With initial technical support from the Data Must Speak research team and our partners, statisticians in ministries of education (MoEs) can build their skills to link data within their country’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) and regularly report trends to policymakers.
What have MoEs and the DMS team learnt from linking administrative datasets?
The Data Must Speak (DMS) research team at UNICEF Innocenti has worked closely with ministry of education partners to co-create and conduct in-depth analyses of their administrative data.
First, we linked school information over time that allowed us to answer important questions for learning trends, such as knowing how many girls and boys were enrolled in each grade across several consecutive years. This made it possible to track student cohorts and to know which schools were successful at both retaining and promoting students to the next grade.
The DMS team also linked school census data with exam data to determine which schools were most effective at preparing students for assessment.
Using this data, key educational inputs (e.g., textbooks, number of teachers) could then be linked with student performance to help us understand the current status of education, as well as the challenges and potential methods to improve school retention and learning.
In Togo, DMS research indicated female students were more likely to be promoted to the next grade and score higher in exams when their teacher was a woman. This is an important finding as recruiting more female teachers could help eliminate the country’s education gender gap.
In Madagascar, Nepal and Togo, DMS research analyzed the relationship between student-to-teacher ratio and academic performance, which informed ministries of education about the potential educational benefits of recruiting more teachers. Reports from all participating countries are published on our website.
The DMS co-creation approach also allows for the documentation of best practices and recommendations on how to improve overall EMIS data collection, cleaning, merging and analysis. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, those recommendations sparked an initiative to create unique school identification documents facilitating linking school information over time.
The future of research with school datasets
Integrating other datasets within country EMISs could open new opportunities. Education sector monitoring could be improved by adding new layers of information in EMIS.
For instance, in Niger, the DMS team linked information on schools with local data on poverty to understand the contexts in which schools operate. This approach could be systematically applied in all countries to measure socio-economic inequalities in education as well as monitor progress.