The COVID pandemic lockdown following virtually on the heels of educational reforms like the Right To Education (RTE) Act has generated considerable interest in different formats of schooling including homeschooling, distance education, and open schooling.

Related Read – 7-Step latter to Home Schooling Success

It has parents wondering whether it is possible to educate their children from home through Open Schooling. BYN, therefore, took it upon themselves to delve deeper into the concept of open schooling – NIOS – and how it works.

So without further ado let’s dig in.


Open schooling may be described as a system of learning that has no time-bound learning program. Learners – or students – can learn what they like, when they like, and how they like. The learning programs are designed in a way that allows students near-complete flexibility. Learning is student-led rather than tutor or institution-led removing barriers such as peer or parental pressure, geographical distance, or adherence to schedule and providing the learner with a stress-free and congenial study environment.

In an open schooling program, a child can learn at his own pace, learn the subjects of his choice, and in the way he learns best.


  • Choice of subjects that he prefers to learn
  • Choice of studying from home without any compulsion to attend school
  • The choice to appear for examinations when he is ready
  • Choice of time-frame – the programs are not year bound and you may extend a single program for as much as 3-5 years
  • Flexibility to chose a program of his choice with no age barrier – though there may be a minimum age criterion
  • Flexibility to move to the next level when you are ready
  • Freedom from peer pressure
  • Flexibility to learn the way you like to learn



As detailed above, open schooling has many benefits for the learner. Open schooling is the most learner-centric format of education that is it provides the most accommodation for the student. On the flip side though, your child might emerge from high school or junior college later than other children of his age – which is not necessarily bad because he would likely be more knowledgeable than his peers. Because open schooling provides flexibility in the three main areas of learning – what to learn, when to learn, and how to learn – it gives the student plenty of time and space to imbibe whatever he learns.

Open schooling is constraint-free and focuses on quality rather than quantity

Moreover, students opting for open schooling can pick the subjects of their choice without heed to the pre-defined norms or streams under the traditional system of education. This means that if a student is unable to cope with a particular subject – be it math, geography, or a language – he is free to drop it and opt for another subject in its place. Too, a student may appear for examinations as and when he is ready; and since there is no age barrier – even a 50+-year-old school drop-out can take up open schooling at any time in his life.

Open schooling is therefore ideal for any student who is unable – for any reason – to complete his education through the mainstream under other education boards.



While the principle underlying the three is common – to allow students to study comfortably at their own pace – the three are different in modality. Here are the differences at a glance.

Where does the child study? At home – or tutor’s place At home – or tutor’s place At home – or tutor’s place
Does the child attend school? No Not necessarily No
How is the child assessed? By the tutor Through a public examination Online or through a Personal Contact Program (PCP)
What’s next? Student moves to the next grade (level) at the end of the academic year Student moves to the next level when he is ready Student moves to the next module or semester on completion of the current one

Note that a student studying in open schooling format may or may not attend school. He may if he so wishes, avail the services of the assigned accredited study centre or a private tutor to help him.


Many universities around the world identify themselves as Open Universities by virtue of their core values. The format or modality may vary from one university to the next even within the same country. Click the link below to see a complete list.


Here we focus on the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) an Indian open schooling university that is world-renowned and having the maximum enrolment.

The NIOS was originally established under the Union Government of India as the National Open School (NOS) and its name was subsequently changed to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) in the year 2002. NOS was established in 1989 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The board follows a curriculum similar to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE).

NIOS offers education for K-12 children as well as vocational courses. About 3,50,000 odd students enrol for NIOS each year making it the largest open schooling body in the world. The NIOS also has overseas centres in  13 other countries namely – Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Oman, Singapore, the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, – in collaboration with UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL).


NIOS offers its students academic courses at three broad levels –

  1. Open Basic Education (OBE) – for students up to K-9 (Grade or standard IX)
  2. Secondary – for students of Grade 10
  3. Senior Secondary – for students of Grade 12

As already mentioned the NIOS also offers vocational courses and life enrichment programs.

