What is the value of a provision for non-formal education?

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Non-formal education becomes especially important as higher education costs rise and student debt levels increase as well. Formal education entails programs of study that lead to degrees. One can point to a transcript and a degree and say, "With this knowledge, I can do "x" job." However, it is not a substitute for real-world experience. In the nineteenth century it was considered acceptable to clerk in a law office in order to acquire the knowledge required to pass the bar exam. While I am not trying to devalue a formal education, there are other ways to acquire the knowledge needed to obtain a good career.

There are many people out there, for whatever reason, who do not have access to a quality formal education. Through life experiences, apprenticeships, and outside study (such as their own reading), they have acquired a body of knowledge that cannot be measured with a transcript or grade point average. Employers should provide a means to test a person's knowledge and also determine if he/she would be a good fit with the company even if they do not have a formal degree. While many regard a degree from a school of higher learning to be the pathway to success, it is also important to acknowledge that there are more cost-effective ways to acquire knowledge in an informal setting.

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While modern civilization provides opportunities for education, a “formal education” (that is, a timely and organized program, under pre-written standards and supervision by professional educators, leading to diplomas, degrees, and the like) is not the only way to learn. During childhood, for example, many students are “home-schooled” or are educated by experience (travel, apprenticeships, and the like). There are also several college-level alternatives (in large part because of rising tuition costs): internships, work training experiences, government programs like the Peace Corps, and other learning opportunities for adults. One recent social trend is called IFNIS (Institute For Non-Institutional Studies) which exchanges topic learning in a major concentration with learning processes (taxonomies, logic patterns, epistemologies, etc.).

The real key to accepting and growing these alternatives is acceptance by the Human Resources departments of the Free Enterprise System. When “I can think, although I don’t have a degree from Harvard or the state university, but I have the educational equivalent and am willing to take any test to prove it” is taken as an eligible application statement, progress will have been made.

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