Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Back to School

Formal vs. Informal Education

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article


A formal education is what students learn in a traditional classroom. It’s the organized method of learning being administered by a government body. This formal education must be an institution that’s accredited where the curriculum needs to follow the customary standards of academia. This type of education usually begins around age 4 and can stretch all the way through college.

Informal education is anything learned more independently outside of the traditional classroom. It can be things that are self-taught by researching or reading, or through things that are experienced. This involves behaviors, skills, and values learned through interaction on a daily basis.

People learn at an early age that education will be their key to success. Here are some of the differences between a formal and informal education.


  • A school or other institutions are the usual places for learning a formal education. There are strict requirements for the teachers and instructors including a degree in their field of teaching. They must also follow the rules set down by the board as to their ability to handle the classroom and their methods of teaching.
  • Informal education isn’t restricted to any certain location and usually integrates itself with the surroundings. It can occur at home, vacations, leisure times, cultural locales, and even institutions of education. The teachers’ traits can vary by their expertise, management skills, and experience.


  • The education system predetermines the books and materials used for learning through formal education. The teachers and instructors must follow a curriculum that’s set by the Board. The classroom setting does limit the ability of the teachers to use any other materials or content.
  • In comparison, informal education is a lot more unpredictable and spontaneous. It concentrates on using conversations to encourage people to react in different circumstances. Some of the methods used take place in groups, media, work, leisure and many other activities that happen daily.


  • All formal education occurs in a preset period. The time periods are set so students can complete each stage of their education. These times will vary according to the particular fields being studied and the regulations of the system of education.
  • Informal education is never ending. It is an educational process that lasts a lifetime. The time that’s allocated and the activities will vary with each person.


  • The aim of formal education is to provide students with a full series of skills. Credentials and certificates are presented when students complete every level. It attempts to instill in the students the requirements they’ll need to succeed in a professional or technical field. There are also students who use formal education to fulfill their personal intellect.
  • In contrast, the informal education instructors strive to inspire their students to contemplate the core ethics of their community through mutual conversations. The knowledge that’s acquired can be used to make better judgments about the activities happening each day. Those students taking part do not expect to receive any certificates or credentials.

Each of these forms of education offers different high points to reach the students. A formal education, in the classroom, is taught by the certified teachers using trusted materials and can last a long time.

The informal setting is in a different environment where the activities are far less formal, and a different audience is reached. Both programs do well by the students. However, some students flourish more in the informal setting because they’re more comfortable and not as intimidated. Their progress will ultimately lead to their having more confidence when they’re in their formal class.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.