ICT in Education Toolkit
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ICTs for Education: Analytical Review
1 Introduction
2 Myths and Realities
3 Challenges
4 The Role and Nature of ICTs
5 The Potential of ICTs
  Expanding Educational Opportunities
  Increasing Efficiency
  Enhancing Quality of Learning
  Enhancing Quality of Teaching
  Faciliating Skill Formulation
  Sustaining Lifelong Learning
  Improving Policy Planning and Management
  Advancing Community Linkages
6 From Potential to Effectiveness
7 Conclusion

ICTs for Education: A Reference Handbook
1 Decision Makers Essentials
2 Analytical Review
3 Resources
4 PowerPoint Presentation
  5.7 Improving Policy Planning and Management
 

5.7.1 The Objective [7]

Compared with any other national activity, the education enterprise is huge and intricate. It involves educational institutions all over the country, teachers and administrators in large numbers, and students of every age, who can account for up to 30% of the population. For instance, the educational system of a middle-income country of about 10 million people can easily encompass more than 11,000 educational institutions, 140,000 teachers, and 3 million students. The budget of this enterprise may reach 20% of the government budget and 3%–5% of the gross national product (GNP). By any measure, this is an enormous enterprise to manage and maintain, and for which to ensure quality of input, process, and output.

Recent reforms within the education enterprise have resulted in observable successes in making educational opportunities more accessible and equitable and the teaching/learning process more effective. Yet, these successes are making an already unwieldy system even more complicated:

  • Expanding educational opportunities means more schools in isolated rural areas and more diversified modes of delivery.
  • Aiming for education for all means including students from underserved populations who require special measures to reach and have special needs that must be met.
  • The accent on learning requires setting reliable and measurable standards and attending to individual differences.
  • Decentralization and devolution of decisions to district and local levels require better information systems and management procedures.
  • Involvement of more stakeholders in the education process (parents, employers, unions, political parties, etc.) is resulting in more transparency and accountability. These developments demand a consistent flow of information and force the education enterprise to be managed better and more efficiently.

Any business that is even a fraction of the size and complexity of a country's educational enterprise and uses the management techniques of most educational systems will go out of business in no time. Big businesses have discovered how important management is to keep their companies well run, efficient, and competitive. In so doing, they have used the potential of technology to restructure their procedures and overhaul their production, distribution, training, feedback, maintenance, and administration processes. However, education systems have been slow in exploiting the power of technology.

5.7.2 The Potential

Many educational institutions and systems have introduced simple management and statistical information systems. But this should be only the beginning. Two interrelated measures are needed:

  • First, education systems need to undergo structural reengineering of their processes and techniques and to modernize their procedures and applications—at different levels of decision making and administration.
  • Second, communication and information technologies must be an integral part of the restructuring design and application.

 More specifically, technology for management may enhance reform in two areas:

Management of institutions and systems. The same elements of computing and telecommunications equipment and services that made businesses more efficient and cost effective can be applied to schools and school systems to enable principals and superintendents to streamline operations, monitor performance, and improve use of physical and human resources. Technology also promotes communication among schools, parents, central decision makers, and businesses that fosters greater accountability, public support, and connectivity with the marketplace. At the school/institution level, technologies are crucial in such areas as admissions, student flow, personnel, staff development, and facilities. At the system-wide level, technologies provide critical support in domains such as school mapping, automated personnel and payroll systems, management information systems, communications, and information gathering, analysis, and use.
 
Management of policy making. The process of policy analysis and development is a sophisticated and strategic exercise. It is, by necessity, an intricate, nonlinear process in which a variety of people and organizations with diverse perspectives are actively involved in the process through which issues are analyzed and polices are generated, implemented, assessed, adjusted, and redesigned. Here ICTs can be valuable in storing and analyzing data on education indicators, student assessment, educational physical and human infrastructure, cost, and finance. Technology not only can help in diagnosis but, more important, it can also assist in constructing scenarios around different intended policy options to determine requirements and consequences. Each scenario can then be systematically analyzed and evaluated, not only in terms of its educational desirability but also in terms of financial affordability, feasibility, and sustainability over a sufficient period to show results. During policy implementation, technology can facilitate tracer studies and tracking systems as well as summative and formative evaluation.

5.7.3 Specific Solutions

5.7.3.1 Education Management Information System (EMIS) [8]

An Education Management Information System (EMIS) is a comprehensive system that brings together people, process, and technology to provide timely, cost-effective, and user-appropriate information to support educational management at whatever level is needed.

