What is Formal Education?

I’m gearing up for the second E-Development, Educational, in the PEMFESS+P Series. As I began penning, I segued into writing about Education as a preamble.

What exactly is Education? Is it necessary – why or why not? After the first preamble, I realized that I had assumed all readers knew what formal education is. I paused to write this second preamble to correct the assumption; both leading to the upcoming E-Educational Development post.

What is Education; its Function or Purpose?

The Oxford Dictionary defines education as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.”

I found an infographic on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) website which gave different purposes of Education. According to A. W. Forshay, other purposes have also been widely accepted; such as,

  • “to develop the intellect,
  • to serve social needs,
  • to contribute to the economy,
  • to create an effective work force,
  • to prepare students for a job or career, and
  • to promote a particular social or political system.”

A 1957 purpose states that:

“The main purpose of the American school is to provide for the fullest possible development of each learner for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society.”

M. L. King Jr., in his speech at Morehouse College in 1948, stated the educational purpose as:

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals. … We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

All the above are valid today and we can deduce that the function, purpose, or definition of Education will vary diversely. The true definition and purpose should encompass every view which will be the receipt of instruction and development of the whole person to be a productive contributor primarily to themselves and secondarily to society.

What is your own definition or purpose of Education? I’d love to hear it.

Types of Education

Education has been grouped into three types, though I feel that two types would have sufficed. The three are:

  1. Formal
  2. Informal
  3. Non formal

Formal Education

Formal education is the structured classroom-setting type that most people are used to. It uses a framework based on the student’s age and follows vertical hierarchy. Most formal education starts from pre-school or kindergarten through primary (or elementary) to secondary, which may or may not be divided into middle and high schools, and onward to college. The K to 12 formal education follows a strict curriculum set by the Department of Education and administered through the various School Districts. The Board of Trustees are the governing bodies of universities in the U.S..

Before moving on and up to the next class or grade, you will have to be tested on what you’ve learned in your current class/grade or course as well as readiness for the next level.

It is possible to pass through the formal education without the education passing through the person/student. A post for another day.

Informal Education

Any form of education (learning instructions) outside of the formal (school setting) type falls under the informal education. This includes life lessons from parents, a community, online, mentor, coach, etc.

Non Formal Education

The non-formal education is a learning that is more practical. It does not follow any age requirements and may not conduct exams as a requirement to move up. Home schooling, adult schools, vocational, professional training, etc. fall under this type of education.

Both informal and non-formal educations are unstructured but provide alternatives for anyone to be literate and acquire specific skills. They are independently focused on the person, group, or goal.

Which Type is Superior?

I strongly believe that the formal education is the most important, though all three are essential. Graduating from college does not have to stop one’s learning and development else, as Einstein said, the education will interfere with your learning.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

Albert Einstein

And some professions require a continuing education to ensure that the individuals sharpen their knowledge and skills and are up-to-date with technology and any recent changes in the profession .

Lifelong learning is essential to a strong development of self, and the means justifies the end. – ThinkerTalker

This post is Preamble 1 and I hope it clarifies Preamble 2.


Is Formal Education Really Necessary?

Credits: Unsplash / Vasily Koloda

“The only legacy I have for you is your education. You better study hard, pass, and graduate so you don’t have to be a slave to anyone?”

Growing up, I cannot tell you how many times I heard the above. Our household was such that if you came home with a bad grade report, you were in trouble. The consequences were grave and somewhat, retrospectively, humiliating that you’d vow “never again!” Those of us who were “born smart” got it worse than the rest. The expectations to be learned was set high for us at an early age. We knew that we had to succeed educationally because it was our ticket to getting a great job and subsequently being successful in life. At least that was what we were told and believed.

Our household was not the exception. It was sort of the norm among Nigerian families: parents expect their children to attend school/university and succeed. The culture was such that imposed on you what you studied. Only few households considered the children’s opinion in the process. Of course, the parents paid the educational tab. Even when parents couldn’t afford the tab, the son/daughter was still expected, as an honor, to abide by the parents’ request of the chosen degree. Most degrees then revolved around engineering, doctor, lawyer, business, IT, or teaching. The outlier degrees were few and the exception. But, modernization has evolved parental perceptions and hopefully broadened the options.

I wish though that I could have a sit-down conversation with my beloved late Dad on those perspectives now. That would be one for when we eventually meet in heaven.

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

B. B. King

But, for now … I know that, except you were an inventor, creator, serial entrepreneur, a successful athlete, or won the lottery, you’d still have to slave for another either temporarily or permanently.

Just a minute, athletes still have to adhere to the requests (or demands) of their owners, right? So I don’t know if they fall in the category.

Anyways, “slavery” to another is, as we all know, independent of graduating in any laude class (cum, magna, or summa), but merely a foundational platform required to be able to shape our own destiny, hold a literal conversation, or have a respectful place in society.

So, is formal education important and is’t for everyone?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

Permit me to say though that we must strive to change our own world first before being ambassadors to the world.

Personally, I believe that it is important to pass through the formal educational path. I’m also a proponent for a degree; whatever you do with the degree afterwards, is your prerogative. What’s the point going to high school or college and not graduating? And, except, of course, you are a genius with an IQ of 150 and above and of the calibers of Bill Gates, late Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, et al, in the one percentile category of the world population, you’d be better off with a formal education than without.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
Albert Einstein

The educational path, if you pass through and do your part, teaches you a lot of things that one couldn’t get elsewhere. Such things, in addition to knowledge, as the importance of following instructions, meeting deadlines, working under pressure, punctuality, teamwork, etc. Some of these qualities can be learned or acquired on-the-job, but most often if one doesn’t get these traits passing through sixteen or more years of education, one tends to struggle with them at work or in society.

What are your thoughts on this?

Having said that, however, I also don’t believe, as a woman of faith knowing what I do know, (and please, I don’t know much, but this one thing that I do know) that no one is immune from being able to grasp (understand) the educational rigors. Remember the saying, “if you believe you can (or can’t), guess what, you can/will (can’t/won’t). [smile]. I hope I didn’t lose you with that. Please stay with me.

I get it that faith has been given a bad rap, but all of us act in faith, or have at some point. The difference is in the source/root of the faith. Also, many call faith by other names; such as, guts, boldness (or courage), instinct, awakening, awareness, etc. The point is that we all believe in something and or someone.

Not to digress. Arguing that formal education is not for everyone is a both a matter of debate and subjectivity. Some children with dyslexic tendencies, or other forms of learning disabilities, have been canceled out of the formal educational system. This is sad because technology and innovation have changed and leveled most, if not all, playing fields. For example, I have seen a tv commercial of a deaf man and his family. I think the deaf man is a design manager at Amazon. (I might be wrong regarding the managerial position and/or the company and will correct once verified.) How was he able to learn his craft? If he was able to, there’s no longer an excuse for anyone is the point that I’m making.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”

Martin Luther King

More of the Sages’ Thoughts on Education

I conclude with more supporting quotes on Education for your pleasure. If you have a good one, too, please feel free to include it in the comments.

  • Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” George Washington Carver
  • Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
  • “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle
  • If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” – Chinese Proverb

Having read my post, I’m curious as to your stance. Please remember the title “Is Formal Education Necessary?” Thanks for adding your thoughts in the comments.