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Five Ways Informal Education Enhances Formal Education

Kevin Devoto Nov 13, 2019
While informal education can be defined in a variety of ways, it generally refers to learning that happens outside of a structured curriculum or school. Some summer programs and after school programs may have a defined curriculum, and some may have more of an informal experience.
Either way, informal education allows the students to take control of what they want to know and makes them the vessel of information. Here are five ways that different kinds of informal education can broaden a student's learning.

1. Informal Education Allows Freedom of Choice

Informal education allows students to choose their own experiences. Beyond the curriculum of a particular class or subject, students can dig into what makes them curious. Through informal conversation and experiences with subjects outside of school, they can deepen their understanding of a topic.
The best part of self-exploration is the ability to change paths easily. It is not necessary for students to stay on a task or in a particular framework; instead, they can follow whatever sparks their curiosity the most.

2. Informal Education Takes You to New Places

Students can experience informal education by getting away from the traditional education system altogether. Many of the best gap year programs give students a break from schools and universities so they get real life experience or immerse into a new country or culture.
In many ways, taking a gap year at any point in one's education allows students to relax. Anything that is traditionally required in education takes a back seat and allows the student to learn in new ways.
A gap year can provide a new environment to explore, hands-on job experience, or the chance to build leadership skills. Beyond school, students can learn about themselves in new and exciting ways.

3. Informal Education Builds Communication Skills

Communication is a skill often emphasized in formal education, but the boundaries of communication do not stop at the classroom door. Learning that takes place in everyday life often gives students more choices to navigate and different people to interact with.
While presentations, group projects and written reports can give students the fundamentals of communication skills, social skills are better honed on the playground, during clubs, sports and other endeavors. People learn from each other by engaging in unstructured and free spirited talks.

4. Informal Education Takes You Out of Your Bubble

Informal education happens in experience. On soccer field, communication and teamwork are learned and experienced differently compared to learning in class. Hiking in mountains or spending time at the beach lets an individual look, listen, smell, touch and hear the world.
A day in the mountains might inspire one to research about native tree species and a trip to the beach might mean learning how to swim or surf. Just going places different from usual day-to-day opens doors to curiosity and allows for self expression.

5. Informal Education Builds Identity

Your experiences and understanding of the world fundamentally shape your identity. As a young child, you could articulate your favorite food or color but you did not have a strong sense of self. That is because identity formation happens when you experience the world and begin to see yourself in it.
You learn how to make choices and act freely and informal education plays a key role in this. Without boundaries of curriculum, students can learn, explore and interact on their own. They are shaped by the world around them but they also begin to learn how to shape parts of their world themselves.
Because people learn and interpret information differently, they need a space where they can explore interests, questions and desires uninhibited by curriculum. Informal education is a spontaneous process through which individuals learn about themselves and the world around them by being a part of society.