Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych „INPRO”

A New Approach to Learning

Education – especially in the minds of students – is mostly associated with school or university, sitting in a classroom for hours on end, doing piles of homework, listening to strict teachers and professors, and especially writing up those dreaded exams at the end of each semester. Education, in its traditional sense, is widely thought of as a process of learning that mostly occurs in academic institutions, with qualified staff to guide and educate students so that they can become qualified professionals in the future.

But, education doesn’t have to be like this. In the 19th century playtime was recognized as an important part in the development and growth of children. Then in the 20th century, the concept was extended to include young adults and adults. And today, what is referred to as non-formal education is becoming a more viable alternative to formal education in Europe.

So what is non-formal education? Well, its main aim is to educate young people using methods like playing, singing, dancing, handcrafting and debating. It’s more of a learning by doing approach. The activities are led by trained facilitators who guide students’ learning processes and who have extended knowledge on the topic being addressed. However, the facilitator is different from the one of the teacher. They have equal authority and equal status as the students. So it’s not only the students learning, but the facilitator as well.  

It is clear that nonformal education cannot replace formal education. There are some topics and some kinds of knowledge for which it is best to get a formal education – for example medicine. But, non-formal education can be complementary. An example that comes to mind is learning languages. It is clear that to master a language and to be fluent, one has to know its grammar and its rules. However there are non-formal ways in which the teacher can engage the student using the vocabulary of the language, such as through songs and role-play.

Since its creation in 2014 INPRO has been implementing non-formal education techniques in its projects and endeavours. It promotes multiculturalism in local schools in Rzeszow, realizes Erasmus + youth exchanges and training courses, and recently it has even implemented non-formal education in its language courses. So, while there are heated debates between formal and non-formal education supporters, we believe that they’re complimentary. It’s not so much about which one is better than the other, it’s more about incorporating different techniques into our education systems so that young people can think more critically and can be more well prepared as they become independent and enter the job market.