Education is the process by which people acquire knowledge, skills, tools, social skills, attitudes, moral values, beliefs, and practices. Education can be a school, college, university or institution. Education helps us to grow as individuals by enabling us to take up responsibilities for our own actions and choices. Education enables people to think independently and learn from their own experiences. People learn through practice. Education facilitates learning by providing the means to learn; by producing knowledge about the world and human beings; by producing important thought and experience; by fostering the development of skills and knowledge; and by developing the abilities of individuals to develop their own leadership styles and values.
Education produces new things; new ideas and knowledge. New things are developed by individuals through their own experience and assessment of how they learn, how they relate to others, how they analyze and evaluate information and what they are motivated to do. Education broadens the scope of possibilities. Through everyday experience, new things are developed and new knowledge develops. Through this process, the informal education process produces new people who become responsible for their own lives, their interactions with others, their achievements and their failures, and their future.
The main advantage of a classroom environment in comparison to an informal one is that students are required to set objectives, discuss issues in detail, submit papers and perform tasks according to a certain structure. Classroom planning is a conscious effort made by teachers to organize learning process, inculcate discipline, optimize the learning outcome, minimize the risk of wastes, increase the participation rate and enhance the quality of the teaching. The classroom planning includes an assessment of requirements, selection of materials, selecting appropriate technology and the allocation of time. Teachers have to plan a syllabus according to specific time available, students should complete all the objectives within a specific time frame and teachers should create an atmosphere of active participation, making learning enjoyable and interactive.
Informal education on the other hand has no set structure, no prescribed objectives, no defined method or planning. The process develops through individual effort and becomes an unplanned experimentation. In the informal setting, spontaneous innovation, and initiative plays an important role in education. An unorganized syllabus does not ensure an optimal learning experience, the teaching methodology is undefined and the selection of textbooks is largely on the basis of the availability of cheap materials.
As defined, non-formal education is a type of adult education program that facilitates learning without the need of prior permission, supervision or the use of any equipment. Activities are conducted in the student’s room or in the home, and the instructor is not a strict requirement. The teacher plays a greater role in the formation of the curriculum through encouraging, guiding and enabling the adult learner.
In a formal education setting, a teacher forms a specialized curriculum that specifies the specific time, topic and students. A committee is assigned to ensure that the syllabus adheres to the rules and regulations laid down by the government. Time and workload constraints sometimes compel instructors to tailor lessons according to the time available. This waste of valuable teaching time is an evident example of the waste of learning process and opportunity. Thus formal education is a controlled process with specified objectives and time allocated for the development of the learner.
Non-formal education has no prescribed subject or syllabus, and the learning process can be individualized. Unlike formal education, non-formal learning does not follow a specific time table or a structured agenda. Any situation that occurs in the class is to be addressed with the help of the teacher. Informal education is characterized by the presence of a wide range of learners, each with his/her own objectives, approaches and strategies.
Both types of learning experience share common characteristics. Both involve a structured process with definite goals and objectives and both have an equal possibility of failure. But whereas formal education involves an objective set in stone, the informal education is an experiential one, which depends on the capacity and attitude of the teacher. The teacher can adjust the syllabus according to the daily experience of the students.