In most countries, the Ministry of education uses the school census as the main channel for collecting data from schools. Yet, despite having well-defined procedures (see Section 3.3), many school manag- ers continue to find it difficult to fill out the school census questionnaires and report to higher levels.
This section will help officers at all levels of the education administration to develop a better under- standing of the purpose of conducting a school census and their respective roles and responsibili- ties in the
process of completing the school census. School managers and district education officers will also understand the importance of maintaining good school records, and know how to utilize information from school records in reporting data to the school census (see also Module A1: School Records Management).
4.1 What is the purpose of a school census?
With networks of schools spreading far and wide across the country’s territory, and thousands if not millions of students and teachers, the education system has to be closely monitored, regulated and supported not only by the government but also by all the concerned stakeholders so as to ensure that it delivers quality education for all.
The annual school census is an important nationwide action to collect relevant, reliable and comparable data from all schools in a country (see Figure 1 in Section 2). The data, indicators and information produced by the school census can be used as the basis for policies, planning, manage- ment and informed decision-making at each level of the education system’s administration. They can also generate useful feedback to school managers and teachers so they can improve their prac- tices in teaching, learning and school management.
In addition, by sharing the information collected during school censuses with key stakeholders such as national and local governments, community leaders, parents and the general public, everyone has the opportunity to stay informed about developments in the education sector. Key stakeholders can understand what is happening in education, where are the gaps, what are the latest issues, and what kind of support is needed from them in order to improve delivery of Education for All.
In most countries, the Ministry of Education conducts a school census every year within one month of the beginning of the school year, when enrolment figures have stabilized. In such school censuses, data are collected about the students, teachers, textbooks, finance, condition of school facilities, etc. Some countries conduct a second school census at the end of the school year to gather complementary data on the number of drop-outs and in-transfers, school income received and expenditure incurred, and the performance of teachers and students.
For countries that operate a computerized eMiS (education Management information System) data- base, its design and functions should be synchronized with the seven stages of school census described in the previous section, so as to speedily and efficiently support data collection, processing, analysis, production and release of the needed education management information and eFA indicators.
Please review and discuss with various stakeholders about their perception of the purpose of the school census, and then answer the following questions. Where possible, please provide examples.
For school managers and personnel:
- Why do you think it is important to conduct a school census?
- What difficulties have you encountered when responding to the school census? What caused these difficulties? Please explain and give examples.
- According to you, in what way can these difficulties be solved?
- What kind of information resulting from a school census can be most useful for school managers?
For education officers at district and local level
- Why do you think it is important to conduct a school census?
- What kind of difficulties have the schools in your area encountered in responding to the school census? What caused these difficulties? Please explain and give examples.
- In what way can you help to solve these difficulties?
- What kind of information resulting from a school census can be most useful for education officers at the district and local education office?
For education officers at central and provincial level:
- Why do you think it is important to conduct a school census?
- To your knowledge, what kind of difficulties have the schools in your country/province encountered in responding to the school census? What caused these difficulties? Please explain and give examples.
- in what way can you help to solve these difficulties?
- What kind of information resulting from a school census can be most useful for education officers at the central or provincial level?
- The choices given must be based on the national structure of levels of education.
- As some schools may offer more than one level of education, one can either provide the possibility of multiple choices of levels, or list out all possible combinations of levels of education and allow only one choice as in example 1.
Compare the school background information and instructions in the latest national school cen- sus questionnaires with the example on p. 44, and then answer the following questions.
For school managers and personnel:
- What kinds of school background information are requested in the school census questionnaire used in your country?
- What kind of difficulties have you encountered when filling the section on school background information?
- When compared with the discussion above and the example of school background information on p. 44, what do you think can be improved in your national school census questionnaire?
For district, provincial and central education officers:
- What kinds of school background information are requested in the school census questionnaire used in your country? For what purpose are they included?
- What are the strengths and weakness of these questions? How was the quality of data received so far? Please give examples.
- When compared with the discussion above and the example of school background information on p. 44, what do you think can be improved in this part of your national school census questionnaire?
4.2.4 School facilities, buildings, furniture, equipment, teaching and learning materials
School facilities include tangible property such as buildings, furniture, equipment, and stock of teaching and learning materials. depending on the overall state of school facilities in the country, and the need for up-to-date information, the national school census questionnaire may include questions about the quantity and quality of each type of facilities. While planning the questionnaire, the Ministry of education in each country should decide the degree of detail they require about each type of facilities in school. For some facilities, it may be necessary to ask detailed questions such as the age, condition, construction materials and frequency of use, while for other physical assets, a stock count may be sufficient.
