January 12, 2010

INFORMAL AND COMMUNITY EDUCATION

Introduction

            When we refer to education in the 21st century, schools are the first thought that springs to mind. In this day and age it is fair to assume that virtually the whole population experiences school at some point, a much larger proportion than is involved in any other sort of area of life, for example family, marriage, religion, work, politics or within the community. By law, in different countries all over the world, school is compulsory for at least eleven years of your life (most likely it will be sixteen) and is very significant part of people's lives, if because of nothing else the enormous amount of time spent there. It is because of this significance that it comes to hold a lot of power.

 From our experiences at school, our views, attitudes and behaviour are affected over a range of aspects of adult learning. School has both a very blatant and importance social role, along with the family and other elements. With this realization, the concept of informal and community education have been recognized in helping the society to have a better education.

The main goal of this report is to provide insightful details about the importance of informal and community education to society, specifically in social capital. Furthermore, this will also discuss some of the factors that influence informal and community education. These factors include political influence, family, society and professionalism. The discussion will be in three-fold.  The first section will be the discussion of the concept of informal and community education.  The second part will provide the significance or importance of informal and community education to society and the last part will be the identification of the factors that influence informal and community education.

 

Community Education     

            As early as the time of Socrates, learning have been defined through the experiences the each society member gone through. That was the time when educational institutions are not yet established and organized as they are now these days. During those days, the informal way of teaching has gained popularity which eventually gave way to the concept of formal education as disciples of philosophers grew in number. But the importance of learning that time was largely dictated by the curious and inquisitive minds of the great thinkers that we know today from the simple events that fueled their minds to ask questions.  The importance of experiential learning is highlighted further by the practice of apprenticeships from which the skills and knowledge of a young individual is honed by a master who shares his expertise.   That time, experience is learning.

Informal learning results from the daily activities that are related to work, family or leisure. Unlike the formal learning approach, it is not structured in terms of the learning objectives, learning time or learning support and typically does not lead to certification which will be recognized by other people in the society particularly in the work place. Informal learning may be intentional but most of the time, it is incidental or randomly acquired knowledge. It also different from the intentional non-formal learning which, although not provided by any learning institution and does not also lead to certification, has structured learning objectives, learning time and learning support.  Most informal learning are done as part of the community education.

            Community education is referred to as the educational viewpoint that underlies community schools (Hiemstra, 1993).  In addition, community education advocates the establishment of opportunities for individuals, businesses, schools or even government-owned or private organizations for becoming partners in adhering to community needs in terms of education and development.  The concept of community education is most easily identified in the community school, a service which is open beyond the conventional school day with a goal of providing academic, health services, recreations, work-preparation programs and social service for each and every individual within the community. Community education has three components. These include community involvement, effective use of community resources and lifelong learning.  Moreover, community education is also regarded as an essential program which generates public spaces for members of the community to understand what they believe is best for the community and its members (Boyte & Kari, 1995).

Community education shares a common heritage with adult education: the Mechanics Institutes, the Night Schools and the less formal classes in village halls and community centers, all providing the only kind of adult education open to the great majority of people in our communities. Community education began to unite the twin processes of community school education and community development. This has included the kind of innovative outreach work into a variety of informal community settings which the best adult educators had themselves advocated.

            In community education the tenet is particularly true. Where once we believed that education was the process through which the informed passed information to the ignorant, we now know that the more relevant and effective process is one where the skilled facilitator draws from people their shared experience, knowledge and values which provide collective solutions to a community's problems.

            A community education program can be defined as one that "focuses on community interaction, uses the community as a learning laboratory and resource, assists to establish an environment in which the community educates its people, and evaluates its success through the achievement of the citizen (McGuire, 1988). Community education programs come in many types, including adult education, continuing education, lifelong learning, community services, and community-based education (Baker, 1994). Community education programs, unlike other core programs offered by community colleges, are less bounded by institutional regulations and are able to respond quickly to community needs (Bogart, 1994).

            It is also common to argue that community programs go beyond with vocational education, as most community residents gain from development which occurs in terms of economy. Because of the complex definition and nature of community education (Cohen & Brawer, 2003), however, program delivery may face limited effectiveness. Furthermore, because of financial and human resource constraints, some community colleges have reduced their emphasis on community education as part of their purpose and goals. Provided the wideness of community education, and also the challenges and complexities it faces from budget restriction and funding priorities, it is significant to raise inquiries concerning how community can manage, organize and position themselves better to use community resources and to build meaningful relationships with community organizations.

