This is a transcript of my speech given at the National Institute of Open Schooling’s 25th Anniversary celebrations at Chennai, where I was recognised as the all-India topper for the Senior Secondary April 2013 exams.
Each time I open an NIOS textbook, I am greeted with the words – “Congratulations! You have accepted the challenge to be a self-learner. NIOS is with you at every step…”
I am happy because here in my hand is a powerful tool to follow my dreams.
My story is not an unusual one. I do not have any exceptional sporting talent — like Vandana here — and nor is mine a tale of academic rags-to-riches. But like any other person of my age, I have some interests that I wished to explore, not after ‘settling down in life’ (does this ‘settling down’ ever get completed?) but right now, as a child. NIOS helped me to pursue these interests in two ways: one, by studying the subjects of my choice – Economics, History, Accounts and Psychology. Secondly, by allowing me to study at my own pace, I was able to pursue interests that were non-academic but equally important to me.
Normal schooling would not have allowed me to pursue this self-directed experiment in education. And it is for this reason that NIOS plays a very important role in education and society. It gives us children leverage over our lives.
On one hand, NIOS has helped young prodigies to work towards their pursuits without missing out on formal academic education. On the other hand it has helped learners with difficulties in reaching their academic goals. But in between the ends of this spectrum there are so many children like you and me who do not wish to stay in the school system — not because we cannot cope with it, but because we do not want to. We believe and aspire for an education outside the four walls of authority and convention.
There are so many people like us who do not thrive in the conventional system, but do not know that they have another option. And it is for this reason that each of us must become personal ambassadors of NIOS. Whenever I explain the concept of NIOS to anybody, more often than not, they say, ”Wow, I didn’t even know that such a great framework exists!”
We have to spread the word about the power of open schooling!
As we all know, many innovative and informal learning models have been set up in the country. They are being built in the metro’s slums and in the minority communities. They are being set up by people who teach simply out of the love to teach. These models are not striving to be schools, and are educating people successfully just the same. If we could hand over the tool of open schooling to these people, I have no doubt that their effectiveness will increase manifold.
It is no small achievement to be the largest open schooling system in the world. But we still have a long way to go; fortunately for us, the road ahead is well-defined. We need to strengthen our contact and information centres. As we heard today about NIOS being taken to minority groups, unskilled workers, rural learners, we understand that it can be integrated it into people’s larger needs of learning, career and life in so many different ways. We need to spread the word, NOW, never knowing who is going to benefit from it!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr.Ravi, Chennai Regional Director, NIOS, all our chief guests, and NIOS at the Centre. Most of all, I’d like to thank my wonderful family for letting me fly.
Also published on Swashikshan: The Indian Homeschoolers’ Association’s website: http://homeschoolers.in/an-unschooler-speaks-about-the-power-of-open-schooling/
Self-directed learning from the NIOS experience has been an inspiration for my working on Student Think Tank for India, where we’ve put student curiosity and initiative at the centre of the school clubs. Check it out at http://www.studentthinktankforindia.com.