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Characterization factors of non-formal education: a literature reviewI I - Pesquisa parcialmente financiada pela Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp) - processo nº 2012/23088-8. Artigo adaptado parcialmente de dissertação de mestrado.


This article reports the results of a document analysis in the field of non-formal education. Non-formal education is a growing area, which has been given increasing attention and importance. However, in general, it is an ill-defined and ambiguous sector of knowledge in the sense that the terms used are polysemic and there is no consensus on their uses and definitions. In order to clarify the definitions of the different education typologies, including non-formal education, we asked: What characteristics do these education typologies have? What criteria or factors are used in the literature to define them? In order to answer these research questions, we conducted a literature review analyzing 28 national and international documents, by means of documentary analysis and content analysis techniques. We found that most of the national literature uses the terminology formal, non-formal, informal education. We confirmed the difficulty in defining and establishing boundaries between different education typologies and highlighted that their definitions involve a large number of factors of different natures. We investigated 21 factors used in the characterization of the different education typologies, divided into four analytical dimensions – structure, processes, purpose and content. We found that, despite the diversity of factors used in the definitions, a core set is adopted more often, associated mainly to structural characteristics, such as location, degree of planning, or duration of learning.

Non-formal education; Educational typologies; Literature review

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