Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education

Non-Formal Education and Quality Assurance

Non-Formal Education (NFE) is at the core of the work of most youth organisations. Every year they provide to millions of young people different types of educational experiences that support them in their development as fulfilled and empowered individuals, serving as active members of society. As one of the main providers of NFE, youth organisations are aware of their responsibility in the education of young people and strive to ensure that the education they provide is of the utmost quality.

To support youth organisations in this process, in 2008 the European Youth Forum developed a Framework for Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education as a dynamic process to follow in all stages of any NFE project/activity to ensure it satisfies the requirements for quality.

The Quality Assurance Framework process aims to provide organisations with tools for growth and self-improvement, as well as to serve as a clear signal to external stakeholders and society that Quality Education is a priority for youth organisations and should be recognised as such.

The quality assurance framework developed by the Forum is inspired by quality assurance processes in other educational fields and by the experience of several youth organisations that have developed quality assurance mechanisms.

A Manual has been developed to support organisations in the implementation of the framework. You can read it: here.


Interested in implementing the QA framework?

Are you a youth organisation or another NFE provider and would like to implement the QA framework in your NFE projects/activities?

We can support you! You can order our Manual on Quality Assurance of NFE. If you are a youth organisation, we can provide you with a list of peer organisations who have been trained and/or have implemented the QA framework in their NFE work and have agreed to serve as peers.

You can contact Manuel Gonçalvs Gil, Policy Officer.

Links to related publications:

-2013: Manual on Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education (EN). (CZ Version here)

-2013: Adaptation of the QA framework by youth organisations by YEU

– 2011: Pilot Project on Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education: Report (0037-11)

– 2011: Revised Policy Paper on Non-Formal Education: A framework for indicating and assuring quality

– 2008: Policy Paper on Non-Formal Education: A framework for indicating and assuring quality

Latest News of Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education


    What is the Quality Assurance Framework for NFE?

    The Quality Assurance Framework developed by the European Youth Forum proposes a dynamic process to ensure that an NFE project/activity would satisfy the requirements for quality.

    It is based on an understanding of quality drawn from the specific reality of NFE as provided by youth organisations. The QA process is based on a cycle of different steps that are to be followed by the implementing organisation based on a set of quality indicators and with the support of a group of peer organisations.

    Presentation of the Quality Assurance Framework of Non-Formal Education from European Youth Forum on Vimeo.


    The Quality Assurance Framework for NFE is the result of the commitment by the member organisations of the Youth Forum to improve the quality of their educational work, and the way it is acknowledged and communicated within youth organisations as well as by/to external stakeholders. Overall, it aims to contribute to an increased recognition of NFE and to strengthening the implementation of a true lifelong and life-wide learning process.

    Who is this for?

    The Framework was initially developed for youth organisations providing non-formal education. Yet, we believe it can be a useful tool for any NFE provider committed to assuring the quality of its work.

    Quality Indicators


    The QA framework proposed is built upon a set of quality indicators addressing the four key aspects of a non-formal education project/activity, namely: the resources; the educators; the content; and the learning process. The updated indicators, as presented in the 2011 Revised Policy Paper on QA, are listed below.

    1. The assessed needs of learners & society and the mission & values of the organisation are translated into objectives.

    2. The objectives are reflected in the NFE scheme.

    3. The educational methodology selected is suitable for the learning process.

    4. The necessary resources are available.

    5. Resources are used in a sustainable, cost effective and responsible way.

    6. Educators (such as trainers/volunteers/facilitators etc.) have the necessary competences.

    7. Educators are prepared.

    8. The communication between all actors is managed effectively.

    9. Learners influence their learning process

    10. Learners understand their learning outcomes and can transfer them.

    11. All actors are involved in the continuous evaluation process.

    Opposite to the concept of quality “standards”, the proposed quality indicators cover a wide range of elements and can fit in different organisational realities and scopes. They are a starting point for organisations to develop their own interpretation of what those indicators mean to their circumstances, based on what they define as relevant and needed aspects to verify in the quality assurance process. It is then up to each individual organisation to create its own description (operationalization) of each indicator. This adaptation translates into sub-indicators for easier development, monitoring and assessment.



    The role of peers

    Peer work is one of the key elements of this quality assurance framework. From the beginning of the process, a group of peer organisations previously agreed upon will support the implementing organisation in going through the whole QA process. Peer-feedback is provided at different stages during the project cycle; this is followed by peer-assessment of the whole quality assurance process, once the project/activity has been finalised and evaluated by the implementing organisation itself.

