The Data Basis of Educational Planning


By Dr. Zakaria, M.Pd

1. In Unit 5 the planning process and its various stages were described. In all stages the planner needs information on which to base his decisions. He can never decide how many new schools should be constructed if he does not know how many schools already exist. But he also needs to know the quality of the existing buildings in order to determine how many school buildings may have to be replaced.

From this simple example it emerges already that there are two types of information:

  1. Quantitative data
  2. Qualitative information

Quantitative data are figures of statistics. They relate to the educational system but also to other systems related to education. There are, however, extremely important items of information which can not be quantified.

Statistics will include numerical information on number of schools, students, teachers, finance. Non-quantifiable data or qualitative information to be taken into account by the planner comprises information on the objectives of education and educational policies, the content of education, equality of opportunity to education, quality and relevance of education, etc.

2. In this and the following units we will concentrate on quantified data. The reader should, however, bear in mind that this is only one aspect of the information required by educational planners.

3. Statistics are needed by the planner in every phase of the planning process.

(i) The planning phase

This phase starts with a diagnosis of the educational system. Diagnosis without statistics is impossible. A statement like “there is a shortage of teachers” is almost meaningless for a planner. He needs to know how many teachers are short, at what level, with what type of specialization? Only if this type of detailed information is available, can the planner make the proper diagnosis.

From diagnosis the planner goes on to policy formulation teacher training institutions; determine whether new institutions will have to be created and what the financial implications will be. Therefore he will need detailed statistics on the existing capacity of teacher training institutions and on the costs of teacher training.

(ii) The plan-elaboration phase

The elaboration of the plan again requires statistical background data. The plan will be split up in programmes. Under each programme specific projects will be formulated and these projects have to be regionalized.

One programme could be primary teacher training. To formulate this programme detailed statistics would be required on primary teacher training capacity existing at the moment, the number of teacher educators, the costs of primary teacher training, etc. For regionalization of this programme one would need, for each province or region in the country, data on capacity for primary teacher training, on demand for new teachers and on the number of students seeking entrance into primary teacher training.

(iii) The implementation and evaluation phase

Once the plan has been finalized and implementation has started, the educational manager has to continuously check the progress made. For this he needs a constant flow of – mainly quantitative – information. Possible shortfalls or excesses should be recognized immediately so that remedial action – through revision of the plan – can be taken.

As a conclusion can be stated that, for the planning and management of the educational system a continuous flow of information – quantitative and qualitative – is required. Without this flow no accurate and timely decision can be taken.

4. It should be emphasized that the need for information not only arises from a central planning office in the Ministry of Education. Decisions have to be taken at all levels of the educational administrative hierarchy. School headmasters, inspectors, district Educational officers, as well as planners at the Ministry of Education are faced daily with problems which ask for decisions. At all levels quantitative and qualitative information is required and should be available.

5. To serve all these functions well educational statistics should be:

(1)   Comprehensive

(2)   Rapidly available

(3)   Reliable

Comprehensive Information

6. The modern educational manager has to take a systems view. In order to do this he needs information on the educational system as well as on other system in society related to education.

A good indication of the data required for the educational system as well as information for some other sectors of society can be obtained from the article by Mr. K.G. Bolin: Statistics Needed for Educational Planning, which is attached ad background reading material to this Unit. Of particular interest is statistical information on non-formal or out-of-school education. In the thinking and writing of the educationists non-formal education. In the thinking and writing of the educationists’ non-formal education is assigned an increasingly important role in attacking the basic problems of mass illiteracy and shortages of trained manpower. Planning non-formal education, however, is extremely difficult because of the lack of a data base. Establishing this data base presents practical and conceptual problems. Many different agencies are involved in providing this type of education (a score of government agencies and private bodies) and non-formal education takes many different forms (sandwich courses, evening classes, correspondence courses, radio and T.V. courses, literacy courses). Courses differ in duration and intensity, thus making it difficult to find a common denominator to estimate enrolment.