As can be seen in the example questionnaire on pp. 44-47, schools can have different types of build- ings. usually information about school buildings focuses on the number of classrooms and other rooms, and their surface area. in some cases, more detailed information may be asked about the year of construction, the materials used in construction, and the present condition of the building or rooms. Optional questions about classroom utilization, such as how many classrooms are used for double shifts or multi-grade classes, or the average number of hours per week classrooms are used, may be included in the questionnaire. Other additional details should only be requested if there is a
genuine need and use for the information. As mentioned in Section 4.2, separate technical evaluation reports can be commissioned to examine the detailed state and conditions of school facilities, so as not to overload the school census questionnaire and over-burden the respondents.
In principle, information about the following list of school facilities should be collected in a school census:
- school land use
- buildings and fixed structures
- teaching materials
- learning materials
- electricity, water supply, latrine, etc.
The purpose of collecting information about these facilities is to:
- check if there are enough facilities, materials and equipment for the number of students and range of school activities;
- assess the quality and condition of these facilities so decisions can be made about acquiring new facilities or relocation, repair and maintenance of existing facilities, or disposal of expired assets;
- collect data on the utilization rate to ensure the facilities are not laying idle and any money allocated to acquire new facilities or maintain existing facilities is being well spent.
Data about school facilities should be updated regularly in the school records and used in response to related questions in the annual school census.
- Most countries have defined national standards and norms for school infrastructure and facilities. These standards should be clearly explained in the school census instructions. The questionnaire should be designed to collect information about the actual state of school facilities according to the standards.
- Avoid requesting too detailed, technical information about school facilities in the questionnaire. Collect only summary data to help identify schools with specific problems in school facilities. Qualified experts can then be asked to conduct detailed investigations about the problems and provide technical reports.
When requesting information about the condition of school facilities, the criteria used for judg- ing the state of repair should be objective and unambiguous. if descriptions such as ‘in good condition’, ‘in need of repair’ or ‘to be replaced’ are used, the exact meaning of these terms should be clearly explained based on national standards. if no such standards have been defined, you may use a working definition of these conditions such as those in the instruction box in Part 2 of the example on p. 44, and adapt these for use. Avoid allowing non-technical people the opportunity to make subjective judgments about the state of school facilities.
Textbooks are a key resource for learning. The main concern is about the availability and utiliza- tion of learning materials. Some countries implement policies to provide free textbooks. They can collect data on learning materials using a table like the one shown in example 2 below, to track the quantity of textbooks the school received from the Ministry of education, and those distributed to students in each grade. By gathering this information, the Ministry of education can manage the supply and distribution of textbooks from the government to the students.
To achieve the eFA goals by 2015, it is important that all students have access to appropriate learning materials including textbooks. This may be monitored by identifying and counting those students who do not have the textbooks required for their grade and subjects, so that appropriate actions can be taken to help them to obtain the missing textbooks. during the school census, such information can be collected using the table in Question 14 of the example questionnaire on p. 45. While filling in this table, the school manager can use the textbook record sheets in the school records.
Data about missing textbooks can be used to compare the availability of textbooks among schools and to know the number and percentage of students who do not have each required textbook.It is important for the schools to regularly update their textbook records to track the availability of textbooks, at least once at the beginning of each school term and during the school term.
Schools should ensure their environment is safe and all students have access to basic amenities such as clean water, separate latrines for boys and girls, electricity, school meals, and other essential services at school. Providing these facilities encourages students to actively attend class and aids their learning and completion of schooling, which contributes to achieving the eFA Goals. Questions 15 and 16 on p. 45 present possible ways to collect such data.
For school managers and personnel: Try to fill out the tables in Part 2 of the example school census questionnaire on pp. 44 regarding school buildings, furniture, facilities, equipment, and teaching/learning materials using recent data available in your school, and then answer the following questions.
- How relevant and useful are these data on school building/furniture/equipment/ facilities/ teaching/learning materials? Why?
- What kind of difficulties did you encounter while filling out the tables in Part 2 of the example annual school census questionnaire? Why?
- What is the best way to collect data about your school’s facilities? Please give examples.
For central, provincial and district education officers: Please compare your recent national school census questionnaires with the example tables given on pp. 44-47, and then answer the following questions.
- How useful and important is it to collect data on school building/furniture/ equipment/facilities/ teaching/learning materials? Why?
- in what ways do your data collection practices, and the type of data you collect, differ from those in the example annual school census questionnaire or in example 2? Why?
- What kind of difficulties can prevent a school from recording and reporting reliable data about its facilities? How might these problems occur?