    As a result of this phase, the organisation gains trustworthiness by having its quality assurance reviewed by an external organisation, the “peers”. In addition, this peer review process is also a learning opportunity for the organisation, which gets the opportunity to reflect on its work based on an external perspective while getting valuable inputs from other experts that will contribute to improving.

    The QA cycle

    The QA process is based on a cycle of different steps to be followed along the natural project cycle of a NFE project, and with support of the group of peer organisations.


    1. Preparing for the NFE project/activity:

    The organisation identifies the needs it wants to address through the NFE project/activities and sets the objectives and the themes on which it wants to work.

    2. Contacting peers: once the peer organisations you will work with have been identified, contact is made to agree on timeline on giving feedback.

    3. Developing quality indicators: based on the objectives of the NFE project/activity, the organisation identifies and describes what each quality indicator means for that particular project/activity, and then identifies how those indicators will be assessed (by indicating which sub-indicators will be used to asses each indicator during the implementation and evaluation of the project.

    4. Peer-feedback on indicators: the group of peer organisations give feedback to the description of the quality indicators and the work on the sub-indicators.

    5. Implementing the NFE project/activity

    6. Self-asessment: the implementing organisation undertakes a self-assessment on its NFE project based on the quality indicators it had described and further developed.

    7. Feedback & assessment by peers: the group of peers gives feedback on how they see the QA process having been implemented in the NFE project/activity of the implementing organisation, and gives its assessment on whether the NFE project was quality assured.

    8. Reflection and follow- up: reflection and discussion on the overall outcomes of the QA framework for the participating organisation, and how to integrate it in the organisation’s educational work.

    This process allows the organisation for a continuous evaluation and adjustment of its NFE project/activity, while gathering relevant information to improve other on-going and future processes


The Quality Assurance Framework in NFE was first proposed in the Youth Forum’s 2008 Policy Paper on Non-Formal Education: A framework for indicating and assuring quality, as part of its commitment to enhance recognition of NFE and the role of youth organisations[1]. A revised policy paper adopted at the Youth Forum’s General Assembly in Antwerp in May 2011 further developed the proposed framework, taking into consideration the outcomes and the feedback received by the Youth Forum’s Member Organisations who participated in the pilot phase.

The QA framework is the result of the cooperation with 21 member organisations that participated in the development process since its pilot phase in 2009. The Youth Forum’s Working Group on NFE and the trainers of the Pool of Trainers and Facilitators have also been instrumental in making this process relevant to the reality of youth organisations. Relevant stakeholders in the education field have also been consulted in this process. This feedback has been essential to improve the framework and make it a relevant quality tool for NFE.


[1]  In the 2005 Policy Paper on the Recognition of Non-Formal Education: Confirming the real competencies of youngpeople in the knowledge society (0716-05) the Youth Forum already pointed out quality as a core topic to be further developed: «recognition of non-formal education also implies the responsibility of youth organisations in ensuring the quality of the learning offer […] »
    Pilot phase (2009-2010)

    A pilot project was run in 2009-2010 to test the quality assurance process among youth organisations; 6 member organisations of the Youth Forum were selected for their expertise in NFE and/or QA, while taking into account the diversity in the representation of the Youth Forum’s membership. As a support to the pilot project, an Advisory Board was set up to provide feedback on the concepts related to quality assurance and to the proposed process. This body brought together key stakeholders in the field of education and youth. The pilot project led to a proposal to revise the policy paper on quality assurance in NFE, updating the phases in the quality assurance process, the quality indicators and the peer-feedback system.

    To know more, read:  0037-11 Pilot Project on Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education: Report (January 2011).

    Quality Assurance training cycles (2011-2012)

    After the pilot phase, a total of 15 member organisations participated in the training cycles organised by the Youth Forum in 2011 and 2012. This helped to improve the guidance and training provided to youth organisations for implementing the framework in their NFE projects/activities.

    You can check the list of participating organisations under the tab “organisations”.

    Consultation with Member Organisations and stakeholders

    A Conference on Quality Assurance of Lifelong Learning was organised by the Youth Forum in April 2011 as part of its annual Non-Formal Education Week. During the event, a series of workshops on the topic were held with our member organisations as well as a wide range of stakeholders, including education providers, academic experts and high-level representatives of European and Global Institutions. Questions addressed referred to the mechanisms for and benefits of setting up a network to support quality assurance in youth organisations.


European Youth Forum AISBL

Rue de l’Industrie 10, 1000 Brussels

Tel.: +32 2 793 75 20
Fax : +32 2 893 25 80

With the support of
The European Commission
The European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe