The Youth in Action Programme provides important opportunities for young people to acquire competences.
Therefore it is a key instrument for non-formal and informal learning in a European dimension.
Non-formal learning refers to the learning which takes place outside formal educational curriculum. Non-formal learning activities involve people on a voluntary basis and are carefully planned, to foster the participants' personal, social and professional development.
Informal learning refers to the learning in daily life activities, in work, family, leisure, etc. It is mainly learning by doing. In the youth sector, informal learning takes place in youth and leisure initiatives, in peer group and voluntary activities etc.
Non-formal and informal learning enables young people to acquire essential competences and contributes to their personal development, social inclusion and active citizenship, thereby improving their employment prospects.
Learning activities within the youth field provide significant added value for young people as well as for the economy and society at large such as capacity-building of organisations, benefits for communities, systems and institutions.
Non-formal and informal learning activities within the Youth in Action Programme are complementary to the formal education and training system. They have a participative and learner-centred approach, are carried out on a voluntary basis and are therefore closely linked to young people's needs, aspirations and interests. By providing an additional source of learning and a route into formal education and training, such activities are particularly relevant to young people with fewer opportunities.
A high-quality non-formal learning dimension is a key-aspect of all projects supported by the Youth in Action Programme. This is notably reflected in the award criteria of the different Actions and sub-Actions, the supportive approach of the Commission, Executive Agency and National Agencies towards the target groups of the Programme, the definition of rights and responsibilities in European Voluntary Service, and, finally, the emphasis put on recognition of the non-formal learning experience.
Projects funded by the Youth in Action Programme have to adhere to the non-formal learning principles. These are:
- Learning in non-formal contexts is intended and voluntary
- Education takes place in a diverse range of environments and situations for which training and learning are not necessarily the sole or main activity
- The activities may be staffed by professional learning facilitators (such as youth trainers/workers) or volunteers (such as youth leaders or youth trainers)
- The activities are planned but are seldom structured by conventional rhythms or curriculum subjects
- The activities usually address specific target groups and document learning in a specific, field oriented way.