Data innovations in Education in Africa

ADEA’s support to the data revolution

Introducing WGEMPS

The post-2015 agenda is calling for a data revolution. Concerns have been voiced that Africa needs to come on board statistically if it is to properly engage in innovative solutions to its development challenges. ADEA is rising to the challenge by piloting data innovations in the education and training sector across the continent through Regional Economic Communities and with countries.

Harmonizing EMIS through Norms and Standards

A key data innovation is the strategy of harmonizing Education Management information System (EMIS) across Africa through regionally customized frameworks on EMIS Norms and standards developed by country experts with the support of ADEA’s Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support (WGEMPS).

This initiative, which falls under the African Union’s EMIS Strategy, uses country representatives in Ministries of Education to develop monitoring standards for each statistical norm, covering the areas of appropriate policy, resourcing levels, statistical methodologies and dissemination strategies.

To date, SADC, ECOWAS and EAC Ministers of Education have endorsed their regional EMIS Norms and Standards frameworks and countries are in the process of complying  with these norms.

ECCAS Member states are engaged in developing their own regional framework with ADEA's help.

Presently, most SADC countries have completed their national EMIS assessments. Swaziland, Botswana and Mozambique have been reviewed by peers from member states and the final reports produced will be shared by the SADC Secretariat with Ministers.

Additional countries expected to be assessed by country peers in the coming year include Angola, Ghana and The Gambia. Country reviews in the East African Community region are in the pipeline for 2015. This data strategy should see African countries significantly improve their national EMIS  and will empower them to support neighbor countries’ capacity building needs.

AU Outlook Reports produced for the COMEDAF meetings

Through its Working Group on Education Management Policy Support (WGEMPS) ADEA is the technical arm of the African Union’s Education Division and Observatory.  Its flagship activity is the production of biannual reports for the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union  (COMEDAF). The reports measure the achievements of African countries and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in the eight priority areas targeted in the AU’s Second Decade of Education Plan of Action.

These reports are published every two years and made available at the AU’s COMEDAF meetings. Policy briefs are produced on the five RECs summarizing the key findings and recommendations.

The AU restricted EMIS Technical Committee

Other data supported innovations by ADEA include the establishment of a continent wide body, known as the African Union Restricted EMIS Technical Committee (RTC) in 2009.  Composed of key EMIS experts drawn from regional economic communities (SADC, ECOWAS, EAC, ECCAS and COMESA), country representatives and development partners (ADEA, UIS, UNICEF, AfDB, APHRC among others) the RTC  is responsible for overseeing the monitoring of the African Union’s (AU) Plan of Action for the Second Decade, and acting as an observatory for the AU’s education portfolio.

The committee has endorsed the AU’s education monitoring framework, a manual on key AU indicators measuring the priority areas of the Plan of Action, the pilots on new and challenging indicators and biannual reports on every African country’s performance with regards to the AU education goals. ADEA, as the secretariat for this Committee, has been responsible for the production of these innovative data research tools and frameworks. 

A continent wide data collection portal for education statistics

In addition, under the guidance of the African Union’s Statistics Division and Education desk and at the urging of Heads of States to collect African socio economic data, ADEA has begun work on designing a continent wide data collection portal for the compilation of education statistics. This innovation will address the challenges of timely, comprehensive and accurate national education data and offer a quicker data management alternative to current systems. The draft collection instruments are being discussed among the AU Restricted EMIS Technical Committee of Experts and it is hoped that member states will have an opportunity to finalize it among regional economic communities early next year.

Post graduate training for African education managers and planners

ADEA, a founder member of the SADC Centre of Education Policy Support, located at the University of Witwatersrand since 2003, provides post graduate online training on an annual basis to education managers and planners from various African countries in finance, planning and economics of education. Some 390 education government officials drawn from fifteen African countries, development agency staff and private individuals have graduated from this course, described by an external evaluator  as a “well-sequenced, practical and technical e-learning course” customized to the African context.

One of its three program components, developed by ADEA’s Working Group on Education Management Support, is now specifically targeting the data skill requirements for Global Partnership for Education (GPE) recipient countries. Confident of the quality of this course, ADEA is actively seeking to persuade the GPE Secretariat to validate this course as a medium for training the government officials of GPE African countries.

ADEA having pledged itself as an organization to support the GPE agenda in promoting data capacity in Africa, similarly promotes the strengthening of existing African capacity, such as the Wits University program, which, if sufficiently used by countries, could make a significant difference to building a cadre of skilled African government personnel in scarce technical competencies.

Mobile technologies to monitor teacher and learner attendance

Further, a new data tool innovation that ADEA is exploring is the use of new applications in mobile technologies to monitor teacher and learner attendance in schools. Teacher absenteeism is a growing problem and one of the key challenges facing the achievement of quality education in schools in Africa. A teacher in the classroom is an important but insufficient prerequisite for improving learning achievement.  However, absenteeism significantly prejudices the learning outcomes of the children in the classroom, demoralizes school organizational culture and represents a significant waste of financial public and private resources.

In African education systems that often operate on scarce resources with weak management systems, innovative models on how to effectively address teacher and learner absenteeism are yet to be fully realized.

Following the lead of the Gambia who has successfully implemented an SMS based tool, ADEA has committed itself to exploring various options in two countries – Swaziland and Namibia – by piloting a tool which would allow the ministry to track teacher absenteeism on a daily basis.

African Innovation Outlook on science and technology indicators

An initiative by the African Union and its NEPAD body is the African Innovation Outlook on science and technology indicators, which presents R&D and innovation indicators on the basis of the survey conducted by the national focal points. In summary, the Outlook informs the people of Africa and other interested parties about STI activities in African countries. ADEA has been invited by the STI division of NEPAD to participate in its new think tank to review data strategies among ministries involved in the sector to more effectively track and monitor progress in science, technology and innovation.

Annual Report on key data challenges facing the education sector

Finally, on behalf of the statistical education sector for Africa, ADEA produces the annual report to the Director Generals of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) for Africa. In consultation with all the African EMIS country directors and the AU EMIS Restricted Technical Committee, it highlights key data challenges facing the education sector and highlights areas which could be improved if NSOs change certain practices.

ADEA also contributes to the annual African Union Statistical Year book produced by UNECA by producing the indicators for the education sector.

For more information contact: Angela Arnott [email protected], Interim Coordinator, ADEA Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support (WGEMPS)