The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), an institution under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), is the largest open school of the world. It has nearly three million students on its rolls, a student population no single institution of the world caters. Traditionally open school has been seen as an institution catering to the less privileged and the drop outs but it is little known that the most gifted and the extraordinary also like to pursue education through the open school. A large number of gifted learners like to pursue their schooling from the NIOS, who find the school routine slow and boring, besides the extraordinary sports persons who like to devote most of their time to sports and pursue education in their free time. Learners who have passed the NIOS Board examination have excelled in most spheres of public life. For example the recently nominated women boxer from Manipur, to the Upper House of Parliament Ms. Mary Kom has been NIOS student.
The Minister for HRD happens to be the President of the NIOS Society and it has taken some landmark initiatives under the leadership of its present president Ms. Smriti Zubin Irani, which will take open schooling to new heights in times to come.
The President of NIOS Society, Ms. Smriti Zubin Irani, has taken keen interest in the functioning of the NIOS and has added many new dimensions to the NIOS. A milestone vision of the President that all learners, whether they pay fees or not, should have access to the self-instructional material (SIM) which is a major strength of the open distance education. She envisioned that the SIM be put on the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform and be available to all learners. On the directions of the President Ms. Irani the NIOS had taken up development of MOOCs for its secondary and senior secondary study material. Through this new initiative, NIOS aspires to provide access and freedom to learners to study and also undertake self-assessment through the in-built self-check exercises anytime, anywhere. However, for certification, the learners will register and write the examination at their own convenience through ‘On-Demand Examination’ system.
NIOS has developed MOOCs in 15 subjects of the secondary courses and 24 subjects are being developed at the senior secondary level. There is ample integration of audio and video in the e-content, so developed. NIOS has also taken up MOOC development for teacher education.
The NIOS has been conducting ‘On-Demand-Examination’ which means any learner can register oneself with the NIOS online, at any time from anywhere, and choose to write one or more papers from the NIOS Board at his/her convenience at any of the 20 Regional Centers of NIOS. However, as the number of ‘on-demand examination’ centers were limited learners from the far flung areas could not make best use of it.
On the directions of the President an MoU was signed between NIOS and Kendriya Vidayalaya Sangathan (KVS) to work together towards the national goal of providing quality improvement in school education through shared resources to reach the unreached. The NIOS shall recognize all single shift KVs as NIOS study and examination centres. KVS has also undertaken to start on-demand examination centre for NIOS in each KV having the requisite infrastructure. The President desires to see 1000 centers across the nation holding on-demand examination in coming months.
The cherished goal of distance education to reach education at doorsteps will now be realized in letter and spirit with this vision of the President.
Besides the traditional secondary and senior-secondary education the NIOS has also been contributing to the other national missions. The NIOS has contributed to the digital literacy mission of the Government of India.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between NIOS and Common Services Centres – Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC-SPV) for assessment and certification of Digital Literacy under National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM), Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (DISHA) and CyberGram Yojna.
Under the mission, one member of each family is to be imparted training for digital literacy by CSC and assessment and certification is done by NIOS. More than eleven lakh learners have been assessed and certified by the NIOS since the MoU was signed in December 2015.
Persons with Disabilities, the Divyang as the PM has named them, are one of the prioritized groups for NIOS. NIOS website is the recipient of National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, 2012 for Best Accessible Website and NCPEDP MPHASIS Universal Design Awards 2012 for accessibility. Proactive steps towards facilitating their education resulted in introducing DAISY enabled talking books.
With an objective of enhancing inclusion, a high level committee was constituted to discuss the modalities for providing education and livelihood support to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). The committee has submitted its recommendations, based on which the following actions have been initiated:
Discussions with disability specific organizations and resource persons for development of glossary of basic and foundational concepts in sign language. Development of special courses for orientation and training of tutors/teachers dealing with learners with hearing impairment.
Conversion of secondary level material in sign language for the benefit of learners with hearing impairment.
General and specific examination related provisions for learners with disability have been revised to make reasonable adjustments with focus on the learners with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, multiple disabilities and learning disabilities.
NIOS is proposing to organize national level competitions to provide a platform to divyangs for showcasing their talents. The winners of the regional level competitions shall be invited to participate in a national level skill building workshop.
It is our vision to emerge as the most preferred institution for the divyangs and NIOS will continuously work towards improving inclusion and providing quality education to the divyangs.
As a small gesture, NIOS has acknowledged the creativity of the learners with disabilities by using their paintings selected through all India competition for the wall calendar 2016 of NIOS. Greeting Cards for the year 2016 were also printed with paintings made by our Divyang learners.
On the invitation of Hon’ble President, NOS Society, NIOS hosted nearly 100 divyang learners from Bihar and Meghalaya to participate in Republic Day parade in Delhi in January 2016. Most of them boarded a train for the first time in life. They also visited NIOS, their alma mater and handed over painting made for the President NIOS.
The above mentioned are some of the few initiatives taken by the NIOS in recent past. The NIOS has in the last year also ventured into many new areas, especially training. A large number of in-service teachers and health workers, including ASHAs have been undergoing training from the NIOS. Another focus of the NIOS is the North-East, which has not been fully served. The potential of the NIOS was not fully utilized but it now appears the Institute will realize its full potential in coming months and years.