2014 Nonformal education

Nonformal Education - beyond the classroom walls

Year 10 recently returned from three days in Canberra which was endorsing of a form of learning not always viewed as a priority. In academic circles it is known as nonformal education which is best defined as learning that happens outside the classroom. This is distinct from informal learning a student might pick up from a grandparent, siblings, friends or parents. 

In the developing world non formal education is a key to assist people gain employment as a pathway out of poverty.  This is evidence through strategies involving rural health programs, village literacy initiatives, rural development collaborations and specific programs for women in rural and urban areas. 

At Loreto nonformal education presents through experiences such as engagement in extracurricular activities, social justice initiatives, our Outreach FNQ program, community service such as at the Exodus Foundation, school leadership initiatives and subject excursions. These experiences also provide learning for future employment. 

The Canberra excursion for History and Integrated Learning provided nonformal learning by drawing on student's emotional connections, by participating in activities in an authentic context and listening to real experts doing what they do for the Australian community. 

In speaking to veteran Sappers with their dogs or the laying of a wreath at the Australian War Memorial, students engaged with what they were learning at a more emotional level. Learning through this kind of experience usually enables greater retention and follow through. 

The knowledge of how the parliamentary system works and who is your local member takes a secondary role to witnessing articulate young women present cogent arguments for and against issues. The role play in parliament for a proposed Bill on free Wi-Fi on public transport was most interesting to watch. The Mock House of Representatives bill revealed genuine passion for issues, excellent ad lib public speaking and lessons about negotiating as a team, coming to a consensus decision and the presentation of a group position statement. 

We were fortunate to witness a constitutional sitting of the High Court concerning a present day refugee issue. The towering intellect of the female and male Justices on the bench was clearly revealed in their penetrating questions and impressive responses from the QC. 

What was the nonformal learning from these experiences? 

At the War Memorial the girls enhanced their learning by drawing on empathetic connections with those directly involved in issues in which they studied. The engagement with parliamentary procedures enabled learning which was contextually relevant in an active process. The High Court reinforced that learning can happen in silence, listening and appreciating being in the presence of tradition and experts. 

We heard several girls confirming they want to be an artist, barrister, get involved in politics or join the defence force. Others emerged from the experience with new skills to collaborate with others for a common goal. All these insights and skills can be picked up in the classroom though now and the learning can be very powerful beyond the classroom walls.