Education management information systems Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_management_information_systems

Education management information systems (EMIS) aim to collect, integrate, process, maintain and disseminate data and information to support decision-making, policy-analysis and formulation, planning, monitoring and management at all levels of an education system. It is a system of people, technology, models, methods, processes, procedures, rules, and regulations that function together to provide education leaders, decision-makers and managers at all levels with a comprehensive, integrated set of relevant, reliable, unambiguous and timely data and information to support them in completion of their responsibilities.[1]

The adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”) as the new international education agenda also exerts more complex data demands on EMIS. Its emphasis on equity and inclusion, lifelong learning, and the need to measure learning outcomes have expanded the range of data that EMIS need to collect and manage.[2]

Education management information systems only captures information on children who are (or have been) included in the school system. Even the most robust EMIS is unlikely to provide complete (or even any) information on children who have never been included and those who drop out. Robust education planning and policy therefore requires inputs from a broader set of data sources, including from household surveys.[2]

Evolution of education management information systems[edit]

Education management information systems, in one form or another, have existed in different countries for several decades. They were traditionally conceived as administrative tools to automate the generation of routine inputs-based statistics, such as enrolment and teacher counts. However, changes in the education sector have driven EMIS to become more complex.[2]

Development surged around the 1980s with the advantages of desktop computing. Countries like France, India, and China have compiled education statistics on students, teachers, and other aspects of educational institutions for many years. In the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), whose responsibility is to collect “statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education” has existed in some form since 1867.[3]

The International Conference on EMIS, held in Paris, France, on 11–13 April 2018, brought together actors and stakeholders in education: national governments, non-profits, private enterprises, and international organizations. Participating countries were asked to detail the history and evolution of their EMIS. In general, drivers of EMIS development reported by participating countries included:[2]

  • Technological change, such as use of the Internet to engage stakeholders at decentralized administrative units (including schools) and to facilitate data collection and processing;
  • Increased expectations from administrators, planners and development partners concerning the availability, level of disaggregation, detail and use of data;
  • Evolving national and international standards such as the monitoring requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG);
  • Increased accountability to the public;
  • Increased complexity of education systems, which now include the need to plan and monitor for both public and private sectors across Early Childhood Development (ECD), primary, secondary, non-formal, TVET and higher education; and Increased focus on data to assess learning to ensure students are participating in education and achieving desired outcomes including learning and the well-being of each child.[2]

Defining EMIS[edit]

Data is essential in the pursuit of the new international educational agenda. Countries need data to define and operationalize goals into targets, and more importantly, to determine what they need to do to accelerate progress towards those objectives. Data allows countries to measure the performance of their respective education system vis-à-vis national, regional and international priorities, and thus determine the relevance and effectiveness of policies and programmes. Education management information systems (EMIS), as the main tool used by countries to collect, process, analyse, and disseminate data, are crucial to this process.[2]

EMIS, in its most basic sense, constitutes a school census conducted annually to collect information on pupils, teachers, facilities, finances, and other issues relating to institutions such as schools and higher education facilities. It must be noted, however, that earlier conceptions of EMIS were primarily (perhaps exclusively) administrative systems, rather than systems that inform planning, policymaking, and monitoring and evaluation.[2]

EMIS should be designed according to the various contexts and needs of different education systems; no one EMIS configuration will work across all education systems. These contexts and needs can only be fully captured if central educational units dialogue with stakeholders at decentralized educational units, such as district offices and schools.[2]

The objective of an EMIS is to produce quality, reliable and timely data to increase the use of education data for education-related decisions. To be useful, EMIS data should be adapted and made accessible to all levels of decision-making of the education system.[2] EMIS can facilitate and make management and daily transactions required of the education system more efficient and more effective, not just in subnational administrative offices, but also in schools. [4]

