Open schooling system offers flexibility for children, say practitioners

8,000 students will take school final exams through NIOS this April

March 11, 2024 09:06 pm | Updated 09:06 pm IST - CHENNAI 

Four students who dropped out of mainstream schooling and completed their education through the National Institute of Open Schooling have since graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. One of them was a first-generation learner. 

They were placed in top IT firms, says Gayathri Baskar, a Thoraipakkam-based NIOS consultant, who has so far trained 500 students. “Only 20% of them had disabilities. Students dropped out of mainstream schools for various reasons such as bullying, unable to cope with mathematics or languages or disability,” she explained. Despite such role models, she says awareness about NIOS is low in the State. 

The School Education Department issued a circular in 2009 that only students who complete education under the 10+2+3 system would be eligible for appointment to government jobs.

In April, at least 8,000 students would be taking the school leaving exams through NIOS system. The open schooling system was a pilot project of the Central Board of Secondary Education. “It has been well-received in north India. In Tamil Nadu more than 6,000 students have enrolled in NIOS,” a regional official of the NIOS says.  “If the system of education can be considered for higher education, why not for promotions and appointments in government departments,” he wondered.  

G. Senthil Kumar, who runs the Helix Open School and Learning Centre in Salem under the NIOS, says it is a blessing for children with challenges and those from poor families. “We were the first centre to start in 2007 and for almost 17 years we have been teaching children with learning disabilities, autism, slow learners and ADHD,” says Mr. Kumar, who has a PhD in medical and psychiatry social work.

At his centre 800 students have completed classes 10 and 12. “We have at present 35 students under home schooling either because of disabilities or because they are pursuing sports,” he said. A student of his centre won a brown belt in karate and is now studying in an arts and science college. A student has become a special effects artist, and another is an entrepreneur in China. One student has his own startup, he says with pride. 

“NIOS gives flexibility to children with multiple disabilities, allowing them to write an exam for the first time in standard 3 and then in standard 5. Then they take another exam in standard 8,” Mr. Kumar explains, adding that flexibility is a dream come true for such children. 

The assessments enable the teachers to offer additional programmes including occupational therapy. “We need to know what challenges the child has and they need remedial education. These students cannot have rigid timetables for a year. NIOS offers a wide range of options in class 10 that boosts the self-esteem of the children,” Mr. Kumar adds.

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