- What is the best way to collect data about a school’s facilities? Please give examples.
4.2.6 School income and expenditure
All schools must manage financial resources effectively. Monitoring school finance by collecting income and expenditure data from schools is an important part of nationwide education manage- ment and monitoring for eFA. The Ministry of education can then identify funding gaps and problems in financial management in schools so as to take action to fill the gaps and address the problems.
With increasing decentralization and autonomy being given to schools to generate and manage financial resources, such data collection can help to better understand the degree of diversifica- tion of school finance and accompanying issues and gaps. Requiring schools to report on their financial status strengthens accountability and improves overall accountability in the financial sys- tem. it has the additional benefit of encouraging schools to maintain detailed and accurate ledgers and accounts as part of standard school management practices.
- School managers should ensure that detailed and accurate financial ledgers and accounts are maintained and regularly updated for both school management and reporting purposes.
- School-level financial summaries should be prepared periodically. These financial summaries can be used for school management, reporting to local stakeholders and higher levels of the education administration.
Part 3 of the example school census questionnaire on p. 45 shows how data about school income and expenditure can be collected during an annual school census. School censuses, which usually take place at the beginning of the school year, collect summary financial data from the previous school year or financial year. Financial summaries prepared by the school on a monthly or semester basis during the school year are used in ongoing school management and reporting.
Data about school income should be categorized by sources of income. data about school expendi- ture should be categorized by type of expenditure. The ‘type of expenditure’ categories may either follow standard national practices, or include the categories suggested in Questions 17 and 18 on p. 45. Clear and concise definitions of the income categories and expenditure types must be attached to the questionnaire. if needed, a telephone hotline or internet FAQ should be provided to answer questions so as to minimize errors in data on school finance.
With decentralization, schools have gained autonomy and diversified their sources of income. Besides central government budget allocations, they can receive additional provincial, district and local government funding, and funding from non-governmental organizations, local business and communities, private bodies, donations, not to mention from school fees and income derived from products and services provided by the school. Collecting data on school income categorized by
ource of fund can help to assess the effectiveness of decentralization and the degree of diversifica- tion of school finance. Clear instructions about reporting on school income by funding sources must accompany the school census questionnaire to minimize double-counting and other errors. Guid- ance can also be provided to the schools in mobilizing and managing diversified financial support.
in most countries, school expenditure is categorized as capital expenditure or current (or recurrent) expenditure. each of these two main categories contains more detailed sub-categories of expendi- ture. While choosing which sub-categories to include in the school census questionnaire:
- apply the national accounting standards as implemented by Ministry of Education;
- include appropriate sub-categories to collect additional data on expenditure in schools.
For example, Part 3 of the example questionnaire on p. 45 includes specific expenditure sub-cate- gories of: school transportation, school feeding programme, and boarding. When monitoring eFA, these are important expenditure categories to ‘reach the unreached’ by facilitating the participa- tion of disadvantaged students from poor families or remote areas. Schools that do not have these expenditures can report their expenditure on these items as either zero or ‘not applicable’. Based on the reported data, education officers at different levels can take more effective actions to ‘reach the unreached’ and monitor their impact.
For school managers and personnel: Using data available at your school, fill in the tables about school finance in Part 3 of the example questionnaire on p. 45, and then answer the following questions.
- Why is it important to report data about school income and expenditure?
- What kind of difficulties did you encounter while filling out Part 3 of the example school census questionnaire on p. 45? What was the reason for these difficulties?
- Which sub-categories of school income and expenditure do not apply to your school? Which other sub-categories should be added?
For central education officers: Based on the discussions above, compare Part 3 of the exam- ple questionnaire on p. 45 with the practices of monitoring school finance in your country, province or district, and answer the following questions.
- How important is it to collect data about income and expenditure from schools?
- What kind of difficulties have you encountered in collecting data on income and expenditure from schools? What are the reasons for these difficulties?
- Which sub-categories of school income and expenditure do not apply to the schools in your country/province/district? Which other sub-categories should be added?
Teachers are the backbone of any education system. Without the devotion, commitment and con- tribution of teachers, it will not be possible to achieve eFA goals. Monitoring the teaching force and school personnel is therefore essential for eFA and school censuses.
School censuses can collect data about teachers using two alternative approaches:
- Summary statistical tables; or
- Summary list of teachers
Statistical summary tables: One or more statistical tables (see examples 3 and 4) can be designed and used to collect data on head-counts of teachers according to various characteristics such as by gender, age-group, qualification, employment status, years of service, subject specialization, language and special skills, and from other individual information contained in teacher records as shown in example 5 in Module A1.
