BlogLearning Strategies for Kids3 Types of Education for Kids: Formal, Informal & Non-formal

3 Types of Education for Kids: Formal, Informal & Non-formal

Educators and academicians have differentiated multiple types of education to help kids get the best of different methods. From standardized learning to homeschooling, there are different types of educational opportunities for kids these days. As a parent, you need to understand the differences, advantages, and opportunities available to kids when you blend different educational types.

You can also uncover new strategies of teaching your kids difficult subjects when you leverage multiple types of education. E.g., you can teach fractions and multiplication by using different colored balls of different sizes.

You can compare a small ball that’s half the size of a bigger one and ask your kid to count the total via multiplication. These are informal ways of learning that can help bring a new dimension to the learning experience.

For kids that are homeschooled, there are also good takeaways that you can pick up from formalized school and non-formalized learning. You can adapt the best practices from these structures and help your kid acquire the right life skills. For example, enrolling them in scouts & guides, fitness-based routines, language skills courses, etc. can help them be more prepared for multifaceted challenges.

SplashLearn: Most Comprehensive Learning Program for PreK-5

SplashLearn inspires lifelong curiosity with its game-based PreK-5 learning program loved by over 40 million children. With over 4,000 fun games and activities, it’s the perfect balance of learning and play for your little one.

Try for free

Let’s unpack the world of education and learning by starting out with a definition of education itself.   

What Is the Meaning of Education?

Teacher educating students in class

When trying to understand the world of education, we need to dig deeper into the meaning of education. Education is widely regarded as the guide towards developing a growth mindset, progress and freedom. By learning the right sets of skills, principles, values, and processes, kids can become more productive and successful adults.

You can teach your kids different ways of understanding the world around them through multiple lenses. With the right science curriculum, you can open their world to biology, physics, chemistry, etc. Through different languages, you can inspire them to travel globally and interact with different people. With math education, you can help develop the foundation for engineering, coding, and AI.

Education is also regarded as goal-driven efforts to gain proficiency in certain areas of life. You can teach your kids the art of swimming and give them the right training structure to help them swim more elegantly. You can help them uncover insights on leadership and strategy, with an engaging history curriculum.

The end objective of education can be certification, milestone achievement, or the complete acquisition of a skill. This inspires your kids to strive for excellence, in whatever they choose to do. Education is also a key tool to help them tap into their inner potential. With the right education type, your kids can fulfill their dreams in any avenue.

Related Reading: Best Educational Games for Kids by Subjects & Grades

Understanding the Different Types of Education

A school based learning experience for kids

To get a better sense of what education types are ideal for your child, you need to be aware of the types that exist in the world. There are primarily three major types of education available for kids, namely formal, informal, and non-formal. These provide value across different areas of development for your children.

Formal education consists of school-based learning, subject-oriented, uniform curriculum, and highly structured teaching methods. Informal education focuses on practical skills, diversity in teaching, real-life based, and independence in learning. Non-formal education drives flexible learning in a collaborative environment without formal prerequisites.

There are also additional types of learning, which are more niche in their focus and goals. You can have your kids participate in direct, indirect, collective, and specific education types by enrolling them in different online and in-person courses.

Related Reading: Best Tips & Strategies to Teach English Language

Formal Education – a Highly Structured Approach

Kids learning in a formal education setup

When it comes to the types of education systems for kids, formal education is one of the first few things that come to mind. The image of a formalized school, with uniforms and school books, comes to mind, which is one of the major hallmarks of a formal education type.

Your kids are taught by certified teachers that are highly qualified in their field across different grades and standards. Teachers are also trained to develop the inherent skill sets of their kids so that they’re able to gain more confidence in different subjects.

You can identify formal educational curricula through their standardized K-12 program, which is designed to be uniform for all students. There is little flexibility and greater weight given to certification, degrees, and graduation. Your kids will also have to be present on-premises as a part of the education.

Examples of Formal Education

Classroom management is one of the primary examples of a formal education setup. Your kids can learn alongside others in a private or public institution. The formal education system provides a structure for your kids to grow within through grade-wise graduation.

