Nonformal Education

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What is Nonformal Education?
Arlen Etllng. Assistant Professor The Pennsylvania State University Can you list specific differences between forma1 and nonformal education? Is informal education the same as nonformal education? Why do some agricultural educators spell nonformal with a hyphen (non-formal) while others do not? Are these questions really pertinent to the profession? I believe that these are important questions. I believe that agricultural educators do a disservice to the profession when they use such basic terms in an unscholarly manner. I believe that important distinctions exist between formal and nonformal education and between nonformal and informal education. I believe that agricultural educators need to be aware of the distinctions in order to be effective educators, especially when moving from formal settings to nonformal settings. I believe that the differences of opinion between classroom teachers and extension educators will never be resolved until the distinctions are fully understood and appreciated. The purpose of this philosophical article is to express a position and invite response. My position (summarized in the previous paragraph) is based on preparation as an agricultural educator (B.S. & M.S. in Agricultural Education) and on experience in teaching in the classroom as well as in nonformal educational settings with the Cooperative Extension Service. I have worked in two university departments that were trying to prepare both forma1 and nonformal educators. Invariably conflicts have arisen between those two efforts, usually over scarce resources. Without an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of both formal and nonformal education in agriculture, those conflicts can be damaging. This article will explore some of the differences and similarities among formal. nonformal, and informal education. It will then state reasons why a balanced and informed understanding of the three is important to our profession. Ultimately the goal of this article is to lay the foundation for unity among agricultural educators whether they work in forma1 settings, nonformal settings, or both. Agricultural educators, to me, include secondary and post-secondary teachers of agriculture, teacher educators, professionals in state departments of education whose primary responsibility is for agricultural programs, extension agents, and individuals engaged in international agricultural education. My opinions are presented here in order to begin a conversation rather than to deliver the final work. Let us start with a key question. What is Education? Numerous definitions exist. Some of the older ones are some of the better ones. For me education means learning knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The most important of these is learning how to learn. Learning means deciding about your own lifestyle.

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Journal of Agricultural Education

Teaching, by itself, does not constitute learning; neither does passive listening. Learner’s must decide to incorporate any knowledge, skill or attitude into their own set of values and behaviors (lifestyle), or the learning is not meaningful. Learning happens outside the classroom as well as within. Some learning results from teachers and some does not. Some learning is intended and some is accidental. Three Types of Education

Most of the general population assume that education and schooling are interchangeable terms. Many educators seem to feel that any education that happens outside of school is somehow inferior, usually dubious, and certainly uncontrolled. Other educators and many philosophers point out that learning takes place inside and outside of classrooms. I believe that learning occurs in formal, nonformal, and informal educational settings and that the learning experience can be equally powerful in each of those settings. F rmal education is properly associated with schools. A more precise definition is supplizd by Coombs (1973), “the hierarchically structured,...
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