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Advocacy Meeting in Open Schooling, New Delhi, 9-13 September 2002

Advocacy Meeting in Open Schooling of Senior Decision Makers From African Ministries of Education 9-13 September, 2002

  • Preface
  • Backdrop
  • Overview of the advocacy meeting


Realising that human resource development is the key to economic and social development, the developing countries are grappling to devise strategies to provide quality education to their people. In their national educational policies, the issues of access, equity and equality are kept in forefront. Due to various socio-economic factors and resource crunch, the developing countries are striving to provide responses to multifaceted educational challenges.

The resolutions of the Jomtien Conference (1991) and the Dakar Conference (2000) have prompted the developing countries to intensify their efforts to achieve the goal of Education for All. Among other things, these countries have been experimenting with alternative strategies for reaching the unreached.

Two significant trends are inter-alia visible in the educational strategies of developing countries.

  1. Inter-sectoral cooperation in educational endeavours. It is being realized increasingly that the Education sector alone can not cope with the task of human resource development.
  2. Inter-country cooperation in Education. The International organizations like UNESCO, Commonwealth of Learning (COL), UNICEF, World Bank, UNDP, UNFPA etc., are coming forward to provide forums for developing countries for exchange of ideas and experiences to hasten the process of Education for All.

The UNESCO-BREDA (Senegal) and the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada joined hands to have dialogue with several Sub-Saharan African Countries for evolving strategies to plan and implement Open and Distance Learning Mode of Education as a significant alternative system of education to meet the educational needs of diverse groups of children and adults.

In order to give first hand experience of implementation of open schooling programme in India to the stakeholders in Education in the Sub-Saharan African Countries, the UNESCO-BREDA and COL organized an Advocacy Meeting in Open Schooling of the Senior Decision Makers from African Ministries of Education at the National Institute of Open Schooling, New Delhi from 9 to 13 September, 2002. Besides detailed interaction with the NIOS faculty on matters such as development of relevant and need based curricula and self learning materials, modes of programme delivery, teaching-learning strategies, training of personal, methods of pupil evaluation and certification, life enrichment programmes and innovative programmes such as ICT based On Demand Examination System (ODES), the delegates from eleven African Countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe) could get opportunity to visit some study centers of the NIOS, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi.

A significant outcome of the Advocacy Meet was that the delegates prepared Draft Frameworks for Promotion of Open Schooling in their respective countries. The enlightened Inaugural Address by Shri M.K. Kaw, former Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development had set the tone of the Advocacy Meet in right direction which was instrumental to examining the crucial issues pertaining to promotion of Open Schooling in the developing countries. I am indebted to him for his thought provoking ideas and suggestions.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. A. Parsuramen, Director, UNESCO, BREDA (Senegal), Ms. Susan Phillips, Education Specialist, Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Prof. Asha Kanwar, UNESCO - BREDA and Mr. M. Tawfik, Director, UNESCO (New Delhi) for their addresses and guidance and suggestions during the programme.

I am extremely grateful to Shri S.K. Tripathi, Secretary to the Government of India , Ministry of Human Resource Development for delivering the valedictory address and giving valuable suggestions for promotion of open schooling programme.

The support extended by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Vancouver, Cananda and UNESCO - BREDA (Senegal) in planning and organizing the International Meet has enabled the NIOS to realize the objectives of the Meeting to its fullest extent. I would like to express my great appreciation to these International Organisations for their support in promoting the cause of open schooling.

The NIOS faculty and the organizing committee members deserve special appreciation for their dedication and hard work.

18 September, 2002

N.K. Ambasht
Chairman, NIOS


1. Introduction

1.1 Education is key to human development. It is fundamental to all round development of human potential. It refines sensitivities and perceptions that contribute to national cohesion, scientific temper, independence of mind and spirit.

1.2 The goal of Education for All (EFA) has been a priority agenda of the national governments. They are endeavouring to provide education of good quality to all irrespective of any kind of discrimination due to caste, creed, gender and place of birth. The major concern in the field of education is to strike a balance between equity, equality and quality issues.