You can start formalized education for your child from Pre-K onwards by enrolling them in a formal school or Pre-K specific institute. A nursery or kindergarten-style school may also be right for younger kids that excel in a formal education environment.

Colleges, universities, and certification schools are other types of formal education as well. In these environments, your kids can excel in a highly disciplined and skill-driven ecosystem. Kids can interact within the classroom and engage with professors in a direct way.

Advantages of formal education

While there are different types of education for kids, the main advantage of opting for formal education is the structure provided. You can be assured that your kids will be able to maximize their potential within a highly structured and inflexible environment. The right skills required, such as grammar, arithmetic, and critical reasoning, will be provided to kids within the setup.

Formal education has also become standardized after generations of iterations on various types of education systems. For scale purposes, formalized education has been the leader within the schooling arena. Your kids can benefit from a hierarchical structure that has been developed to provide consistency.

The planning aspect is also streamlined when it comes to formal education. You can rely on a range of teachers, staff, and assistants to provide the best quality of education. Your kids also get graded based on their performance, which helps you keep track of their learning progress.

Another important advantage of opting for formal education is that it is highly planned by design. Your kids can benefit from a completely planned out curriculum, which can help them excel in any domain they choose. From math to history, all subjects are covered equally within the school program.

Disadvantages of formal education

There are also clear disadvantages of opting for a purely formalized education standard. Students can find that the rigid structure doesn’t allow for creativity and flexibility. Your kids may feel held back intellectually if they only learn through books and instructional processes.

There is also the risk of falling into rote learning traps, as some schools tend to focus on what’s coming up in the examination rather than exploring subjects through curiosity. There may be a risk of brilliant students becoming easily bored because of a highly rigid system.

Your kids may also face unnecessary stress and anxiety caused by examinations. This is a key disadvantage, as many teachers may find themselves preparing kids to answer questions the right way instead of empowering them with unique tips and strategies.

Related Reading: Innovative Strategies to Better Engage With Students

Why Informal Education is Vital for Kids

Kid learning in a flexible informal environment

In terms of flexibility and engaged learning, informal education is one of the best ways to teach children. There isn’t a direct syllabus or not much practice in creating a lesson plan involved in daily learning, but more attention is given to practice. Kids can participate in a range of exercises that go beyond formal structures.

That’s why things like field trips, museum visits, and after-school programs are vital for holistic development. Your children should experience the practical world and apply their skills to widen their horizons through different types of informal education. Informal lessons can be taught throughout the day, but structuring them within a child’s schedule is ideal.

For homeschooled kids, informal educational practices are essential. You can follow state guidelines to understand what you should be teaching your kids, but there is so much flexibility in terms of what else you can teach them. If you find that your child is more interested in dinosaurs, then you can expand their creative horizon with field trips, movies, and books that help them learn. 

Examples of informal education

Some of the main examples of informal education are learning languages, autodidactic learning, skill-based learning, scouts & guides, etc. These informal educational experiences can be enrichening for your children, as it allows them to practice creative-thinking in the classroom and real life too. With a basic set of skills provided, your kids can take on new challenges to utilize them effectively.

Homeschooling is another critical example of informal education, requiring the integration of structure, technology, and tools. You can help your kids prepare for the challenges of the world by giving them the right homeschooling educational experience. You can introduce homeschooling resources, toys, online learning platforms, virtual learning, and book experiences that help them remain curious about the world. 

Advantages of informal education

Some of the more obvious advantages of informal education are the focus on singular goals. These can help kids focus their attention on attaining one objective with multiple milestones. These could include specific skills, proficiency, and even mastery over certain things.

Your kids can also tend to enjoy the freeform nature of informal education, as well as its practical applications. Kids can sometimes not connect the dots between learning math and applying it in real life, which is where informal educational practices help drive the message home.

Kids also leave with a sense of pride and accomplishment in the short-term. This motivates them to continue pursuing excellence, as the incentive of an informal educational program is to engage kids. Your kids can also develop lifelong connections through informal educational programs that span across several years. 

