Over 85% of countries on this planet, with more than 70% of the world population, are developing countries . [The use of the term developing countries is in decline now, but continually growing economic disparities and resource divide among the world countries compelled us to stay with this nomenclature.] Citizens of the developed countries (15% of countries on the planet) enjoy better living conditions, affordable health services, ample job opportunities, good education, and advanced technological services, whereas citizens of the developing countries live in poor conditions, hardly afford basic health services, face growing unemployment, lack quality education, and constantly encounter the digital divide. Considering the challenges faced by the world, the global community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go together with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth, all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The timeline to achieve SDGs is 2030. Following the commitment, governments across the globe are trying to achieve SDGs by 2030 (Misra, 2021; United Nations, 2021).

The success of SDGs is dependent on the implementation of developmental measures in developing countries, and education is a key to the success of SDGs (Vladimirovaa & Le Blanc, 2015). Providing need-based quality education to all citizens irrespective of their age or stage is the way to achieve SDGs and improve the status of a developed country. Research shows that the private return on investment in education is over 25% in primary education, followed by over 15% for secondary and higher education (Psacharopoulos & Patrinos, 2018). Recognizing the importance of education for development, providing quality education to all is a priority area for every government in the world. As a result, today, there is only about 13% illiterate population in the world. However, the bulk of this illiterate population is in developing countries (Roser & Ortiz-Ospina, 2018). In addition to making this vast population literate, providing educational opportunities to all, continuingly, is equally important for developing countries to develop sustainably. This is not possible through the use of formal education practices alone.

The formal education systems are usually the backbone for the development of a country. But non-formal education (NFE) also contributes significantly to improve the literacy and livelihoods of individuals. Therefore, it becomes significant for developing countries to offer meaningful NFE opportunities to the citizens in addition to formal education. However, offering need-based NFE is a challenge in many developing countries due to the size of the population as well as many other geographical and economic conditions. Fortunately, many countries have started using open, distance, and digital education (ODDE) to make NFE more accessible and approachable to the masses. The assumption is that ODDE can offer quality educational programs at a minimal cost to the citizens that come from varied cultures, live in different geographies, speak multiple languages, and face economic inequalities. Proper and effective use of ODDE may change the lives of many citizens in developing countries and help these countries achieve SDGs. This chapter presents an overview of the use of ODDE for supporting NFE initiatives in the developing world and identifies issues and challenges faced. The chapter also reviews theoretical insights and major findings of key publications to further explore the use of ODDE for NFE. The final section provides the strategies for promoting NFE through ODDE in developing countries.

Characteristics and Benefits of NFE

Like formal education (but unlike informal, incidental, or random learning), NFE is institutionalized, intentional, and planned by an education provider (UIS, 2012, p. 11). In a way, NFE is the mid approach between formal and informal education. NFE is more flexible than formal education in terms of rules, regulations, and certifications but more organized and goal-oriented in comparison with informal education. Khasnabis et al. (2010) observe that:

Non-formal education refers to education that occurs outside the formal school system. Non-formal education is often used interchangeably with terms such as community education, adult education, lifelong education and second-chance education. It refers to a wide range of educational initiatives in the community, ranging from home-based learning to government schemes and community initiatives. (para 1)

Usually, an individual’s educational journey focuses on two approaches that complement each other: formal education and informal education. One attends schools and afterward higher education institutions to receive formal instruction. The successful completion of formal instruction is acknowledged in the form of degrees or diplomas. Simultaneous to formal education, an individual also learns from family, peers, and society. This education does not provide his/her any certificate or diploma, but the most valuable lessons to succeed in life. This education is named informal education. And the third type of education is NFE that supports or complements both formal and informal education. Assuming the image of education as a sandwich, then it will be appropriate to say that “formal education” forms its upper layer, “informal education” forms its lower layer, and “non-formal education” is the filling connecting both the layers. A report from UNESCO highlights the characteristic of NFE in the following words:

