The definition of non-formal education has been expanded, no longer characterized essentially by the lack of recognition with a certificate, and increasingly understood to be an alternative or complement to the traditional system.
Learning through games, activities, or workshops allows us to reach our target audience in a different way. This system is more interactive and casual, young people are the main players and the values of tolerance, participation, solidarity, equality and respect are transmitted and acquired more naturally. Such methods constitute a social integration tool for less advantaged youths.
In Catalonia, for example, there is the phenomenon of the centres d’esplai [recreation centers] and caus [scouting programs]. These civic movements appeared during Spain’s transition to democracy, and take the shape of leisure-time clubs for youth and children, for the most part run by volunteers, where leisure activities serve as an excuse for educating in values and active citizenship. The programs have a strong socialization element, and have become a success model with visible effects on the youths and children who have benefited from them at some point in their life. In the case of youths at risk of exclusion, these centers have had the effect of raising their self-esteem, enhancing their ability to live with others, providing them moral support, and supporting their socialization with young people who lead more normal lives. The comfortable, family-style environment of the center helps them channel their emotions and control their aggressiveness, while at the same time keeping them away from at-risk situations on the street, and guiding them toward a future that is more fully engaged with society.
The increasingly professionalized role of the volunteer or recreation center instructor also provides a source of motivation as well as solid preparation for future professionals in the social sector and in education.
Elsewhere, we find European programs that specialize in non-formal education. The Erasmus+ program is a great help in dignifying this sector, by professionalizing the role of trainer in non-formal education, and providing certification of non-formal learning through specific Youthpass tools.
The past 25 years of European programs and local experience, with networked cooperation, have laid a solid foundation in the field of non-formal education, allowing us to face the difficult challenges of the present and the future with optimism and confidence.
Below we have listed a number of links to Federations and educational entities in Catalonia. Children and youths between the ages of 5 and 17 may participate in these leisure and free-time group activities, and in activities that offer contact with nature and with the region’s social environment. For ages 18 and above, there is also the possibility of joining as an instructor and group leader, with the opportunity to meet many other young people who are engaged with their social environment, and to gain experience in the sphere of non-formal education.
Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Ayuntamiento de Barcelona