Disadvantages of informal education

As you make the decision of what type of education is best for your child, you should also know the disadvantages of a purely informal educational experience. You still need the right infrastructure to support a child’s development, especially during their younger years.

When it comes to informal education, you need to assess different classes, schools, and centers individually. They may specialize in unique skills and domains, but you may need to enroll your child in multiple schools to give them a well-rounded experience.

There isn’t also a set routine for the child to follow within the domain of informal education. Kids that thrive under structure may feel out of place and disengaged. You need the right disciplinary foundations within a school system to ensure optimal development.

The results are also highly unpredictable when it comes to informal education. You need to constantly track how your child is coping up with the curriculum when you enroll them in an informal education setting. 

Related Reading: How to Select a Homeschooling Curriculum

Let’s Look at Non-Formal Education

After school class for kids

Another form of education is gaining in popularity these days, called non-formal education. This is a balanced approach to strict formal education and non-structured informal educational practices. It finds the fine line between flexibility and educational goals for kids. Kids also tend to enjoy learning when they have access to non-formal educational programs.

What differentiates non-formal education from informal education is the planned nature of the program. There is a well-outlined structure for the non-formal educational program, making it goal driven. It is also more practically oriented when compared to formal educational learning practices. It can be leveraged as both a part-time and full-time course as well. 

Examples of non-formal education

You’ll find non-formal educational programs to be more impactful for specific areas of learning for your kids. Skills development schools, such as confidence, socialization in kids, etc., can also be beneficial for your kids if they have shown an interest in these areas.

Training schools, youth exchanges, and summer camp activities for kids can also be impactful. These non-formal skill-based educational programs also provide a collaborative environment for your kids to practice theater, executing painting ideas, mapping, bird spotting, and a range of other skills.

Home-based learning programs, tutoring, and other forms of individualized learning can help your child strengthen weaker areas. If your kids require special needs schooling, then you should provide them with the right SPED and other types of special education.

Advantages of non-formal education

When trying to figure out the benefits of different types of education, you need to look at the advantages offered by non-formal education. Non-formal educational programs are generally learner-centered. They are designed to engage kids of all ages and provide them with a rich and nurturing environment for them to develop.

Non-formal education also engages kids through different types of stimuli. This makes the entire program more participatory, practical, and goal driven. Your kids can learn about things they would never traditionally have in a formal educational system. There is also greater accessibility to non-formal educational programs for children as well.   

Disadvantages of non-formal education

While there are many advantages of non-formal education, you need to be mindful of the core disadvantages as well. You can find that your kids may not be focused enough within a non-formal environment. They may need the structure of a formal education program to excel in different subjects.

Your kids may also find that they are more productive in a formal educational program. Schools are developed to maximize the time spent within the four walls through engaged teaching, which is the right approach for many kids. Non-formal education also lacks certification, thereby lacking a standardized assessment for skills development.

Related Reading: What is a Homeschool Co-op 


You can blend formal, informal, semi-formal, and hybrid educational strategies to create a well-rounded curriculum. You can get the best of both worlds and create your own approach to enhancing your child’s educational frontiers.

By establishing different methods of stimuli, you can improve the way that your kids view the idea of learning. You can shift their mindset from rote learning to a more curiosity-driven learning experience. So what are you waiting for? Pick up the right strategies and get going!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 5 divisions of education?

The 5 major divisions of education are early childhood, primary, secondary, higher, and academy education. You can create a multi-input approach to maximizing each learning stage.

How do kids learn best?

Kids learn in a collaborative and curiosity-driven manner. You need to establish the right routines, the right stimuli, and the right tools, to help them learn better.

Why are there different types of learning and education?

While different parents approach education differently, it’s important to differentiate them based on their objectives and styles.

Should kids get to pick their own style of education?

As a parent, you need to establish the right set of educational foundations and help them adjust to it by making it flexible. Kids shouldn’t stay rigid in the type of education they want, e.g. only informal education.

Andrew Scholl
Andrew Scholl is an educational expert with over 15 years of teaching experience in elementary and middle school classrooms. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.