With the development of new many service occupations in postindustrial society, many of more occupation have attempted to gain professional standing process that is termed professionalization. So far, not all occupational categories are likely to become publicly recognized as professions.
In marginal cases, the term professional is used to designate the members of occupations, such as educational counselor, who have some claim to professional standing but lack the extensive theoretical education typical of established professions. The status of Non Formal Education as profession, is still unheard.
This essay is intended to specify the foundations and dimensions of profession, and then, to appraise whether non-formal education can be classified and fostered to be a scientific discipline and professional expertise or not. Due to the nature of the relationship between scientific knowledge and professional expertise, first, I focus my discussion on the definition of science. Second, the characteristics of profession. At the end, I give a short notes on the impossible mission of non-formal education.
A. Non Formal Education as Scientific Discipline
A science is a social institution and a way to produce knowledge. It is a human invention. What people now call science grew from a major shift in thinking that began with the Age of Reason and Enlightenment period in modern thought history. These ages promoted a new way of thinking. It included a faith in logical reasoning, an emphasis on experiences in the material world, a belief in human progress, and a questioning of traditional religious authority.
Science began with the study of the natural world and spread to the study of human social life. The importance of science in modern society and as a basis for seeking knowledge is associated with the societal transformation. The advancement of science or of the field within science, such as education, does not just happen. It is punctuated by the triumphs and struggles of individual scholar. It is also influenced by significant social events such as government policy, or shifts in public support.
At one time, all people created new knowledge using prescientific or nonscientific methods. These included the alternatives of research, and other methods that are less widely accepted in modern science. Science, now, refers to both a system for producing knowledge and the knowledge produced from the system. It combines assumptions about the nature of the world and knowledge; an orientation toward knowledge; and sets of procedures, techniques, and instruments for gaining knowledge. It is visible in a social institution called the scientific community.
The knowledge of science is organized in terms of theories. For now, a theory can defined as a system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that condense and organize knowledge about realities. A theory is like a map of the world that helps people visualize the complexity in the world and explains why things happen.
Scientists gather data using specialized techniques and use the data to support or reject theories. Data are the empirical evidences or information that one gathers carefully according to rules or procedures. The data can be quantitative or qualitative. Empirical evidence refers to observations that people experience through the senses. Sometimes this confuses people, because researchers cannot use their sense to directly observe many aspects of the human realities about which they seek answers. Researchers have many specialized techniques to observe and indirectly measure such aspects of the human realities.
Philosophically, every science should be based on three pillars of inquiry. They are ontology, epistemology, and axiology. Ontology is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of being investigated by a particular discipline. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that studies the principles and the validity of methods used to get any credible knowledge. Axiology is a branch of philosophy that studies the purposes of a particular system of knowledge.
Even though Non Formal Education as a scientific discipline is axiologically defensible, from the ontological perspective it has too broad definition. The use of “out of school” phrase, for instance, contradict against the principle of building definition. A definition, philosophically, should be stated in affirmative sentence, so that definition exclude everything outside the body of interest. Our definition of Non Formal Education , however, claims everything outside schooling system.
Epistemologically, our claim, that Non Formal Education is a scientific discipline, is also too weak. Non Formal Education has no specific methods of inquiry. The methods have been borrowed from other disciplines, i.e. sociology, psychology, and anthropology. What we can accomplish is Non Formal Education as an applied social sciences. Its body of knowledge, research findings, are so ambiguous and vague.
B. Non Formal Education as Profession
In every day conversation, we call a wide variety of full time work professional — as when we speak of professional exterminator or a professional tennis player. Professional are distinguished from amateurs in two ways: (1) they engage in particular activity for living, and (2) they presumably have above average skills qualifications.
More precisely, however, a profession is a white-collar occupation that requires considerable formal education and that carries high social prestige. In the past, very few occupations were widely regarded as being professions. As William Goode (1960) points out, professional occupational standing was traditionally limited to medicine, law, and the ministry. Today however, any occupation may be described as more less professional to the extent that it has the following four characteristics (Ritzer, 1972).