The defining characteristic of non-formal education is that it is an addition, alternative, and/or complement to formal education within the process of lifelong learning of individuals. It is often provided in order to guarantee the right of access to education for all. It caters to people of all ages but does not necessarily apply a continuous pathway structure; it may be short in duration and/or low-intensity; and it is typically provided in the form of short courses, workshops or seminars. Non-formal education mostly leads to qualifications that are not recognised as formal or equivalent to formal qualifications by the relevant national or sub-national education authorities or to no qualifications at all. Nevertheless, formal, recognised qualifications may be obtained through exclusive participation in specific non-formal education programmes; this often happens when the non-formal programme completes the competencies obtained in another context. (UIS, 2012, p. 11)

NFE has emerged as a tool that offers multiple possibilities and opportunities for individuals, societies, and countries, especially for the young and adult population. NFE caters to the needs of the society, especially those who are weaker sections of the society and may not have access to formal education due to a range of barriers including socioeconomic conditions. Explaining the utility of NFE for various user groups, a write-up from a working group on NFE of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (2021) suggests:

Education will never be enjoyed by all without a wide variety of non-formal or ‘non-school forms of provision: ‘second chance’ schools for children having passed the legal enrollment age; community schools for children in areas lacking formal provision; literacy and ‘post-literacy programs for teenagers and adults; programs combining basic education with various forms of vocational training; and so on. (para 5)

Countries envision many benefits by offering need-based NFE opportunities for all. For example, NFE helps individuals to:

  • Gain specific knowledge or skills

  • Get learning and experiences in actual work settings

  • Fulfil their personal, social, and professional development needs

  • Improve or adapt their existing qualifications and skills

  • Keep ready and updated for changing demands of jobs or industries

  • Live an active, joyful, and productive life

There is a general principle that individual benefits collectively help societies and countries to develop socially, culturally, and economically. NFE works on similar principles and supports individuals to develop socially, culturally, and financially.

Mechanism to Deliver NFE

As discussed earlier, the nature NFE depends on the need of the stakeholders. People usually opt for NFE due to five main reasons:

  • Supplementing their formal education

  • Compensating lack of formal education

  • Increasing professional competence

  • Having a desire for personal development

  • Practicing a hobby or leisure activity

NFE is clubbed into four main categories. These categories are paranormal education, popular education, education for personal development, and professional training (Carron & Carr-Hill, 1991). Due to the advent of mobile communication technologies, people are also opting for NFE for popular and personal development reasons.

Several organizations and agencies provide NFE in developing countries. First among them are the governments. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Redvers-Lee (2002) found that governments are the key players in NFE. This observation is equally applicable for the majority of developing countries (Carron & Carr-Hill, 1991). Besides governments, other major providers of NFE in developing countries include educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, industrial houses, self-help groups, citizen forums, and international organizations. NFE is mainly provided in the form of short-term courses, training programs, seminars, and workshops. The duration of such programs ranges between a few months or weeks and few days. The training includes both theoretical and practical aspects and is facilitated by subject experts. At the end of the training, candidates are provided a certificate of successful completion or a certificate of attendance.

Increased literacy rates, higher gross enrolment ratios in the education sector, the changing demands of professions, changing requirements of the job market, and the desire to raise the financial and social status are significantly contributing to popularize NFE in developing countries. NFE has also emerged as a viable means to benefit from opportunities offered by liberalization, privatization, and globalization. As a fact, developing countries are relying heavily on NFE for achieving the SDGs. Summarizing the reasons behind the need and popularity of NFE, a report from a working group on NFE (Association for the Development of Education in Africa, 2021) states:

Non-formal education does not merely fill a gap. It also enables countries to consider their educational needs more holistically as they progress toward the goal of education for all. Moreover, non-formal education is better placed to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups and offers the advantage of being grounded in the workplace and the grassroots level. It can thus help to revitalize education [in Africa] by forging closer links between education and the realities of everyday life. (para 4)

While most of the NFE programs are organized at evening and weekend activities to accommodate the needs of the stakeholders, the time and location-dependent nature of the events are not normally suitable for many participants. Therefore, many governments and organizations are also using ODDE to offer NFE programs.

