a community that was previously quite closed to the idea of validating experience outside of formal settings. For me the only thing that was of interest was that the author is clearly angling for increased aceptance of methods of evaluating and recognising literacy / second language skills acquired outside of formal settings.

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