Are extracurricular activities important to the university?


Anyone who would like to delve a little deeper into the subject of “recognition of extracurricular education” or are looking for impulses for discussions and activities will find information and suggestions here

Definitions: What is meant by extracurricular education?

Education is the process in which people develop and develop those skills that enable them to learn, develop their potential, act, solve problems and shape relationships. Experts differentiate between three forms of education: formal, informal and non-formal education.



You all know formal education, after all, there is compulsory schooling in Germany. Because you come across this form of education throughout your school career and later also in university, technical college or vocational training, it is often referred to as "school education". What is meant is the well-structured, continuously building up education that is tied to a system (school, vocational training institutions, universities). Formal education is largely compulsory, often takes place in standardized settings (e.g. lessons, seminars) and includes performance evaluation through grades and certificates.

Example: In school, you learn English according to a set curriculum. The teaching units build on each other and become more difficult from class to class. The aim is that you learn to express yourself correctly in English. Your performance will be checked and graded on a regular basis.



The so-called informal education is also a persistent companion in your life, of which you are probably not aware that much. It is an unplanned and everyday process. You experience this form of education mostly in an interpersonal context, such as in the family, with friends or in your free time and it is mainly reflected in your attitudes, values ​​and skills. The influences of your immediate environment and daily experiences of various kinds play a major role. Informal education is the prerequisite and the guide on which the other two educational processes are based.

Example: By listening to English music, English advertising texts or a short trip to London with friends, you casually “pick up” terms and phrases. Learning takes place in an unstructured, random and mostly unconscious manner.



Now we come to our main topic: non-formal or extracurricular education. It usually takes place outside of the school context. It can be found e.g. in youth clubs and centers, youth associations, sports, theater and music associations, voluntary groups at schools, educational institutions, at international youth encounters and in many other contexts.

It is characteristic of extracurricular education that it is organized - that is, not unplanned like informal education - and that it is voluntary. Other important features are:

  • Extracurricular education does not take place in standardized settings and uses special methods.
  • The educational goals are set jointly by the learners and those who design the program.
  • At the end of the day, there is no certificate that evaluates the learning success. When certificates are issued, the content is usually developed jointly by teachers and students.
  • Learning is often done in groups.
  • Extracurricular education is based on practical experience and addresses the individual needs of the learner.

Extra-curricular education is primarily about self-determination and self-efficacy - you should be supported to take your life into your own hands.

Example: At an international seminar with participants from France, Denmark and Portugal, English is your common working language. You discuss and work together. Whether everything is linguistically correct is not so important. The main thing is that you understand each other. The seminar leaders support you by incorporating elements into the program in which, among other things, you can playfully learn the vocabulary that is important for your seminar topic.


All three forms of education are of course closely linked and complement each other. They stand in a mutual process to one another.


Examples of knowledge and skills acquired in extra-curricular education

TheYouth (association) work serves you as a field of experimentation in many ways. You learn, for example, that in this society you have to say something and that you should and can loudly bring in this voice. You qualify for this in different ways. In Juleica training courses you acquire skills for group leadership, you let off steam through your own actions and projects of your association in event management and take many other skills with you through the collective experience. You debate a wide variety of topics, negotiate with decision-makers and even take on management responsibility.

in theSports club Above all, the team experience plays a major role. You motivate each other, even if your team conceded a "goal". Fair play is the topmost basic principle that equips you for conflict situations. You train regularly and know that you have to stay “on the ball” in order to achieve something. Perhaps you will let others participate in your playful skills, pass on tricks to others or even train a group yourself.

Educational institutionsmake offers for groups in different settings. In this context, you usually work very interactively and methodically on different topics, on which you develop your own ideas and positions. So it's not about pretending something, but above all about giving yourself space for your own thoughts.


Impulses for further discussion

  • What other examples can you think of?
  • What knowledge and skills have you acquired yourself as part of extracurricular educational offers and group activities?
  • Which of these knowledge and skills are particularly important to you and why?

What is the recognition of extracurricular education about?

Compared to formal education, extracurricular education has a much more difficult status. Only in the last ten years has it been increasingly recognized that, through extracurricular educational offers and group activities, young people acquire knowledge and skills that make an important contribution to personal development, social commitment, accomplish the acquisition of key competencies and much more. However, these often only become apparent at second glance and cannot be pressed into a standardized system such as school grades.

When it comes to the issue of recognition of extracurricular education, a distinction has to be made between who recognizes the learning outcomes and for what purpose. As a rule, a distinction is made between four forms of recognition: self-recognition, social recognition, political recognition and formal recognition.



Self-recognition means that you, as a participant in extracurricular educational offers and group activities, become aware of the knowledge and skills you have acquired in this context. The second step is to apply what you have learned in other areas, e.g. in school or at work.



Social recognition means that others understand better what extracurricular education is and protect the knowledge and skills acquired in the process and the commitment made in this context. These "others" are e.g. your family, your friends, schools and universities, employers, the neighborhood and also "society as a whole".



Political recognition is about ensuring that out-of-school education is incorporated into legislation, public funding and policy development. This also includes the associations and organizations that offer extracurricular education. In short, extra-curricular education is an important item on the agenda of politicians and other political decision-makers.



Formal recognition means that, for example, knowledge and skills acquired outside of school are incorporated into formal qualifications such as certificates or that extra-curricular education offers are accredited as official educational programs.

Impulses for further discussion

  • What other examples can you think of?
  • What knowledge and skills have you acquired yourself as part of extracurricular educational offers and group activities?
  • Which of these knowledge and skills are particularly important to you and why?
    • Do you think that knowledge and skills acquired outside of school are sufficiently valued by young people?
    • In your opinion, what about the recognition by friends and family, the state educational institutions, the training and labor market and society as a whole?
    • What should politicians, society, (universities) schools, training companies, the labor market, providers of extracurricular education, etc. change so that extracurricular education is better recognized?