Most educational establishments have some type of management information—even if it is just a blackboard outside a school listing every week's enrollment by grade. Information is being provided to those who might want to use it. But a modern system needs more than this on a supported basis. At a minimum, upgrading, modernizing, and seizing on new approaches to improve education delivery using EMIS requires the following:

  1. Determine who the stakeholders are for education information.
  2. Assess who needs information for what decisions.
  3. Determine which functions need to be supported and at what level.
  4. Assess available resources. This means not only financial, but also material, personnel, time, and commitment. More EMIS efforts have failed because of the unavailability of good personnel and commitment than for any other cause.
  5. Set priorities (short-, medium-, and long-term), get some knowledgeable review, and set a time frame.
  6. Get multiple commitments.
  7. Get sufficient resources for people, for the process, and then for the technology.
  8. Stay clear about outcomes and monitor them.

EMISs have a technical element, but they are primarily about the use of information. Using information is a highly specific, often personal activity that affects work habits, work style, and work flow. Many old-style information systems have ceased to work, not because they are obsolete, but because the people supporting them failed to maintain them properly. EMIS will involve several elements that are critical to success:

  1. Setting standards for information.
  2. Setting timing for gathering and processing information. Information will vary simply by being gathered at a different time; if you measure enrollment in January, rather than April, the counts will be different—both accurate, but different.
  3. Defining the level of possible accuracy.
  4. Defining formats early, so that people get used to and understand how information is presented.
  5. Ensuring that the providers of information quickly see the results of their work. The quicker and closer information processing is to the source, the higher its level of accuracy and speed of correction.
  6. Measuring the cost of producing information.

Resource 2.6.1 is a sample list of single function as well as integrated education-oriented management software. The list is indicative and not exhaustive. As you review it, keep in mind that software suitability is highly dependent on the local situation, particularly in terms of functions, support, training and cost.

5.7.3.2 Simulations for Policy Analysis and Formulation [9]

Simulations offer a means by which to study situations of rapid change and high complexity that conventional empirical research cannot handle. Suppose, for example, that you want to assess the possible impact of new forms of education. A conventional experiment will take years to deliver results, but simulation of critical elements in the new forms may yield valuable insights into problems and promises.

Simulations for policy analysis can be sorted into two categories: structured and unstructured.

  • Structured simulations use algorithms to simulate how a system operates. Users' choices and possible outputs are specified in advance. Operation of the simulation points to a "best choice" policy. Early applications constituted single-step, noninteractive simulations to estimate the feasibility of different kinds of policies in the context of a national reform or to estimate the sensitivity of the (assumed) situation to a series of policy decisions.

Multistep or interactive simulations are most appropriate when more than one decision maker is involved in setting policy, that is, when the policy process is seen as requiring political as well as technical inputs. Because such simulations can be used to generate more than one feasible and likely outcome, they are used primarily to identify alternative policy packages and a range of outcomes rather than to identify a "best answer." Exemplary of this kind of simulation are four models cited in Resource 2.6.2.

  • Unstructured simulations are based on transactions among several actors with competing objectives; constraints become known through action. Policy is the result of negotiation, a product of multiple decisions by several actors. The well-known Delphi technique serves this purpose. The technique was developed originally by the U.S. military to anticipate possible Soviet reactions to an accidental missile launch by the United States. U.S. participants took the roles of Soviet officials and responded within their roles to an extensive set of questions. Answers were collated and presented to participants, and those with deviant responses were asked to justify their position. This process was continued until participants reached a stable set of positions.

Some Latin American countries recently applied the Delphi technique with respect to educational policy alternatives. One study asked experts to comment on the effectiveness, cost, and likelihood of implementation of a wide variety of policies for primary education for which there is insufficient empirical research. Those who varied from the central tendency on a given alternative had to explain their reasoning. The final product is a set of simulated data, based on informed speculation. In this case, the study produced several conclusions that contradict current policy initiatives. [10]


7 This section and the next are excerpted from: Wadi D. Haddad. January/February 2001. "The Education Enterprise: Is It Manageable?" TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
8 Excerpted from:
- Kurt D. Moses. January/February 2001. "Education Management Information System: What Is It and Why Do We Not Have More of It?" TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
- Kurt Moses and Vivian Toro. January/February 2001. "Education Management Information Systems (EMIS): Available Software and Guidelines for Selection." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
9 Excerpted from: Noel F. McGinn. January/February 2001. "Computer Simulations and Policy Analysis." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
10 E., Schiefelbein, L. Wolff, & P. Schiefelbein. 1999. El Costo Efectividad de las Politicas de Educacion Primaria en America Latina: Estudio basado en la opinion de expertos. Boletin del PREALC, 49.

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