Country Director of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
Founder and Executive Director of Discovery Insure Ltd
Heads of Departments
Key Stakeholders and Partners
It is my singular honour and privilege to deliver a keynote address on this august occasion, namely the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Data Summit.
Programme Director; this Data Summit is aimed at giving us and the Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) the opportunity to engage in the usage of data to make informed decisions. Thus through data-focused learning and collaboration, our ultimate objective is to strengthen data systems in support of Curriculum and District Management, and ultimately improved learner outcomes. The planning and management of any nation’s educational system depends greatly on the quality of data collection, analysis and storage, hence this summit.
I take this opportunity to thank the organizers namely the Directorate of Education Management Information System and our kind sponsors the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. This partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation shows clearly that education is indeed a societal issue. I wish to express my gratitude to the organizing committee for bringing to the forefront such an important issue namely the data driven decision making process in a quest to improve management system within the context of the demands of the 21st century educational environment.
Programme Director; this Data Summit comes at the opportune time as nations across the globe scramble to meet the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution. As we may recall, the First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
This 4th Industrial Revolution puts us on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. As a country and in particular an education department we cannot afford to be left behind, in fact we must be catalyst for change.
Education researchers have long concluded that data is an essential tool for planning. Strategic planning is important to an organization because it provides a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals. Strategic planning is a tool that is useful for guiding day-to-day decisions and also for evaluating progress and, for long-term planning. This task is almost impossible without reliable data. It’s therefore no exaggeration to say that records and record keeping are very vital tools for planning and decision making that flows from it.
Records are basically information. There are two categories of records that can be kept by any educational organisation. These are quantitative and qualitative information. While qualitative information are those information about the values of the system, objectives of the system and the curriculum of the system; the quantitative information relate to quantity, volumes and number. Quantitative information is often referred to as data or statistic. It will be an impossible task to plan and administer any organization in which records are not kept, or where records are carelessly and fraudulently kept. The education system is a sure system of production and we have numerous records or data we are expected to keep. (Prof. D.O. Durosaro, Department of Educational Management, University of Ilorin).
We have strived over the past two decades to collect education data from schools as per the National Education Information Policy by conducting school surveys. Over the years we have progressed and transformed this aggregated, self-reported form of data collection to unit level data via operational systems, where we are able to identify each individual learner. I am proud of the progress the DBE and Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) have made to put systems like the South African School Administration (SA-SAMS), and the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS) in place that support the acquisition of this valuable data from schools across the country.
Tools like the Business Intelligence Reporting System and the Data Driven District (DDD) Dashboard are able to display quick and easy reports to make efficient data driven decisions and planning. This data is typically used to provide baseline analysis, inform the definition of strategic intent and target setting, measure and monitor progress towards targets, and facilitate performance management of targets. In order for education officials at all levels to fully maximise on the value offered by education data, we need to ensure certain criteria are met.
The acquisition of South African education data is made possible through the use of SA-SAMS, the source of school data. Where data credibility is questionable, data validity tools can assist in addressing the data gaps to ensure the quality and completeness of the data before submission. However, the uploading of this data to systems such as LURITS and DDD is dependent on the enabling technical infrastructure, computer hardware and connectivity at school and district level.
Goal 22 of the DBE’s Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030 implores us to improve parent and community participation in the governance of schools, partly by improving access to important information via the e-Education strategy. In this regard, we have made a determination that e‐Education and Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) are key enablers for an improved quality public schooling. Thus, there is a concerted national effort to improve and diversify learning through the roll-out of high speed broadband connectivity in schools as the most crucial enabler of education. The provision of internet access, computers, servers, printers and other local area network related equipment is critical to the acquisition of education data across South Africa.
With the current systems in place, closer alignment between the existing systems is critical to address the strategic needs and priorities of the education system, specifically Curriculum and District requirements. Ensuring that EMIS, LURITS and the DDD Programme are aligned and provides the data required by these decision makers, which is essential to the efficient processing and effective decision making. It is also essential to ensure that these systems and data practices comply with sector standards and relevant policies and regulation. The Modernisation of SA-SAMS is set to address some of the existing concerns and increase the usage and integrity of the data capturing. In addition to supporting improved learner outcomes, the alignment of the existing systems will contribute to greater efficiency in the Department, saving time, effort and resources, and making operations more optimal for education officials. You will all have an opportunity in tomorrow morning's Commissions to address some of the challenges and discuss how to strengthen the current data systems to support curriculum and district management.
Furthermore, alignment and interoperability of systems and triangulation of data goes beyond just the education sector, and ventures to all other relevant Government systems at large to enable Government to plan, to intervene, to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP) and ultimately provide the right services to the right citizen, at the right time – all based on adequate, reliable and quality data.
Education data is meaningless unless it is used to make informed interventions. It is essential that we build internal analytical capability to provide increasingly meaningful data analysis, insights and recommendations to improve learner outcomes. Through the use of data, the Department can monitor and evaluate interventions and assess impact against objectives.
However, we can only achieve this if we make use of the valuable data we already have!
We need everyone to come on board and play their part. From us as the national department, down to our schools, let us all get involved by ensuring that the use of data to effectively make quality decisions is institutionalised in our Departmental practice. As members within strategic levels of the education sector, you are key role players in making education data work for you!
We are also gathered today to recognise the huge efforts that the Provincial Education Departments have put in over the number of years to get education data to where it is today. The DBE is aware of all the trials and tribulations the provinces, districts, circuits and schools had to go through to transform aggregated data to unit level and the DBE would like to recognise and award EMIS Provincial officials on their success in the country’s EMIS priorities, implementation and roll-out of SA-SAMS, implementation of LURITS and data as a whole.
The DBE would also like to acknowledge and award one school per province for the excellent use of SA-SAMS. The schools are the heart of where our service lies and to make full use of the tool that DBE has provided free-of-charge, speaks volumes on your commitment in improving our delivery.
The journey does not end at this celebration though. This is merely a stepping stone to more data challenges, longer hours, more sweat, and hard work to an integrated and greater vision of a data driven culture to enable a positive difference. I urge all provinces and schools to continue in achieving this goal.
In conclusion, I urge each and every one of you to make your commitment to data usage in everyday practice and planning, and to ensure implementation is timely and focused in-order to advance the quality of education in our nation. This will make a significant difference on how we monitor and manage the Quality of Education in South Africa and all round services we provide to our citizens, especially our children.
We have a unique opportunity in tomorrow's Commission sessions to identify the areas where we can make improvements to the current data systems to ensure that they are aligned and support Curriculum and District Management, so that education data works for all of us. Let us all participate wholeheartedly to ensure we maximise the time available, towards valuable insights and make improvements that will benefit each and every one of us, but most importantly, the learners of South Africa.
I thank you.