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Trends in the Evolution of Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) throughout the Asia-Pacific Region

(by James Shoobridge)

© Flickr/dirkcuys

James Shoobridge, has over 18 years' experience in International Education Development, primarily in the development of Education Information Systems, Education Planning and related Monitoring and Evaluation systems.  James has worked as both a team leader and consultant on a wide range of projects in the areas of education and public sector reform throughout Africa, South East Asia, Asia Pacific and Central Asia. In recent years James Shoobridge has been heavily involved in sector planning activities and project design in a number of Asian and African countries. James has also worked extensively in the commercial sector having built and managed an information systems company in Australia which supports both the public and private sectors and is now active in four countries.

James has worked as a lead advisor in the field of education planning on projects for development agencies including UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, DFID, AusAid, DFID, Asian Development Bank and the European Commission and for service providers including Cambridge Education, GOPA, the British Council, Cardno and CfBT.

In the pursuit of quality education for all, the significance of timely, cost effective and accurate data in evaluating education policy, determining education planning, and monitoring of the progress towards attainment of development goals is increasingly important.  As countries progress towards universal basic education, there is a need to ensure that marginal and disadvantaged groups are properly targeted and have their needs addressed.  There is also a strong need to focus on aspects of the quality of education and to monitor education outcomes.  Both these objectives require robust and detailed information on the education system.  In order to use Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) data, education managers need to have confidence that the data is robust, accurate and relevant.

The Asia Pacific region contains some of the world’s most advanced information-driven societies as well as those that are at the very early stages of development.  Among the most developed countries with information policies are the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Singapore, Republic of Korea, and India. While Japan is moving towards 'anything-anytime-anywhere' access with complete assurance driven by the u-Japan Policy Package, Singapore’s Singapore ONE and Korea’s Informatization policies have a holistic coverage. In 2006, the Chinese government mapped The State Informatization Development Strategy 2006-2020 with meticulous care to set forth China’s goals, tasks, plans and policies in information development for the next 15 years (UNESCO 2015). In order to assess the progress towards policy goals, an effective EMIS is required.

Global investment in the development of EMIS has been relatively high in recent years.  According to UNESCO survey report, over forty World Bank education projects over the last four years have had components related to the development of EMIS, but little is known about best practices and lessons learned from such investments (InfoDev 2005).  There have been few studies relating to the efficiency, effectiveness and cost benefits of EMIS, nor what makes a good EMIS under different environments (Powell 2006), however this is now changing with the development of standards for assessment of EMIS and their gradual application globally (Abdul-Hamid 2014).

Throughout the Asia Pacific Region, there are examples of effective and functional EMIS. The Republic of Korea and Singapore have reliable education information systems.  India has some states with excellent information systems and also operates a national census system called U-DISE which collects detailed information on the entire country for the purpose of resource allocation for lower secondary education Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhijan  (RMSA) [1].  Fiji and Vanuatu both have highly detailed and decentralized information systems.   Cambodia and Malaysia both have functional EMIS, however the reliability of data varies.  In many cases, countries are hampered in conducting evidence-based policymaking in education because they lack reliable, relevant, and easily accessible information about schools, teachers, enrollments, and education outcomes. 

A comprehensive EMIS is defined as not only including administrative and pupil data, but also financial, human resources, and learning data (Abdul-Hamid 2014). This information should be available both at the individual and aggregate level. The type of data entered into the system needs to follow logic, fixed methodology, and have a well-defined purpose.  A successful EMIS typically adheres to three key principals, a) decentralised b) integrated and c) per unit coverage of individual teachers, students and financial transactions.  Decentralisation of systems must follow decentralization of planning and administration of the education system (Shoobridge 2015).  Decision makers at each level of government must have relevant information available from EMIS in order to make decisions effectively. 