The advantage of using summary tables is that the reported head-count data can be immedi- ately used to calculate various indicatorssuch as male-to-female teacher ratios, percentages of untrained or under-qualified teachers, and other useful eFA indicators. The main disadvantage of using the summary tables approach is that a number of separate tables are required to collect data about head-counts of teachers according to different characteristics. The number of such summary tables may be too many and difficult for the school managers to fill in all of them. A solution will be for the schools to use the latest teacher records to produce in advance such summary statistical tables, so that the data can be readily and directly copied into the corresponding school census tables.
- Marital status can be a key data to collect as it helps to decide on deployment of teachers to remote or disadvantaged areas, and on related salary scales and incentives.
- data on the nationality, ethnicity and language capabilities of teachers can help to map the geo- graphical distribution in the country of teachers of different nationalities and ethnicities, and of those who can teach in specific languages.
Summary list of teachers: Another way to collect information on teachers in schools is to include in the school census questionnaire a summary list of teachers (see Part 4 of the example questionnaire on p. 46). The school manager will use the teacher records in school to fill in this summary list by put- ting each teacher’s name alongside key information about for example the teacher’s gender, year of birth, highest academic qualification, pre-service and in-service teacher-training received, employment status, years of service, main responsibilities, subject and grade taught and average teaching hours per week. This summary list does not need to include all the information in the teacher records at school, but rather only those characteristics for which reliable information is available and which will be useful for education human resource management at the national and provincial level.
The Ministry of education can use this information about individual teachers reported by all schools to update the central teacher database, and if applicable also the teacher records kept at the provincial and district education offices. By using a computerized database, the Ministry of education can then easily generate a wide range of summary tables showing the number of teachers by different charac- teristics like the examples 3 and 4, and by school, district, province as well as for the whole country. This approach can minimize the workload of school managers, and reduce the risk of them mak- ing errors, as they do not need to perform multiple teacher head-counts according to different characteristics, or to sum up and tabulate the resulting data. Schools that do not maintain and regularly update their teacher records will however have difficulty filling out this summary list. This approach can therefore encourage schools to maintain up-to-date and accurate teacher records.
- Provide clear definitions and descriptions of each kind of teacher characteristics next to or below the summary list (see Part 4 of the example questionnaire on p. 46).
- Some teachers may teach several grades or subjects. The questionnaire should allow the respondent to indicate more than one grade and more than one subject.
- Those teachers who can teach in languages other than the national language should be identi- fied in the teacher records, reported in the school census, and counted in summary tables by lan- guage and location as this can help to identify those teachers who may be deployed to specific schools based on their language abilities.
Gather samples of national school census questionnaires used in your country in recent years, review the section about teachers, compare with Part 4 of the example questionnaire on p. 46. Then, answer the following questions:
For school managers and personnel:
- Is Part 4 of the example questionnaire on p. 46 different to the corresponding part about teach- ers in your national school census questionnaire? if so, in what way is it different?
- What are the pros and cons of the two different approaches, namely using statistical summary tables or a summary list of teachers?
- Do you maintain and update teacher records at your school? if yes, how would you go about using data from the teacher records for the school census? if no, how will you obtain reliable data about teachers for use in responding to the school census?
For district, provincial and central education officers:
- How will you collect reliable data about teachers? Will you use the summary table approach, or the summary list approach described above? Why?
- How will you use the data collected about teachers in the school census?
- does your Ministry of education or education office maintain a teacher database? How regularly is this teacher database updated? How can the annual school census help to update your teacher database?
- What kind of statistical summary tables about teachers will you create based on the data available in your database or data that could be collected through a summary list of teachers during the school census?
4.2.8 Classes and Students
Students are the main constituents, clients, beneficiaries as well as products of education. Students learn in groups or classes at school. in this section, we look at ways of collecting data about classes and students in the school census. Please also refer to Part 5 of the example school census question- naire on p. 47.
Bear in mind the following two principles when collecting data about students:
Data accuracy: Tables about students require many head-counts by grade and by gender. Remind the respondents to take special care to ensure they enter accurate data and in the correct cells in the table.
Data completeness: Always fill in every cell in the tables. Where appropriate, use designated special symbols to indicate the nature of the data provided, for example ‘*’ for ‘Estimate’; ‘…’ for ‘Data not available’; ‘-‘ for ‘Magnitude nil/negligible’; etc. For partial or incomplete data, remember to add a footnote to explain the limitations.