 

Importance of Informal and Community Education

According to the Scottish Executive (2004), community learning and development is important in increasing the supply of social capital in its aim to tackle real issues that are relevant in their lives through community action and community based learning.  The classic approach to informal education and learning process take place within social subgroups and closely related club or organization. Such groups are usually organized based on the common interest of the members. These organizations or groups may have experienced similar life experiences that made them devote themselves to a particular socio-civic actions and volunteer works where they can feel that they are functioning as fully productive members of the society.

Their activities will normally include goal-specific actions that are guided by the mission of the organization. The relationship with peers and other members of the group are essential in promoting cohesiveness among them so as to foster and enact the projects that will be most significant to the organization. The bonding activities or leisure time spent by the members with each other to strengthen the relationship and communication will result to work outputs that are both socially and personally rewarding. 

            It is not enough though that there are members that are participating in the attainment of the objectives of the organization. The quality of the relationship and communication among the members will define the productivity of the working organization. The environment in which they are functioning should have the characteristics that will enhance the discourse and conversation of issues that confronts the group in which the individual views and opinions of the members are heard and the suggestions and grievances if there are any, can be addressed freely without being reprimanded by the people of authority and holding higher position in the said organization.

This means that the differences of the members whether the case maybe that of the cultural or gender issues that may beset the interaction of the group are presented. If the personal and differences they hold are contrasting the members should have the capacity to understand, tolerate and respect such diversity. If the issue concerns the organization in general, it is paramount that the members settle for compromise to uphold the harmony within the group in which all will benefit. Learning in this sense, bridges the people and increases their potential as ideal members of the society in which they belong.

            The interconnectedness between the members of the group should be likewise reciprocated or manifested externally by enlarging and widening the reach and of the application and project location of the activities of the organization. After acquiring quality members who will be helpful and productive in achieving the objectives of the group, it will be more satisfying and fulfilling if other communities are invited to do the same thereby widening the scope of action and increasing the number highly motivated individuals. In effect, this will incorporate the greater number of people in the community who will be engaging in socio-civic activities from which not only the society will benefit but also the individual members of the group. 

            The group should also consider their resources as an organization. This will include their financial capacity to support their social and civic activities, the knowledge of the people to accomplish their responsibilities, the skills that can make the tasks of the group easier and the willing ness of the members to commit themselves as productive and dedicated individuals in the group. If the financial requirements are not immediately available for the use of the organization, there should be a driving motivation for the members to take action in attaining the financial needs that will sustain the aims of the group. Engaging in a pursuit from which the organization can raise funds can not only be a relevant activity of the group, this will also provide an avenue for the members to take time to know themselves and each other.

            The problem that such civic organization might be facing is on how to maintain and sustain the commitment and dedication of the members to continue their active participation in the projects and work of the group. Their enthusiasm should always be kept at high levels and constant evaluation regarding the importance of membership status should be recognized by the officiating people. This will guarantee that the individuals will stay for a long time in their commitment.

The most effective way to attain such condition among the members is to come up with ideas and activity projects from which the potential and effort of the members can be applied and recognized not just by the members of the group alone but also of the people who will be witnessing the activity. The projects should in the interest of the members so that active participation is warranted.

It will also be beneficial if the people who will be engaging in the group came from different fields and discipline. This will provide an array of knowledge and skills from which the whole organization will benefit this will ensure that every member is needed to fulfill the tasks of the group. It will boost the confidence of every individual member of the group by feeling functional in the society he or she is in. if there is diversity inside the organization, the group will be able to function better since more responsibilities can be attended to. The group could also come up with lines of activities and projects from which most of the members can partake.

The array of activities that will be provided should have the capacity to divert a person's unsocial behavior towards other people in his or her community. Those who do not feel that they are good citizens of the community they are living in could be encourage. Not only will such members feel a sense of well-being, but the community from which they belong will be expected to experience a relatively lower number of cases of anti-social activities like crimes.  

            All this would be possible if the concept of "college village", proposed by Henry Morris will be adapted to communities especially those which are situated in the rural agricultural areas. According to him, the concept of college village will abolish the duality of education life and the daily life of an individual. There will be a blurring distinction between work and learning wherein both will be simultaneously experienced by the people in the community. Since the people who will be participating are situated in their natural environment where they do the things they have always been doing, the most important aspect that this socio-civic endeavor will be enhanced interaction and eventual cohesion between members of the community. It will be a demonstration of a life-long education where the actuality of life is lived in quality.

