Module A1: School records management

8. Standardizing school records

Imagine a situation in which different schools keep different kinds of school records using different formats to record different types of data following different practices. The variety of information recorded and the diversity of data quality based on different terminologies and definitions, not to mention possible discrepancies in the methods and tools used to record information, would make it very difficult to understand and meaningfully compare the performance of schools.

The establishment of a nationwide standard for SRMS presents an occasion to address these problems by standardizing key school records and practices. The aim is to promote the sys- tematic use of a uniform and common core set of school record forms and practices in all schools. This can help to ensure that all schools record the essential data and information and that these data are all comparable and consistent over time. This means they can be reliably interpreted and used both among schools and at higher levels of the education administration.

Not all the information generated in a school needs to be recorded. Similarly, not all the school records need to be standardized. Standardization applies when common data and information needs are identified for all the schools and at higher levels of the education administration, where they can be used for monitoring, management and planning purposes. if this is the case, it is necessary to collect and record the data and information in a uniform and comparable way using standardized record forms and following well-defined common definitions, norms and practices.

Standardization of school records can be organized following the steps below:

  1. Determine key data and information that must be systematically recorded by all schools.
  2. Clearly define what are these data and information, and explain how they can be recorded.
  3. Design standard school record forms that can be uniformly applied in all schools.
  4. Specify the norms and requirements that must be met to ensure a high standard of data quality.
  5. Describe good practices to be followed for managing standardized school records.
  6. Document standard instructions that cover each of these point that can be used to guide and train school managers and staff.

The end product of this standardization process is a set of school record forms accompanied by clear instructions about how to correctly fill out, update and manage each record, plus the definitions of terms and data quality norms. As can be seen in examples 1 to 10 in Section 3, these standard forms and instructions should be professionally designed and meet the following requirements:

  • They are clear, compact and easy to use for recording data and information at school;
  • Data are recorded according to uniform definitions and quality norms to ensure they are
  • consistent, reliable and comparable;
  • Records are designed so they are easy to store and locate when people need to search
  • and retrieve data; and
  • There are many possibilities to extract, analyse, interpret and use the data within the
  • school and for reporting data to higher levels and stakeholders. 

In addition, the design of these standard forms and instructions should enable these school records to be used to rapidly and reliably produce summary data for reporting to higher levels. These stan- dard forms and instructions should also be designed for easy use in organizing training and self- learning among school staff, plus technical support to the schools in SRMS.

CASE EXAMPlEStandardization of school records in some states of India

The departments of education in some states of india instruct all schools within the state to

maintain specific standard school records. in Andra Pradesh, 34 types of school records are required; in Maharashtra, 59; and in Kerala, 101.

The practice is to provide a list of required school records together with instructions for their use in the handbook for school head-teachers. Some states only provide the list of titles of the school records and allow the school head-teachers to design and manage the records for their school. Some states specify standard formats for the school records.

(Source: Information gathered during the Technical Workshop to Develop Training Modules on Systematic Monitoring of EFA held from 15-19 March 2010 in Chennai, India)

 

Activity 16

Discuss with the managers of 3-5 schools in your district, province or country about the need for standardization of key school records described in this section, and then answer the following questions:

For school managers and staff:

  1. do neighbouring schools record the same data and information in the same way and according to the same norms as in your school?
  2. What kind of data and information from school records can be reliably compared between schools?
  3. Will it be useful to standardize some key school records that are commonly used in many schools?
  4. if yes, please indicate which key school records should be standardized.

For district and local education officers and school inspectors:

  1. do neighbouring schools record the same data and information in the same way and according to the same norms as schools in your area?
  2. Which kinds of data and information from school records can be reliably compared among schools in your area?
  3. Will it be useful to try to standardize some key school records that are commonly used in many schools?
  4. if yes, please indicate which key school records should be standardized.

For central and provincial education administrators:

  1. Are there standard school records in your country or province? if yes, which school records have been standardized? if no, why not?
  2. can the data and information drawn from these standardized school records be reliably and meaningfully compared?
  3. Will it be useful to try to standardize some more key school records that are commonly used by many schools?
  4. if yes, which school records should be standardized (from the central/provincial perspective)?

8.1 designing standard school records

When designing a standard school record, we must first understand the following:

  • What is the purpose of the record?
  • What data and information will be recorded?
  • Who generates the data and information?
  • Who will record and update the information?
  • Who will access and use the information?
  • When will the information be recorded and updated?
  • How will the information be recorded, updated and used?
  • How will the record be stored and maintained?

To a large extent, the answers to these questions determine the design of each standard school record in terms of contents, organization and presentation. They also determine the practices and norms used to manage the quality of data and information, which can be summarized in the instruc- tions that accompany the school record form.

As explained in Section 7, there can be different kinds of school records, such as records of individual persons (e.g. students, teachers and school staff), records by class or by grade (e.g. attendance sheets and summaries of student examination results), and records for the whole school (e.g. inventories and financial records). These records are used for various purposes including monitoring and man- agement, and are created and used by different people in the school. Summary records in the form of summary tables or lists can be generated from these records for further analysis, interpretation and use in decision-making.