In terms of management and administration, EMIS can help school principals calculate the rate of student absenteeism in their respective schools relative to other schools in the same district. Aggregated, this information can help determine factors that contribute to increased student absenteeism, which in turn can inform planning and policy formulation processes - that is, it can help ministers of education identify the resources needed to establish programmes to curb absenteeism. Future data would then allow for the outcomes of such programmes to be measured.[2]

An EMIS must be a system agile enough to respond to the education system's present data demands, while at the same time anticipating future demands. It is crucial that data systems adapt to changes in both national and international educational agendas.[2]

The data management cycle[edit]

The EMIS data management cycle can be divided into three stages: identification of information needs; data collection, processing and analysis; data reporting, dissemination and use.[2]

Identification of information needs[edit]

This stage involves reflecting on education objectives within the context of national plans (including national key performance indicators) and international commitments such as SDG 4. Once needs are clearly identified and agreed by all stakeholder, the appropriate data collection instruments and approaches should be developed.[2]

Data collection, processing, and analysis[edit]

Many countries assign different roles and responsibilities to different departments for the collection of education data both at the school and the district provincial levels. In some countries, data collection for different educational subsectors might be the responsibility of different ministries (e.g. data on early childhood education may be collected by a ministry of social affairs).[2]

Data collection for an information base at the local level is not a process that can be established in a single step. In order to be effective for ongoing monitoring, this information base must be dynamic and have an appropriate mechanism for regular updates.[5] After collection of data from the different entities, and data entry (if collection was done manually), data must then go through a data validation process.[6]

Data validation is therefore part of data processing, which happens after the data collection. Because data can contain personal and sensitive information, there must be sound processes for their storage and protection. After ensuring the data are collected and processed, the next step in the data management cycle is analysis.[2]

In analysing data, the needs of EMIS end users - which can include decision-makers, planners, researchers, information service providers, students, and teachers - should be taken into account. The availability of EMIS data at school, regional, and national levels promotes the use of data to improve school facilities and staffing, classroom, and school management.[2]

Data reporting, dissemination and use[edit]

At the stage of reporting and dissemination, the strategy is to have all the stakeholders access the relevant information generated from education management information systems. Reports can be prepared in different forms for different purposes:

  • Annual statistical returns: this includes statistical tables and indicators that may be used by everyone within and outside the Ministry of Education.
  • Quick reference: this includes a short summary of the annual statistical returns. This targets upper decision-makers and all uses who do not need detailed statistics.
  • Indicators report: this includes the analysis of schools’ systems performance which is done on a regular basis.

The reporting and dissemination process also depends on the capacity of the EMIS staff in ministries to present the statistics in a clear and understandable manner to other levels of the administration and other users, whether for internal or external use. Reporting and dissemination can be both internal and external, depending on what kinds of information are shared and with whom.[2]

Challenges in quality data management[edit]

The collection, analysis, and use of quality data amidst decentralization and in the context of conflict and fragility are common challenges. These issues were shared across many of the countries that participated in the 2018 EMIS Conference. Data quality encompasses the relevance, accuracy, reliability, coherence, timeliness, punctuality, accessibility, interpretability, objectivity, impartiality, transparency and credibility of data.[7]

Accuracy and reliability[edit]

Data need to be sufficiently accurate and reflect stable and consistent collection processes across collection points over time. As discussed during the 2018 EMIS conference, most countries (more than half) reported that the accuracy and reliability of data were among the challenges with many countries reporting lack of adequate mechanisms for data validation. Moreover, in some cases, there are virtually no repercussions for falsifying or tampering with data; where there might be laws supposed to safeguard against data falsification, there are no mechanisms to ensure the enforcement of those laws.[2]


In terms of availability, countries cited challenges in obtaining data and information from civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), primarily owing to generally weaker data systems in these kinds of organizations. With private organizations, countries cited difficulties obtaining data as well, for various reasons. In some cases, private organizations are unregistered and thus difficult to track. In other cases, private organizations are not willing to release data.[2]