Number of classes by grade
Question 20 in the example school census questionnaire on p. 47 presents a simple table for collect- ing data about the number of classes in a school. A class is defined as a group of students who study together in a classroom, and are normally (but not always) in the same grade. The purpose of Ques- tion 20 is to identify how many classes, or groups of students, are in each grade in a school. The data may be extracted from general school records, or class records. To obtain the ‘student-class ratio’, or average class-size, simply divide the total number of students by the total number of classes. This ratio can be compared between grades and schools to identify classes that have too many, or too few, students.
Collecting data about classes is not always easy as there are many different class situations. Some schools, for example, have classes that are divided into morning and afternoon shifts, while some other schools may operate multi-grade classes. example 5 presents one method to collect data a bout the number of classrooms used for multi-grade teaching.
Enrolment by grade, gender and age, and repeaters and in-transfers
The table for collecting data about enrolment by grade, gender and age is an important table in school censuses (see Question 21 in the example school census questionnaire on p. 47). it shows how participation in education varies by age and gender, and can be used to detect disparities in enrol- ment for planning remedial actions.
Student records contain the information needed to complete this table, or student summary lists by class can be used. The step-by-step instructions in the diagram below show how school managers and personnel can use student records and/or the student summary lists to accurately complete this summary table.
- Step 1a: gather together all the student records and group them by class and grade.
- Step 1b: Copy each student’s name, age and sex into a student summary list by class (see Section 7 and example 12 in Module a1).
- Step 1c: gather all the summary lists of students by class/grade (if these exist).
- Step 2: read through the individual student records, or the summary lists of students by class, and then tally the number of students in each grade by age and gender.
- Step 3: after completing the tally sheets for all the grades and students in the school, count the tallies and fill the corresponding numbers into each cell of the age-grade-gender enrolment table, grade-by-grade, and then add up the horizontal and vertical totals.
Age: Based on national practice, a date can be indicated as the cut-off date for determining the age of students (see the instruction below Question 21 on p. 47).
Grade: apply the age-grade correspondence as defined in the national education structure.
Reference date: data about enrolment should refer to a common date for all schools, or for a limited range of a few days. This reference date should be clearly defined in the census instructions.
Students who repeat a grade, ‘in-transfer’ students and drop-outs by grade
Data about students who repeat a grade and ‘in-transfer’ students by grade can be used to assess the internal efficiencyand quality of the school. Data about the number of students who repeat a grade and ‘in-transfers’ can be tallied from student records or student summary lists by class, and reported using the same table for enrolment by grade, gender and age in Question 21 of the example school census questionnaire on p. 47. data about drop out students by grade can be recorded throughout the school year, and reported separately either at the end of the school year, or in the school census questionnaire in the following year.
New entrants to Grade 1
Data about new entrants to Grade 1 are essential for gauging the degree of admission, and hence first-time access, to primary education.data about the number of new entrants into Grade 1 can be tallied in the same way as above from either the student records or student summary lists by class for Grade 1 (see Section 7.1 and example 12 in Module A1), and directly copied into the statisti- cal table in Question 22 on p. 47. The data collected can be used to identify disparities in access to primary education between boys and girls, and the number and percentage of over-aged or under- aged students who entered primary education for the first time (see example 14 in Module A1).
- Be careful not to confuse ‘new entrants to Grade 1’ with ‘enrolment in Grade 1’ as the latter may include students who repeat Grade 1.
- To the extent possible, separate ‘in-transfers into Grade 1’ from ‘new entrants to Grade 1’ by identifying those students who transferred into this school from another school.
- data about the number of new entrants to Grade 1 who participated in early childhood care and/or education (eCCe) are useful for monitoring eFA. These can be added to the bottom of the table in Question 22 of the example questionnaire on p.47.
Examination results for the previous school year
Tests and examinations are organized in school to assess progress and identify students with learning problems. Schools can retrieve data about students who successfully passed examinations during the previous school year from school records , and use them to fill in the table in Question 23 of the example school census questionnaire on p. 47. Students who passed the final examination in the highest grade may be considered as students who have successfully completed primary education. Such data can be used to calculate the indicator of completion rate.
Duration of travel of students from home to school
Experiences in many countries have shown that the distance between students’ home and school, or the duration of travel to and from school, can affect access and participation in education especially student’s regularity in class attendance and learning. Question 24 in the example school census questionnaire presents a table to collect data about the number of students according to duration of travel from home to school, by grade and gender. Such data can be extracted from stu- dent records.
Example 6 below shows a similar table based on the distance between home and school. This table can be used to collect data on the number of students in terms of distance from school. either this or the table in Question 24 can be used, and the common purpose of both is to identify students who either live too far from school or take long hours to reach school. These data can guide rational planning of the location of schools as well as measures to adjust class schedules, organize trans- portation services, and/or establish boarding facilities for students from distant areas.