ODDE as a system of teaching and learning is a provision where the learners and teachers are quasi-permanently separated by space and time; there is an organization to facilitate the process of learning; use technical media (such as print, audio, video, digital technologies) for delivery of learning; provision of two-way communication (with assignments and online discussion); and occasional provision of the meeting of the participants to create and promote social learning (Keegan, 1996). It provides flexibility to the participants to join the learning opportunity from anywhere and learn at their own pace and time to accomplish their goal with limited requirements to join an in-person event. While the flexibility of ODDE offered the opportunity to many participants to join the programs, the increased number of participants also provided the “economies of scale” to the NFE providers to adopt this approach. In the past decades, the main changes for ODDE were on media and technology used for resources and delivery. Open and distance education started by using the print medium as a resource and subsequently added audio, video, and electronic resources. The delivery mode uses postal medium, radio, television, the Internet, and mobile as a mechanism to deliver ODDE. Nowadays, most providers use different resources and media in combination to offer ODDE.

ICTs have emerged as the backbone of ODDE for NFE. The NFE providers are now using ICTs, such as Internet-enabled computers and mobile phones, for instruction, resources, discussions, guidance, evaluation, and certification. The NFE providers advertise their courses online or on the institutional website or social media, admit students online, teach them online or in blended mode, ask them to submit their assignments online, examine them either online or offline, and also award certificates online. While there are also NFE distance learning provisions that are not facilitated by the use of ICTs, the ICT-supported versions offer a speedy, convenient, personalized, cost-effective, and cross-border supply of NFE. As observed by Latchem (2012):

Low-income and middle-income countries fully recognise the need to develop their human capital in order to develop sound market-based economies. NFE is a key feature in pursuing this goal. However, so great is the task that it cannot be achieved by conventional means alone. This is why applications of open and distance education and of information and communications technology (ICT) can play such a vital role. (p. 2)

The advocacy for using ODDE for NFE in developing countries is supported by many arguments. These arguments suggest that ODDE-supported programs and activities can be:

  • Accessible to many learners residing in different localities

  • A viable option for people with low or poor economic status

  • Offered by any willing institution or organization or individual with minimal resources and facilities

  • A cost-effective and economical way for learners to enhance their knowledge and competencies

  • Helpful to cater the learning needs of youth and adult learners by reaching their doorsteps

  • Used in combination with the formal system of education

Examples of NFE Through ODDE

There are limited NFE provisions in developing nations (Latchem, 2014). However, the earliest report on the use of distance learning for NFE listed 73 projects in 56 developing and 17 industrialized countries (Dodds, 1996). Presenting a compilation of several case studies of NFE by distance and open learning, Siaciwena (2000) stated that distance learning demonstrates potential in enhancing the contribution of NFE to socioeconomic development, for example:

… the Zambia Radio Farm Forum programme enables the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries to reach larger numbers of peasant farmers than is possible through other extension services. The Radio Farm Forum programme helps over 21,000 small-scale farmers/peasants in rural areas, who listen and participate in the programme, to learn new knowledge and develop new skills. In the Ghanaian case study, the use of radio strengthened the coverage, by the literacy programme, of the functional and developmental themes. Another important lesson is that distance learning approaches can be effective in changing people’s attitudes/behaviour and in motivating rural communities to undertake action leading to the improvement of their socio-economic conditions. (p. 5)

In 2007, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) came out with an interactive audio course to deliver information over mobile phones. Each course had a few points to convey, such as the importance of clinician-assisted birth or the dangers of indoor smoke. As an incentive to take the courses, there was a short quiz at the end of each call, and if the caller passed the quiz, free airtime was delivered to their mobile phone (InfoDev, 2010, p. 14). The BRAC experiment showed that with a vision, proper planning, and appropriate infrastructural support, ODDE-supported NFE can be a game-changer.

