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National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)


The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has developed a policy framework for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) (NIOS, 2013). The RPL framework includes generally agreed quality assurance principles, procedures, policies and processes to assess competences and skills acquired through non-formal and informal learning leading to National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) awards as per the level of competency attained. NSQF also maps the levels acquired via RPL and through formal education.

Thirty per cent of the population of India is illiterate and only fifty per cent of students reach high school. About sixty per cent of school students leave school at different stages before reaching Class 10.

Procedures and processes

The activities around RPL are two-pronged:

  • recognition of prior learning or qualifications acquired outside the formal learning path; and
  • recognition of credits obtained through formal learning.

This will lead to options for personal or career development or to gain credit towards other qualifications or learning programmes to learners and workers who have the skills but no certificate to prove it. It will help learners and workers make clearer connections between the learning they have already achieved and future learning and/or career opportunities.

NIOS conducts assessments at several levels:

  1. Open Basic Education (OBE);
  2. For adult neo-literates (those who have completed a basic literacy programme) in co-operation with the National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA);
  3. Secondary and Senior Secondary levels;
  4. Vocational Education.

1. The Open Basic Education (OBE) programme is implemented by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) with the aim of providing primary and upper primary level education through alternate means of open schooling to those who are unable to attend formal school or have left school without attaining a school leaving certificate. The OBE programme has been recognised by the Government of India as education different from but equivalent to the formal school for purposes of higher education and employment. Different states have indicated their interest in the programme for out-of-school children as well as for neo-literate adults (neo literates are those who have completed a basic course in literacy).

As part of the OBE program, NIOS provides qualifications equivalent to the formal educational system and develops learning programs for neo-literate adults. These qualifications give early school leavers and neo literate adults access to further studies. NIOS has also developed resource material including the skills programs for the A, B, C levels which are equivalent to class 3, class 5, and class 8 grades of formal schools. NIOS conducts assessments against learning outcomes standards at the VET levels (levels 1–4) of the NSQF, so that vocational skills and work experience may be assessed and avenues for certification and lifelong learning created.

2. NIOS assesses and certifies the competence levels of neo-literates under the national literacy programme of the Government of India called Sakshar Bharat(Literate India) (NLMA, 2010), launched in 2009. Assessment of neo‐literates includes:

  • assessing the proficiency levels of functional literacy skills (3Rs) attained;
  • recognizing the level of achievements at basic literacy levels through certification;
  • enhancing informal experience; and
  • providing access to appropriate learning and life skills through tailor-made equivalency programs.

For the implementation of the OBE programme, the NIOS has developed partnerships with about 341 agencies (voluntary, public and private) providing facilities at their study centres. 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 voluntary agencies as well as to governmental agencies at the district level, such as the Zila Saksharta Samities (ZSSs), for the implementation of its OBE programme. Its goals are to provide a learning continuum based on graded curriculum ensuring quality of education for out of school children, neo-literates, early school leavers and non-formal education (NFE) completers.

3. At the Secondary and Senior Secondary levels, NIOS provides flexibility in the choice of subjects/courses, accelerated learning, and transfer of credits (awarded through the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Board of School Education and State Open Schools) to enable learner’s continuation of education. A learner is offered as many as nine chances to appear in public examinations spread over a period of five years. The credits gained are accumulated until the learner clears the required credits for certification. The learning strategies include: learning through printed self-instructional material, audio and video programs, participating in personal contact program (PCP), and Tutor Marked Assignments (TMA). Enrichment is also provided to the learners through the half yearly magazine “Open Learning”. The study materials are made available in English, Hindi and Urdu languages. The On-Demand Examination System (ODES) is in operation at the Secondary and Senior Secondary stages. NIOS offers 26 subjects in seven languages (Hindi, English, Urdu, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, and Malayalam) for Secondary Examinations and 19 subjects in Hindi, English and Urdu mediums for Senior Secondary examinations. Besides these, NIOS has provision for offering vocational subjects in combination with academic subjects at the Secondary and Senior Secondary levels.

4. The Vocational Education program of NIOS provides prospects for the learners to become young entrepreneurs. It offers 86 vocational education programs in different areas such as Agriculture, Business and Commerce, Engineering and Technology, Health and Paramedical, Home Science and Hospitality Management, Teacher Training, Computer and Information Technology (IT) related sectors, Life Enrichment Programs 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.

Outcomes and ways forward

NIOS supports literacy and post-literacy linked to vocational education.

NIOS has created alternative pathways through open and flexible education and training and meets individuals’ diverse learning needs.

As a way forward, NIOS is continually aligning its VET courses to meet the requirements of National Skills Qualifications Framework level descriptors.


Ministry of Human Resource Development. 2012. National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) F. No.1-4/2011-VE, dated the 3rd September.New Delhi, Ministry of Human Resource Development. http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/EXECUTIVE%20ORDER.pdf(Accessed 22 January 2014).

Ministry of Finance. Department of Economic Affairs. Notification No. 8/6/2013-Invt. on the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). Gazette of India. Extraordinary, Part 1, Section 2. New Delhi, Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs. http://www.skilldevelopment.gov.in/sites/default/files/resources/NQSF_Notification_English

National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). 2005. Vocational Education and Training: A Framework on Curriculum Imperatives with a Focus on Knowledge Acquisition and Skills Development: Initiative through Open and Distance Learning. Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD). National Curriculum Framework (NCF). New Delhi, Government of India.

National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and UNESCO Bangkok. 2006. Open Basic Education Programme: Models of Equivalency Programmes. Report of the Study of NIOS. New Delhi.

National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). Webpage of the Institute. www.nios.ac.in

National Institute of Open Learning (NIOS). 2013. Framework for Recognition of Prior Learning. Noida. NIOS. http://www.nios.ac.in/media/documents/Framework%20for%20Recognition%20of%20Prior%20Learning.pdf(Accessed 23 January 2014).

National Literacy Mission Authority. 2010. Saakshar Bharat. Centrally Sponsored Scheme. New Delhi, Department of School Education and Literacy. Ministry of Human Resource Development. New Delhi, NLMA.

Srivastava, M. and Jena, S. S. Is RPL a Myth in India? Digitallearning Magazine.2011.

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL). Effective Literacy Practice. Saakshar Bharat Mission. Country profile: India. Hamburg, UIL.


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