Types of education and their characteristics

Types of education and their characteristics

People always say that we never stop learning as long as we are alive. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are being schooled. Education comes to us in all shapes and forms. But what are the types of education? To find an answer to this question, continue reading this article. In it, we will tell you about different types of education and their characteristics.

Types of education and their characteristics

Types of education

Types of education

There are various ways to categorize different types of education. The categorization depends on your standpoint.

If you choose to categorize it by educational institutions, you get preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary (higher) education.

If you go by goals (what people are going to use their education for), you get government (otherwise known as conveyor belt), professional and leadership education.

Some people also split education as a whole into traditional, liberal (or progressive) and transformative education.

There are plenty of other classifications out there in the world. However, the most popular classification is the division of education into formal, informal and non-formal education. Below, you can find an in-depth look at types of education and their meaning.

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Formal education definition

formal education

Formal education is a formal and systematic approach to education. We all encounter this type of education in schools, universities and other institutions in the education system.

Five main characteristics of formal education

★ Formal education has an end goal. Each educational institution has its own purpose. Education is received through direct instructions, tuition and schooling.

★ It has a time frame and strict regulations. This means that each educational institution has limited time to teach you a set amount of things. It cannot be changed or prolonged. For example, if secondary school lasts six years, you cannot stretch it into seven. However, it works backwards: you can test out and shrink it to five years if you are very intelligent.


★ Formal education relies on a systematic and well-defined curriculum. The curriculum is created with particular objectives in mind. The objectives are usually set by the government.

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★ In formal education, teachers need to be specially qualified and to give efficient instructions.

★ Formal education institutions instill strict discipline on the students. Both the teacher and the student realize that they are engaged in the education process and both know their duties.

Curriculum meaning


Most of the aims of formal education are pretty straightforward. There is a limited amount of time and a set of goals to achieve. But what is a curriculum?

Well, curriculum is the name for the academic content and lessons that are taught in an educational institution or in a program or course.

In a broader sense of the word, curriculum encompasses the skills and knowledge that students should earn in their lessons. This includes the learning units and objectives, the teachers’ assignments and materials to complete these assignments.

Fun fact:

There is also such a thing as a hidden curriculum. This term means the things that children learn in schools outside of their lesson plans. This includes implicit messages that are hidden in the way how teachers teach their subjects, or how the schoolbooks talk about certain things and avoid talking about others. We usually do not notice these subtle lessons, hence the name, hidden curriculum.

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Informal education definition

informal education

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Somewhat similar to the hidden curriculum, informal education also happens outside of the structured curriculum. In other words, informal education is the process through which a person gains knowledge outside of the strict confinements of formal education.

Five main characteristics of informal education

★ It is spontaneous and incidental, it can happen anywhere and at any time. Usually, no conscious effort is involved in the informal education. For example, a parent can use a real-life situation to teach their child a lesson, all in real time.

fixing a bike

★ People involved in informal education are usually very motivated to learn and to teach. For instance, a kid who could not beat a level in a videogame asks for advice from their peer who has already beaten the whole game. Both are obviously interested in the subject; one is eager to share their knowledge and the other wants to learn about the proper playing method.

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★ There are no strict regulations whatsoever. No timetables, no curriculums, no homework. Most of the learning happens through regular social interactions that are not confined to any set rules.

★ There is no organization or institution behind informal education. Anyone can be a teacher, as well as anyone can be a student.

★ Informal education is essential for children in their early years. Despite not being recognised by many academics, the importance of informal education cannot be understated. Without it, we would not be able to function properly in society, or even function at all.

Non-formal education definition

non-formal education

And last, but certainly not least, there is non-formal education. It refers to educational practices that are not a part of the formal or informal education. To make it clear, any courses or programs that take place outside of schools, universities and other educational institutions, belong to the realm of non-formal learning.

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Five main characteristics of non-formal education

★ This type of education is completely voluntary. A person chooses what he wants to study and where, without any unnecessary lessons and courses. It might be free of charge or require additional costs.

★ Non-formal education can be full-time, as well as part time. Students are usually able to combine work and study with minimal losses.

dance class

★ Non-formal education encourages discussion. It does not demand from students to accept the information they learn at face value. It stimulates them to question everything they are given. Teachers are on the same level as students. Self-learning is also rewarded.

★ It is more similar to formal education than informal, as it is usually structured, planned and has a set of goals. Although all of these things are slightly more flexible. The main difference between formal and non-formal education is that the latter exists outside of educational institutions.

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★ The other difference is that formal education is often too outdated and distanced from the real world. Non-formal education helps people gain useful skills that they have not gotten a chance to learn through formal or informal education.

And that is all on the types of education and their characteristics! We hope that this article has been useful for you. And remember: it is best to enjoy all three of these types of education to achieve the best results. Stay curious and never stop learning!

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Source: Legit.ng

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