NIOS is an "Open School" to cater to the needs of a heterogeneous group of learners up to pre-degree level. It was started as a project with in-built flexibilities by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in 1979. In 1986, the National Policy on Education suggested strengthening of Open School System for extending open learning facilities in a phased manner at secondary level all over the country as an independent system with its own curriculum and examination leading to certification.
Consequently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India set up the National Open School (NOS) in November 1989. The pilot project of CBSE on Open School was amalgamated with NOS. Through a Resolution (No. F.5-24/90 Sch.3 dated 14 September 1990 published in the Gazette of India on 20 October 1990), the National Open School (NOS) was vested with the authority to register, examine and certify students registered with it up to pre-degree level courses. In July 2002, the Ministry of Human Resource Development amended the nomenclature of the organisation from the National Open School (NOS) to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) with a mission to provide relevant continuing education at school stage, up to pre-degree level through Open Learning system to prioritized client groups as an alternative to formal system, in pursuance of the normative national policy documents and in response to the need assessments of the people, and through it to make its share of contribution:
To universalisation of education,
To greater equity and justice in society, and
To the evolution of a learning society.
"Sustainable inclusive learning with universal and flexible access to quality school education and skill development."
Providing relevant, continuing and holistic education up to pre-degree level through Open and Distance Learning System.
Contributing to the Universalisation of School Education.
Catering to the educational needs of the prioritized target groups for equity and social justice.