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How Can Holistic Education Management Information Systems Improve Education?

Lishan Adam

Information and communications technology has been transforming education at different levels. One level where the ICT has been playing a key role for over the last three decades is in the management and allocation of educational resources and providing data on students and teachers often referred to as Education Management Information System (EMIS). According to Tom Cassidy:

EMIS is a “system for the collection, integration, processing, maintenance and dissemination of data and information to support decision making, policy-analysis and formulation, planning, monitoring and management at all levels of an education system.”

This implies that EMIS does not only refer to the technology and database software needed for recruiting, hiring, placing, and supporting teachers and providing the necessary logistical support in terms of buildings, furniture, maintenance, instructional materials, training of staff, student demographics and placement but also the processes and culture that bind institutions together for using information for effective delivery of education at all levels.

Looking for more than statistics

EMIS is undergoing some transformation – at least at the technical levels. The original notion of EMIS that was based on the creation of educational statistics for planning at the central level is being replaced with the decentralization of educational data at school, district, regional levels.

The more schools, colleges and universities are empowered in handling and using their own data and the more these institutions adopt open standards and harmonized coding system, the better for data integration, control and usage at national levels.

However, while the technology and tools are improving, the use of EMIS for planning and decision making has not changed much due to lack of ownership, information seeking and use culture and other factors such as over dependence on external consultants. Other challenges range from lack of capacity at school levels, inadequate communications infrastructure and lack of resources to scale up successful EMIS programmes.

We intend to explore some of these issues including trends and best practices with five experts in the field – reviewing the opportunities, challenges and success factors of EMIS to developing countries with specific focus on Africa. They will analyze emerging trends and best practices based on field experience. The discussion that follows the essays is intended to provide recommendations to policy makers and other stakeholders in order to improve the status of EMIS in Africa.

Some of the key questions we will be addressing include:

  1. What are the major trends in the EMIS environment in terms of adopting tools and technologies such as mobile and wireless platforms and distributed databases?
  2. What were the key challenges in implementing an integrated and decentralized Education Management Information System?
  3. What were the most critical success factors of the implementation of EMIS so far?
  4. What should policy makers and donors do over the next ten years to improve the collection, organization and use of educational data and information at all levels?

Your active participation and commentary on these questions and the issues they raise is very much appreciated.

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9 Responses to “How Can Holistic Education Management Information Systems Improve Education?”

  1. Anna Gathigia Mwangi

    Kindly help! what kind of data would EMIS collect in a school in a view to make the school's graduates fare well in the labour market. Thanks.

    • Tim Denny

      Anna, in Laos I am working with a team that is conducting a national tracer study on university and voctech graduates to assess if the courses of study delivered in their respective institution are a match for the labor market. The big issue is related to providing courses of study and quality of offerings that address national development issues, in this sense we could say that a system of education should be producing enough and not too many qualified graduates of each level and capability. I am thinking that a great deal of the data we are collecting in this one shot survey would have been best collected through regular EMIS input, call it a super EMIS as it would go beyond what is commonly sought to include more data points linking work to school. So I guess the real question you have regards the data set that should or could be included in an EMIS to make it more oriented to labor market forces. here is an example project in which we may be able to learn from http://www.educons.net/project/VTEP-ADB-TEM.htm I am unable to find the ADB project documents.

  2. Hi. I'm thinking about doing my research on this exactly. Can you please guide me on the direction I could take. I am from a country – where MIS in schools is a relatively new idea and not very wide spread. Thanks

  3. Pady Suren

    My two cents will be to approach the building of an EMIS in multiple phases, with each phase having a clear-cut goal that can be measured at the end of the phase. As the author points out there are many ways an EMIS can be used. So it is absolutely important to collaborate with all the stakeholders during the earliest stage itself, to identify and set goals that have immediate and visible benefit. Such as using data within classrooms or within schools. It is important that the staff at the school level be empowered first to use the data they are asked to collect. Otherwise this effort will not be sustainable.

    The following question is critical and needs to be clarified even further.
    "2.What were the key challenges in implementing an integrated and decentralized Education Management Information System?"

    What do we mean by 'integrated' and 'decentralized'? Exactly what pieces of data will be collected and stored? With what other data will this be integrated? How will this integrated data be used? What will be the benefits to the different stakeholders – at the policy level, at the state level, at the school-level, at the classroom level and at the individual student level?

    Answering these questions will lead us to determine which data elements are required for what kind of analysis. Here in the US, each school district sends about 52+ data elements about students, teachers and courses. But the use of this data is quite uneven across the board. I believe this is due to a lack of dialogue between the policy-makers and school-level staff/teachers.

