How can education management information systems facilitate better planning and policy dialogue in Africa?

Despite the progress made by African countries in producing and using education data to support planning and inform policy and decision-making, many gaps persist. How can education management information systems be used to facilitate better planning and policy dialogue in Africa then? Read ADEA’s Task Force on Education Management and Policy Support (TFEMPS)'s possible solution.

December 19, 2019 by Alpha Bah, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. The Gambia and Youssouf Ario Maiga, ADEA
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6 minute read
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Enumerator administers the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) in Marikani Government School, Nairobi, Kenya.
Enumerator administers the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) in Marikani Government School, Nairobi, Kenya.
GPE/Deepa Srikantaiah

This post is the 13th in a blog series published in 2019 in the context of a collaboration between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education.

Despite the progress made by African countries in producing and using education data to support planning and inform policy and decision-making, many gaps persist.

Several evaluations undertaken in the last decade by ADEA and other development organizations showed that most African countries face several challenges in producing education statistics that are timely, accurate and comprehensive.

This challenge is even more pronounced in conflict, post-conflict and fragile countries, where the number of refugees or internally displaced is high.

In addition, the coordination of actors within countries remains weak and the collection and reporting of data are fragmented and involve several ministries and institutions responsible for education management information system (EMIS).

Challenges in education data production

This situation makes it difficult to monitor the African Union Agenda 2063, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25), SDG 4 and targets set by the 2030 Agenda.

The adoption of SDG 4 on “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” exacerbated the challenge with significant new data to report (e.g. the indicator on readiness to learn, which pulls data from ministries of health and nutrition).

Another new issue for EMIS is how to support governments in providing necessary data on local and national languages that are introduced in early grades, to ensure interventions are designed and implemented effectively.

Based on an ADEA assessment, there is no institutionalized SDG 4 and CESA 16-25 reporting framework in most African countries, and no generic information system tool that can be used to collect, process and report data and information on education and training to evaluate progress related to SDG 4 implementation.

Evidence shows that the current EMIS scope is limited in producing and reporting comprehensive data, especially for critical domains such as assessment of teachers’ and learners’ attendance, learning outcomes, out-of-school youth, non-formal education, and refugees and learners with disabilities.

Another big challenge is the weak culture of data utilization. Indeed, there is a gap between the supply and demand of education data. Most EMIS and other assessments1 led or carried out by ADEA in several African countries found a lack of use of existing education data for policy dialogue.

A possible solution: ADEA’s “EMIS Norms and Standards” tool

In order to address the above-mentioned challenges, the ADEA’s Task Force on Education Management and Policy Support (TFEMPS) undertook various initiatives to strengthen the production capacity for quality data at national level through the development of a comprehensive EMIS diagnostic and benchmarking tool also known as “EMIS Norms and Standards” followed by an assessment framework.

The diagnostic tool is aimed at showcasing the strengths and weaknesses of the data collection system in a given country with the view of ensuring that the EMIS agenda is henceforth included in the national education sector’s debate and priorities.

To this end, to ensure the process is institutionalized yet cost effective and sustainable, ADEA undertakes the implementation of this diagnostic and benchmarking tool in close collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and EMIS country experts.

Expanding use from national to regional contexts

The tool covers policy and legal frameworks, availability and utilization of resources, statistical procedures as well as information dissemination strategies. The tool could be adopted or customized by the African regional economic communities (REC) to serve as a benchmark to advocate for best practices and to undertake regional benchmarking activities.

The tool comprises 17 minimum norms and about 100 associated standards (depending on the REC). It will also ensure that all member countries in a REC are able to effectively report on all sets of statistics and indicators, ensure cross-country comparison and guide countries in benchmarking and improving their national EMIS, as well as harmonizing regional and continental EMIS networks.

Since ministers of education adopted this tool between 2010 and 2012, ADEA-TFEMPS has implemented a peer review mechanism in ECOWAS (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, and Mali), in SADC (Angola, Botswana, e-Swatini, Mozambique and Zimbabwe), and in EAC (Uganda).

Murape Primary School, Zimbabwe.
Murape Primary School, Zimbabwe. November 2016.
PME/Carine Durand

One of the key lessons learned in these countries is that the EMIS peer review process goes a long way to increase visibility in EMIS among local stakeholders. This includes the opportunity to share best practices among peers within the region and build capacity among national and international peers through sharing knowledge and experience on EMIS processes.

In addition, the need for an EMIS policy to guide data collection, processing and dissemination was a common recommendation by most countries.

An innovative approach that leads to results

The innovation in the ADEA EMIS peer review is based on the methodology of the review that combines a self-assessment and an external critical look at the entire subsectors' data systems. The approach is participatory, involving all education stakeholders, and exhaustive, from data collection to publication and utilization.

This initiative is innovative in that national teams “own” the Norms and Standards and the Assessment Framework. Also, the peer review recommendations by national stakeholder’s – including ministries of education, national statistical offices and partners in the local education groups (LEGs) - are new.

In addition to the preparation of a national report, another outcome of the EMIS peer review is the development of an action plan with an estimated cost based and informed by the recommendations in the EMIS report. The action plan can serve as an implementation guide for the national EMIS team, and ADEA can provide technical support.

Tangible results achieved by ADEA-TFEMPS

Over the last decade, ADEA-TFEMPS undertook a number of activities to strengthen the capacity of over 3,500 EMIS experts in 45 African countries on topics related to the entire EMIS cycle, building sustained EMIS capacity in Africa.

This support included database development and management, website development and content management system (CMS) for reporting education statistics, StatEduc development for processing and analysis, EMIS assessment, sector analysis, statistical yearbook production, policy brief and indicators production and utilization, as well as design of country reporting templates.

ADEA–TFEMPS has also been providing software and hardware to EMIS efforts in developing countries at national, regional and international levels for many years.

As a result, most countries now have an EMIS, which can range from rudimentary (i.e. those functioning in crisis situations) to quite sophisticated.

Most beneficiary countries also now have functional Education Planning Units (EPU) with an EMIS component and they are able to produce reasonably timely annual yearbooks or Annual Statistical Census (ASC) reports.

ADEA has provided capacity building support for EMIS in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

These countries are able to carry out a sector analysis and follow-up on the implementation progress of their education sector plan.

Data are one of the most powerful tools to inform, engage and create opportunities for all education stakeholders. All actors have an important role to play if we want to achieve our common goals on education and training in Africa.

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Very Interesting article. Nice has written about the management information system.

I hope EMIS was implemented in Malawi. It's needed

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