In India, the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) offers several vocational education programs to meet the need for skilled and middle-level human resources working in both organized and unorganized sectors. The NIOS has expanded the range of vocational education courses over the years depending upon the needs of learners and market demands. In addition, vocational education courses of NIOS are for both urban and rural sectors. The success of NIOS in offering vocational education programs shows that ODDE-supported NFE can bring several social and economic gains (NIOS, 2021). NIOS also offers an open basic education program to increase the literacy rate in the country. Priyadarshini (2006) reported that the priority groups of this program include women, disadvantaged communities, daily wage earners living below the poverty line, rural persons, and those living in urban slums.

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s database on literacy case studies reports the use of computer-based functional literacy in India by Tata Consultancy Services in nine languages. The adult literacy program uses a multimedia software package and e-Learning system to help adults speaking the native language without literacy skills to learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. Through this initiative, “The content is presented via a multimedia puppet show and focuses on individual words rather than the alphabet, with the aim of teaching learners to read and write 700 commonly used words in their native language” (Chatzigianni, 2019).

The Alphabétisation de Base par Cellulaire (ABC) (en: Mobiles 4 Literacy) program in Niger uses mobile phones to promote adult literacy and numeracy. Reporting the case study, Hanemann (2017) states the project enhanced the reading and writing and math scores over time from zero to, on average, between two and three, meaning that learners could read and write sentences and complete addition and subtraction problems.

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has been promoting the use of distance learning for non-formal education since its establishment. COL’s Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3F) program has demonstrated huge success in the use of distance education and low-cost technologies in improving the lives of farmers in Asia and Africa. Rooted in the idea that cognitive social capital is a precondition for lifelong learning, the approach taken is to focus on the community for imparting training and use of radio and low-cost mobile phones alongside face-to-face meetings to provide functional literacy. A study in Africa reports members of L3F to have significantly higher empowerment scores than the non-L3F control groups and also have higher profits and profit efficiency in poultry farming, thereby significantly improving their livelihoods (Balasubramanian, Carr, Yindok, Atieno, & Onyango, 2014). Evaluating L3F in India, the National Institute of Bank Management reported that the program yielded a 9:1 financial return on the investment by COL, and the L3F community members have substantially high earnings than the non-L3F group (Kumar and Kulkarni, 2013).

ODDE provisions are not only effective in increasing access to learning opportunities for those who need education but are also cost-effective solutions for NFE. Arguing in favor of using ODDE for NFE, Latchem (2018) noted:

The developing countries experience great difficulty in funding the current forms of formal education and escalating access to equitable and quality non-formal education (NFE) by conventional means on the scale needed would cost many billions if not trillions of dollars. It is here that open and distance learning (ODL) can play a significant role by opening up access and lowering the costs by the use of alternative methods and information and communications technology (ICT). (p. vii)

In addition, Table 1 presents a summary of some key publications that the readers may find useful to further explore the use of ODDE for NFE.

Table 1 Insights from key publications for NFE through ODDE

Issues and Challenges for NFE Through ODDE

While ODDE has the potential to increase access and reduce the cost of quality NFE in many countries, there are several concerns and challenges faced by developing countries regarding the provision of NFE to all willing citizens. Research reveals that the poor and least educated in the developing economies are unable to take benefit of NFE due to many barriers including situational barriers (those arising from one’s situation in life), institutional barriers (practices and procedures that hinder participation), and dispositional barriers (attitudes and dispositions toward learning) (Latchem, 2014; UNESCO, 2019). In addition, the following factors are also responsible for the less reach of NFE in developing countries.