Furthermore, these private organizations are often not within the purview of the Ministry of Education, and thus have no regulatory authorities that can require them to release data.[2]

Decentralized structures[edit]

Surveyed countries expressed the necessity to move towards an EMIS system that increases access to a wider range of stakeholders specific to their roles and responsibilities. A more decentralized system would improve the planning, management and decision-making allowing for more efficient and accurate data collection and increase accountability. However, the process of decentralization should be fully backed by a proper mechanism to support local authorities and develop their capacities to fulfil their new responsibilities. As with any type of governance structure, whether centralized or decentralized, a system can only function properly under the appropriate enabling environment.[8]

Developing an effective decentralized structure for EMIS data requires engaging in several decision-making processes. These include: 1) identifying the right balance between direct government control over education institutions and staff, and the degree of autonomy given to them, which depends to a large extent on existing organizational and institutional capacities; and 2) developing effective tools for monitoring and evaluation, which are often in the form of school inspection or supervision systems.[5] The degree of decentralization is a key challenge that affects the use of EMIS. For example, some countries have fully decentralized systems while others have partial-decentralization, where only some responsibilities are given to another institution.

Fragility and conflict[edit]

Data is crucial in fragile situations: in particular, EMIS must be able to collect data on learners in displaced and vulnerable populations to allow the education system to identify their needs and how best to address them.[2]

However, countries participating in the conference cited gaps in their current EMIS related to the collection and inclusion of data on children affected by fragility. This is not uncommon: children in emergency situations are the most vulnerable, and yet they are often excluded from EMIS).[9] While sometimes included in datasets, they are often not indicated as refugees or internally displaced people.

Sometimes, it is refugees themselves who do not wish to be identified, fearing that such categorization could create problems for them. As emphasized during the 2018 EMIS Conference, schools located in crisis-affected areas are generally still excluded from EMIS. There are several issues at play: for instance, some conflict areas are no longer controlled by the government and data can therefore no longer be sent to the centralized institution. Generally, data quality is low in crisis-affected schools, and data take longer to be collected, as well.[2]

An enabling environment for strong EMIS[edit]

There are some factors that enable a conducive environment for EMIS to be functional, effective and efficient. Although there may be different aspects enabling a conducive environment, the following ones are considered key factors in EMIS assessment frameworks (4): (i) an education data policy or legal framework, (ii) technological infrastructure and capacities, (iii) adequate human resources and (iv) sufficient financial resources.[2]

Education data policy or legal framework[edit]

A policy or legal framework mandating education data can have a significant influence on the effectiveness and credibility of an education management information system. However, there is currently no international agreement on what the content of such policy should look like, and it can therefore achieve as little or as much as policy-makers want to make of it.[2]

Some principles have been identified that should be inherent in an education data policy. These include technical independence in data collection, free of external interference and following ethical standards,[10] so as to increase data credibility. This needs to be of course accompanied by high-quality standards in all data functions.[5] Data openness and transparency are other guiding principles, which will allow an easy access to the public,[11] which in turn will foster a stronger sense of accountability on the part of authorities. Conversely, data restriction hinders collaboration, innovation, and service improvement.[12] Finally, an education data strategy must be flexible enough to cover different technological, managerial, and institutional solutions to EMIS challenges, and should be drafted with a medium- or long-term vision in mind.

