Applied Linguistics

What is Informal education concept characteristics and examples

Informal education is a term used to define learning obtained in an unstructured way, outside the official educational establishments of a society. This includes the notions and concepts acquired in activities of daily living, such as work, hobbies and contact with other people.

This training is conducted irregularly, is not planned and does not provide access to degrees, diplomas or certificates. In addition, it is characterized by not having specific educational objectives or specific duration.

All that our parents teach us are examples of informal education. Source:

Informal education differs from formal education, which is taught in official schools, subject to progressive curriculum guidelines. It is also distinguished from non-formal education which, although it has planning and organization, develops outside the compulsory school environment.

In this case, they are optional training activities, carried out deliberately to acquire specific knowledge. Examples are language courses, painting or photography, and dance or tennis lessons.

However, the difference between informal and non-formal education is not always clear and in some cases can be confusing.

Informal education concept

The concept of informal education is based on the premise that it is transmitted outside official education centers recognized by government authorities.

From a linguistic point of view, this notion is integrated by the terms “education”, which is the system through which knowledge is acquired, and “informal”, which refers to something alien to formality. That is, it does not have execution or development that meets certain requirements or parameters and does not imply accuracy, precision, punctuality and consequence in actions.

From an etymological point of view, the word “education” comes from the Latin “educatio”, which means “education”, “training” or “parenting”. This term is formed by the components “ex”, a prefix that can be translated as “external”; the verb “ducere”, equivalent to “to direct” or “to guide”; and the suffix “-thio”, which indicates “action” or “effect”.

In turn, the word “informal” is also composed of Latin roots and means “that does not follow the prohibited rules”. It is the result of the union of the prefix “in”, which refers to a negation; the noun “form”, which is understood as “figure” or “image”; and the suffix “-al”, synonymous with “relative to”.

Characteristics of informal education

The development of informal education occurs throughout life. Source:

Informal education is characterized by being irregular, fortuitous and random and for not following a program established by the governmental entities of each country.

It is offered by chance in its own daily interaction with the environment and does not occupy a curricular space within educational institutions.

This learning is not organized or planned, and progress is not progressed until a degree or certification is achieved. On the contrary, it is an individual training that arises from contact with the environment in which one lives and from the information received by the media and other sources of knowledge.

Furthermore, informal education does not require the presence of a teacher or teacher and is not deliberate, as it does not intentionally seek to educate. Nor does it have deadlines and targets that must be met, nor does it follow a specific timetable.

On the other hand, it can occur in educational centers when it appears informally in the interaction between students, alien to the pedagogical objectives of the establishment itself.

This learning is usually unconscious and involuntary and not bound by rules of any kind. However, this does not imply in all cases that their quality is inferior to the formal one.

In short, informal education is spontaneous, random and occurs as a person grows up within a society. Its development, therefore, lasts a lifetime.

Examples of informal education

As a model of informal education, we can point to the learning that arises from interaction with family, couples, friends, co-workers and the rest of our social relationships.

Members of the family

For example, when a grandfather tells us a personal story that he lived during World War II as a child, without us realizing it, we are incorporating knowledge about that period.

The same happens when our parents teach us how to make the bed, use a knife and fork, brush our teeth, tie our shoes or drive a car.


Also, when a colleague in the office explains how to operate a machine or the correct way to make a report, or tells us where the company cafeteria is located.


In the same way, when a friend of our soccer team teaches us how to defend or define a play in a specific way, we are in the presence of a case of informal education.

In all these examples, we assimilate information and add knowledge, which also happens when we go to the movies or the theater, when we watch documentaries on TV or when we read a book or a newspaper.

In summary, we can say that, throughout our lives, we live a permanent and constant learning process, most of which comes to us in an unstructured and unplanned way.

All this knowledge, such as what is learned at the famous “street university”, are examples of informal education.

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