This study was funded by the Carnegie Commission and conducted under the auspices of the Educational Testing Institute.
Almost as many Americans seek some form of education outside the established educational system as within it…There is, then, a very large group of people outside the formal structure of education with obvious educational needs. If society is to develop mechanisms to help meet these needs, an essential early step is to analyze the populations reached by the nonformal systems.
A new set of terms and concepts is being developed, some of which represent very old ideas and all of which, like other innovations, will doubtless be carried to a cultish excess.
The Commission believes that the potential of these approaches outweighs the possibility of excess. The rigidities of time, space, and academic credentialing have worked directly to foster elitism in higher education. The aims of education properly involve the achievement of competence, understanding, knowledge, and sensitivity. If attention is focused on diverse means to these objectives and not on rigid structure, many people not now thought to be “college material” can achieve these goals.
Non-traditional study is more an attitude than a system and thus can never be defined except tangentially. This attitude puts the student first and the institution second, concentrates more on the former’s need than the latter’s convenience, encourages diversity of individual opportunity rather than uniform prescription, and de-emphasizes time, space, and even course requirements in favor of competence and, where applicable, performance. It has concern for the learner of any age and circumstance, for the degree aspirant as well as the person who finds sufficient reward in enriching life through constant, periodic, or occasional study.
In sum, the Commission has come away from its study of the proliferation and growth of alternate educational systems and new techniques with a conviction that both are developments to be welcomed rather than feared. Some alternate enterprises have already shown themselves to be equal in quality to formal educational offerings and occasionally better. With appropriate monitoring and close relationships with colleges and universities, they can become an even greater force for educational good than heretofore, and an added set of possibilities for the student. Some technological advances offer even greater promise for expanding clientele, offering high-quality learning, and lowering costs per student. The Commission believes that both the systems and forms deserve close attention, encouragement, and assistance.