The OBE has 3 levels –

  1. Level A – equivalent to Grade III
  2. Level B – equivalent to Grade V
  3. Level C – equivalent to Grade VIII

A student enrolling under the OBE program must have completed at least 7 years of age to enter at Level A. Accordingly, the age at entry for the next 2 levels are 9 and 12 years respectively.

Students passing out of Level C may move on to Secondary Level for which the age at entry is 14 years. After that, they may pursue Senior Secondary for which the minimum age limit is 16 years or exit open schooling and reenter the mainstream.

A student completing Level C, Secondary, or Senior Secondary may also opt for vocational or life enrichment courses if he wishes to do so.

In general, students who are unable to complete their education through the mainstream usually opt for NIOS including illiterate adults, children with special needs, and other dropouts. However, the NIOS is open to students of all cadres and genres.

The perception that NIOS is only for specific categories of students is a myth.


The process for admission to NIOS is completely digitized. As such, an aspirant may seek admission directly by visiting the NIOS website. The student must have attained the minimum age for admission as on 31st March of any year – though this date is subject to change.

Students enrolling for public examinations at the secondary and senior secondary level are required to enrol for a minimum of 5 subjects. These subjects include up to 2 languages and 3 or 4 other subjects. You may enrol for a maximum of 7 subjects including at least 1 language.

NIOS charges a flat fee for enrolment in 5 subjects – the minimum requirement for secondary and senior secondary levels. Additional fees are payable for every additional subject. Fees are different for male and female students. Concessions are also available for students belonging to marginalized sections of society.

The NIOS usually sets cut-off date for admissions. However, admission may still be obtained beyond the cut-off date by payment of a late fee. The opening and closing of admission are announced on the NIOS website.

Apart from fees payable at admission, fees are also payable at the time of examination for the subjects for which you wish to appear. You will also have to bear the cost for delivery of study material.


NIOS conducts two different types of examinations – public and on-demand examinations. Public examinations are held twice a year in April and October while the on-demand examination is held intermittently. Both examinations are held at various accredited centres across the country as well as overseas for students appearing for OBE, secondary, and senior secondary level.

Having gained admission, you are allowed a total of 9 attempts (5 years) to clear the 5 – 7 subjects for which you have enrolled, failing which you will have to seek admission afresh. Credits for those subjects that you have passed will be retained during this period.

In case you clear the practical assessment in a particular subject but fail to clear the theory, your credits for practical will be retained while you will have to re-appear for theory. You will, however, be required to pay the fees for the practical as well as the theory at every attempt.

A student may also opt to appear “on-demand” for a single subject.

This means that once you have enrolled for a particular level, you have up to 5 years to clear that level before moving on to the next.


Before appearing for the public examination, you will be assigned what is known as a Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA). This assignment is published on the NIOS website before every public examination and copies are sent by post to students. TMA must be completed and submitted to your centre by the due date – usually January 31st and July 31st every year for April and October exams respectively.

Your TMA and practical assessment scores will be added to the total marks for every subject. TMA is required to be submitted only once during the 5 years mentioned above. Once you have submitted the TMA and cleared it, your scores will be retained and you need not re-submit it even if you fail to clear the theory paper for that subject or decide to sit later for a particular subject.

It is noteworthy that though the scores of TMA, practical, and theory are consolidated, it is necessary to pass in each separately.


Students from other educational boards who wish to appear for one or two subjects under the NIOS board – perhaps with the hope of scoring a higher percentage – may apply for TOC for the remaining subjects. For instance, if a student wishes to appear only for mathematics, he may apply for TOC for 4 other subjects including at least 1 language.


NIOS is often the board of choice for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Students on the autism spectrum, students with dyslexia, cerebral palsy, low vision, and other difficulties are offered various facilities such as an amanuensis or scribe (a companion), use of a calculator or computer, and additional time to help them take the examination.


The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) is the world’s largest open schooling institute with more than a quarter of a million students enrolling each year from India as well as overseas. The information provided here is true to the best of our knowledge however it is advisable to visit the NIOS website for more detailed and updated information as rules are always subject to change.

BYN is committed to helping students and their parents gather information regarding academics. If you would like to know more please write below in the comment section.

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