Social status of NFE: Two decades earlier Perraton (2000) noted that distance learning NFE programs are regarded as second-class provisions for groups of low social standing and have little political influence. While COVID-19 has significantly changed the mindset about distance learning, the status of NFE has not changed much in the last two decades. There is a popular belief that NFE is practical and skill-based; hence, face-to-face or in-person teaching or instruction is best to get it. As a result, in-person NFE is still the first choice among the masses.

Policy (political) support to NFE: The education systems in developing countries, both formal and non-formal, are mainly devised and promoted by governments (popular political parties), which do not recognize the role of distance learning as a policy for promoting lifelong learning. Distance learning for NFE has been visualized as a series of pilots that never became institutionalized or taken seriously by governments (Dodds, 1996; Perraton, 2000). The governments across developing countries are promoting online learning and coming up with several projects. But these projects mainly focus on using online learning in the formal education sector rather than for the NFE sector. To make extensive use of ODDE in NFE, supportive policies and political support are needed. For example, in India, the open basic education program of the NIOS is recognized as equivalent to the formal school for purposes of higher education and employment (UIL, 2015).

Inexperience among NFE providers to adopt ODDE: NFE providers in developing countries have evolved their mechanism and methodology to offer the programs. The providers mainly use the experiences and expertise that they receive from the formal education sector. The providers rarely received training on how to use ODDE to provide NFE to the masses. There are limited training opportunities on distance learning for NFE. As a result, the NFE sector in developing countries still depends on the formal system of instruction.

Marketing and publicity of NFE: ODDE-supported NFE has its success stories, but unfortunately, these stories hardly become viral or reach the stakeholders (Latchem, 2018). These success stories remain confined to a particular sector or region. There is no agency to promote and publicize such success stories in other parts of the country or across countries. Nowadays, participants and providers are using online social media to promote such stories, but that is not enough. The other notable point is that the majority of the population in developing countries lives in rural areas and hardly watches such success stories on social media.

Private players to promote NFE: After the advent of globalization, private players are playing an active role in the formal education systems of developing countries. But private players are not active in the NFE sector. The cost structure of NFE and the paying capacities of the stakeholders to access NFE programs do not encourage the private players to work in this area. However, the emergence of technology-enabled NFE programs creates new opportunities for private players, non-governmental organizations, and philanthropic organizations to actively engage in this area to support development.

Research on designing, delivering, and evaluating NFE: Research plays a significant role in realizing the educational needs of individuals or society and accordingly designing and developing educational programs or activities. Research guides effective and efficient way to design and offer educational programs and informs whether offered programs or activities are working well or able to meet the expectations. Unfortunately, not much research is available on designing and delivering need-based NFE for the masses in developing countries. The evaluation studies on ongoing NFE initiatives are also missing or remain unreported. Needless to say, the absence of research on designing, delivering, and evaluating NFE is severely hampering the progress and prospects of NFE through ODDE in developing countries.

Besides, some other factors that affect the use of ODDE for NFE in developing countries are:

  • The demands for offering NFE in local or regional languages

  • The digital divide among NFE aspirants

  • Hesitation to join NFE as adults

  • Family- and work-related responsibilities of NFE aspirants

  • Lack of guidance and counselling about the benefits of NFE

  • The social mindset that blocks the road of NFE for women

In a nutshell, developing countries face several challenges to promote open, distance, and digital non-formal education. Therefore, it can be stated that to promote the use of ODDE for NFE, developing countries need specific strategies to implement ODDE in NFE contexts.

Strategies for Promoting Use of ODDE for NFE

NFE in developing countries has been visualized and offered on the pattern of the formal education system. In reality, only a limited number of institutions or organizations offer NFE. The NFE programs are delivered on a set pattern, and both providers and takers have their reasons to celebrate. The providers feel happy to claim that they have offered so many programs, and participants feel jubilant to get a completion certificate to show. But the real intent behind offering NFE, i.e., bringing a change in the lives of participants by helping them to update their knowledge or skills, remains absent in such proceedings. To overcome such a situation, this becomes the responsibility of governments, NFE providers, and all associated institutions to adopt innovative policies and practices for delivering quality distance learning for NFE at the doorsteps of the masses. We discuss some of the possible strategies that could be adopted by governments and NFE providers in developing countries.

