Non-formal education has emerged as one of the alternatives of the formal system of education. It envisages need-based education in a free atmosphere. The word ‘non-formal’ has been derived from the word ‘formal’ by using the pre-fix ‘non’ to formal which itself means concerned with the form or ‘structured’. So, ‘formal education’ means structured education which is more concerned with the form and less with the matter.’ The concept of non-formal education being of recent origin is yet in the developing stage. It widely differs from person to person and from place to place.
A few western educationists have tried to define Non-Formal Education (NFE) as follows:
1. View of Philips Coombs and Manzoor Ahmed.
NFE is “…any organised, systematic, educational activity carried on outside the framework of the formal system to provide selected types of learning to particular sub-groups in the population, adults as well as children.”
2. View of La Bella.”
non-formal educational programmes, designed to provide specific learning experiences for specific large populations.”
3. View of Klesis, Lang, Mietus and Tiapula.
“NFE is any international and systematic educational enterprise (usually outside the traditional schooling) in which content, media, time units, admission criteria, staff facilities and other system components are selected and/or adopted for particular students’ population or situations in order to maximize attainment of the learning mission and to minimize maintenance constraints of the system.”
All the above definitions indicate that NFE is planned, systematic, need-based and goal-directed education, for specific group of persons conducted outside the formal system.