The term non-formal education has gained currency in India over last two decades in view of its importance in developing necessary knowledge, attitude and skills in the vast section of the population which could not make use of the formal system of education. It connotes a departure from existing pattern of full- time schooling in order to meet the needs of that section of the population which finds it difficult to take advantage of the existing facilities of education.
The need and significance of programmes of non-formal education this arise out of the inability of the formal set up of education to meet the large section of the society to take advantage of existing facilities. It is an alternating pattern of education. It has to cater to the needs of both adults and children. The programmes for the adults need a reorientation lo reflect the emerging needs.
Promotions of such programmes which have a quick pay-off have a receive precedence over literacy. Promotion of corporate living, improvement of health and hygiene, upgrading of skills in various production techniques and development of general awareness about the events and conditions affecting people in general will have to find a suitable place in such programmes. In fact the emphasis has to shift from mere literacy to functional education.
It would be seen that the needs of different groups even within the same age-range would vary from place to place. Programmes of functional education could, be common to a great extent for almost all the groups. It would therefore, the desirable to identify the specific target in each group in each locality for the organisation of specific programmes of non-formal education.
These target groups would generally consist of: (i) Children of the age group 11-14 years: (ii) Factory workers; (Hi) Agricultural labors; (iv) Girls and women: (v) Working personnel who want to raise their qualification for promotion.
Each locality has its own characteristic requirements of programmes for the different target groups and its own organisational resources for implementing the programmes. The National Policy on Education 1986 immense a large and systematic programme of non-formal education for school dropouts for children from habitations without schools, working children and girls who cannot attend whole day schools.
Non-formal education eaters to the needs of adults, farmers, women, drop-outs etc. who are not for various reasons, able to take advantage of formal education, either they have passed the age for it or they are employed.
Non-formal education is a very important mode through which India’s goals of universal elementary education and literacy and being promoted. The Indira Gandhi National Open University and National Institute of Open Schooling both centrally operating from New Delhi and part-time non-formal education centres are typical examples of this system.
It is reachable to the unreachable. Now nearly about sixty-five universities and institutions are running their non-formal education programmes. Among them arc Kota Open University. Rajrishi Tandon Open University, Karnataka Open University, Andhra Open University, Madurai Kamraj University, Alagappa University. Annamalai University etc.