Other optional questions and tables
Depending on specific contexts and information needs, other optional questions or tables may be added to the school census questionnaire, providing they apply to all schools and are absolutely essential. Otherwise, special surveys may be organized separately to ask these optional ques- tions to specific individual schools.
In example 7, the school census questionnaire from the Lao People’s democratic Republic requires the schools to provide data about the number of new entrants to Grade 1 by gender and language group.
These data can in principle be extracted from the student records.33 The Ministry of educa- tion can use information about the size and location of students from different language groups to organize appropriate actions to: (a) teach them in the mother tongue; (b) adjust curricula for lan- guage teaching; and (c) recruit, train and deploy teachers with different language capabilities.
Information about students with disabilities (see example 8 below) can help the Ministry of educa- tion to develop policies and action to improve their access, participation and attendance in school or other types of adapted learning experiences. data about students with disabilities can be obtained from the student records.
Information about other barriers that prevent some children from fully participating in primary education, such as those from poor households, socio-cultural restrictions, health and nutritional problems, should be collected to enable eFA monitoring with the goal of ‘reaching the unreached’. These data should only be requested in the annual school census questionnaire if the data are reli- ably recorded by all schools as part of their school record system.
Always reserve some space at the end of the school census questionnaire for the respondents to provide relevant additional information, as shown in Part 6 of the example school census question- naire on p. 47. Such information about the school may not have been asked in any of the questions and tables from Parts 1 to 5. The respondent can also use this space to specify possible limitations and problems in the data they reported. Any other relevant information that the respondent may wish to add can be included here as well.
For school managers and personnel: Try to fill in the tables in Part 5 about classes and students in the example school census questionnaire on p. 47, and then answer the following questions.
- Are the data in your school records adequate for responding to Questions 20 to 24?What data are missing in your school records? Will it be useful to record this information in future? if yes, how? if no, why not?
- How relevant and useful is the table on the number of classes by grade in your school? What kind of difficulties have you encountered in filling it in? Why?
- How relevant and useful are the four tables in Questions 21 to 24 about students? What kind of difficulties have you encountered in filling them in? Why?
- What other tables or questions about classes and students should be added to the school census questionnaire? Why? How would you go about adding them?
- What kind of problems and issues should be addressed regarding the collection of data about classes and students during school censuses?
For district, provincial and central education officers: Compare the questions and tables about classes and students in your national school census questionnaire with those in Part 5 of the example school census questionnaire on p. 47. Then, answer the following questions.
- What are the differences between the two questionnaires with regard to classes and students? What are their respective advantages and disadvantages in terms of relevance and usefulness of the data? How would you go about further improving your national school census questionnaire, taking lessons from this comparison?
- What are the differences between the two questionnaires with regard to definitions and classification of the categories? How would you go about harmonizing them?Are there fundamental differences that cannot be harmonized? Why?
- How would you define and categorize ‘students with special needs’?How would you go about collecting data on ‘students with special needs’?
Various stakeholders, from the Ministry of education through to school staff, are involved in the pro- cesses of the school census. each of them has specific roles and responsibilities at different stages of the census process as summarized in Table 1 and discussed in detail below.
4.3.1 Designing the questionnaire
The Ministry of Education is responsible for organizing the school census process and designing the questionnaire. Before designing the questionnaire, the Ministry of education’s staff review past, present and future needs for information and identify the data that should be collected to meet these needs. The following tips may help while designing the census questionnaire.
- Guidelines, explanatory notes and definitions: Provide clear definitions and explanations of the terms, categories and data standards in the questionnaire. Always provide practical instructions on how to fill in each part of the questionnaire (see the example annual school census questionnaire on pp. 44-47)
- Clear and simple: use simple and straight-forward language in the questionnaire that can be easily understood.
- Special explanation for changes from one year to another year: if there are any changes from the previous year, explain the changes in the questionnaire.
- Convenient size: Keep the size of the questionnaire small and handy. its format and the number of pages should be convenient for transmission and completion. if possible, try to limit the question- naire to not more than 4 pages.
- Design for computerized data processing: For countries which operate a computerized education management information system (eMiS), the questions and tables in the questionnaire should be designed to facilitate completion for eventual computerized data entry and processing. For exam- ple, answers to close-ended questions can be pre-coded, and data reported in the tables can be directly and efficiently entered into computer storage.
- Suitable timing for collecting available data: The census should be held at a time when the required data are available and also when it is convenient to distribute the questionnaire and collect the completed form. One month after the start of the school year, when enrolments have stabilized, is often a suitable time to conduct a school census.