            If informal education are applied and utilized by members of a particular society, the quality of life lived by the people will be more fulfilling wherein they their continuous personal growth and well-being is assured. The success of the informal learning will benefit not only the individual members of the community but also the whole society in general for the contribution that it will make available.

 

Factors that influence Informal and Community Education

Political Influence

            Throughout the twentieth century, community education was pushed forward by a minority of professionals, politicians and administrators and it was encouraged by some big charities. Few charities were concerned with supporting community education as such. Their purpose was to help with the realization of social reforms: to reduce rural depopulation; to reduce urban unemployment; to reduce women's dependency upon men's exploitation; to reduce the isolation and exclusion of the aged. Generally speaking, charities have sponsored community education projects and local governments have supported community education services.  

            Community education is conditioned by culture. It has its local history, heroes and heroines but does not seek to reproduce the dominant culture or hegemony. It is often in opposition: in opposition to disparities of power and the ravages of injustice. Its vision excludes the nation state and its ambitions; rather it engages with awareness and with empowerment to stimulate and support social change. It is the local governments who have comprehensive community education policies whilst the nation states have selective meanings and measures of community education.

            The naïve cry of sportsmen caught up in the controversy surrounding relationships with South Africa 'Keep politics out of sport!' has been matched, regrettably, by equally futile pleas from educators to keep politics out of education. Why such calls for 'purity' are so pointless is because both sport and education, the latter the more so, have always been riddled with politics. It is simply too late to keep them out.

            More dangerous than mere naivety is the deliberate manipulation and exploitation of education by politicians and their supporters often cynically carried out in the name of fairness, or choice, or equality, or, inexcusably, of 'democracy' itself. In some respects education in eastern bloc countries is more honest: there is no pretence that education is anything other than one dimension of the political life of a country. In the west we have claimed, with some justification given our tradition of academic freedom, to have secured an educational system that is relatively free of political values.

            The educational initiative, particularly in the English-speaking world but in parts of Europe also, rests with the radical right. Largely, of course, this has been because of the immensely powerful political positions of Reagan and Thatcher. Both have adopted overtly ideological policies across the board, and education has been swept along in the tidal wave of reforming legislation, certainly in the USA and the UK For once, then, education is high on the political agenda and seems set to remain there for the foreseeable future. With sheer expense, as much as ideology has created this situation. In most countries in the western world, education ranks alongside defense and health in terms of expenditure at national level In the UK, education accounts for no less than 70 per cent of the budget of local authorities. It is this apparently disproportionately high expenditure which has moved education into a position of high profile at local level. Incidentally, of course, it has made the service all the more vulnerable to cuts at times of economic stringency.

            First and foremost they highlight the need for people to participate in the educational process. People will need to understand the variety of new educational programmes, not least to preserve their own interest in their children's education.

            Another argument revolves around the national and international debates concerning what is taught in our schools. Despite widespread European and even inter-continental admiration for the British system of academic autonomy of schools, a national curriculum is to be imposed by central government. A change in political control at national level might conceivably alter the nature of this imposed curriculum, but it is now clear that the principle will remain in place.

            There are those in the community education field who see this possibility as a beacon of hope: a long-awaited independence enabling truly democratic, local participation in the running of the school. This is not without foundation; but it would be dangerously naïve to assume that funding from central government will not carry with it an imperative to adhere to governmental directives. 'He who pays the piper calls the tune.'

            Ironically, the notion of community control of schools gained some currency in the USA in the 1960s and the early 1970s. It lost its popularity because of the political manipulation which it encouraged. There may, however, be lessons to be learned from the USA of a much more positive nature. Each of their community schools has a community council. These are not dissimilar in style and function from the community subcommittees of the governing bodies of some UK community schools. They are more effective, however. They are not subservient to an over-arching governing body and they have direct access to the school principal, who usually sits as an ex-officio member of the council. Their membership is less restricted than ours and they will address and take action on issues which our subcommittees would pass up to the main governing body or even pass across to external agencies. It may be possible for community educators to ensure that we have the best of all worlds: genuine participation; fair representation; real power over financial decisions with the responsibility to implement those decisions.          All these political issues are increasingly making an impact on our schools. It would be dangerously foolish to assume that their implications are merely managerial or even financial. What is happening in the western world is nothing less than a root and branch restructuring of the governance of our schools, of what they will teach and of how they will be financed. The community is being given a greater opportunity, as of right, to affect this process. Community educators have the tools to assist the community to become involved. That provides the greatest thrust to their argument for inclusion.

