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Gandhi once said that Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. The saying shows that education is undeniably important in our daily life. Without education, we probably still wasting time washing clothes by using hands. Education is not only important for the purpose to get a good job but it is also to make our life easier. The definitions exist of education are numerous. Education to me means learning new things or knowledge, including attitudes and skills. I also believe that all of us are lifelong learners because we actually learn something new every day with or without our realisation. Learning process is not only happening in the classroom but also happen accidently outside the classroom. There are few concepts of education that we can analyze especially the formal education and non formal education.
Generally, people know about formal education but unaware of non formal education. Formal and non formal education is two different terms. Formal education is an organized education model, which is systematic, well structured and also administered according to the laws and regulations that are set by the ministry of education (Dib, 1988). As an obvious example is, the education in schools, colleges, and universities are considered as formal education. Formal education institutions are organized curricularly, administratively, and physically and also require the minimum number of students that will attend the class (Dib, 1988). In formal education, the interaction between teachers and students are usually direct with each other. In general, formal education is restricted to a certain credit hours according to each institution and a full time learning process, but still based on the curricular provided by the education department of the country. Other than that, students need to complete the assessments given by the teachers that lead to some form of qualification and accreditation which will be required to continue to the next learning stage. The assessments are regularly made on a general basis, where it is used for administrative purpose and also to improve the learning process. The method used in formal education normally does not really show the progression of the students. This is because the students are only receiving any information from their teachers and most probably they do not really paying attention since it is a one way interaction.
On the contrary, non formal education includes skills and knowledge that are unusual in part throughout formal education whether in primary schools or secondary schools even in higher education institutions (Non-formal Education, 1979). Non formal education can be divided into three broad categories which the first one is oriented activities particularly for development of skills and knowledge of labour force who is employed, secondly, activities that are planned mainly to provide people, predominantly the youth, to get into the job and lastly, activities designed to develop skills, knowledge and understanding beyond the work world (Harbison, 1971). Unlike formal education, non formal education does not require a specific time such as timetable or school hours. It can happen anywhere and anytime as long as the knowledge is passed on. Non formal education does not need the studentââ‚¬â„¢s attendance and also decreasing the interaction between teachers and students because most of the activities happen outside of the institutions, for example, girlââ‚¬â„¢s scouts or any outdoor activities. Besides, the techniques and materials used in non formal education often do not require a high standard as the typical schooling methods (Non-formal Education, 1979). The process can be conducted by semi-professionals such as activities in religious centres, youth groups, or any voluntary organizations (Non-formal Education, 1979). In view of the fact that non formal education occurs outside the curricular provided by schools, thus the learning process may only use simple and low-cost technologies like story books, radio and others (Non-formal Education, 1979). In addition, non formal education is flexible because it is adaptable according to the condition or situation and also the needs of the society at a time (Non-formal Education, 1979).
Non formal education has started at early years of the formation of Malaysia as a country especially during the expansion of Islam in Peninsular Malaya and the Malay islands in the 14th century (Abd. Hamid et al., 2003). Arabian and Indian traders who are Muslims came to the Southeast Asia and spread the knowledge about their religion to the local people (Abd. Hamid et al., 2003). At that time the existence of education institutions called "hut school" that is developed together by mutual cooperation among the communities and it is not considered as formal education yet. This is the starting point of the non formal education in Malaysia. During the British colonisation, the British administration formed five types of schooling which are Malay Vernacular School, Chinese Vernacular School, School Vernacular India, English Vernacular School and Religious School (Madrasa) (Abd. Hamid et al., 2003). These types of schools are formed as taking into consideration the political, economic, socio-cultural and religious. After few decades, the non formal education system has been changed along with the modernisation. Nowadays, non formal education has emphasis more on Skill Training Programmes such as Vocational Education, Engineering and Trading. The Malaysian government has built few vocational schools for the children that have more interest in skills related education rather than going to the school and learn things they do not like. At the tertiary level of education, Polytechnics are provided for those who want to complete Advanced Diploma, Diploma and Special Skills Certificate in skills-based programmes. The newest programme, the National Service Training Programme is established for youth community in Malaysia to develop patriotic, loyal and full with positive attitudes young generation for the future. It is also become a practice for the potential employees to do internship before starting the real job. There are still some religious talks, or campaigns about information that the society may need to know happening in Malaysia. For example, the campaigns about health care, recycle and many others are conducted to educate the society. All of these programmes are specially formed to teach values and knowledge that are not being taught in schools.
One of the roles of non formal education is to make a difference in the community by raising the awareness of the changes in environment. Other than that, non formal education also help in providing youth for production activities by way of giving them relevant courses so that can improve themselves to be a better person for the country. Furthermore, non formal education will help to produce generation with good values and attitudes in order to form a developed country. Besides, formal education mostly applies only the theories of the lesson but non formal education let the students explore things by themselves especially in the skills knowledge that will make the students has higher capability in using skills and techniques to perform job. This will result in many potential employees have the skills that can increase the efficiency and productivity of workers in this country and it is also will help the national development especially in producing the best quality of employees that are properly trained to obtain the skills. This means that it can reduce the number of unemployed because they have larger opportunities to get a job which requires skills (Yassin & Muhamad, 1990). Non formal education also assists in conveying information that may be regarded not significant to the community that will lead the society into a well-informed society and not be left behind by the modernization of the world.
To sum up, non formal education should not be considered as less important because it is in fact as important as formal education. In some situation, non-formal education is the only useful way in the development of skills and knowledge. It also acts as an alternative and normally more effective education and training for formal education. Non formal education may not be fully organized and well structured, but it is still provides important information for the generation. Somehow, non formal education is undoubtedly helps in formal education to make it more proficient for the students to acquire knowledge.