Theoretical knowledge. unlike occupations that involve only technical skills, professionals claim to have a theoretical understanding of their field based for extensive formal training and informal interaction with other s is their profession. Thus for example, anyone can learn live saving first-aid skills, but a physician make the professional claim of having a theoretical understanding of human health and illness.
Self-Regulated training and practice. While most workers are subject to on-the-job supervision, professionals enjoy high degree of autonomy in their work, ideally working independent rather than a salaried employees of large organizations (Zald, 1971). Professional training is regulated by formal organizations (called professional association) that are composed of people in the profession. Formal degrees and other forms of certification are required of those who wish to practice within the profession. Political lobbying by professional associations may result. In legal sanctions against those who offer the professional services in question without appropriate certification.
Authority over clients. Because of their extensive formal and informal education, professionals claim to have knowledge that no one outside their profession can fully understand. For this reason, will most occupations deal with customer who they assume lack the knowledge to critically evaluate the service being performed. Thus the typical professional is in a position in power.
Community rather than self-interest orientation. Professional after stress the element of altruism on their of community as a whole, rather than seeking simply personal enrichment. Most business executives readily admit to seeking financial gain to work. The work of the minister, on the other hand, is generally defined in terms of making a contribution to the well being of others. For their efforts professionals receive positive recognition in the form of high social prestige. In practice, of course, most professionals also enjoy a high income.
Among all of these required characteristics, only its community orientation is clear in Non Formal Education services. The other characteristics do not appear in Non Formal Education field. Here are the arguments and evidences.
Considering its theoretical knowledge, Non Formal Education has not built its verified body of knowledge yet. Even though we have department of Non Formal Education , it is clear that the successful performer of Non Formal Education is not graduated from that department. That is why everyone thinks to be able to perform the Non Formal Education job. If it is true, Non Formal Education is not a scientific-based expertise, but an art. It becomes personal matter.
Do the practitioners of Non Formal Education enjoy high degree of autonomy in their work. I don not think so. Non Formal Education tend to be a vocation. Our associate work under the governance and supervision of others. They are not autonomous professional. It is easy to observe that an Non Formal Education worker has to follow the client’s demand. They have no right to define and analyze and solve the problem independently. Do the Non Formal Education workers have an authority over the clients? The answer is also clear.
Finally, what we can do is to develop an inter-disciplinary based profession. To empower this field of job, means to strengthen its scientific grounds. Department of Non Formal Education , for example, should not exercise the process of in-breeding. They should open their mind.
C. The Impossible Missions of Non Formal Education
In closing my discussion on the mission of non-formal education (Rosidi, 2002), I have pointed out that education should liberate and equalize people. Educationists must, therefore, upset the two elements of the old system. First, the new educational praxis should instead be designed to create or reinforce a nonhierarchical society, in which property will not have rights over people, and in which, ideally, no person will have the right of domination over another. This would not be an egalitarian society in the sense that everyone is the same: people would have different work, but that work would not give them authority over the lives of others.
This simple ideal implies profound changes in the economic system, including laws regarding ownership, and changes in the social structure, access to knowledge, and the nature of learning. Obviously, education would have to play a key role in developing such a society, for any transformation requires changing people’s understanding of the social contract and the meaning of work, responsibility, and political participation.
Second, the transmission of knowledge in a nonhierarchical society would be very different from the teaching-learning structure of today’s education. Rather than abstracting from reality in order to set knowledge apart from the context in which it is transmitted, teaching and learning will deal with the reality of the participants. Learning materials should become the affirmation of an individual’s condition, and the path to awareness and action.
Those are the impossible missions of non-formal educational system. First, to reconstruct the hierarchical society and create a nonhierarchical society by raising people’s critical consciousness. Second, to decolonize knowledge by focusing the learning process to the learner’s reality. The non-formal educational system has its own potential to be a free educational institutions which means being political and moving the learners out of capitalist, hierarchical structure.