What Is Formal Education? [Pros & Cons in 2024]

Have you been trying to figure out the formal education meaning or questions like is high school formal education?

Then you’ve come to the right place?


We all learn almost every day, whether at school or outside, at work, or on the playground. Regardless of age, we constantly acquire new knowledge, skills, and competencies. But the way in which this knowledge is acquired makes a difference. 

For instance:

Is it conscious, systematic, and according to a standard? Or is it as natural as learning to ride a bike from a parent?

After all, what is formal education?

If you are interested in learning all about formal education, the types of formal education, and how they differ from each other, you should read on.

Education creates a change in the way of thinking and in an individual’s ability to deal with challenges and achieve the desired goal. It makes it easier for us to examine our own thoughts and ideas and express them in various forms.

It is a medium through which we can connect with different people and offer our thoughts. It helps us to face challenges and problems and to be inventive. To do this, we must first acquire some essential skills. We need knowledge, and education is basically the acquisition of knowledge, understanding, skills, and competencies that can make us increasingly innovative and solution-oriented.

Which brings us to the following question:

What Are the 3 Types of Education?

Education goes beyond what takes place within the four walls of the classroom. For people outside the initial education and training system, especially adults, it is very likely that this learning takes place at home, at work, or elsewhere. So, to formulate a clear formal education definition, we have to differentiate it from other types of acquiring knowledge skills and competencies that are not in formal settings.


There are three main types of education – formal, informal, and non-formal learning. We’ll explore the other two types first, as it is helpful to distinguish them in order to understand the difference between formal and informal education and formal and non-formal learning.

Informal Education

Informal education includes a parent teaching a child how to prepare a meal or ride a bicycle. We also receive informal education by reading many books from a library or online. Informal learning is when you do not study in a school, and you do not use a particular learning method. It is neither planned nor intended. In fact, it can be learned in a market place, in a hotel or at home.

The thing is:

Unlike formal study, informal education is not provided by an institution such as a school or college. Moreover, informal education does not come with a fixed timetable, and no fixed curriculum is required. As a result, informal education consists of experience and actual life in the family or community.

Non-formal Education

Non-formal education includes adult education or preparation for school equivalence. In non-formal education, someone (who is not in school) can learn reading and writing, other basic skills, or vocational skills. Homeschooling, individualised teaching (e.g., programmed learning), distance learning, and computer-supported teaching are further possibilities. 

And on that note:

Non-formal education is consciously communicated and systematically implemented. To that end, non-formal education should be programmed to meet the needs of the identified group. This requires flexibility in the design of the curriculum and the evaluation scheme. Examples are community-based adult education courses, free adult education courses developed by an organisation, or fitness programmes.

Formal Schooling Definition

[bctt tweet=”Simply put, formal education is learning that is taught by trained teachers in an intentional, systematic way in an educational institution such as a primary school, secondary school, or university.” username=””]

Formal education is a structured and systematic form of learning. Most importantly, this is the education of a certain standard delivered to students by formally trained teachers.

To ensure that formal schooling is standardised and that all learning institutions (e.g., schools, colleges, universities, etc.) meet these standards, various organisations regulate formal education in a particular country. 

Here’s the thing in terms of the importance of formal education:

Education is now a fundamental right for children in most parts of the world. Irrespective of the financial status of the parents, a child is now obliged to attend school from a certain age. The international convention calls for free compulsory education for all within a reasonable number of years. This is one of the main differences between informal and non-formal learning.

There are different types of education systems. For instance, in the UK, for children under 18 years of age, participation is compulsory and not optional. If a child does not attend classes, there must be a special reason for this, and the teacher should be informed of the absence. While private schools are available for children and young adults, public schools accommodate pupils of all backgrounds.

A little bit of background info:

At the beginning of the last century, compulsory education consisted of mastering the necessary physical skills. Young people were also taught the values of ethics and social communication skills. It also enabled immigrants to integrate into the unfamiliar society of a new country. 

Today, compulsory education is considered a right of every citizen in many countries. Its main purpose is to promote the education of all citizens, to minimize the number of pupils dropping out of school for family economic reasons, and to level out the educational differences between rural and urban areas.

And that’s not all:

When it comes to what is formal education, it also includes graduate and post-graduate studies, provided that they follow the systems established by the governing bodies of the education system of the country concerned.

On the other hand, the quality of compulsory education varies according to the country’s political system and is also influenced by how well the formal educational system is developed in the country. 

Some schools around the world have different education systems, but most schools are quite similar to the UK’s key stage program. In this system, a pupil starts with education in the first years of primary school – and goes through it until grade 12 or 13 at the age of 18. From there, they have the opportunity to find a job or continue their education with their secondary school diploma on another level of formal education.

Teaching and Formal Education

what is formal education

As teaching and learning is a complex process, over the years, there have been different approaches towards education. Many different factors must be taken into account to ensure that a learner really benefits from a learning programme. Depending on the learner, different techniques should be used to maximise the impact of teaching. One of the most important is the way the teacher approaches the teaching process. However, there are many elements to consider. 

