NIOS awarded the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize 2021 for its work on inclusion

The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), was today awarded the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize 2021 at an event organized at UNESCO New Delhi. NIOS was awarded the prize for its programme on ‘Enabling education of persons with disabilities (PWDs) through technology enabled inclusive learning material, with specific focus on Indian Sign Language (ISL) based content’.

NIOS is an autonomous organization under the Indian Ministry of Education, providing quality education to all through open and distance learning. It is one of the largest open schooling programmes in the world with a cumulative enrolment of millions of learners.

Since its establishment in 2016, the programme has focused on the educational needs of persons with disabilities (PwDs) and other minority groups. Learners are therefore not only able to enhance their academic skills but can also acquire vocational skills through courses of variable length. NIOS uses digital tools and local languages to help PwDs and provides learners with Indian Sign Language-based content.

Established in 1989, with the support of the Government of the Republic of Korea, the King Sejong Literacy Prize honours King Sejong, who made significant contributions to the development of ‘Hangul’, the Korean alphabet, over 500 years ago. The prize is awarded to governments, governmental agencies or nongovernmental organizations displaying merit and achieving effective results in the fight for universal literacy. The award comprises of a silver medal, a diploma and a cheque for USD 20,000.

The shift to online learning due to the COVID -19 pandemic has impacted over 320 million children in India alone. The lack of education devices, disabled-friendly online teaching and special assistive technologies has further hampered access to education for children with disabilities. By awarding NIOS the King Sejong Literacy Prize, the jury has recognized the value of providing for the unique educational and language needs of PwD learners by developing teaching content in sign language through a digital mode.

In this regard, UNESCO is making a big push for universal literacy by monitoring global and thematic indicators for literacy, through the Global Alliance for Literacy within the Framework of Lifelong Learning in 20 countries where the adult literacy rate is below 50%, the UN E9 countries initiative on Digital Learning and Skills in countries where the largest number of non-literate adults live, and via the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning by strengthening national capacities to scale up quality, inclusive and gender-sensitive literacy programmes and accelerate progress towards the global goal on education (SDG 4).