The following principles will help us create a good set of standardized school records. Such records must:

  • be simple.
  • capture all the data and information needed.
  • be presented clearly and unambiguously.
  • have clear definitions and explanations for all the terms that are used. 
  • be easy to fill out and update.
  • be easy to keep, maintain and protect.
  • have clearly defined data quality norms.
  • include complete and practical instructions.
  • present the recorded data so they are easy to understand and use.

8.2 implementing standardized school records

While designing standardized school record forms, we should consider the complexity and cost of printing standardized forms, and the availability of the materials that are required to produce these forms in some locations. Are cards, paper of the required size, paper of the right quality, and printing facilities available in all locations?

Three alternative options can be adopted:

(i) the central or provincial education administration prints the standard school record forms in large quantities and distributes them to all the schools;

(ii) schools produce these forms based on models provided by the Ministry of education; or

(iii) schools that are equipped with computers and capable of handling computerized school records may be provided with standard computerized templates of the standard school records. individual schools can use these templates to create, store and update records using their com- puter. These computerized templates may also have built-in functions to check for data errors and to calculate certain monitoring indicators such as the percentage of boy/girl students or the percentage of qualified teachers.

To ensure that the standard school records have been properly designed to fulfill their purposes, the forms and instructions must be pre-tested in as many different schools as possible to identify prob- lems and to gather feedback and suggestions about how to improve and finalize them.

during actual implementation of these standard school records, the Ministry of education should make a systematic effort to gather feedback and suggestions from the schools, and use these to further improve the school record management tools and practices.

Activity 17

Discuss with the managers of 3-5 schools in your district, province or country about the design of standard school records described in this section, and then answer the following questions:

For school managers and staff:

  1. What do you and neighbouring school managers think about the criteria, principles and method of designing standard school records described in this section?
  2. How would you and other neighbouring school managers go about standardizing some common school records?

For district and local education officers and school inspectors:

  1. What do you and school managers in your area think about the criteria, principles and method of designing standard school records described in this section?
  2. How would you and school managers in your area go about standardizing some common school records?

For central and provincial education administrators:

  1. From the central or provincial perspective, what do you think about the criteria, principles and method of designing standard school records described in this section?
  2. How would you go about standardizing some key school records?

8.3 establishing (or upgrading) a nationwide standardized SRMS

Strengthening information management and its use at school is a key to fundamental improvement of the school system. implementing an effective nationwide standardized SRMS is an important step forward. For all countries, this training module offers some ideas and examples for establishing and upgrading the existing SRMS, especially in the context of eFA.

As the implementation of such a nationwide standardized SRMS requires the understanding and cooperation of a wide range of education officers and school managers across the country, it will be necessary to first define and issue national policies and instructions to ensure that all schools comply and correctly implement the standardized SRMS. The central Ministry of education must lead this process of policy-making and oversee its implementation.

The steps to be taken by the Ministry of education to develop policies for ensuring the implementa- tion of a nationwide standardized SRMS include the following:

Step 1: Survey the information needs of key stakeholders: the schools, the Ministry of education, provincial and district education offices, local government and community members.

Step 2: Review existing school records management practices, tools and capacities, and find out how they correspond to the information needs identified in Step 1. This will help to identify gaps, issues and priorities.

Step 3: determine the kind of information that requires standardized records, storage and access at school. design (or upgrade), pre-test and finalize a set of standard school record forms together with data quality norms and good practices that should be applied to recording, accessing and using the required data and information at school.

Step 4: Prepare and issue detailed instructions about how schools are to implement the nationwide standardized SRMS, and the respective roles of the other stakeholders especially those in the district and local education offices.

Step 5: Plan iec (information, education and communication) strategies to sensitize, train, motivate and support school managers and staff to implement standard school record management. Such iec strategies can include training of school head-teachers, teachers and administrative staff on how to manage a SRMS.

Step 6: issue the policy accompanied by the instructions, standard forms, norms and recommended good practices, and activate the iec strategies to promote and support nationwide implementation in all schools.

Parallel administrative directives may be issued to provincial, district and local education officers and school inspectors that specify their responsibilities to support all the schools within their respective areas and ensure that they implement the standardized SRMS correctly and efficiently. cascading multiplier training may be organized to train the relevant staff from the provincial level down to the school level, and self-learning materials can be produced and made available in both printed and electronic form.

Activity 18

Discuss with the manager of 3-5 schools in your district, province or country about the steps described in this section for establishing (or upgrading) a nationwide standard school records management system, and then answer the following questions:

For school managers and staff:

  1. Do you agree with the need to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS? Why?
  2. What do you think about the suggested steps to take in order to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS? how would you go about it based on national practices?
  3. if it is decided to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS, will your school be prepared to participate in and contribute to this process?

For district and local education officers and school inspectors:

  1. Do you and the schools managers in your area agree with the need to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS? Why?
  2. What do you and the schools managers in your area think about the suggested steps to take in order to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS? how would you go about it based on national practices?
  3. if it is decided to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS, will you be prepared to participate in and contribute to this process?

For central and provincial education administrators:

  1. From the central/provincial perspective, do you agree with the need to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS? Why?
  2. What do you think about the suggested steps to take in order to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS?
  3. if it is decided to establish (or upgrade) a nationwide standardized SRMS, how will you go about it based on national procedures and practices?

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