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Open school data: what planners need to know

Thu, April 21, 6:00 to 7:30am CDT (6:00 to 7:30am CDT), Pajamas Sessions, VR 101

Group Submission Type: Book Launch

Description of Session

The number of countries providing the general public with access to educational data has grown rapidly over the past decade, encouraged by new opportunities offered by information technologies and growing pressure from citizens for more transparency. A wide variety of initiatives have flourished accordingly, consisting of the publication of school-level information in the form of school report cards either in paper or electronic format – the school level being key to encouraging citizens to make best use of and act upon the information provided.

In some countries, governments have taken the lead in disseminating such data, relying on existing education-al management information systems (EMIS). Elsewhere, civil society organizations have shown the way, placing the emphasis on community engagement. Open school data tend to become more comprehensive over time, with the inclusion of data on school inputs and school processes, as well as a growing number of school outputs. However, there is still much to learn about how to make open school data more useful as a tool to hold education stakeholders accountable for quality education for all, and to reduce malpractice.

In this context, this publication has been prepared to help decision-makers as well as educational planners and managers make informed decisions regarding access to practical, effective, and usable open school data. It argues that education authorities have much to learn from the experience of civil society in the area, emphasizing the need to shift from an administrative approach to a more citizen-centred perspective.

Building on the research conducted by IIEP-UNESCO in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America, it draws lessons from more than 50 countries which have experimented with innovative approaches to increasing the usefulness of open school data and strengthening their impacts on transparency and accountability. More specifically, it builds on the results of six in-depth case studies carried out by IIEP-UNESCO in Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan (Punjab), and the Philippines, Each of these studies compared government-led and citizen-led initiatives, and surveyed 250 school-level actors.

This publication consists of five major sections which respond to key questions that decision-makers, educational planners, and managers need to address when designing open school data policies.

It starts with a definition of open school data, which is understood to mean all information about school inputs, processes, and/or outputs shared with the general public, either in paper or electronic format. After reviewing the main factors that lead to the growth of open school data, it explains the distinction between management-oriented and participation-oriented approaches.

The publication presents the various categories of data that can be considered for sharing, namely school profiles, funding, condition of services, school governance and operation, efficiency and performance, and parent and pupil satisfaction. It then proceeds to describe successful approaches for presenting and disseminating data, paying particular attention to approaches and contexts most likely to encourage communities to make active use of open school data, such as mothers’ gatherings.

Recognizing the need to close the accountability loop, the publication analyses four major drivers that can help link open school data and accountability, emphasizing the relevance of the ‘collaborative planning imperative’ and user participation models. It then reviews the various actions required for formulating and supporting open school data initiatives from a user perspective, and describes a planning cycle that leads towards well-identified impacts (e.g. im-proved quality of EMIS information, better school planning, or empowered communities).

Finally, the publication alerts decision-makers and planners to a variety of risks associated with the introduction of open school data initiatives: over-simplification of com-plex issues, misinterpretation of data, school competition and stigmatization, elite capture, power imbalances, data privacy, and security issues in fragile contexts. For each of those risks, the book lists possible mitigation measures.

The last section presents practical guidelines on how to design and implement open school data policies, reviewing key points to ensure their impact and success. These are structured around seven steps: design a clear open data policy framework; prioritize critical data with potential to generate positive change; set up robust information management systems; explore attractive ways to present data; make sure that data are accessible to all; strengthen stake-holder capacities to act on information; and support efforts to improve accountability and fight corruption. For each of those, tips and suggestions for further action are provided.

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