In the early 1990s, The Gambia had a traditional education management information system (EMIS), supply-led, compilation-oriented, like those in most low-income countries. The system provided raw data, usually pulling from one database, and maybe a few indicators.
But it did not provide a holistic picture of each school. Since then we have made great strides in making the system much more demand-driven.
School report cards: A tool for information sharing, policy dialogue and improvement
In The Gambia, EMIS data have been the livewire for education sector managers and stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. For example, EMIS data are used to help increase accountability for school feeding programs and for the payment of school improvement grants (SIG), influenced by the ‘school report cards’ sent to schools. It provides a picture of the school’s performance and is a means by which to benchmark.
Parents and the wider community also use school report cards to inform their decisions for selecting schools for their children, particularly those transitioning from lower primary school level to upper primary and secondary levels.
The school report card is a profile similar to the student report card. It provides comparative education data and a means by which stakeholders can assess the performance of the different schools. The card provides comparisons of like with like, so as to make the comparisons fairer and more relevant. For example, if it becomes evidence that math scores are particularly low in a school, it prompts the school and education personnel to allocate resources to remedial math courses and additional training for teachers.
The school report card not only serves as a feedback tool from the EMIS and central offices to the school and community, but also to stimulate discussions among policymakers, school administrators and other stakeholders (parents, communities and students) on how to improve the performance of the learning institution.
The school report card therefore is a tool used during school performance monitoring meetings. These meetings, often chaired by the school management committee (SMC) chairperson or representative, focus on the performance of schools in relation to the resources allocated. Schools are expected to maintain good performance and address gaps, and therefore the meetings are a prerequisite for school improvement planning.