To collect the data that are necessary for monitoring progress in ‘reaching the unreached’ under education for All, the design of questionnaires should take into account various social, economic, cultural and linguistic contexts especially among disadvantaged population groups of different eth- nicities, languages, religions, cultural traditions, attitudes towards schooling, children with various disabilities, etc.
CHECK LIST FOR GOOD DESIGN OF SCHOOL CENSUS QUESTIONNAIRES
- Is the size of the questionnaire easy to handle and complete? n is the layout clear and unambiguous?
- Is the text easy to read and to understand?
- Is the number of questions kept to a minimum?
- Is the sequence of the questions logical?
- Is there enough space for filling in the answers?
- Are the boxes, tables and headings well organized?
- Do the tables have a limited number of sub-categories?
- Are tables printed on one page, rather than being split across two pages?
- Are the closed-ended questions pre-coded?
- Are the closed-ended response options mutually exclusive?
- Are open-ended questions kept to a minimum?
- Is it a self-contained questionnaire (with all the essential explanations and instructions given in the questionnaire)?
- Are the instructions clear and easy-to-follow?
Pre-testing the draft school census questionnaire with a representative sample of schools is an important step before finalization and full-scale distribution of the questionnaires to collect data from all schools. The purpose is:
- To check if the questionnaire is easy to handle and complete, the questions and tables are clear, easy to understand and easy to respond to, and if there are any errors, ambiguities and improvements needed.
- To gather possible answers to open-ended questions so as to identify the most common responses. These can be set as multiple choice options for close-ended questions.
The Ministry of Education is responsible for planning and organizing pre-tests of the school census questionnaire. The sample schools selected should represent different sizes and char- acteristics among schools in the country. if the schedule and resources for preparing the school census allow, try to pre-test the questionnaire with more schools so as to obtain more feedback. The district education offices which oversee the sample schools can be asked to help the Ministry of education to distribute the pre-test questionnaire and gather feedback from these schools.
TIPS ON BASIC STEPS IN PRE-TESTING SCHOOL CENSUS QUESTIONNAIRE:
- Sampling: Select for pre-tests a sample of schools which are as representative as possible of the characteristics of all the schools.
- Questionnaire: Make sure a sufficient number of copies of the draft questionnaire are printed for use during the pre-test.
- Gather feedback: instruct all local interviewers and pre-test administrators to gather and report a maximum amount of feedback about the questionnaire’s design, question wording, table format, functionalities, instructions, etc.
- Conducting pre-testing: Make every effort to ensure full and timely distribution of the draft questionnaire to all the sample schools, and assist every one of them to complete the pre-test with feedback comments and suggestions.
- Debriefing the interviewers and checking the results: Gather and review all feedback and comments from the respondents, and then check all the results to eliminate errors, ambiguities and omissions.
During the pre-test, feedback comments and suggestions are sought about the following aspects:
CHECK LIST PRE-TESTING
- How did the interview go?
- Did the interviewers receive valid feedback comments and suggestions?
- Is the questionnaire too long? Or too short? Which parts? Why?
- Is the questionnaire design clear and handy? What should be improved?
- Is the order of the questions logical?
- Are the questions and instructions easy to understand?
- Are the format and space for answers to each question or table suitable for filling in the required response?
- Which parts of the questionnaire create ambiguity or raise additional questions? n Which parts of the questionnaire seem repetitive or redundant?
- Were the respondents able to understand and follow all the instructions?
4.3.3 Revision of the school census questionnaire
Following the pre-test, the Ministry of Education revises the questionnaire and the instructions based on the results and feedback gathered. The revisions will focus on streamlining, fine-tuning and finalizing the content and design of the questionnaire including its structure, layout, question phrasing, table format, definitions, explanations and instructions. if new information that should be collected during the school census was identified during the pre-test, it will be taken into consider- ation while designing the final school census questionnaire.
4.3.4 Distribution of the questionnaire
There are different ways to distribute the blank questionnaire to schools. in some countries, the Ministry of Education sends the printed questionnaire directly to the schools. in other countries, the Ministry of education sends boxes of questionnaires to the provincial education office which in turn further distributes them to the district education offices. The district education offices then deliver the blank questionnaires to the schools.
in countries where the provinces have a high degree of autonomy, the central Ministry of education may only provide the final design of the school census questionnaire to the provincial education offices, and allow them to add questions and tables to collect additional data they need, before they print and distribute the questionnaires to the schools.