National policy: National education policies are a regular feature in developing countries. These policies refer to NFE, but ODDE is hardly a part of the discourse in such policy documents. A well-thought and focused policy is a must for promoting any educational program or scheme. Realizing this necessity, the governments in developing countries need to adopt specific policies for distance learning operations of NFE opportunities. These policies can be made as per the need and ground realities of a particular country but must necessarily answer the following.

  • What types of ODDE NFE programs will be delivered?

  • Who is eligible to offer ODDE for NFE?

  • What will be the terms and conditions for such providers of ODDE?

  • How do NFE providers ensure the quality of ODDE programs?

  • What will be the mechanisms for certification of ODDE NFE programs?

  • How can providers of ODDE for NFE be accredited?

  • What will be the legal framework for accepting ODDE for NFE within the national qualifications’ framework for employment and other educational purposes?

Adopting a specific policy would help increase the visibility of ODDE for NFE programs and the acceptance of the pilot projects to become mainstream.

National coordinating agency : Multiple agencies provide NFE in developing countries. Unfortunately, all these agencies work in isolation. They only cater to their target groups and feel happy by achieving designated targets. Realizing the isolation among providers of NFE, developing countries must think of setting up a dedicated agency to coordinate and manage the NFE offerings. This is important if the economies of scale are to be leveraged to reduce the cost of operation and make ODDE a viable option for NFE. This coordinating agency may act as a one-stop shop for curriculum design and development of learning materials and guide the providers in the effective delivery of ODDE for NFE programs. This agency may also conduct training, ensure quality, and maintain data for the government to take policy decisions.

Online portal for NFE: Online services significantly improve good governance in the developing countries. Online portal helps the governments or concerned agencies to get real-time data and monitor the progress of different schemes or projects. A national portal for resources, expertise, and programs on ODDE for NFE could help improve access to information for all concerned. The governments can use this online portal for many purposes and in several ways. The providers can be allowed to use this platform for the complete cycle of ODDE (enrolment, instruction, examination, and certification). The resources on the portal could be made available as open educational resources to help reuse and remix to offer programs by several providers and contextualize the resources by translating these to local languages.

Increase funding: ODDE programs require an initial higher investment due to the preparation of learning materials and the use of technological systems. While the recurring costs are less, the initial fixed costs sometimes are deterrent for NFE providers to adopt ODDE, even when there is a high scalability of the program to reach enough participants for economies of scale. Thus, governments in developing countries must provide adequate funding support for NFE programs to adopt ODDE and become sustainable. While governments may take the bulk of such responsibility, the private sector and philanthropy could play a significant role in increasing the funding base for ODDE. Availability of increased funding support could help the development and offer more of NFE programs using ODDE in many different areas to reduce unemployment, speed up the economy, increase productivity, promote self-sufficiency, and achieve SDGs.

Partnership and collaboration: Providing NFE to every willing citizen is a mammoth task. Governments in developing countries alone cannot fund and run such programs. As indicated above, this calls for partnership with the private players to collaborate in developing joint programs and offer these on a large scale. In such partnership, the role of state-owned institutions will be to provide infrastructural facilities, and the private players will be responsible to run the program and offer instructional support. In addition, the governments may also offer several incentives to private players for offering NFE in less reached areas. Collaboration at the local level is vital for ODDE for NFE, as local partners would provide community-level support to reach many participants. Also, with the use of digital tools, it is important to have a partnership with Internet service providers and telecommunication providers to offer zero ratings of NFE platforms and portals and provide free SIMs and data access for learning.