    I would suggest that you start at the bottom of the pyramid – begin with all relevant datasets that might be helpful for a class-room teacher (so they can improve their instruction and better support their students) and the Head of the school (so they can implement programs to address gaps and scale-up best practices). If the school-level staff see the value of data they are collecting then this effort becomes more sustainable.

    Thanks for starting this conversation. I think developing nations have a better shot at building an EMIS that is of high-quality and more effective since there is a model that is already available in the developed nations and there is also lot of learning from these models so the mis-steps can be avoided.

  4. krisdianto

    Hi, i thought some of EMIS approach that i see and involved, mostly working with number, what about opinion(studuent/parent/public) ? (text mining/text analytic approach) as combination with education indicators statistic. to see the relation between expectation/trend (indicators) collaborated with opinion mining to see what people think about that ralated indicator (or issues).

  5. It is an early note on what happens in the Ganesha Maritime Academy, Yogyakarta, Indonesia: As a higher education institution that specifically intended to enthuse young people from remote area or simple families who had been far away from the use of teleconference tools for their educational process, more over when they had also been introduced to an integrated laboratories of multi-media and for learning to foreign language, there have been a rather confused and run on with some difficulties at the first week. Later on those simple (and previously have been left behind in the use of advanced technology for educational purpose) young people have also made a good adjustment for their own advantage on learning with such a global setting of information exchange. At least, their 'successful' adjustment process have been shown in their presentation of multi-media use to present their final presentation before graduation. It means also that there has happened about a comprehensive involvement of the whole educational resources, especially human resources, in terms of improving personality of whom previously known as only 'obsolete' young persons to those with a far greater competence leader for their fellow villagers

  6. krisdianto

    As per definition, i see the EMIS position are relatively as "supporting" for education decision making policies (management tools) rather than "Enabler" to improve pedagogical processes..???

  7. Dr. Ekanayake

    Seemingly this is an important perspective in education development which refers to the collection of data and use of it in the development of the school. In this I feel there are four important elements that have to be looked into. These include 1. holistic nature of development 2. why education should be looked into holistically3. what are the aspects / areas from which data should be collected and 4. how do we use this information in a common development framework with education as the centre of development. This seems to be the critical factor in the management.We should remember that most planners and managers including political leadership are aware of the significance of the above mentioned data. But they invariably view these information separately and in water tight compartments. It is the inability to combine these through education that is greatly lacking . This is the crusx of the issue in the developing world. For most education is a way out of rural trudgery / toiling. The development programme envisage the stakeholders in the rural areas to use education as a way to get out of the rural toil. But looking at waht they learn in rural and deprived communities and how they learn whta is taught and the way how learning is evaluated and later the use of this learning in eality makes one feel that the education systems in rural ares have not answered the current issues that the people encounter regularly. To me this begins with kind of data provided to the planners. They see education as a way to get higher qualifications, WITHOUT ADDRESSING THE DAY TO DAY PROBLEMS AND USING THAT INFORMATION FOR CHANGES IN EDUCATION STRUCTURES REFERRED TO ABOVE LEADING TO CHANGES IN DEVELOPING A CHALLENGING CURRICULUM, TRAINING OF TEACHERS, CHANGING THE MANAGEMENT STYLES OF THE PRINCIPALS, BRINGING NEW DIMENSIONS IN THE MIND SETS OF THE COMMUNITY AND MORE IMPORTANT OUTLOOK OF THE POLICY MAKERS.All this could take place if a holistic education management information system is in place which would provide data on all aspects of development issues that encounter the schools in the rural areas. The information could used in the school and at any other level to bring about changes in an education programme leading to learning to solve problems in the locality in real situations. Thus learning teaching, development and education, collaboration with all stakeholders would be able to look at education in a holistic way. Has this been attempted?Yes in Sri Lanka where the National Institute of Education in collaboration with GIZ has been involved in model development project where eight new dimensions (identified through research ) are brought in to the educational development of the small schools serving the peripheral areas and disadvantaged communities. In the process the institution has identified different elements that are responsible for the poverty of the disadvantaged communities in a holistic manner, using principles of integration. The researchers have identified the responsibilities of various institutions from the centre to the lowest level administrative unit. They have also identified the changes that are needed in the curriculum, teacher training, evaluation systems and the role of the community and the service providers at the village level. The last group would act as very important elements in this holistic development initiative.Dr.S.B.EkanayakeRtd.. Basic Education AdvisorUNESCO/UNHCR Pakistan/Afghanistan

    • Dear Dr. Ekanayake,

      thank you for your excellent posting! Our organisation, the Learning Agency Network, is exactly addressing this holistic approach by conducting a Systemic Needs Analysis and developing educational services.

      May I disseminate your statement within our network by attributing your name?

      Best wishes,

      Rolf Reinhardt
      Managing Director
      Learning Agency Network


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