Examples of successful informal learning projects – both bottom up and top down – from countries including South Africa, Ireland and the Philippines demonstrate how governments can take initial steps towards assigning positive value to informal learning. These examples show how meaningful integration of informal learning on mobile devices can become a part of a nation’s education framework.
Furthermore, an extended case study from Kenya conducted by the author highlights how informal learning on mobile devices, even for traditionally marginalised populations, can be a medium of support to cultivating a knowledge society through something as simple as providing access to books.
Based on the “best practice” examples and research findings from the case study, governments and policymakers need to consider the following recommendations in order to help realise the potential of informal learning on mobile devices.
1. Transform informal learning into a visible and valued component of the education system.
The lack of visibility of informal learning in national budgets, policies and frameworks does not nurture equitable education participation in a country that seeks to develop a knowledge society. Developed countries undervalue informal learning. With funding support and development activities directed from the West, developing countries are often obliged to follow suit in this neglect. Changes in this area need to be effected by developed and developing countries alike.
2. Understand ways in which informal learning could be measured.
A barrier to informal learning is that there are no commonly agreed key performance indicators for this learning type. Additional data about informal learning can help governments and policymakers take decisions about where to invest with informal learning, including how the use of mobile technology might boost this activity.
3. Leverage existing and planned national infrastructure to support informal learning.
Take deliberate actions to understand present national resources, and to see what could be reused or repurposed to fit education plan needs. If the country has high levels of mobile device owner¬¬ship, it would be beneficial for policymakers to consider these potential tools before investing in more costly hardware to facilitate informal learning.
4. Establish opportunities for public engagement on the subject of informal learning.
Use of public consultations can provide governments and policymakers with data that can help make decisions on informal learning policy design. Informal learning on mobile devices might also emerge as an important consideration, since mobile devices provide potential distribution channels for informal learning, with the ability to reach people directly regardless of distance.
5. Re-allocate part of national education spending to informal learning studies and initiatives.
The growing evidence for the advantages of informal learning, including with mobile devices, is worth small investments. This needs to be used for further research and investigation, on one hand looking at when and for whom informal learning is beneficial; and on the other hand to scale best practice examples and support new innovative initiatives.