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National Institute for Open Schooling: Needs, Admissions, and Benefits

National Institute for Open Schooling (NIOS) Needs, Admissions, and Benefits

In November 1989, the Government of India set up the first open school as a pilot project under the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education). It was originally envisioned under the National Policy of Education 1986. And it was started with pre-degree level courses. Back then, this open school was called ‘National Open School’. Later, the nomenclature was amended as the ‘National Institute of Open Schooling’ or the NIOS.

Let’s explore all the details of this school and understand how it made a great impact on the lives of several students over decades.

What is Open Schooling?

Open schooling is a concept that offers a flexible home-based, location-free, off-site learning choice. The NIOS provides equivalency programs to students that are fully recognized by the Government of India. This concept helps students to learn through a formal school without visiting a physical campus every day. This way, they get more flexibility, and fulfill the purpose of earning a diploma/degree/credential for further employment/education.

Why Was the NIOS Started?

National Institute for Open Schooling (NIOS) logo

Expanding Educational Opportunities 

Despite several policies and recommendations over decades, India had massive dropout rates at all levels of formal schooling. The masses could not make the most of the policies. And the issue remained unresolved.

As per the NPE 1986, India had a population of around 9.61 crore students between the age groups of 6 to 11 years. However, almost 60% of the students dropped out between classes I to V. And around 75% of them dropped out between classes I to VIII.

Clearly, several Indian students struggled with the typical designs of brick-and-mortar schools. And these massive dropout rates certainly called for a big action!

Open schooling through the NIOS made a contribution to the universalization of education by offering a choice of flexible schooling within the mainstream education system. This choice gave an alternate pathway to continue/restart school education even after a gap of leaving a formal school.

drop out percentage in schools

Eliminating Barriers with Options

Studies have shown ample reasons for dropping out of school/staying out of the school system. Some of these are:

  • Lack of interest in studies
  • Household chores
  • Migration of the family
  • Financial constraints
  • Abusive home environment
  • Both parents in the workforce
  • Illness

An open school reduces the prerequisites to a minimum, thereby supporting the retention of students in the mainstream education system.

Eliminating Barriers with nios

How Many Courses/Programmes are Offered by the NIOS?

The NIOS offers the below-mentioned programs:

Open Basic Education- Levels A, B, and C

OBE program provides primary and upper-primary education to students. It is mainly designed for adult neo-literates. However, from the year 2000, this program was extended to students between 6 to 14 years of age as well.

OBE program is available for:

  • Children between 6 to 14 years of age
  • Aspiring students above the age of 14 years who did not complete the primary and upper primary schooling in the defined age
  • Adult students with special needs
  • Candidates of Basic Education Literacy Assessment (of NLMA)

The level-wise segregation of OBE is as follows:

  • Level A – Equivalent to class 3
  • Level B – Equivalent to class 5
  • Level C – Equivalent to class 8


For class 10, the NIOS offers a Secondary course. The compulsory requirements for certification are:

  • To complete a minimum of 5 subjects with at least 1 or a maximum of 2 languages.
  • There is a choice to take upto 2 extra/additional subjects which means the total subject count can be 7 (maximum).

This institution shares the scheme of subjects with the students on the official website. Please check ‘Group A’ and ‘Group B’ subjects for the secondary level on this page. The subjects with practical work are marked with a (*) sign.

Senior Secondary Course

Senior Secondary certification is equivalent to class XII standard. This course is available for students who have passed class X (or equivalent). You can check the scheme of studies and subject choices under the Senior Secondary header on this page.

Vocational Education

As per the National Policy of 1986, there was a need to redefine vocational education for national development. The NIOS offers a variety of courses and makes vocational education accessible for students. These recognized courses (recognized by the National Council for Vocational Education & Training) improve one’s skills. And in this way, students become more employable in the job market. At the end of the course, students earn an NIOS certificate as proof of course completion. NIOS covers the following sectors:

  • Information Technology
  • Agriculture and Animal Husbandry
  • Yoga and Neuropathy
  • Health and Paramedical Science
  • Home Science and Hospitality
  • Business and Commerce
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Miscellaneous courses

There is no upper age limit for students to enroll in a vocational course. However, the minimum age to enroll varies between 11 to 18 years. In this skill-driven world, the NIOS has an advantage. Students in class 12 can take 1 vocational course and integrate it with their regular academic subjects to earn the class 12 certificate.

D.El.Ed (Diploma in Elementary Education Programme)

The academic department of NIOS offers all untrained teachers across the nation an opportunity with the D.El.Ed. This course helps them to gain the skills and competencies to make their teaching more effective. You can check the D.El.Ed manual on this page.

Noteworthy Features/Benefits of the NIOS

On-Demand Examinations

At the secondary and senior secondary levels, the NIOS has a feature called On-Demand examination system. With this, a student chooses the time to appear for the exam as and when he/she is ready for it.

Personal Contact Programme

The NIOS has another feature called the PCP/sessions for doubt clearing. The institution conducts 30 PCPs (for the theory part), and it is compulsory to attend at least 15 of these. There are 5 more PCPs to help with practical work. Broadly, these PCPs are planned on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or any convenient time during weekends.

Accreditation of Institutions

The NIOS also makes use of existing resources by accrediting institutions as NIOS partners. There are many AIs (Accredited Institutions) across India. The NIOS makes use of these accredited institutions as study centers (mostly formal schools). These are categorized as A, B, and C basis their infrastructure. You can check more details about this accreditation here.

Some Enrollment Statistics:

2018 2019 2020 Total (3 years)
539314 516797 398042 1441924


total enrollment academic and vocational

Final Thoughts

In the present time, India is blessed to have an array of educational alternatives like online schools, open schools, distance learning courses, correspondence courses, etc. But despite these choices in place today, the credit to start the first-ever alternative educational option goes to the NIOS. This institution has been a savior for many students for decades. And it is growing as a feature-loaded choice with its zeal to serve the Indian student community at an incredible pace.

Thanks for Reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How can I know about the admission process of NIOS?
    You can visit the official page and watch the related videos about admissions. The NIOS has a 100% online admission system.
  1. What is the minimum age requirement for OBE?
    A student needs to be a minimum of 6 years of age for the OBE program.
  1. What is the upper age limit for a vocational course?
    There is no age bar (upper limit) for enrolling in a vocational course in the NIOS. However, the minimum age to enroll is between 11 to 14 years.

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