Non-formal Adult Learning Providers

Five common features

When comparing the learning provisions of the various types of non-formal adult education institutions they are characterized by five common features which are different from formal education provision. These are:

1. Flexible courses and mutual responsibility
The aim is to encourage the young learner to believe in her/himself and to regain motivation for learning. To reach this aim, the course must be adapted to the needs of the young individual learner and take place in a setting where the learners are responsible for each other's learning.

This requires flexible contents and modes of learning based on the wishes, problems, resources, skills etc. of each learner. The mutual responsibility enhances the young learner's involvement and benefit from the experiences of the others. This creates self-esteem for the learner and courage to go forward.

"The final aim is to equip each learner to be able to complete an 'ordinary' formal education, and non-formal education gives room for self-development of the individual in a speed and towards a direction which appears to be suitable to her/him. This is why the non-formal adult education institutions are ideal at bridging the gap between the individual learner and the formal system.

2. Attractive learning environments
The learning environment of the non-formal adult education institutions is based on the individual learner's previous knowledge and strengths and is focused on a holistic and appreciative approach, ensuring both the topic skill and collaboration and community.
Non-formal adult education providers do not only target young people unable to fit into the ordinary formal education system. Young people participating in specially planned programmes therefore become part of a broad and positive youth or adult life development which again develops self-esteem and the motivation to learn.

3. Motivational pedagogy
The non-formal adult education institutions are based on values. Many of the teachers at these institutions have a professional teacher training background, but quite a few also carry other educational and work experiences.
Therefore, the young learners meet adults representing different backgrounds in which they can mirror themselves.

Another characteristic of the majority of those employed in the non-formal education sector is that they have actively chosen to work in a place based on a set of values which they transform into their pedagogical praxis.

This means that the non-formal education institutions give young people who have lost their motivation for education in the formal education system room for reflection and renewed strength to reenter ordinary education.

4. Coherence between training of skills and learning for life
The reasons for many young people's barriers to ordinary education are found in personal problems, family difficulties and deprived social conditions.

Non-formal education has a long tradition of focussing on the whole person and plan courses which involve the whole range of problems and resources. The boarding schools for example, give space for the feeling of freedom to identify yourself and find your own strengths together with others in a new setting and within a new environment. The locally based non-formal schools work holistically in close cooperation with the learners' everyday environment.

5. Coherence between learning and guidance
Guidance and clarification of competences are natural parts of non-formal education provision. Guidance involves all aspects of the young person's life situation, ie. also those parts which may represent a hindrance for her/his participation in the ordinary education system.

It is also a characteristic of the non-formal adult education that guidance to a great extent is integrated into the teaching and learning situation. Guidance is available whenever the young person needs it and is ready to participate.




A study shows that Danish non-formal adult education has created learning environments which are able to break social patterns - thanks to special pedagogical approaches.

PilArticle about the study and the full report

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