Certain methods are not especially effective.

[bctt tweet=”Teachers should use their knowledge and experience to create an interactive and valuable learning experience.” username=””]

At the same time, it is equally important that they use the knowledge and experience of others and educational theory or pedagogy. Some of the schools of educational theory on the educational approaches list are constructivism, behaviourism, critical theory, and pragmatism.

The role of the teacher has developed somewhat differently across the world, especially with a view to providing more personalised care. Teachers can serve as good role models for children by caring for their wellbeing and providing them with a context in which they can feel accepted and valued. The role has also evolved to include addressing students’ psychosocial needs.


One of the tasks of education is to enable students to discuss experiences of different kinds and to develop both an individual and a collective understanding of the meaning of different events. 

So, it is important that education is designed to promote dialogue and discussion instead of just factual information. In that way, students are able to process information and make sense of it. Formal education offers children the opportunity to learn new skills and provides access to new information as well as the opportunity to develop the ability to cope with their changing environment.

Formal Education Examples

Classroom learning, certification obtained or degree awarded by a school, college and university, and structured education of different subjects following a curriculum acquired by attending the institution are all good examples.

This is important:

Regardless of the level of formal school, teachers and students need to make assessments in order to reach the next level of learning. As a result, you will receive a degree or diploma at the end of your training. 

However, it is not only the special knowledge in the subjects that are evaluated, as there are also desirable behavioural goals that students must achieve. That is why, if you have completed your current regular school education, whether in a private or public school, you can say that you have completed formal education.

The state-financed education system in the UK is one of the examples of formal curriculum. It is divided according to age into Key Stages:

  • Early Years Foundation Stage (age 3-4 years until 31 August). For teachers, this involves nursery and reception jobs
  • Primary education (age 5 to 10 years), divided into 
    • Key Stage 1 (KS) infants (age 5 to 6 years) and
    • Key Stage 2 (KS2) juniors (age 7 to 10 years). 
  • Secondary education (aged 11 to 16 years), divided into 
    • Key Stage 3 (KS3; age 11 to 13 years) and 
    • Key Stage 4 (KS4; age 14 to 15 years).
    • Key Stage 5 is education for 16-17-year-olds and tertiary education (for people aged 18 and over).


All optional school formal courses fall under post-secondary education. These include undergraduate and post-graduate studies. Post-secondary studies are offered to help students find training in specific areas in which they wish to work. However, some choose to participate simply because they are interested in further study. The highest level of education that can be pursued is post-graduate education.

That being said:

What is formal schooling important for?

Compulsory formal education should ensure that everyone has the same foundation and is prepared to choose wisely the direction they want to take in their professional career. So, if you are interested in further education or want to know where the path of formal education leads, then at least you have guidance on what you can do to achieve your educational goals.

People Also Ask

What is Formal Assessment in early childhood education?

The national curriculum is organised in blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, students’ performance is formally assessed. 

After Year 1 of Key Stage 1, it is the Phonics Screening Check, where children are asked to read 40 words. After Year 2 of Key Stage 1, students take national tests in English, mathematics, and science. 

At the end of Year 6 (Key Stage 2), the students’ performance in English and mathematics is re-evaluated, and there is a teacher assessment in science. After Year 10 (Key Stage 4), some children take GCSEs, and during Year 11 (Key Stage 5), most children take GCSEs or other national qualifications.

What are the characteristics of formal education?

There are certain characteristics of formal education that are strategically planned to ensure that formal teaching stands apart from the other types of acquiring knowledge:

  • Formal education is hierarchically structured.
  • It is planned and intentional.
  • Planned fees are paid regularly.
  • It has a chronological grading system.
  • It has a curriculum and is subject-oriented. The curriculum must be covered within a certain period of time.
  • The child is taught by the teachers.

Some of the advantages of formal education are:

  • An organised educational model and contemporary course content is primarily the difference between formal and informal learning.
  • Knowledge is acquired from trained and professional teachers.
  • An organised and systematic learning process.
  • An intermediate and final assessment as part of the curriculum to ensure that students are guided to the next learning phase is another important distinction between formal vs informal education.
  • Managed and physically organised facilities.
  • A formally recognised certificate.
  • Easier access to the workplace.

On the other side, there are some disadvantages of formal education vs informal education and non-formal education:

  • Sometimes, brilliant students lose motivation as they wait for the academic session to move on to the next phase.
  • The likelihood that bad habits will be adopted, as children are exposed to various influences.
  • Time is wasted because some students cannot learn properly despite the motivation of professional instructors.
  • An unprofessional education system can be time-consuming and costly and can lead to disappointment in formal education. 
  • Costly and rigid education compared to other forms of learning.


So, at the end of the day:

What is formal education?

Formal education is one of the pillars of any society. It enables billions of people to acquire the knowledge, understanding, skills, and competencies that help them to cope with the modern world. 

What’s more:

It has developed into an institutionally regulated system that ensures the quality of the curriculum. Education is also one of the inexhaustible resources alongside research, innovation, and culture.







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