1.3 Notwithstanding the spectacular development of educational programmes, at various stages of education in developing countries, millions of children continue to stay out of schooling system because of various compulsions of life.

1.4 Due to several rigidities, the formal schooling system alone cannot provide adequate and appropriate responses to various educational challenges. Today the search for appropriate, economic and effective alternative delivery systems is a basic requirement for meeting the challenges of education at elementary and secondary levels.

1.5 Optimal utilisation of open learning/schooling and distance education mode, along with formal, non-formal and alternative educational modalities, is imperative in view of the emerging educational scenario. A conscious decision needs to be taken about possible and appropriate integration of distance mode of learning along with conventional methodologies.

1.6 The search for alternative schooling programmes has emerged from the concern for providing minimum essentials levels of education and relevant and need based education to all. In this endeavour, the following distinctive aspects or concerns need to be kept in view.

  1. Reaching out with education to unreached disadvantaged population groups where conventional schools are not viable.
  2. Providing choice to students (and their parents) for what they want to learn.
  3. Providing a safety net to school dropouts so that they do not lapse into illiteracy.
  4. Providing education to those who cannot attend conventional schools for a variety of social and economic reasons, as well as to those who missed out and are overage.

2. Models of Open Learning/Open Schooling

Depending on the local infrastructural facilities, there could be some models of open schooling. These models are described below precisely.

2.1 Correspondence Education: In this mode of education, the course of study prescribed is broken up into a number of modules or lessons that are sent by post to students by Directorate of Correspondence Education. The print material used under correspondence education is not necessarily self-instructional in nature. The learners are required to study the modules on their own. They can seek further guidance and clarification through writing back to the Directorate of Correspondence Education or to their designated study centres. Some organisations dealing with correspondence education organise periodic contact classes in the study centres. The students enrolled under correspondence courses appear in examinations after a specified period.

2.2 Distance Learning Model: A second mode of distance education is one that makes use of multimedia approach to dissemination of information. The steps for delivery of Distance Learning Programmes comprise the following:

  1. Identification/assessment of educational needs of the client groups.
  2. Development of curricula and Self-Learning Materials (SLM).
  3. Development of supportive media programmes.
  4. Visualising and operationalisation of effective delivery system.
  5. Evaluation.

2.3 Use of ICT in Open Learning/Open Schooling: Usually the delivery system under open learning/open schooling comprises of:

  1. Printed Self-Learning Material (SLM)
  2. Personal Contact Programme (PCP)
  3. Audio and Video Programmes

Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has made the delivery system effective. The National Institute of Open Schooling (India) has started using ICT in Delivery System in the following mode:

  1. Making course material available on CD.
  2. Regular Telecast of course related programmes and other programmes.
  3. Making available on NIOS website significant organisational information and certain other useful informational inputs.
  4. Voice-mail system as ICT based student support service programme.
  5. ICT based On-Demand Examination System (ODES) to give freedom to learner to take examination in the subjects of his/her choice whenever he/she feels confident in taking examination.

2.4 Mix of Models of Open Schooling:

  1. Keeping in view the availability of infrastructural facilities, finance and educational needs of clients etc, each country may visualise meticulously a mix of different models of open schooling.
  2. Open schooling is cost effective. It reduces the labour intensive cost of education since it reduces the active participation of teacher. It generally utilises the existing infrastructure of formal schools with part-time use of formal school teachers at modest expenditure.

3. Instructional Process under Open Schooling Programme

3.1 Some common elements in the Open Schooling Framework are as follows.

  1. Self-study print material
    • Modular format
    • Each module is a self-contained study unit
    • Carefully structured presentation designed to make learning easy and effective.
  1. Use of electronic media
    • Radio and TV as cheaper mode of technology to supplement the text.
    • In some cases, more effective interactive technologies, like, audio and video conferencing, tele-conferencing, interactive television and computer managed learning are also used.
  1. Face-to- Face Contact Classes
    • Preplanned occasional face-to face contact programmes complement self-study. Contact sessions are devoted to
      • Counselling
      • Tutorials
      • Drills
      • Laboratory experiments for science lessons
      • Peer group learning.
    • Diagnostic and Remedial programmes
    • Problem solving or removal of difficulties
  1. Student Counselling
    • Advising students to choose right combination of subjects
    • Monitoring the progress of learning
  1. Monitoring Mechanism
    • In-text questions to monitor progress within the module.
    • Assignments and response sheets pertaining to each course.
    • Assessment and comments of tutor on the Assignments (Tutor Marked Assignment - TMA)
    • For TMA, use of postal mode of communication, Fax and Telephone.

