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close this bookAPPEAL - Training Materials for Continuing Education Personnel (ATLP-CE) - Volume 1: Continuing Education: New Policies and Directions (APEID - UNESCO, 1993, 115 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentChapter 1: The Context of Continuing Education
View the documentChapter 2: The Relationship Between Formal Education and Continuing Education
View the documentChapter 3: The Present Status of Continuing Education
View the documentChapter 4: ATLP-CE: Its Origin, Scope and Development
View the documentChapter 5: An Infrastructure for Continuing Education with Special Reference to Learning Centres
View the documentChapter 6: Strategies for Implementing Continuing Education Programmes - Administrative Aspects
View the documentChapter 7: Clientele, Delivery Systems and Learning Resources for Continuing Education
View the documentChapter 8: Guidelines for Setting Up or Strengthening Continuing Education Programmes
View the documentChapter 9: A Training Curriculum for Continuing Education Personnel
View the documentAnnex: List of Participants

Chapter 2: The Relationship Between Formal Education and Continuing Education

A. Formal Education as a Component Of Continuing Education

In the previous chapter formal education, non-formal education and informal education were described as subsets of continuing education (Figure 1.2), and continuing education was defined as the provision of opportunity for lifelong learning after primary schooling. Adults engaged in continuing education are largely self motivated and establish their own learning agendas.

Since continuing education draws on education, wherever it is available, no matter by whom it is provided, it is clear that programmes provided by formal education institutions are only one of many sources and options. Some people may wish to continue for some years in formal education following straight on from primary school. Others may wish to seek education from alternative sources such as non-formal equivalency programmes but return to formal education later. Some even may follow formal units of education quite late in life- even after retirement. Most people, however tend to rely more and more on the informal system as they become older.

Any system of continuing education therefore, should ensure that a wide variety of agencies and modalities is available in all localities and that these provide as broad a range of activities as possible.

B. The Issue of Complementarity

The various subsectors or systems of continuing education - formal, non-formal and self learning - do not stand alone. They are complementary in two ways. In the first place during the progression of any one persons life, he or she draws on all three subsectors as required for completing individual learning tasks. In this way all three are integrated into an individual’s personal development programme and so each contributes to the lifelong «curriculum» of the individual.

In the second place each type of continuing education provider helps and supports other providers. Ideally all providers should be part of a network which should be administered so as to avoid costly redundancies, overlapping provision or inappropriate or ineffective programmes and activities. Each provider in the network should be aware of the work of providers in similar fields and each should complement the work of the others. As agreed by a UNESCO workshop in 1985 complementary means «mutual support between the formal and other systems of education in respect of mobilisation and utilisation of physical facilities, personnel, administrative structure, curriculum and instruction materials, training of teachers and supervisors and evaluation certification procedure and techniques that have developed within formal, and non-formal education».1

1 Coordination and Complementarity. Bangkok, UNESCO 1985.

C. Differences between Formal Education and Other Subsectors of Continuing Education

While formal education is likely to remain an important component of lifelong learning for at least the foreseeable future, it is the non-formal and informal systems which make up most of the learning experiences of adults. It is important, therefore to appreciate the key differences between formal education on one hand and of the remaining components in the other.

Table 2.1: Some differences between formal education and the other two systems of Continuing Education2

No. Criterion

Formal Education

Non-formal Education and Self Learning

1. Objective

To acquire lifelong skills and to obtain a certificate

To acquire skills for immediate use.

2. Time-frame

It takes a long time to obtain the certificates and it involves full-time concentration.

Short and intermittent.

3. Curriculum

Academic in approach

Unacademic but it suits the needs of the target groups/functionnal.

4. Methodology

Institutional with authoritarian teacher/student relationship

Flexible. Adult oriented. Stress on independent learning.

5. Control

Top down relationship

Flexible. depending on situation, but largely self initiated.

2 Based on a table given by Hussain, Mohd. Hoesne in a paper «Non-formal Education as a Complementary Strategy to Human Resource Development» presented during the UNESCO/PROAP Planning Meeting for Literacy Personnel Training Activities for 1990, Hua Hin, Thailand, 16-23 April 1990, p.8.

Each individual learner will call on the resources of both types of system throughout lifelong learning but commitment to formal education is usually more difficult in terms of time and effort, is frequently off target and is usually expensive. It is not surprising therefore, that the proportion of time spent in formal education by almost all adults is considerably less than for the other approaches to continuing education. This point is another strong argument why educational ministries should give at least as much support for the non-formal and informal aspects of continuing education as for the formal system.