Comprehensive data should include “stock” and “flow” statistics. Stock statistics refer to the situation as it is measured on the pupils on that day. Flow statistics allow an assessment of the movement of teachers and pupils through the educational system. They include information on new entrance into grade I, repetition, drop-out of pupils in the system. For proper analysis of the educational situation and for projection of student flows through the school system adequate flow statistics should be available.

Recent Information

7. For adequate management recent information is required. If the information is a few years old, the decisions taken now refer to the situation of a few years ago and not to the present. The statistical process should therefore be properly organized. There are three ways of data collection for the educational statistics:

(a)   Personal inquiry by the statistician – This can help him to obtain data from other government offices on the non-educational statistics (demographic, economic, manpower, etc.). It my also be a way to obtain information from the bigger educational institutions like universities. Good and frequent contacts with these offices and institutions will enable the statistician to collect recent data from them.

(b)   Postal census of educational institutions – In all countries this is the most important way of data collection. Annually, a questionnaire is sent to all schools. The processing of the returns of the questionnaires is different in different countries, but basically there are who alternatives. In the first case the returns are collected by a central statistical office and checked and processed there (often through a computer). The second organization is step-wise, the number of steps varying from country to country, but a representative example of this case is that schools send their questionnaire returns to the district education office, which compiles the data on district level and send them on to a provincial office which takes care of provincial compilation and sends the provincial data to the central statistical office.

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. It is not necessarily so that a centralized and computerize organization can present the results quicker. It may take a central office longer to collect in return for computer consumption. The advantages of the computer are that is has more combinatory powers and can analyze all details that the questionnaires provide. The advantage of the step-wise organization is that data are collected and processed by those offices (district) where most educational decisions are taken. The district officers often have powers to decide on additional budgets and staff for schools and therefore they need urgently recent information.

Whichever way of organizing statistics a country may chose will depend on the particular ways of educational administration of that country. In all cases it should be possible that, when a questionnaire is distributed to the schools at the beginning of the school year, the collecting and processing of the returns will be finalized towards the end of the same school year.

(c)    Sample inquiry – The school census is an expensive and time-consuming operation because of the vast number of schools involved. For some items of information a small sample of schools can give us estimates which can be representative for the whole educational system (e.g. data on repetition, attendance, age-grade distribution, socio-economic background of pupils). The advantages of a sample are that it can be cheaper, quicker and a better check on its reliability is possible. If it appears, during the preparation of a plan, that certain important items of information are not available, a sample may be the only way to immediately obtain the data.

Reliable Information

8. It is obvious that only correct data are useful. No statistical figure can be foolproof but at least extent and direction of errors should be known.

To improve reliability of data an investigation into causes of unreliability is called for.

(1)   The first problem lies in the schools. Their records form the source from which the questionnaire is answered. In may schools no records are maintained or are very poorly maintained. Only if headmasters can be made to understand the importance of the statistical information he may take more care in answering the questions. In some countries the organization of decision-making is such that the headmaster purposely gives false answers in the hope of securing more resources for his school. Questionnaire returns should, therefore, be checked in personal visits by school inspectors.

(2)   The district education offices lack adequately qualified personnel and appropriate equipment for their statistical work. They have to obtain their information from many different agencies engaged in education, some of which are not under their direct authority (e.g. private schools). They also have to rely on often inadequate postal services.

It seems that for increasing the reliability of data the schools and the district offices are the crucial places in most countries.


9. It has been established that the planners and managers of the educational system need statistical information. Before starting the collection of statistics, the statistician should always consult the planner and manager on their data needs. The collection of statistics is a time-consuming and costly process and only useful data should be brought together.

After the collection of the raw statistical data, the statistician first has to check them on correctness and consistency. Then the phase of analysis and presentation starts. Analysis should bring out the crucial issues and trends of the educational development. The presentation of the data should be such that every user will immediately be able to understand and interpreted the data.




Suggested Reading:

K.G. Brolin: Statistics Needed for Educational Planning


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