4. Student Support Services

Student Support Services aim at helping students to learn. Significant components of these services are as follows.

  1. Pre-Student Support
    • Informing about programmes and methods used in open schooling.
    • Publicity of open school programmes.
  1. Enrolment and Registration
    • Registration through study centres to facilitate enrollment.
  1. Advice and counseling for selecting courses
    • Help for selecting courses provided through study centres.
  1. Ensuring timely availability of self-learning print materials
    • Through mail
    • Through study centres
  1. Personal contact programme
    • Individualization of instruction.

5. Finances

  • Considerable investment in the beginning to set up infrastructure for open schooling programme.
  • Government support is needed initially.
  • As a welfare measure, a modest fee is taken from students as cost of learning material and tuition fees. Cost of material charged is generally on no profit no loss basis.

6. Organization and Management

  • Academic Department mainly for development of curricula, self-learning material, teaching - learning strategies and methods of pupil evaluation.
  • Central Administration including Accounts Branch
  • Publication and Material Distribution Division.
  • Examination Department
  • Student Support Services Department (including admission, enrollment, PCP, TMA, counseling).

7. Exploring Appropriate models of Open Schooling

7.1 Realising that the formal schooling system as a major delivery system alone is not in a position to provide opportunities for developmental and continuing education to those who have missed opportunities to complete school education, the National Governments may consider adopting/promoting the open schooling system as a viable and effective alternative and complementary education system for social reconstruction and renaissance and specially for reaching the unreached through courses and progrmmes of general, life enrichment and vocational education from primary to pre-degree level.

7.2 The nation states in Africa may visualize meticulously appropriate models of open schooling keeping in view the challenges of education, availability of infrastructural facilities and state-of-the-art in respect of ICT.

7.3 The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), India , has adopted an effective and viable mix of open learning strategies. These modes inter alia include:

  1. Identification of educational needs of client groups
  2. Development of relevant and need based curricula and self-learning material for courses and programmes of general, life enrichment and vocational education from primary to pre-degree level.
  3. Flexibility in chose of subjects: self-paced learning, no age limit.
  4. Authority to examine and certify students for all courses.
  5. Learning strategies include self-learning material (SLM), Personal Contact Programme (PCP) for diagnostic and remedial measures and removal of difficulties, diagnostic and audio - video programmes, and Tutor Marked Assignment.
  6. Open Basic Education Programme (Elementary Education) for children and adults in partnership with NGOs with provision of joint certification.
  7. Introducing a large number of vocational courses and some life enrichment programmes
  8. Devising an ICT based On - Demand Examination System (ODES)
    • At present at Open Basic Education level.
    • To be extended soon at Secondary level.
  9. Setting up of a centre of excellence for training in open schooling at international level. This has been named as the International Centre for training in Open Schooling (ICTOS). This centre is going to launch soon certificate and diploma courses in open schooling.
  10. Transparency in examinations:
    • Deputation of observers
    • Complete computerisation and processing of results.
    • Placement of Question Papers and Marking Scheme on Internet immediately after the examinations are over.
    • Placement of results of NIOS on internet (website
    • Re-evaluation of answer scripts on request.
  11. Setting up of more than 1800 Study Centres and 10 Regional Centres for effective delivery of NIOS programmes. The NIOS Headquarter at New Delhi plans and implements the open schooling programmes.

7.4 The NIOS would be pleased to provide consultancy services to National Governments for promotion of open schooling programmes on mutually agreed terms.

