Education refers to any of the process by which people acquire new skills, knowledge, values, understandings, habits, and beliefs through interaction. Educational systems include training, teaching, direct experience, reflection, and organized research. Education in the United States primarily involves the process by which students attain knowledge by completing educational programs at school and through participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports, community service, vocational study and preparation for higher education. There are many other types of education that do not involve schooling.
The major forms of formal education are primary, middle, secondary, post-secondary and higher education. In the United States, primary education generally refers to kindergarten through grade school, and includes subject matter such as reading, writing, math, social studies, science, geography and art. Middle school is usually a junior high school, and typically covers subjects in reading, mathematics, English, history, physical education, and some reading/writing. A secondary school is a four year college or university degree program.
Informal education generally refers to training and practice that helps people to learn new things. Informal education is frequently used to prepare students for specific careers, such as drivers’ ed, nursing, veterinary medicine, pharmacy technician, home care assistant and K-12 education. Courses are often taught through non-traditional methods, such as workshops, workbooks, taped lectures, conferences, online college courses, audio tapes, and live learning. Many informal courses are now available on computer technology, including online college courses and distance education. Online college courses allow learners to complete courses on their own time and at their own pace, at any time they are available. These types of courses are often the first step towards a formal education.
While some people are comfortable with attending regular classrooms, some find it to be limiting. With informal education systems, people can complete coursework at their own pace, and often finish up having more credits than in a traditional education system. Some employers even consider non-formal education systems to be preferable because it keeps their employees from missing too much time from work. In some cases, employers will pay part or all of the tuition costs for their employees, provided the employee completes the required tasks and passes a test.
Adults already have a good grounding in the subject matter they want to teach when they begin attending classes. Many adults who have already completed college courses, trade or technical schools, or other formal education programs are not unfamiliar with the subject matter. Formal education is not necessary to teach these types of subjects, as they are commonly taught using online sources. Online sources can easily offer a better variety of information, along with a greater depth of information, than could be found in a traditional classroom setting.
Adult learners are not the only ones who can benefit from informal education. It is also beneficial for children who are in high school, middle school, or even college. It allows them to develop valuable life skills that they can then apply to a formal education if they choose to do so in the future. By teaching their peers how to learn the same things through online resources, as well as how to work with others in a group setting, students of all ages can get a leg up on the learning process and succeed in the program they choose.