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close this bookPopularization of Science and Technology - What Informal and Non-formal Education Can Do? (Faculty of Education,University of Hong Kong - UNESCO, 1989, 210 p.)
close this folderPapers presented at the Conference:
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentScience for all people: Some educational settings and strategies for the popularisation of science and technology - Harbans Bhola
View the documentNonformal education: A hinge between science and culture - Camillo Bonanni
View the documentThe popularisation of science and technology from an educational designer’s standpoint - Fred Goffree
View the documentPatterns of nonformal and informal education effective for the polarization of science and technology - Ana Krajnc
View the documentScience and technology in public adult education - Klaus Pehl
View the documentCompetition and complementarity between formal and nonformal education - Jean-Emile Charlier
View the documentIndigenous cultural tradition and the popularisation of science and technology - Bernard H.K. Luk
View the documentPopularization of science and technology: The cultural dimension - Cheng Kai Ming
View the documentThe role of Science Teacher Associations in promoting the popularisation of science through nonformal means - Jack B. Holbrook
View the documentPopularizing educational technology: The INNOTECH model - Jose B. Socrates
View the documentOut-of-school activities: The road to success - Cheng Donghong
View the documentEducation and technology transfer in Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, China - Gerard Postiglione
View the documentPopularization of science and technology - Kurt Prokop

Competition and complementarity between formal and nonformal education - Jean-Emile Charlier

Introduction: The parallel developments of the school and the nonformal education (systems)

The West-European countries are lacking systematic researches on the importance of the nonformal education. When simplifying an infinitely more complex situation, two parallel trends of development may be stressed.

On the one hand, the diploma has become more and more important. Legal regulations restrict the practice of a growing number of manual or intellectual professions to holders of diplomas delivered by institutions. That is to say, the learning of a job on the field has happened to be discredited to the advantage of a training rewarded for the passing in theoretical and practical tests. This is true for a large number of crafts which represented the natural prospects for the part of the population relatively unable to succeed in a classical school curriculum. The laws protecting the access to these professions have been taken essentially under the pressure of professional corporate bodies, seeing to protecting the market of their members.1

On the other hand, the nonformal education, under various forms, has been developing very quickly for less than fifteen years. Two reasons at least may explain its success. First of all, the speeding evolution of the production and work methods in the secondary and tertiary industries has required the setting up of systems of permanent education similar to the nonformal education ones. Secondly, the restructuring of the north european economies has excluded the least qualified workers from the employment market. The trainings offered to them are also closer to the patterns of the nonformal education than to the ones of the school system.

School education and nonformal education are not independent from each other. The school institutions also organize short trainings, not awarding a diploma, on the fringe of their main activities. One of their aims is to win one part of the financial resources given by the individuals, the enterprises or the authorities to the permanent or further education. Moreover, the social movements are attempting to have the value of spontaneous skills acquiring processes by individuals in their places of work acknowledged. So some colleges of social and economic sciences allow workers with a few years of professional activity to unroll directly as senior students, recognising that way the equivalence between the work experience and the curriculum of two academic years at university. Lastly, the recent law on the raising of the school-leaving age to 18 in Belgium has explicitly stated that 15 to 18 year old young people can only follow a half-time education if the other halftime is to be dedicated to training periods in firms. In this respect, the formal education recognises the worth of the nonformal education and makes use of it to fill its deficiencies and to motivate young people not very interested in a theoretical training. The model of alternation, of German origin, has been strongly backed and encouraged by the CEDEEFOP2. In Belgium, it has enabled various corporate bodies of craftsmen, employers federation, social movements to set up training sessions in which the main part of the training occurs on the field and in which the young people are given first a few theoretical courses in direct connection with their own work experience.

For these last decades, we have thus witnessed a pendulum motion. In a first phase, the school forms strengthened their monopoly in awarding a diploma and tried to obtain the monopoly in education by denying the validity of non school trainings/or trainings not provided by school. In a second phase, school appeared more and more clearly not to be the most efficient place to provide particular forms of knowledge and to train certain audiences. The nonformal education developed then firstly by concerning itself with what the school did not take charge of or badly took charge of and secondly by broadening its scope of concern.

Nowadays, if the two systems appear to be complementary, they also appear to be competitors, in particular as far as the further adult education is concerned. Power struggles arise in as much as the school is the only institutionalised body to be entitled to award legal diplomas and would like to plan and organize the whole of the training systems according to its criteria. The three examples of the nonformal education come within the framework of this institutional context.