II Methodology of the Advocacy Meet

The purpose of the five day Advocacy Meet was to orient the Senior Decision Makers from eleven African Countries in Open Schooling methodologies, apprising them about various parameters of a successful system of open schooling and to equip them to prepare models of open schooling to be implemented in their respective countries.

The inaugural address by Shri M.K. Kaw, former Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the Background Paper presented by Prof N.K. Ambasht, Chairman, National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), India and addresses by Mr. Armoogum Parsuramen, Director UNESCO-BREDA (Senegal), Mr M. Tawfik, Director, UNESCO Office, New Delhi, and Ms Susan E. Phillips, Education Specialist, Commonwealth of Learning, Canada set the agenda of this international meet in motion.

After the inaugural session, presentations were made by delegates from eleven Sub-Saharan African countries viz., Botswana , Ethiopia , Kenya , Malawi , Mozambique , Nigeria , Somalia , Swaziland , Tanzania , Uganda , and Zimbabwe . The presentations covered informational inputs about (i) educational scenario, (ii) challenges of education, (iii) responses visualised for meeting the educational challenges with special reference to the needs of the open schooling system as alternative complementary system of school education.

The presentatives were followed by detailed presentations by the faculty of the NIOS (India) on related various themes.

During each presentation, live interaction was made through questions and answers and observations/suggestions. This enabled the delegates and the host country ( India ) to have deep insight into the educational challenges, responses planned and future perspective.

It was planned that the delegates from African countries will develop need based draft framework for promotion of open schooling. In order to facilitate this developmental activity, an NIOS faculty member was attached with each foreign delegate. After detailed interaction and deliberations, the participating countries developed their frameworks and plans of action for introducing /promoting open schooling programme in their respective countries. This framework included informational inputs on (i)educational scenario, (ii) imperatives for open schooling, (iii) proposed model for open schooling progrmme, (iv) organisation and management of open schooling programme, and (v) need for consultancy services, particularly from India bilaterally as also through financial and other assistance from international agencies, specially from UNESCO-BREDA and COL. Based on the (i) deliberations in various sessions, (ii) frameworks developed by the participating countries, and (iii) interactions with delegates from the international agencies, draft recommendations of the conference were finalised and presented in the penultimate session on 13 September, 2002 . Based on the observations and suggestions on the draft recommendations, the Recommendations of the Advocacy meet were finalised and presented by Prof. Asha Kanwar, UNESCO-BREDA ( Senegal ).

The Valedictory session was presided over by Shri S.K. Tripathi, Secretary to the Government of India , Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). In this session, a brief presentation about the work done in the conference was made by Shri J.P. Shourie, Senior Executive Officer, NIOS. Delegates from Botswana (Mr. Daniel Tau) and Tanzia (Mr. Charles Philemon) gave their impressions about various aspects of the Advocacy Meet. The Valedictory address was delivered by the Education Secretary, MHRD. The valedictory session was also addressed by Prof. Asha Kanwar, UNESCO-BREDA, Ms. Sushan Phillips, COL and Prof. N.K. Ambasht, Chairman, NIOS. Shri S.S. Gill, Secretary, NIOS gave welcome address and Dr Kuldeep Agarwal, Director (Academic), NIOS proposed a vote of thanks.

A copy of the programme schedule is at Annexure-1. A list of Delegates from African countries and other participants is at Annexure - 2.

A precise account of presentations, issues discussed, observation and suggestions given and Recommendations of the Advocacy Meet is given in the following pages.

Overview of the Advocacy Meeting

Inaugural Function

The inaugural function started with lighting of lamp by the Chief Guest,
Shri M.K. Kaw, former Secretary to the Government of India , Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). This was followed by presentation of bouquets to the dignitaries.

Dr. Kuldeep Agarwal, Director (Acad.), NIOS welcomed the Chief Guest and the galaxy of educationists from UNESCO-BREDA , COL and African countries. Ms. Susan E. Phillips, Education Specialist, COL conveyed the good wishes of Mr. Dhanaraja Gajarajan, President and CEO, COL for success of the Advocacy Meet. She apprised the delegates that it was for the first time that UNESCO-BREDA ( Senegal ) joined hands with COL , Canada and NIOS, New Delhi ( India ) to convene this international meet of paramount importance for universalisation of school education in African Countries by making appropriate use of cost effective distance education and open learning mode of education. The text of speech of Ms. Susan E. Phillips is at Annexure - 3.2.

