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formal education

Definition of Formal Education

(noun) Learning of academic knowledge and skills.

Example of Formal Education

  • Getting a degree at university.

Formal Education Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: for·mal ed·u·ca·tion

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /fOR-muhl ej-uh-kAY-shuhn/
  • British English – /fAWm-uhl e-dyu-kAY-shuhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈfɔrməl ˌɛʤəˈkeɪʃən/
  • British English – /ˈfɔːməl ˌɛdju(ː)ˈkeɪʃən/

Usage Note

  • Plural: formal educations

Related Quotations

  • “Compared to other social institutions, education is probably the most equitable. Like other nations in the developed world, the United States is oriented to credentialism—an individual’s qualifications for a job or another position are based on formal education or training. A college degree is the minimum credential for the most prestigious and financially rewarding positions . . . Education is a sorting process designed to benefit students and society, but gendered schooling brings benefits for some students and liabilities for others. In the most equitable of America’s social institutions, the gender of the child becomes a key determinant in his or her educational journey” (Lindsey 2016:352).
  • “Equally as important as the invidious barriers to opportunity that remain entrenched in our society are the legitimized, ostensibly meritocratic requirements built into the entire notion of bureaucratic credentialism. [Randall] Collins (1979), for example, has persuasively demonstrated how educational institutions have supported professionalization through the proliferation of programs, degrees, and certification schemes that have been used by government, business, and other organizations to increase for formal credential and licensure requirements for many positions. In effect, those already in positions of influence and status have quietly agreed to raise the minimum requirements for employment” (Hauhart 2016:265).
  • “[W]hat schools do ideologically, culturally, and economically is very complicated and cannot be fully understood by the application of any simple formula. There are very strong connections between the formal and informal knowledge within the school and the larger society with all its inequalities. But since the pressures and demands of dominant groups are highly mediated by the internal histories of educational institutions and by the needs and ideologies of people who actually work in them, the aims and results will often be contradictory as well” (Apple 1990:x–xi).

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Additional Information

Related Terms


Apple, Michael W. 1990. Ideology and Curriculum. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Note: Read for free at the Open Library.

Hauhart, Robert C. 2016. Seeking the American Dream: A Sociological Inquiry. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lindsey, Linda L. 2016. Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. 6th ed. New York: Routledge.

Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.

Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

Cite the Definition of Formal Education

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “formal education.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 17, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/formal-education/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

formal education. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/formal-education/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “formal education.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 17, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/formal-education/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“formal education.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/formal-education/>.