Before distributing the blank questionnaires to the schools and collecting the completed returns, the district and local education officers should remember to:
- Update the local school list and carefully check the distribution of questionnaires to make sure that all the schools and their school managers receive the questionnaire.
- Choose the most suitable time for distribution of the questionnaires (within the timeline set by the Ministry of education) and for reminding the schools about the submission deadlines to ensure they return the completed questionnaire on time.
As the use of iCT is becoming more prevalent in many countries, the Ministry of education can collect data from the schools electronically. There are several tools and methods for achieving this including:
- The Ministry of Education sends an electronic copy of the census questionnaire as an e-mail attach- ment or on Cd-ROM. Schools that have computers with internet access can complete and send back the file electronically. For schools that do not have computers or internet access, the district education office can print the questionnaire and instructions on paper and give these to the school. The school may then complete the questionnaire by hand, for the district education office to enter the data into an electronic form on behalf of the school. Once the Ministry of education has received the data in electronic files, they can be transferred directly into the Ministry’s eMiS database.
- The Ministry of Education creates and uploads an internet version of the school census question- naire online, and provides authorization to school managers to access it through the Ministry of education’s website. The school manager can directly enter their answers to the questions and data into the tables of the online questionnaire. They can also easily access the definitions and instructions by clicking the hyperlinks.
4.3.5 Completing the questionnaire
School managers are responsible for gathering the school records and summarizing the data to fill in the questionnaire. District or local education officers may provide guidance and assistance when needed. They can also guide the school managers in gathering the right data and completing the questionnaire in the right way, and ensure they return the completed questionnaire on time (see the 5-right principles in Section 3.1).
TIPS FOR SCHOOL MANAGERS WHILE COMPLETING THE QUESTIONNAIRE:
- Carefully read all the instructions and be sure to follow them while completing the questionnaire. n Check each page, each question and each table before returning the questionnaire to make sure they are properly filled in and that no data is missing.
- Add a footnote on the bottom of the page, or provide an explanation at the end of the question- naire, to explain the reasons for any questions with no responses or where the data provided has caveats or limitations.
- Contact the district education officers as often as needed for assistance/guidance.
in practice, school inspectors can help district and local education officers to assist school manag- ers to correctly complete the school census questionnaire and return it on time. As school inspectors usually have a thorough knowledge of the state of the schools in their area, they can be very effective in these tasks. School inspectors should therefore be trained in the school census process, so they can not only assist the school managers but also get and use the latest data for school improvement.
4.3.6 Return of the completed questionnaires
Three kinds of actions can be taken by the district education officers and school inspectors to help school managers to complete and return the questionnaires on time:
- Systematically keep track of schools that have received and already returned the completed school census questionnaires.
- Follow up and remind schools that have not returned the questionnaire by the deadline.
- Directly assist those schools that have difficulties completing and returning the questionnaire on time.
If schools send their completed questionnaires to the district education officer, the district edu- cation officer should make a preliminary check of the completed questionnaires when they are received, to make sure that all the questions and tables are completed on every page, and that most of the answers and data seem to be logical and correct (see also Section 6 on data quality control for details). if there are data omissions and obvious errors in the returned school questionnaire, the district education officer should contact the school manager to clarify and correct these data omis- sions and errors. Once the district education officer has verified that the questionnaire is complete and correct, they can forward it to higher levels of the education administration.
The district education officer should keep a copy of each school’s completed questionnaire as these are useful for updating the records kept at the district education office, and also for further analysis and use in managing and supporting schools in the district.
When the questionnaires are delivered to the provincial level, the provincial education officer should verify that all the schools within their province have properly completed the questionnaire, and identify the schools that have missed the deadline. if any schools fail to respond by the deadline, the provincial education officer may either contact the school directly, or through the responsible district education officer, to help find solutions to any problems that have prevented the school from responding to the census questionnaire. As part of the data quality control process, the provincial education officers will select and check a sample of the completed questionnaires for more detailed data omissions and errors (see also Section 6 on data quality control for details).
When the Ministry of Education receives the completed questionnaires, it will monitor the response rate and help the provincial and district education offices to collect questionnaires from schools that haven’t responded. The Ministry of education is also responsible for entering data from the census into the central eMiS database, and performing additional quality control checks, before processing the data and performing analysis (see also Section 6 on data quality control for details).
Discuss and clarify with education officers from other levels of the education administration about respective roles and tasks during school census data collection, and answer the following questions:
- What are the similarities and differences between the practices in your own country/province/dis- trict and the description provided in this section with regard to the roles, responsibilities and tasks of various people during the school census process?
- Could such processes be further improved in your own country/province/district? if yes, how?