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The National institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has entered into its adulthood and completed two decades of its existence in the field of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in the school education sector. This journey of the Institute has been quite successful. With about 2.71 million students on its roll, NIOS is credited to be the largest open school in the world with significant popularity in the Commonwealth countries and in certain other developing and developed countries. NIOS has been offering Secondary and Senior Secondary and Vocational Education & training (VET) courses through its study centers and Open Basic Education Programme through Accredited Agencies.
NIOS not only offers a wide spectrum of courses of study up to the pre-degree level for all categories of learners, but also works as a nodal institute for carrying forward the open school movement in the country in order to achieve the objective of developing an inclusive learning society. This has been possible due to dedication and unstinting support from all faculty and staff of the institute and other stakeholders. However, there are some tasks and issues that need quick intervention and concerted attention as indicated below :
The success of ODL system largely depends on satisfaction of its learners, not only in terms of what is the quality of academic support they receive but also up to what extent they are empowered during the learning process. NIOS needs to work in this direction by consolidating and strengthening its academic support system.
The National Curriculum Framework (NCF 2005) has posed several challenges of education before all of us, particularly in the school education sector; not only what is to be learnt but also to ensure the effectiveness of the process of learning. It emphasizes giving more freedom and autonomy to the learner. Hence, there is a need to revisit the curriculum of NIOS for making learning more and more learner oriented.
NIOS needs to focus more on those disadvantaged groups of the society, who have been discriminated against getting education for long due to varied socio-economic reasons. We are in the process of developing workable and implementable action plans with due priority for reaching the unreached and uplifting them in the social structure by providing relevant and need based quality education. Besides SCs, STs, Girls and differently abled, NIOS has visualized a programme of education of minorities. The programme for education of minorities has already been started and it is in the process of expansion.
In recent years, the modern technologies have been playing varied roles. Among other things, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is being used widely by NIOS in the school education arena, particularly at the secondary and senior secondary levels. A comprehensive vision and perspective plan is being developed to harness the benefits of ICT for facilitating teaching-learning and other ODL endeavours. We are taking several steps for empowering the distance learners through our own efforts and by using the public-private partnership (PPP) mode of cooperation and collaboration. Some of the significant ICT based programmes that need focused attentions are:
Capacity building of functionaries is an integral part of the ODL system. It is all the more important in the school education sector keeping in view the fact that a large number of personnel are associated with the system for planning, implementation and monitoring of educational programmes. NIOS has to develop a comprehensive system to ensure that the capacity building activities becomes an integral component at all levels including the functionaries working under the State Open Schools (SOSs). We have to make the open schooling system a vibrant agent to meet this challenge of capacity building of ODL functionaries not only at the national level; but also at the international level with support from international agencies like the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and UNESCO.
In any instructional process, including ODL, research is an integral component not only to strengthen the system internally but also to contribute significantly to meet the national and societal goals. This area needs to be given significant attention for strengthening the instructional process as well as for making education relevant and need based to the learners. These efforts will prove useful in placing the open schooling programme on a sound pedestal.
NIOS is making concerted efforts for development of ODL system, particularly at the school level, by establishing a network of open schools to further strengthen the open schooling movement in country with the support from the Government of India and the State Governments. As envisaged in the XI Plan by the Planning Commission, NIOS, therefore, has to take a lead role in setting up of the State Open Schools in all the states.
There is a need to bring a happy balance between expectations from the institution and the actual contribution made by it to the society. Our endeavor would be to make the student a good human being and a useful member of the society. In this context, providing suitable vocational education and training (VET) to specific target groups who want to enter the world of work is our priority agenda to be implemented mainly through PPP mode. Societal expectations do not have any limits; however one must strive to make concerted efforts to meet these expectations as far as possible. The ODL system, like that of NIOS, therefore, has to work within the parameters of expectations and contributing substantially to the nation’s endeavours for universalisation of school education. Let us join hands for providing appropriate responses to the challenges of education.