Module A3: Education Indicators and Data Analysis

3. Types of indicators

Various indicators may be used to monitor different aspects of the education system, especially when monitoring progress toward achieving the six eFA goals (see also Section 2 of Module A2). in fact, dif- ferent indicators may be appropriate for measuring different phenomena for different purposes at dif- ferent levels of the education administration.

Having a better understanding of the types of education indicators and their characteristics can help to determine and select the most appropriate indicators to use. in this section, we introduce four approaches to classifying education indicators including:

  • quantitative and qualitative measurement
  • monitoring and evaluation of education as a system
  • aspects of education
  • measurement scale

3.1 Quantitative and qualitative indicators

Quantitative indicators describe objects and phenomena using only numbers. Qualitative indicators can use symbols, verbal, visual, textual as well as numerical information to depict a state, or an observation. Quantitative and qualitative indicators may complement each other to help develop a more complete understanding of the object or phenomena we are studying.

Many qualitative observations can also be expressed in quantitative terms. For example, stu- dent performance may be measured by the scores they obtained in a test or examination. evaluative statements like ‘Very satisfactory’, ’Satisfactory’ and ‘not satisfactory at all’ can be scored respectively 3, 2 and 1 in surveys or evaluations (see example 6 on teacher performance evaluation in Module A1). These numerical scores describe a qualitative observation, but may also be used to quantitatively compare performance and calculate summary indicators such as average scores.

But not all objects or phenomena can be expressed using numbers, like feelings, sentiments or nuances. Sometimes it can be difficult, if not impossible, to use indicators to clearly tell the difference from one quality to another. Also, quality is often judged based on an individual’s subjective percep- tion and personal preferences. For example, one person may prefer geography to mathematics, but he/she could not put a numeric value to describe precisely how much, in numeric terms, it is more important to put more efforts in geography classes than in mathematics classes.

Some qualitative indicators can be derived by identifying the component characteristics of quality. When assessing the eFA goal of ‘quality of education’, a combination of indicators will have to be used. For example, education quality is often evaluated by looking at the number or percentage of qualified teachers a school has, because it is believed that the more there are qualified teachers at school, the better the quality of teaching/learning will be. The percentage of qualified teachers can therefore be taken as a qualitative indicator of education quality, but expressed in quantitative form. Because quality of education is a highly complex issue, using only one indicator, such as the percent- age of qualified teachers, can give only a partial if not also biased understanding. Additional indica-

tors on the availability, conditions and use of school facilities and teaching/learning materials, and on other school and home factors affecting children’s learning outcome may be needed. Critical analysis of education quality using indicators will therefore have to be conducted using quite a wide range of both quantitative and qualitative indicators.

3.2 Monitoring and evaluation of education as a system

For purposes of monitoring education and eFA, education indicators can be broadly classified into:

Input and process indicators are used for monitoring whether appropriate education policies have been issued, and adequate resource inputs have been allocated and implemented. Output, out- come and impact indicators are used to evaluate the results, effectiveness and impact of education policies and their implementation.

In an education system, input indicators focus on the human, financial and material resources that have been assembled and channeled into educational activities. Such resource inputs are used to organize the provision of educational services in order to create intermediate outputs such as classes and learning activities. examples of education input indicators include the percentage of government budget allocated to education, pupil-teacher ratios, pupil-classroom ratios, percentage of pupils without textbooks, etc.

In an education system, process indicators show how the resource inputs discussed above have been utilized to deliver educational services. These indicators show what actually happened in the classroom and during teaching/learning processes. Students’ attendance rate at school, average number of class hours they participated in as a percentage of official class hours, and the frequency of use of teaching/learning materials are some examples of process indicators. Other process indicatorsmay include repetition rates and dropout rates.

Outcome indicators are used to evaluate the end results of all the educational inputs and processes.  Outcome indicators measure how effectively education policies and strategies were imple- mented by measuring actual progress against the goals and targets that were set in education plans. Outcome indicators may also be used to evaluate the degree of access to educational services and the degree of satisfaction with the services received. examples of outcome indicators include intake rates, enrolment ratios, completion rates and the GPi.68 At the end of the school year, the percentages of stu- dents who successfully completed their studies, and of those who have acquired defined knowledge and competencies, indicate the main output of education.

Impact indicators show the effects of education on the well being of individuals, families, communities, the nation and society as a whole. Literacy rate is an example of an impact indicator because it shows the proportion of the population who have learnt to read, write and comprehend written text and who can continue to learn using written words. Other impact indicators include those that measure the effect of increased knowledge and skills, emotional development, and the impact of changes in students’ values, attitude and behaviour on their family, community, society and nation.

3.3 indicators by aspects of education

A third way to organize education indicators is by re-grouping them according to the key aspects of education, such as:

  • School characteristics, environment and facilities
  • Access and participation
  • Retention and progress within the education system 
  • Teaching and learning resources
  • Teaching-learning processes
  • Quality of education
  • Equity
  • Learning achievement and outcomes
  • Impact of Education

This is the approach presented in Sections 4 – 11 of Module A4 regarding the use of education data and indicators. In this approach, the key concern is to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of education services. As shown in Figure 2 below, some of the key questions can include:

  • Do all children have access to education?
  • Are all students able to actively participate in education? 
  • Do all students benefit from good quality education?
  • Are all students treated with equality?
  • Is the management of education efficient and effective?
  • Are the outcomes of education relevant and satisfactory?

3.4 Measurement scales

Several types of measurement scales can be used to classify indicators. There are typically four scales of measurement:

  • Nominal scale 
  • Ordinal scale 
  • Interval scale 
  • Ratio

The nominal scale distinguishes objects and phenomena by naming each one. A typical exam- ple is to distinguish the gender of students by ‘male’ or ‘female’, or the type of school ownership with the options of ‘government school’, ‘private school’ or ‘community school’.

Ordinal scales are used for ranking and comparisons. However, an ordinal scale only shows the order of items but does not display the degree of difference between them. if, for example, you are asked to rank your preference for apples, oranges and pears, you may put these fruits in an order of preference, but cannot clearly indicate the degree to which you prefer one fruit to another.

An interval scale can help to visualize the degree of difference between items. The interval scale indicator includes intervals of measurement so that finer comparisons can be made. A test score is, for example, an interval scale indicator. While using the interval scale, there is an underlying assump- tion that intervals are equally divided. if student A receives a test score of 10 out of 100, and student B receives that of 50, can it be said that student B understands the subject five times better than stu- dent A? The answer is ‘not really.’ because the measurement of students’ understanding of one topic depends on the structure, contents and design of the test, and the students’ conditions when taking tests. care must therefore be taken when analysing interval scale indicators.

A ratio scale indicator can help to solve this comparison problem. With ratio scale indicators, the degree of different between different items can be shown. For example, if the height of student A is 100 cm and the height of student B is 150 cm, then we can say that student A’s height is 66 per cent of student B’s height. in this example, the ratio scale offers a clearer understanding about the degree of difference between one item and another. Other typical ratio scale indicators include pupil-teacher ratios, intake rates and enrolment ratios.

Although indicators may be classified in other ways, the above outline provides a good basis for bet- ter understanding the ways indicators are organized and used for monitoring eFA.

Activity 3

Review the data, information and indicators you have been using to monitor the perfor- mance of your school or education in your district/province/country, and answer the following questions:

  1. Name two quantitative and two qualitative education indicators, and two qualitative indicators expressed in quantitative terms (i.e. in numbers). Why do you choose them?
  2. How would you classify these indicators according to the other classifications above? Please explain why you classify them in the way you propose.
  3. What other classifications of indicators are needed in order to better produce and use education indicators?

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