NIOS is "Open School" to cater to the needs of a heterogeneous group of learners up to pre-degree level. It was started as a project with in-built flexibilities by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in 1979. In 1986, the National Policy on Education suggested strengthening of Open School System for extending open learning facilities in a phased manner at secondary level all over the country as an independent system with its own curriculum and examination leading to certification.
Consequently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India set up the National Open School (NOS) in November 1989. The pilot project of CBSE on Open School was amalgamated with NOS. Through a Resolution (No. F.5-24/90 Sch.3 dated 14 September 1990 published in the Gazette of India on 20 October 1990), the National Open School (NOS) was vested with the authority to register, examine and certify students registered with it up to pre-degree level courses. In July 2002, the Ministry of Human Resource Development amended the nomenclature of the organisation from the National Open School (NOS) to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) with a mission to provide relevant continuing education at school stage, up to pre-degree level through Open Learning system to prioritized client groups as an alternative to formal system, in pursuance of the normative national policy documents and in response to the need assessments of the people, and through it to make its share of contribution:
The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) provides opportunities to interested learners by making available the following Courses/Programmes of Study through open and distance learning (ODL) mode.
Envisages schooling by providing a learning continuum based on graded curriculum ensuring quality of education for children, neo-literates, school drop-outs/left-outs and NFE completers.
For implementation of OBE programme, the NIOS has partnership with about 853 Agencies providing facilities at their study centres. It is a sort of academic input relationship with partnering agencies. The NIOS provides resource support (such as adaptation of NIOS model curricula, study materials, joint certification, orientation of Resource Persons and popularisation of OBE) to the voluntary agencies and Zila Saksharta Samities (ZSSs) etc., for implementation of its OBE programme.
At the Secondary and Senior Secondary levels, NIOS provides flexibility in the choice of subjects/courses, pace of learning, and transfer of credits from CBSE, some Board of School Education and State Open Schools to enable learner's continuation. A learner is extended as many as nine chances to appear in public examinations spread over a period of five years. The credits gained are accumulated till the learner clears required credits for certification. The learning strategies include; learning through printed self-instructional material, audio and video programmes, participating in personal contact programme (PCP), and Tutor Marked Assignments (TMA). Enrichment is also provided to the learners through the half yearly magazine "Open Learning". The Study Material is made available in English, Hindi and Urdu mediums. The On-Demand Examination System (ODES) is in operation at Secondary and Senior Secondary stage. NIOS offers 28 subject in eight mediums (Hindi, English, Urdu, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, Malayalam and Odia) for Secondary Examinations and 28 subjects in Hindi, English, Urdu, Bengali and Odia mediums for Senior Secondary Examinations. Besides these, NIOS has provision of offering Vocational subjects in combination with Academic subjects at secondary stage and 20 vocational subjects in combination with Academic subjects at Senior Seondary level.
Acknowledging the fact that the young entrepreneurs will be the wealth of the nation, the learner friendly Vocational Education programmes of NIOS provide excellent prospects for the learners. It offers Vocational Education programmes in different areas such as Agriculture, Business and Commerce, Engineering and Technology, Health and Paramedical, Home Science and Hospitality Management, Teacher Training, Computer and IT related sectors, Life Enrichment Programmes and General Services. Knowledge, skills and qualities of entrepreneurship have been made essential components in curricula for Vocational Education with emphasis on practical and on the job training in related industrial units.
In order to upscale and place the Open Vocational Education Programme on a sound pedestal, NIOS is seeking collaboration with leading organizations in different educational development sectors like Industries, Medicines, IT etc. Within the overall provisions of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF-2005), NIOS has brought out a significant documnet titled "Vocational Educaiton and Training: A Framework on Curriculum Imparatives with a Foucs on Knowledge Acquisition and Skills Development: Initiative through Open and Distance Learning". It is hoped that this document with prove useful as the basis for preparing a well deliberated Programme of Action (POA) for implementation of Vocational Education Programmes through ODL.
The NIOS programmes pay special attention towards requirements of the first generation learners, physically, mentally and visually challenged learners and candidates from disadvantaged sections of the society.