The professional training in the tertiary industry

After having changed drastically the industrial production methods the new technologies deeply modify the whole tertiary industry in full development. T h e most spectacular adaptation efforts are observed nowadays in the banking sector where very elaborated further education curricula have taken place and aim at maximising the efficiency of the nonformal education. Every institution has acquired equipment of self-learning (computer aided teaching CAT, library, videotapes library, ...) where all the employees can train themselves. The technological environment of the banks is moreover very modern and the popularization with these everyday technological instruments occurs naturally. Many sessions for internal purpose are furthermore organized for the employees who wish them. They do not adopt the form of school education but articulate with the conference or discussion patterns. Any individual having acquired experience in his work may be invited by the direction to talk about it, either to his peers or to subordinates wishing to progress in the hierarchy. The all of the accumulated knowledge in the organization is thus systematically redistributed, everyone being required to be trained or to train according to the themes dealt with. Trainings are also organized outside or are led by external experts but they belong less to the logic of nonformal education.

The case of the training courses organized by the banks is particularly interesting because these organizations have endeavoured to systematise the methods of the nonformal education. Presently, some of the most competent terms in the field of adult further education work in the banks and they have acquired a remarkable experience. The efficiency of the system stems at least from three factors:

- The education budgets in the banks are very high. The means at the disposals of the persons in charge of the training are clearly more important than the ones available in the schools.

- Everyone is stimulated to follow a training on his own. Possessing the command of new techniques results in pay-raise and ascent in the hierarchy. All the culture of the organisation drives the individuals to follow a training even if they had in the past negative experiences in their school curriculum.

- All the employees have a basic training of which the level tends to rise. They thus show a positive attitude towards the acquirement of a new knowledge.

The professional training of the indemnified unemployed

Since 1974 and the dramatical increase in unemployment, the Belgian State Secretary for Employment and Work has taken various steps to improve the professional qualifications of the unemployed. Many of these measures concern the popularisation with the new technologies and belong to the field of the nonformal education. Nevertheless, one must notice that the Belgian State Secretary, faced with the number of the unemployed, has progressively focused his efforts on the most trained individuals as well as on the most likely among them to gain immediately from a complementary training. The goal of getting the least qualified popularized with the new technologies has been almost totally given Up3. Among the most efficient measures, we may quote:

- the training periods in firms.

A lot of measures allow unemployed to work in firms to get a training in the most modern technical equipment. Strictly speaking, there are no training courses as such but much more a real familiarisation process with the instrument. The training periods are all the more efficient so since the unemployed have a basic training.

- the fast technical training.

These training sessions which do not belong to the school training types are basically practical and aim at giving quickly the workers the ability to use new technical devices. Agreements are sometimes taken with firms which undertake to recruit unemployed workers trained by the State department. We must underline that most of the training sessions organized find their equivalent in the school system. The only differences are the pedagogical method, here exclusively based on the concrete aspect, and the duration of training, which is considerably shortened.

The vocational training of young people without any qualification and training

In spite of the extension of compulsory school-attendance to the age of 18, a portion of young people keeps appearing on the employment market without any diploma and professional qualification required by the employers. The majority of these young people come from cultural environment favouring the concrete aspect; they do not manage to carry out a school curriculum awarding a diploma. It does not mean that they do not have any skills. They may possess the physical strength, the assiduity to the task, an immediate and concrete comprehension of the object. All these qualities, that would have been sufficient a few decades ago to turn them into appreciated workers, do not permit them any more to find a job. Their situation is all the more difficult that their qualities are valorized by their own cultural environments but depreciated by the professional milieux.

Among the initiatives taken in enabling them to get a qualification, we may mention “Les Entreprises d’Apprentissage Professional”. These small-scale outfits (between 20 and 60 young people aged from 18 to 25) use only non-traditional methods. The training includes a very limited theoretical part and a two-sided practical part. On the one hand, a training in workshop, inside the Entreprise d’Apprentissage Professional, on the other hand, traineeships in firms. Les Entreprises d’Apprentissage Professional are subsidised by the European Social Fund, provided that they comply with a certain number of provisions; among them we find the obligation to provide their trainees a training in the new techologies. They can not afford to acquire expensive equipment. Therefore they do their best to send their young people for a training in enterprises equipped with modern devices. Unfortunately, these firms are very reluctant to accept that hardly trained young people work on top equipment. In other words, young people whose culture is the most remote from the Sciences and the new Technologies, find themselves prevented from concretely approaching them. As a result, they are even more removed from them. A functional illiteracy develops among those who have not succeeded in a basic school curriculum. This illiteracy breaks up on its own for the persons who manage to find a job in spite of their lack of qualification4.


