Recognising the value of non-formal learning

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Non-formal education refers to learning that happens outside of the mandatory curriculum teaching and learning time. It can happen in school, in the form of extracurricular clubs, and outside of formal education, for example in sports teams. Αs the aims of non-formal education are broad and diverse, a large variety of non-formal learning activities are available. This article presents three successful European initiatives that embrace non-formal learning.

Non-Formal Activities for Inclusive Groups of Students

children involved in non-formal activities at school

Νon-formal activities for inclusive groups of students  – “Non4mal 4 All” – was an Erasmus+-funded project involving six countries (Estonia, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Romania and Turkey), which took place from 2016 to 2018. This project addressed the challenge of including students with disabilities in mainstream schools. In many cases, these students’ participation in school only amounted to their physical presence there, with them being mostly excluded from the social life of the school group. The Non4mal 4 All project taught teachers how to use adapted games, non-formal and extracurricular activities to include all students in the group activities, despite their individual special needs. This way, the project sought to combat school failure and school dropout and improve teachers’ ability to manage a diverse group of students.

The project objectives were:

  • ·creating a course for teachers in using non-formal activities for diverse groups of students,
  • training at least 25 teachers from each partner country in using non-formal activities and inclusive games, and collaborating with NGOs to support inclusive environments in schools, by having 60 teachers participate in staff training events, and
  • creating a guidebook of best practices to inspire others to implement this strategy.

More of the project’s results as well as its impressive impact can be found on the website.  

Youth Work eLearning Partnership

The Youth Work eLearning Partnership (YWeLP) was an Erasmus+-funded project among five countries (Australia, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Northern Ireland) that ran from 2017 to 2019. The project was coordinated by Maynooth University in Ireland, with partners in Humak University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Tallinn University in Estonia, Ulster University in Northern Ireland and Victoria University in Australia. Each of the partner universities provided professional youth work education and training in their respective countries.

YWeLP’s premise was that youth work organisations and universities engaged in youth work education can support one another, work together, and learn from one another to promote and sustain quality youth work for the benefit of young people. YWeLP's final product was a website called, which contributes to quality youth work by providing youth workers (voluntary, paid or students) with access to e-learning materials to promote their capacity to engage effectively with young people.

Positive Relationships Open Tangible Opportunities for New Developments

group photo of Positive Relationships Open Tangible Opportunities for New Developments project

Positive Relationships Open Tangible Opportunities for New Developments was another Erasmus+-funded project which took place between 2016 and 2018 in Estonia. The target group were mainly young people aged 14 to 30. However, voluntary projects were – and still are – available to people of all ages. Physically challenged young people were especially taken into consideration. The goal of the project was to establish a space for dialogue between the youth, private and government sectors, with specific attention to Europe and Mexico/Central America. Some of the project’s priorities were:

  • the acknowledgement of non-formal learning as a vital element in the formative professional path of young people,
  • the enhancement of the capacities of young people through engagement with non-formal learning activities, and
  • the recognition of non-formal learning by formal learning institutions, market actors and governmental institutions.

The goals were met through the implementation of youth training, job shadowing and youth conferences, together with the preparation of a handbook on formal/non-formal interactions. More information can be found on the website.

To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.