 

Family Education

Family education an increasingly important element in community education has provided an appropriate and effective response. Family educationists, often operating through under-funded family centers or on the neglected margins of other institutions, are providing the education, support and development that are so desperately needed in our communities.

The skills required for such work are not the common educational ones but those of listening rather than speaking; encouraging rather than criticizing; drawing in rather than excluding; sharing rather than competing. The issues they address are equally relevant: parenting; relationships; welfare rights; housing; income support; childcare. In a most direct way they address the real needs of all those varied groups which together constitute the new notion of 'family'. In so doing, they are providing lasting cement for society. There are votes to be gained for politicians wise enough to recognize the value of family education and to find the resources to provide it.

Obviously, community education cannot change geo-political decisions nor can it invent jobs against the grain of prevailing economic forces. But it does have a complementary role—occasionally a proactive one—in helping people to provide their own alternatives to that market.

 

Society's Influence           

There are a number of reasons other than the drive and genius of one man and the social concern and money of another why the community education movement spread so rapidly and widely throughout the USA. First, it was not associated primarily with rural communities; initially, at least, it addressed itself to the needs of unemployed young people in urban areas. Next, although schools were often the physical base, the range of activities extended to any that related to social needs of benefit to the community: not only preschool provision, home-school relationships and curriculum development but also juveniles and the law, senior citizens and the environment any need in fact that might be identified within a community and which the growing band of professional and volunteer community educators might service.

It would be wishful thinking to pretend that schools throughout the western world have adopted an open door policy, yet in most countries that door has opened at least a crack. Often, it must be conceded, the door we are talking about is that of the principal or counselor but increasingly, and above all in primary schools, it is the door of the classroom (Rennie 1985).

So far not one of these trends is exclusive to the designated community school. Far from it: all underline the capacity of all schools to engage in community education, provided we accept that community education is not a dogma or specialization but a process that can be engaged in at many levels. There are, however, some trends that are peculiar to community schools, colleges and centers. Of these the most important has been the growing realization that community education cannot be neatly confined within the institutional base but must be engaged in within the living community itself. For this role we require community educators with a different kind of professionalism, one that in all countries we are only now beginning to understand and learn about.

 

Society's Influence and Professionalism

            Formal learning can occur in the family because some parents use a structured curriculum to instruct their children at home. Informal learning occurs at school by means of interpersonal relationships with teachers, other students, and school personnel, as well as through other aspects of the context of school. Non-school learning is any learning that occurs outside of school and encompasses the informal learning that occurs in the home.

The American version of modern community education has been made more 'professional' and is the subject of more research and literature than in other parts of the world. It probably began in Flint, Michigan in the 1930s with the development of a partnership between Frank Manley, a recreation leader with the city schools and a wealthy, local industrialist, Charles Stewart Mott. They started with the idea 'Give kids something to do and they won't get into trouble' (Minzey & Le Tarte 1979:7).

However, one thing was clear. The word 'participation' and 'involvement', took on new significance as 'it was clear that the meaningful involvement of people was crucial to the proper development of community education' (Minzey & Le Tarte 1979). People could participate in programmes and activities by attending them, but it soon became a new criterion for community education that it was only when people had extensive and meaningful involvement in the identification and the development of these programmes that community education, rather than something else, occurred.

Informal education has been characterized as involving more cooperative learning environments, issues that are closely tied to life experiences, several individuals serving as teacher, and learning that extends beyond specific hours or a specific physical setting (Scribner & Cole, 1973). Many characteristics of informal education correspond to what is being discussed as ways to empower students through humanistic pedagogy (Freire, 1985) and feminist pedagogy (Schuster & Van Dyne, 1985).

Community education had developed into a process that was more than simply the sum of its programmes. Minzey and Le Tarte were prepared to identify what community education was not (it is not a community school, a community education programme, community control, a programme for the poor or disadvantaged, social work or community development) rather than what it is, but it became obvious from the definition they eventually produced, that community education is the involvement of people in the process of identification, development, implementation and evaluation of the sorts of activities that have been given the labels listed above.

