Information Systems used in Education

5 Mar

Today I will discuss how information systems are being used in Education and more specifically in emergency situations. The information system used is called an Educational Management Information System (EMIS).  In the interesting UNESCO case study I came across, it described what an EMIS is used for: “EMIS are designed to collect and analyse data on the educational system to improve planning, resource allocation, monitoring, policy formation and decision making”.

Educational authorities e.g Department of Education in Ireland use EMIS to collect information on areas such location of schools, number of students by sex and age, number of teachers and their qualifications. This is used on a routine basis by authorities, however the EMIS can be used for more complex matters. For example, Educational Authorities may use this system to collect and analyse data on areas such as retention rates, completion, absence, level of achievement by students etc. It also may be used to analyse statistics such as gender, ethnicity, social-economic background etc. This may be used by the Higher Education Grant Office in Ireland for example.

Educational Management Information Systems are also used in emergency situations for example: an earthquake, civil war or any natural disaster. In these situations, EMIS are used to locate the number of school aged children missing, the availability of teachers, facilities and learning materials.  EMIS are also useful to organisations such as the UNHCR who work with refugees. These systems can be used to access information on refugees such as country of origin and statistics.

EMIS are also very costly and complex systems to introduce and must be planned and co-ordinated efficiently.

To give a better understanding of the complexity of an EMIS I will discuss a case study based on educational authorities in Kosovo who implemented an  EMIS. There was a lack of data information on schools/education in Kosovo, a former parallel system had collected a considerable body of info in 1999 but it did not cover developments after the conflict and the information collected by the Serb controlled provincial was of questionable value. Organisations active in Kosovo at the time such as national and international NGO’S and UNICEF also had quite a substantial amount of data collected and decided to implement an EMIS before the back-to-school period.  The first stage was drafted by an international consulted and was only a preliminary database.  When the first version was drafted it faced many technical and administrative problems, for example: technical demands of getting a computer to act reliably but still be user friendly, training and hiring of specialists etc.  It was seen to be a ‘black hole’ were information was being poured in but not much data was being extracted.  The World Bank has decided to support this project and a full assessment of the project is yet to be made.

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