The analysis of the experiences in the nonformal education proves very systematically that they are much more beneficial to those who have a good basic school curriculum. This could indicate that the school remains the place par excellence “to learn-to-learn” and to take advantage of the later opportunities of training. It must be added that the supply of the nonformal education is clearly more important for trained employed individuals than for unqualified unemployed workers. The nonformal education makes up a market; the costs of access to it are generally too high to bear for isolated individuals. Only the authorities or enterprises can afford to offer training in the field of Sciences and Technologies to selected people.

Moreover, the on-the-job-training and the in-service-training, when they are efficient, are meant for those who are employed, i.e. mainly for the holders of a diploma. Even the methods of unpaid traineeships are only open to those who have basic abilities5.

The field of the formal and nonformal education is going through a rapid restructuring. The effort of school and universities to offer short trainings, which do not lead to the award of a diploma and which give a quick training in some forms of knowledge, has been mentioned earlier. Conversely, the will of private managers to set up training schemes close to the school pattern must be quoted. For instance, a steel industry organizes a one year full time advanced training course for engineers. In the same way, a bank has set up a training for managers of medium-scale enterprises, it also lasts one year full time. These training courses cost a lot more than similar ones organized by schools of higher education and universities.

Each side has its assets in the competition which opposes the school system and the profit-minded educationalists. The school has for itself the monopoly of awarding a diploma. It means that each diploma is classified in an univocal catalogue and corresponds to a given level of salary and responsibilities. Moreover, the diploma is linked to the person for all his professional life. The school is clumsily run because its curricula, the qualification of its teaching staff are controlled, but it gives on the other hand a diploma of which the value wanes only very slowly. Conversely, the private sector and the nonformal education offer immediately applicable and quickly controllable forms of knowledge. The aim is to endow the individuals with an operational ability in a specific language and with particular equipments. The efficiency of this method is high but the acquired abilities by the individuals are only recognized in the enterprise where they have been gained and where they are put into practice. Without any recognized diploma, the individual can only show practical proves of his abilities. No legal measures can protect him6.

One of the key problems between school education and nonformal education lies in the democratisation of the education. For several decades, the occidental countries have been willing to put the access to school within the reach of everyone by instituting free education, by granting scholarships to students. Nevertheless, the State has a hold only over the education structures it organizes and subsidizes. It can not provide a free access to training set afoot by profit-minded educationalists, training which proves to be the most profitable on the employment market especially when it coexists with a bright school curriculum.

In that case, we could wonder how to carry on the effort on the way to the democratisation of profitable forms of knowledge mainly conceived and imparted out of the school structures. The only solution to this question could consist in giving every citizen “courses-vouchers” entitling him to follow out of the school context the training he wishes.

Finally, the last problem I would like to tackle at deals with the transfer of financial resources from the school system to the independent profit-mined educationalists. The market of the nonformal education draws important amounts of money which would perhaps enable the formal education to take in charge the trainings of “dropouts” and the permanent further adult education if these financial flows were reinjected in the school system. If the formal education misses the most profitable training undertakings, it is obvious that it will be weakened and more and more compelled to impart only static forms of knowledge which are the least profitable.

This may once again present us with problems of democracy. When the school functions well, it not only teaches the operative methods but also offers a thorough comprehension of the mechanisms involved. It makes the individuals self-sufficient when faced with knowledge, it gives them the possibilities to become makers of knowledge. The profit-minded educationalists only provide ways of using the techniques. They put this way the individuals in a situation of dependence. It is not obvious that this evolution is positive when we analyze it from a democratic point of view.


1 “Le temps du labeur” ALALUF M., Editions de l’U.L.B., 1986.

2 “La formation en alternance des jeunes: Principes pour l’action” JALLADE J.P., CEDE - FOP, Berlin, 1982.

3 “Formation professionelle et professionnels de la formation” MAROY Ch., Doctorat en Sociologie, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1989.

4 “L’autre jeunesse. Jeunes stagiaires sans diplome”, P.U.L., 1987. “Les Entreprises d’Apprentissage Professionnel, des entreprises et des formations pas comme les autres’?” BODDSON D., CHARLIER J.E. et Alii, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1987.

5 “Nouvelles concurrences sur le marche des formation et des savoirs” CHARLIER J.E., I.S.T., Louvain-la-Neuve, I 988.