Short essay on the Approaches to non-formal education


While formal education is a system with its own distinct structure, interlocking parts and internal coherence, non-formal education is a non system or an open system; it is simply a collective label covering a wide assortment of organized educational activities outside the formal system which serve the identified learning needs of a variety of groups-children, youth, adults, men, women, farmers, artisans, merchants, rich, poor. etc.-and which change as the needs change.


Four schools of thought


1. De-schooling society.

2. Radical transformation of the formal school.

3. The Additive Approach.

4. The Integrative Approach.


Need for a New System of Education

-Report of International Commission on Education.

There are as many as four schools of thought on this subject and they need some examination.

1. De-schooling Society.


wan deeply committed to equality and to the dignity and autonomy of the individual. He is greatly concerned with improvement in the quality of life. It is his view that these basic values have been adversely affected in the modern industrial society. He would, therefore, prefer to replace the modern industrial society, by a convivial society-where, every individual has full autonomy and facilities for growth;

Where consumerism ceases to be a goal;

Where an individual’s access to essential goods and services is based on equality and justice;

Where an appropriate technology is adopted so that a new system of production by the masses replaces the present system of mass production;


Illich is strongly in favour of non-formal and incidental channels of education, which, in his opinion, are adequate to meet all our needs. On the other hand, he finds that the formal school with all its rigidities and direct compulsions, and with its vast army of professionalized full-time teachers, is an instrument of mis-education rather than of education and hinders rather than helps the spread of proper education among the people.

He is also of the view that the weaknesses of the formal school are so great that it is beyond repair. He, therefore, recommends that the formal school should be totally abolished or that the society should be de-schooled.

2. Radical Transformation of the Formal school.

Whether one does or does not agree with the proposal of Illich for de-schooling, one thing is certain: everyone is convinced that it is absolutely essential to carry out a radical reform of the formal school so that it emphasizes learning rather than teaching; becomes elastic, flexible, and diversified; develops programmes of part-time education and self-study; and uses all community resources, including non-teachers. Side by side with the reform of the formal school, steps are also needed to reform non-formal and incidental education and to integrate them with the formal stream.


3. The Additive Approach.

The official reaction to the strong criticism of the formal school and the equally strong case made out in support of non-formal education programmes is generally to take action on the following lines:

(a) To carry out some reforms in the formal school, mostly of a patch work character, which do not make any significant impact on its weakness; and

(b) To initiate a few programmes of non-formal education in addition.

4. The Integrative Approach. This proposal attempts simultaneous action on three fronts:

(a ) A sustained and large-scale programme of radical reform in the formal school is developed. Speaking of the conditions in India, for instance, it may be said that the single point entry must go.

The school system should be elastic, flexible and diversified. It should not be exclusively full-time, and the alternative channels of part-time and full-time education should be fully developed. The almost exclusive dependence on full-time teachers must be given up and all teaching resources of the community must be utilized.

(b) The existing forms of non-formal education are studied and improved. New forms of non-formal education are also introduced where needed. In fact, the whole emphasis is shifted to a large scale development of non-formal education.

(c) There is a simultaneous effort to improve the quality of incidental education also.

Need for a New System of Education

All things considered, our best alternative obviously is to evolve a new system of education which will incorporate within it all programmes of formal, non-formal and incidental education. This will operate all the three channels of full-time, part-time and own-time education and give them equality of status. Again, this will make full use of all institutions for purposes of learning, and will replace the present exclusive emphasis on full-time professional teachers by the use of all human resources.

Moreover, it will be sufficiently elastic, diversified, and flexible to provide all the necessary opportunities for learning to all individuals throughout their lives. This is probably best expressed in the following principles, considerations and recommendations of the Report of International Commission on Education:

(1) Life-long education should be the master concept of educational policies in the years ahead, for the developing countries.

(2) Every individual must be in a position to keep learning throughout his life.

(3) Education must be carried on at all ages of man, according to each individual’s needs and convenience.

He must, therefore, be oriented from the out-set and from phase to phase, keeping the real purpose of all education in mind: personal learning, self-teaching, and self-training. Education must cease being confined to school walls. All kinds of existing institutions, whether designed for teaching or not, and many forms of social and economic activities, must be used for educational purposes.

(4) Education should be dispensed with and acquired in a multiplicity of means. The important thing is, not the path an individual has followed, but what he has learned or acquired.

(5) Artificial and outmoded barriers between different essential disciplines, courses and levels and between formal and non-formal education should be abolished. Recurrent education should be gradually introduced.

(6) An over-all open system helps learners to move within it both horizontally and vertically and widen the range of choices available to them.

(7) Each person should be able to choose his path more freely, in a more flexible framework, without being compelled to give up using educational facilities for life, if he leaves the system.

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