"Community Education is a process that concerns itself with everything that affects the well-being of all citizens within a given community. This definition extends the role of community education from one of the traditional concept of teaching children to one of identifying the needs, problems and wants of the community and then assisting in the development (or the identification) of facilities, programs, staff and leadership toward the end of improving the entire community." (Minzey and Le Tarte 1979:25)

This argument is developed even further by other authors when they propose that the two major purposes of a government-funded school (and perhaps private schools as well) are to 'focus on the needs of the individual to become a self-fulfilled, active participant in society' and also 'emphasizes serving the needs of society'. The study argue that these are no longer mutually exclusive, but in fact complement each other in today's society and will do so even more in the future as society becomes more technologically advanced. They saw the whole community as the school's client base and saw involvement and empowerment as its major aims.

            The major issues relating to the proposal for core-plus schools are those of accountability and self-determination. On the one hand people who have no part to play in the making of decisions can very rarely be held accountable for the activities that follow those decisions and, on the other, if people who are critically involved in the outcomes of the decisions being made are involved in the decisions themselves, then the outcomes of those decisions are more likely to contribute to the development of the community or the individual.

 

Conclusion

Due to the needs for productive members of the society, different nations adhere to the concept of community education. This is to ensure that even those who were deprived for education at an early stage are given the opportunity to learn and develop their skills to the educational services within the community. The community education has become an important part of the educational concepts.  Herein, each and every individual are given the chance to learn and develop their skills and abilities through the underlying programs provided with the community education.

The community education programs are created by local residents for the betterment of the community.  Such programs performed on the premises that communities have prospective to solve many of their own problems by using their community resources and by empowering the residents to reach resolutions. The community educations are typically relevant to some community issues like unemployment, civic engagement, environmental concerns, ethnic culture and history. The imposed community education programs provide exclusive chances for citizens put themselves in the community.  

The success of community education depends on how well the community organizer managed some of the factors that influence community education and how the citizens cooperates.  The factors mentioned above are just few of the many elements that can affect the operation or performance of community education.

            It can be said that community education exists because of the notion that education is a lifelong activity. Accordingly, some believed that education is not activity confined to childhood. Indeed, it could be argued that, though learning is most effective at an early age, education per se is more effective in later years.  Clearly too, like any other social actions, it is best done in the natural context of an all-age environment.

In many communities, people are now making a considerable number of career moves in their lifetime. These changes are occurring in a context that is altering so rapidly that the technology of the day is often obsolete almost as soon as it is applied. In the last decade much attention has been given to the notion of lifelong learning. We have idealized it as a goal for all forms of education to strive to reach. Yet our schools have made little progress towards making those fundamental changes that are necessary if each person is to understand, accept, and pursue the process of lifelong learning            .

            In addition, community education has also been developed with concerns in human resources. Community education operates in the basis the, though everybody in the community has needs and some have special needs, nevertheless all will have a contribution to make.  It would be the role of the community educator to enable individuals and groups to discover themselves what their particular contribution might be and to find within them the strengths, the inventiveness and the sense of purpose to make such contribution.

It can be concluded that in order for people to achieve their full potentials, they must consider the perspective of continuous education or lifelong learning.  This can be done through enrolling to community education programs.  On the other hand, those who are responsible for provide community education programs should be able to provide effective and efficient programs to ensure that they goals and objectives of such community education programs will be successful in making the people in the community more productive.

 

Reference

Boyte, H., & Kari, N. (1995). Reinventing citizenship: The practice of public work. Retrieved March 7, 2006, from University of Minnesota.

 

Bogart, Q. J. (1994). The community college mission. In G. A. Baker (Ed.), A handbook on the community college in America: Its history, mission, and management (pp. 60-73). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

 

Cohen, A., & Brawer, F. (2003). The American community college (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Freire, P. (1985) The Politics of Education. London, Macmillan.

 

Hiemstra, R. (1993). The educative community. (3rd ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Adult Education Publications.

 

McGuire, K. B. (1988). State of the art in community-based education in the American community college. Washington, DC: American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.

 

Minzey, J.D. and LeTarte, C.E. (1979). Community Edueation.'from Program to Process. Midland, Michigan: Pendell Publishing, No. 1, p. 3.

Schuster, M. R. & Van Dyne, S. R. (1985). Stages of Curriculum Transformation. In M. R. Schuster & S. R. Van Dyne (Eds.), Women's place in the academy: Transforming the liberal arts curriculum (pp. 13-29). Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld Publishers.

 

Scribner, S. and Cole, M. (1973). Cognitive Consequences of Formal and Informal Education. Science,182, 553-559.


1 comment:

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