Technological infrastructure and capacity[edit]

There are technological solutions that can improve education management information systems effectiveness. For instance, as mentioned by Burundi in the 2018 EMIS conference, electronic transfer of information from schools to the Ministry of Education through mobile devices (including computers, tablets and smartphones), can help transition from a paper-and-pencil system to an automated one, which will in turn reduce the time and costs associated with data collection and processing. Data validity checks with specialized software can improve data quality and harmonization by removing errors originated in manual data aggregates, as reported by the Democratic Republic of Congo at the 2018 EMIS conference. Data analytics can be enhanced when using software with statistical capabilities, geospatial and visualizing tools, for instance, in Liberia, their electronic data entry process allows a school mapping based on GPS coordinates (2018 EMIS conference).[2]

However, technology is often seen as “the” solution to EMIS challenges, and technological solutions are prioritized, while the problems are managerial or institutional, and should be tackled with a better human resource strategy or an education data policy improving the institutional arrangements.[2]

EMIS challenges that can be solved with technological solutions do not necessarily require upgrading technology, which changes rapidly. It often simply involves fully utilizing the current technology (e.g., using basic phones already available in the community to capture and disseminate data) or strengthening the capacities to use technology at the various administrative levels to better produce and consume data.[2]

Another consideration is that technological projects fail when there is an attempt to install hardware or software that cannot be supported with the existing infrastructure.[9] This issue can be avoided by assessing countries’ current infrastructural capacity and ensuring that the hardware and software are compatible with the current infrastructure. A cohabitation of technologies is a potential solution, wherein manual and automated methods are both used. In areas with limited Internet connectivity, data collection can take place manually and then its transmission or uploading in areas with better Internet connectivity.

Adequate human resources[edit]

A functional EMIS does require skilled staff, with qualifications and basic training in statistics, coding, data analytics, data visualization, data collection methods, IT engineering and computer programming, ICT specialization, etc. Competencies become even more specialized and precious in areas in conflict or emergencies.[2]

Developing the appropriate skills within Ministries of Education can help reduce dependence on external technical providers, and strengthen the capacity to engage and manage external providers. For this, it is important that countries dedicate sufficient budget to train and update EMIS staff.[2]

Training must also be provided to all stakeholders involved in EMIS tasks, based on the data functions they perform (production, analysis, use, etc.) and at their specific administrative level, otherwise, inadequate data capacities at any given level could paralyze the flow of information within an EMIS. For instance, while teachers need to be trained on completing school census forms and understanding the information from their school report card, regional authorities need to be trained in conducting data validity checks and data analysis for conducting school comparisons in their regions.[13]

Sufficient financial resources[edit]

There are several costs that are traditionally covered by an education management information system, including:

  • Recruitment and payment of personnel dedicated to EMIS tasks at various administrative levels (national, regional, district and school level).
  • Procurement of ICT infrastructure and technology that includes hardware and equipment (computers, mobile devices, data servers, etc.), software, internet connectivity, physical space needed;
  • Maintenance costs involving recurrent costs such as IT license renewal fees, technical support for hardware and software, and technicians to repair connectivity issues, etc.; and
  • Data collection and reporting of annual school census, involving costs for printing and copying, logistics for distribution and collection of forms, publication of statistical reports, etc.[2]

A global education agenda and related initiatives may have also placed financial pressure on many countries to be able to deploy more sophisticated EMIS, capable of monitoring service delivery or education outcome for specific populations such as children with special needs, refugees and displaced people, and capable of addressing specific data needs, such as learning outcomes from standardized student assessments; socio-economic, housing, and health information from household surveys and census data; socio-emotional and well-being standards from ad-hoc surveys, etc.[2]

An example of the pressure placed by the Sustainable Development Agenda on EMIS is the cost for developing countries to be able to monitor and report on progress towards SDG 4 and the Framework for Action. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics,[14] domestic investments needed to monitor this goal over a ten-year period in 135 low- and middle-income countries would range anywhere between 215 and US$248 million per year. This would include the collection of administrative data collected through school census, the establishment of sample-based learning assessment in early grade and at the last grade of primary.

See also[edit]


Definition of Free Cultural Works logo notext.svg This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 Text taken from The role of education management information systems in supporting progress towards SDG 4: recent trends and international experiences, UNESCO, UNESCO. To learn how to add open license text to Wikipedia articles, please see this how-to page. For information on reusing text from Wikipedia, please see the terms of use.


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