Regionally some countries are starting to support School Information Systems which provide real time and accurate data to centralized systems via the internet.  EMIS in Fiji (FEMIS) provides an excellent example of an integrated system that captures data on individual teachers and students.  Student data is entered at the school level, which contains information  such as: student identification number, registered birth number, parent details, gender, ethnicity, date of birth, home situation (e.g., household income, electricity,), school attendance, record of school fees, and financial assistance. In addition, it captures health records of each student, including special needs data. FEMIS is also linked to the national teacher data system (FESA) and assessment data system (LANA). These links help answer a range of questions such as: which children with disabilities, in which settings, under what circumstances, are achieving what educational outcomes? Or, which teachers with what qualifications are creating environments that result in good learning outcomes? (Sprunt 2014)

In many countries, the collection and processing of education data is time consuming, cumbersome and unidirectional, and as a result limited data is used in planning.  EMIS needs to evolve to include feedback loops that carry information back to the local level. While it is a good first step to establish a strong flow of data from schools to subnational levels and finally to the national level, including validation procedures at each stage, it is critical for an EMIS to institute feedback loops that carry information back down the chain to the local level. Often national publications of statistics are produced but are of limited use to school officials, local authorities and communities.   Many countries have benefitted from generation of a school report card comparing schools to regional and national averages and targets for selected indicators.  The presentation of information in an easy to understand graphical format is a useful communication tool for reports targeting school and community actors. Feedback loops increase utilization of data at the local level and improve the frequency and accuracy of source data.  However other countries are much less advanced in terms of uniform data collection and processing.

There is a significant trend towards deployment of web-based systems which had significant performance, integration and cost benefits.  This has been made possible by reductions in costs of internet access and increases in coverage, particularly for access via 3G.  In several cases projects and programs had proved effective catalysts to spur development of systems, in other cases governments had undertaken development of their systems independently. 

EMIS development also benefits from robust planning.  To help achieve these principals, some countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Fiji are developing 3-5 year EMIS development plans which provide a clear strategy for development of systems including anticipated ongoing operational costs for systems.  

Despite having regional forums for monitoring and planning of education, many countries develop their EMIS in isolation, and are unaware of the systems being developed in other countries.  In larger countries such as India, sub-national regions (states) are developing their own systems independently from each other, and are unaware of developments taking place in other parts of India.  There is a general lack of forums to enable collaboration on system development.

Development partners can take a lead role in the promotion of standards and best practices for development of EMIS.  There is likely a need to have regular international forums dedicated to Education System Development where education heads and technical staff can share experiences concerning development systems.  Best system practices and supporting policies need to be studied, documented and made accessible to a wider audience possibly through development of a dedicated website.  Assistance should be given to governments to analyse their present monitoring system environment and to develop medium term information system plans to enable structured development of their systems. 

 

References 

Abdul-Hamid, H. (2014) SABER EMIS Framework Paper, World Bank.

UNESCO (2015) www.unescobkk.org/resources/aims/efanews0/news-details/article/information-policies-in-asia-development-of-indicators/, accessed 24 October 2015.

InfoDev (2005) www.infodev.org/articles/quick-guide-icts-education-challenges-and-research-questions, accessed 24 October 2015.

Powell, M.  (2006) Rethinking Education Management Information Systems: Lessons from and Options for Less Developed Countries, October, 2006, WORKING PAPER NO. 6, 2006, InfoDev.

Shoobridge, J. (2015) Evaluation of Belarus Education Management Information System, World Bank, Draft.

Shoobridge, J.A. (2014) A Review of the Fiji Education Management Information System, December 2014, GRM, Access to Quality Education Program (AQEP), DFAT.

Sprunt, B. (2014). Efforts to improve disability disaggregation of the Fiji Education Management Information System Nossal Institute for Global Health. The University of Melbourne. Melbourne.


[1] “Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhijan (RMSA), is a comprehensive and integrated programme of the Government of India(GOI) for providing quality and meaningful education to all children in the age group 14-16 years of age for Secondary Schools and 16-18 years of age for Higher Secondary Schools in Assam .RMSA has a vision to make secondary education available, accessible and affordable to all young persons.” (www.rmsaassam.in

 

Contact info: James Shoorbridge, jimshoobridge@hotmail.com

Note: The opinions expressed in the articles included in this newsletter are those of the authors and editors, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of UNESCO, nor of any particular Division or Office.



28.10.2015