Marketing and publicity: The ODDE for NFE is hardly a part of national discourse in developing countries. In the absence of any national policy, the ODDE options are considered largely an individual choice that is fulfilled by specific agencies working at selected places or regions. These success stories are not widely known to many people to attract their attention to the ODDE provisions. Therefore, it is important to create a system to document the success stories of using ODDE for NFE and its wide circulation in social media as well as mainstream media, including radio, television, and newspapers. In addition, there is a need for local community engagements in creating awareness about the advantages of ODDE, which is flexible and provides social learning opportunities and skill-building through limited in-person engagements.

Employers’ support: The majority of the NFE aspirants in developing countries is either employed or would like to be employable. In other words, prospective participants see NFE as an opportunity to enhance their competencies and skills for improving their livelihoods. Therefore, it is important that NFE providers engage with industry and employers to develop and offer courses that could lead to employment and improve the livelihoods of the participants. The credibility of ODDE among stakeholders is necessary to create the cycle of confidence. Employer engagement in the design and development of ODDE programs would build their confidence in the participants completing the NFE programs.

Training of NFE providers: The majority of NFE providers in developing countries still rely on the traditional method of instruction, i.e., face to face. For them, one-to-one or personalized instruction in the face-to-face mode setting is still the best way to deliver NFE programs to the aspirants. There is an urgent need for training the NFE providers to understand how to design, develop, and deliver ODDE programs. The ODDE experts and institutions in developing countries may come forward to identify, enrol, and train such providers who are significantly contributing to the NFE sector. Such training opportunities will help improve the availability of more ODDE for NFE programs and improve the quality of those that are available. Training in the field is also important, as the technologies of ODDE are changing very fast with the use of learning management systems, mobile apps, and many other tools such as augmented reality and virtual reality for skills development.

Research on ODDE for NFE: Considering the lack of research on NFE, national governments, international organizations, and educational institutions must come forward to support and fund research focusing on the effective use of ODDE for NFE at both policy and practice levels. It is equally important to carry out evaluative research on ongoing NFE schemes and projects in different parts of the world. The outcomes of these evaluative studies would build a knowledge base for the long-term sustainability of such projects in the future and their adaptation in different contexts. The other area for research may be to assess the impact of technology interventions in NFE programs and the possibilities of using OODE for NFE. Future studies on ODDE NFE may need to be situated in local contexts and adopt participatory approaches where all the stakeholders are engaged and contributing to the critical reflection and understanding. While the researchers use more qualitative approaches to study NFE, future research should also try using rigorous quantitative methods such as randomized control trial (Connolly, Keenan, & Urbanska, 2018) to focus on causality and theory building. The prospective areas for research related to OODE for NFE may include:

  • Understanding and evaluating how ODDE NFE policies lead to improved practices

  • Ways of using ODDE for NFE by different age groups

  • Outcomes of using ODDE for NFE in different sociocultural contexts

  • Influence of the ODDE in promoting NFE among adult learners

  • The impact of ODDE-supported NFE on the individual’s socioeconomic growth

  • How the choice of digital tools for NFE shapes the learning outcomes


The developing countries have a consistent desire to come at par with developed countries at most social and economic indicators. There is no single route to achieve this dream. The developing countries need to work on many fronts, and offering need-based ODDE for NFE is one such route. The ODDE helps the workers to gain further expertise and knowledge while remaining in employment, and this enhanced competence helps them to further excel in their career. The updated knowledge of the workers also brings benefits to the multiple stakeholders that include governments, industries, markets, families, communities, and societies. Notwithstanding a significant correlation between socioeconomic development and ODDE, the developing countries hardly have any comprehensive scheme or mechanism to fund, support, and invest in ODDE for NFE. This chapter lists the potential reasons or challenges holding back developing countries to promote ODDE for NFE. Afterward, the chapter suggests some simply workable strategies for promoting and making the best use of ODDE in developing countries to offer NFE programs. We hope that governments of developing countries will take note of this analysis and implement the suggested strategies for promoting and maximizing the benefits of ODDE for NFE.