Arlen Wayne Etling in his book Characteristics of Facilitators the Ecuador Project and Beyond3 has elaborated six dimensions of education outside of the formal system. They are:

a) learner centred
b) cafeteria curriculum
c) horizontal relationship
d) reliance on local resources
e) immediate usefulness
f) low level of structure

3 Quoted by Hussain, M.H. Ibid p.8

Each of these dimensions is briefly described below from the perspective of continuing education.

(a) Learner-Centred. In non-formal and informal education the learning is initiated and controlled by the learner. Learners create their own learning environment rather than have it imposed from above or from outside. The learner either defines his or her own learning objectives or participates in formulating them.

(b) Cafeteria Curriculum. The curriculum is flexible and open to negotiation. It is determined by the choice of the learner and is not prescribed or required by someone else and may not always even be sequential.

(c) Horizontal Relationship. Educators become facilitators rather than teachers. The relationship between «facilitator» and «learner» is friendly and informal and the learner views the facilitator as a resource rather than as an instructor. Facilitators may come from the formal subsector but have changed roles in non formal and informal education. Some facilitators may be members of a group of learners who have leadership ability or some special skill or knowledge to be shared with others.

(d) Reliance on Local Resources. In most developing countries resources for all forms of education, including non-formal programmes and informal learning, are scarce. Inexpensive alternatives and use of local resources therefore becomes essential.

(e) Immediate Usefulness. Non-formal and informal approaches stress functional learning of immediate and direct relevance to the lives of learners. As contrasted to formal education, - even formal education selected by an individual as part of his or her lifelong learning path non-formal and informal learning involves immediate action and direct application of what has been learnt. The pay-off is tangible and direct and increases in material well being. Outside the formal system activities tend to be short with a «present time» not «future time» orientation. Non-formal and informal approaches are superior forms of continuing education where the object is to change immediate action or initiate new action.

(f) Low level of Structure. Outside of formal education learning activities are diverse and flexible and this implies there should be a diversity of structure. From a systems point of view some provision for continuing education appears uncoordinated, fragmented and diffuse. From an individual learners point of view such fragmentation does not matter in terms of developing and catering for his or her lifelong learning plan. In fact the more diverse the situation the more options are available and the greater the likelihood of finding activities which fit the learning plan. What matters is that the learner (i) has an easy way of finding out what is available and (ii) has ready access to the activities, and (iii) can initiate his or her own learning activities. This implies that some planning is needed and as stressed in Section B all providers should be part of a network and should aim for complementarity.

D. The Disjunction between Formal Education and Other Systems of Continuing Education

A review of the issues raised in Section C makes it fairly clear that formal education within continuing education may not always be as appropriate as either the non-formal or informal approaches. This is for three reasons: (i) for most adults formal units of education make up only small segments of the lifelong learning plan, and then generally only when people are relatively young (ii) the methods of formal education are not always appropriate for adult learners and (iii) the objectives set by teachers in the formal system rarely exactly match the objectives set by individual learners to meet their own needs.

In many formal education programmes the «match» between the learner and the course offered is minimal. In extreme cases teachers take the view that the learners are there to serve the subject, not the subject to serve the learners. For them the structure and «beauty» of the subject is all that matters since the subject matter has educational viability in its own right. Physics teachers, for example, frequently argue that it is the beauty and elegance of physical theory which matters and its relevance to life and applications in work are incidental. These views tend to become more prominent in higher levels of formal education and reach their extremes in many university programmes.

For these reasons it is not surprising that many adults find it difficult to insert units of formal education into their unfolding lifelong learning plan - especially later in life. The question arises what can be done to moderate this disjunction? Malcolm Knowles, the well-known American continuing educationist, takes the extreme view that formal education should be abandoned altogether, at least in its present form, and be totally integrated into a system of delivery for planned lifelong learning (see Chapter 5). There have been others before him such as Ivan Illich who have advocated the «deschooling» of society4. While there are strong arguments in favour of this extreme view it is unlikely to come about in the foreseeable future, at least in the developing countries of Asia and the Pacific.

4 Illich, Ivan Deschooling Society New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

The type of action which could and perhaps should be pursued now would be to change the emphasis on formal education so that it is seen to be an integral part of lifelong learning. This would mean that at primary school pupils should not only learn, but also learn how to learn and be given the impetus and motivation to continue to learn as they get older. At secondary school level the curriculum should be more open and the methods of teaching more flexible and individually oriented. Secondary schools should find out more about what people need and respond to those needs.

But probably the most significant reform should be that all formal educational institutions should be an integral part of the infrastructure for continuing education and should not stand aside as at present. Certainly they should be part of any continuing education network which may be established (see Chapter 5). Ideally they should be accessed through a system of learning centres of the type proposed by Malcolm Knowles (Chapter 5). As a first step, perhaps, the material and human resources «locked up» in formal institutions should be more flexibly employed to meet the lifelong educational needs of the community as a whole.