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India - Nonformal Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceIndia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


Governmental Programs: India's open universities, adult education programs, and widespread distance education cater to the needs of a diverse population. The Department of Education, since 1980, has been sponsoring nonformal education (NFE) for children of ages 6 to 14, especially those marginalized from the formal system for various reasons, especially poverty. In 2001, some 740 voluntary agencies were implementing NFE programs in 25 states. Another 85 agencies sanctioned 9,485 NFE centers during 2000 (Tiwari 2000).

The National Open School (NOS) was established in November 1989 as an autonomous registered society to examine and certify students up through pre-degree courses. NOS provides the following programs: (a) foundation course, (b) secondary education course, (c) senior secondary education course, (d) open vocational education program, (e) life enrichment program, and (f) basic education for Universal Elementary Education (UEE). NOS provides individualized support through a network of study centers. Also called Accredited Institutions, the 972 study centers serve about 400,000 students all over the country. The aforementioned Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) also provides distance education.

Community-based Learning: Traditional societies have thrived on their nonformal systems of education. Joshi writes: "Ancient records of the Indian tradition testify to the search for the Rishis and sages for higher knowledge (para vidya), and their discoveries have been continuously transmitted to posterity and kept alive through its history, marked by periods of expansion, specialization, decline and renewal" (1998). Long before the bureaucratized western structures of schooling mushroomed in the "less developed" nations, India's nonformal education was enshrined in its familial and cultural units.

Students and educators in India thus usually share a common history and a legacy of collective wisdom. This learning process reinforces the curricular thrusts in structured settings. To isolate the two systems from each other is to fracture the whole learning process. There are fields—fine arts, medicine, astronomy, and numerous other skills—where knowledge has been transmitted from one generation to another within familial ties without any formal structures. One can argue that India's cultural continuity is indebted to this informal system of education.

Venkataiah calls this education beyond structured curricula "a collective alternative self-curriculum, for over the years it involves learning, in the neighborhood and more intensely in the playground, a succession of codes and adjustments and conventional learned responses through which children complement their development with collective experience" (2000).

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