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Informal education – a wealth of information at IFED!


The concept of learning for life is a popular theme of the governments at the moment. LearnDirect will be moving into schools, supermarkets, village halls and the like in the next few months, aiming to encourage anyone to come and undertake some form of learning using computers.

Informal education takes the concept of lifelong learning to its natural conclusion by putting an emphasis on learning in everyday life, sharing experiences and knowledge with friends and family or community organisations, or taking up individual learning projects as hobbies. Informal education is a process and a way of helping people to learn.

A fascinating website run by Dr Mark K. Smith of the YMCA George Williams College, London, has a wealth of information about this topic (the college itself offers the only diploma and degree programmes in informal education in the UK).

Specialist informal educators are often found in community centres, schools and places where social work is carried out, but the concept has wider implications for anyone involved in learning.

Informal educators would argue that the concepts of lifelong learning have been in place since the dawn of time, and that specialist educators have been active in communities since the ancient Greece of Plato and Aristotle (there's a great history of informal learning to be found at

There is a great series of 'thinkers' whose work has contributed to the theory and practice of lifelong learning and informal education. You can read brief biographies and find a bibliography for the likes of Robert Baden Powell, founder of the scout movement, William Goodwin, advocate of free education and Ivan Illich, supporter of learning webs and the disabling effect of professions.

More generally, the site has some thoughts on what is learning, a guide to lifelong learning and a brief guide to the learning society. You can also find out about training as an informal educator.

All in all, this a great website full of fascinating stuff, and well worth a visit!


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