Analyzing a model of non-formal education for young people: a comparative case study of national programs in the United States and Scotland
Moncrieffe, Melissa Lucille
Non-formal education (NFE) has the potential to provide diverse learning opportunities for personal and professional development. Proponents of NFE conclude that it creatively and flexibly responds to ever-changing socio-economic challenges. In practice, these contributions are highly dependent upon the viability of NFE and the context in which it is delivered. This research studied US and Scottish national community education programs, designed for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth, in order to examine NFE. As a comparative case study, the research developed a model of NFE from the literature reviewed. This model was applied to explain and analyze governance, the use of social and human capital theories as well as other important concepts related to each program. Interviews (with policy leaders, community level program administrators and young people) as well as national and local documents informed the analysis. The top-down construct of community education programs demonstrated that policy influenced implementation within communities. Community level administrators could also plan programs, however, within the limits of policy. Both case studies were primarily similar in their norms and goals but also had interesting differences at national and local levels. The findings showed how history, western ideologies and youth narratives have a pervasive impact on programs. The case studies revealed contributions of NFE to lifelong learning, seen through the lens of social and human capital. Furthermore, a critical discussion was interwoven throughout the thesis and revealed challenges and tensions at all levels of the model. NFE is a complex and variable concept, and it continues to struggle for legitimacy and recognition within the wider education narrative. However, NFE’s relationship with government policy, its use within communities and the experienced outcomes for youth are testament that it is integral and influential within the narrative. Further NFE research and practices should be encouraged in order to understand its role and impact. There is an emphasis made here to expand the research on NFE because socio-economic inequality, concerns about youth transition and the importance of learning beyond the formal educational sector are universal and consistent issues.