Mr. A. Pursuramen, Director, UNESCO-BREDA emphasized the need of international cooperation and sharing of experiences. He appreciated the innovative programmes being visualized and operationalised by India in the area of Open Schooling and felt that this model could be adopted or adapted by the Sub-Saharan African countries in their endeavours for reaching the unreached. The present meet is a part of UNESCO's initiative to accelerate and enhance the provision of secondary education by drawing on available best practices. Our partner in this enterprise is the Commonwealth of Learning , an organization that is committed to improving access to quality relevant educational opportunities through open and distance technology-mediated learning methods. The text of the speech of Mr. A. Parsuramen is at Annexure - 3.3.

Mr. M. M. Tawfik, Director, UNESCO ( Delhi ), emphasized the need for South-South Cooperation for the noble course of access, equity and equality in education. The text of the speech of Mr. Tawfik at Annexure - 3.4.

Prof. N.K. Ambasht, Chairman, NIOS, New Delhi gave an overview of the Indian model of Open Schooling which is a mix of self-learning materials and use of media and ICT. This model is cost-effective and provides for safety net to school drop-outs and disadvantaged population by providing them quality school education with in-built flexibilities. Highlights of presentation of Prof. N.K. Ambasht are reflected in the introductory chapter of this report.

In his inaugural address, Shri M.K. Kaw, Former Education Secretary, MHRD emphasized the need to remove the odium that gets attached to those whose pass out from open schooling system which could happen if the teaching quality was superb, examination system beyond question and if all the road blocks to their entry into colleges, universities and professional institutions were removed. Open Schooling is the only way poor countries can manage to send all eligible children to school and deserve attention of all senior decision makers. Certain other highlights of the inaugural address of Shri M.K. Kaw are as follows:

  1. India has brought forward legislation to make the right to free and compulsory elementary education into a fundamental right under the Constitution.
  2. A massive programme called 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan' has been launched which promises to send every child to school or other institution of learning by the year 2003, so that he/she completes eight years of schooling by 2011.
  3. The open schooling system attempts to fill the gap between the numbers that need to be put into school and the numbers that actually go. The system would also provide opportunities for education to those who missed the bus when they were young and would like to acquire qualifications now.
  4. The On Demand Examination System (ODES) visualized by Prof. N.K. Ambasht, Chairman NIOS, is an exciting idea of a system where any student can appear in any subject at any place at any time.

The text of the speech of Shri M.K. Kaw is at Annexure 3.1.

After the inaugural session, presentations were made by delegates from the African Countries ( Botswana , Ethiopia , Kenya , Malawi , Mozambique , Nigeria , Somaliland , Swaziland , Tanzania , Uganda , Zimbabwe ). The presentations included geographical and demographic situations, education scenario, challenges of education and strategies visualized to search responses and future vision.

In order to give exhaustive view of open schooling system of NIOS, India and its operationalisation, presentations were made by NIOS officers on the following topics:

  1. Introduction to Open and Distance Learning/Schooling.
  2. Management and Organizational Structure of NIOS.
  3. Curriculum Design and Courses offered by NIOS.
  4. Development of Self Learning Materials (SLM) both print and non-print.
  5. Productions and distribution of instructional materials and other publications.
  6. Evaluation programme in NIOS including Tutor Marked Assignments (TMA), Conduct of Public Examinations and Certification.

A lively discussion took place during the above mentioned presentations. In response to queries, necessary informational inputs were provided.

In order to give exposure of implementation of open learning and distance education programme at the school stage and higher education stage, study visits of delegates of Sub-Saharan African Countries were arranged. The following institutions were visited.

  1. Akshay Pratishthan, a Special Accredited Institution for Education of Disadvantaged (SAIED).
  2. Vasant Valley School , New Delhi , an Accredited Academic Institution (AI) of NIOS.
  3. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, an apex university in open learning and distance education in India.