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Definitions of learning in the context of education, training and learning in the

youth field
Communication from the Commission: Working paper by the European SALTO-Youth Inclusion Resource Center
Making a European Area of Lifelong Commission and the Council of Report: Bridges for Recognition.
Learning a Reality. Europe: Promoting Recognition of Youth Work
COM(2001) 678 final (21.11.2001) Pathways towards validation and across Europe (January 2005)
recognition of education, training &
learning in the youth field (Feb. ‘04)
Formal learning
Learning typically provided by an In specific cases the youth sector / Formal learning is purposive learning that
education or training institution, structured youth work acts as a substitute, takes place in a distinct and institutionalized
(in terms of learning objectives, learning alternative education and training environment specifically designed for
time or learning support) and leading to provider (e.g. in second chance teaching/training and learning, which is
certification. Formal learning is intentional schools and similar projects), mainly staffed by learning facilitators who are
from the learner’s perspective. for school dropouts, early school specifically qualified for the sector, level and
leavers, disaffected young people or subject concerned and which usually serves a
other young people at risk. The specific category of learners (defined by age,
learning process is structured in terms level and specialism). Learning aims are
of learning objectives, learning time, almost always externally set, learning
learning support and it is intentional; progress is usually monitored and assessed,
the participants get certificates and/or and learning outcomes are usually recognized
diplomas. by certificates or diplomas. Much formal
learning provision is compulsory (school
education).
Non-Formal learning
Learning that is not provided by an Learning outside institutional contexts Non-formal learning is purposive but voluntary
education or training institution and (out-of-school) is the key activity, but learning that takes place in a diverse range of
typically does not lead to certification. It also key competence of the youth environments and situations for which
is, however, structured (in terms of field. Non-formal learning in youth teaching/training and learning is not
learning objectives, learning time or activities is structured, based on necessarily their sole and main activity. These
learning support). Non-formal learning is learning objectives, learning time and environments and situations may be
intentional from the learner’s perspective. specific learning support and it is intermittent or transitory, and the activities or
intentional. For that reason one could courses that take place may be staffed by
also speak of non-formal education. It professional learning facilitators (such as
typically does not lead to certification, youth trainers) or by volunteers (such as
but in an increasing number of cases, youth leaders). These activities and courses
certificates are delivered. are planned, but are seldom structured by
conventional rhythms or curriculum subjects.
They usually address specific target groups,
but rarely document or assess learning
outcomes or achievements in conventionally
visible ways.
Informal learning
Learning resulting from daily life activities Learning in daily life activities, in work, From the learner’s standpoint at least, this is
related to work, family or leisure. It is not family, leisure is mainly learning by non-purposive learning which takes place in
structured (in terms of learning objectives, doing; it is typically not structured and everyday life contexts in the family, at work,
learning time or learning support) and not intentional and does not lead to during leisure and in the community. It does
typically does not lead to certification. certification. In the youth sector have outcomes, but these are seldom
Informal learning may be intentional but in informal learning takes place in youth recorded, virtually never certified and are
most cases it is non-intentional (or and leisure initiatives, in peer group neither immediately visible for the learner nor
“incidental”/random). and voluntary activities etc. It provides do they count themselves for education,
specific learning opportunities, in training or employment purposes.
particular of social, cultural and Accreditation of prior experience and learning
personal "soft" skills. systems are one way in which the outcomes
of such learning can be made more visible
and hence open to greater recognition.
Joint EU / World Bank Study 2008
Non-formal education and learning (NFL) is a process of social learning centered on the learner
that is realized through activities outside of the formal education system. NFL is by definition
voluntary and intentional, and covers a wide variety of learning fields: youth work, youth clubs,
sports associations, voluntary service, and many other activities which organize learning
experiences.1 NFL is also an integral part of a lifelong learning as it helps ensure that young
people and adults acquire and maintain the skills and competences needed to adapt to a
continuously changing environment.

1
European Portfolio of Youth Workers and Youth Leaders Working in the Context of Non-Formal Education, Council
of Europe, 2007.