Learning and everything it entails and is related to always rings a bell about schooling and formal learning context. However, besides formal as undoubtedly significant learning context in a time-limited framework we belong to, a great significance of non-formal and informal learning has been recognized. Starting from the definition of formal learning, we may conclude that non-formal and informal learning are carried out of formal educational system.
There are numerous definitions of all forms of learning, but the essence of non-formal learning is reflected in the fact that it is not carried out within educational institutions, that knowledge is in focus, not a testimony (diploma, certificate) and that the learning has a clearly defined goal. The purpose of non-formal learning is to complement formal learning and to provide us with an opportunity to accede all those contents inaccessible in formal learning or even completely untouched. Frequently, due to the lack sufficiently efficient model of flexible formal education, non-formal education is responsible for the reduction of gap between the existing and required education.
Target group in non-formal education is not determined by age as the target connection of learners is of key importance. For some people it is the only possible and available education, as formal, institutional education is for various reasons beyond their reach. Also, it may be of great support for learners who completed formal education, but it is not sufficient to them, and in such cases, it is defined as learning and training of adults for work. Completed formal education may be of huge practical benefit for some persons in certain cases, as it represents a key “entrance ticket” for performing certain job, however it does not ensure its retaining. This is particularly the case if we take into account the fact that scientific – technological progress has been happening almost every day ad the multiplication of scientific facts requires continuous learning and improvement. Today, it is difficult to think of any profession whose learning is ended by the acquisition of formal education diploma.
Non-formal education is implemented through activities such as courses, seminars, lectures, conferences, workshops, and trainings. The lecturers/trainers have to be equipped with suitable skills and competences for the work with learners in non-formal education, as the work in formal learning greatly differs from the work in non-formal learning. What is of particular focus is the trainer/lecturer who knows how to make learners familiar with and interested in a certain topic, and thus to ensure high quality knowledge which will be acquired with the completion of such training and which will be applicable in specific professional and/or private arrangements.
Informal learning is unplanned, spontaneous, and it incurs during the interaction with friends, parents, media, without particular plan and structure. It can be targeted, but it is frequently not deliberate/conscious. However, it can have some negative effects. It happens that we acquire some attitudes and negative values from our environment. Informal learning is increasingly seen as learning of the future. The availability of multimedia technologies makes all contents available, so the readiness of an individual to consciously and/or unconsciously learn depends on himself or herself. The lifelong learning concept is mostly relied upon informal learning. Key characteristic of this concept is that it always happens outside formal institutions.
Undeniable fact is that in each learning process, regardless of their level of presence, formal, non-formal and informal learning are mutually complementary and they jointly empower the elements of lifelong learning process. Quality assurance is achieved only by merging of all learning concept and the use of maximum potential of each individual.