1. Understanding Household Surveys and Population Census
1.1 Introduction to Household Surveys
‘Household’ is defined to be a basic residential unit in which economic production, consumption, inheritance, child rearing, and shelter are organized and carried out. The classification of ‘household’ is broader than the classification of ‘family’, since family refers only to a group of people related by blood or marriage such as parents and their children only.
A ‘Household Survey’ is the process of collecting and analyzing data to help us understand the general situation and specific characteristics of individual household or all households in the population. During a household survey, field researchers investigate and record facts, observations and experiences from the sample households which are representative of all households in the study area. Tools used for collecting data include a series of questions, observation checklists and records of discussions.
Nowadays household surveys are conducted in almost every country and territory. They are conducted either periodically, such as annually, biennially or once in every three or every fifth year, or on an ad-hoc schedule as required. There are different types of household surveys (see Section 2).
1.2 Education Related Questions (or Modules) in Household Surveys
1.2.1 Two main components of household survey
Two types of questionnaire are usually used for household surveys: a household roster; and detailed (or individual) questionnaires.
A household roster includes listing of all household members and their characteristics, such as each member’s age, sex, relationship to the head of household, education and literacy status (for the persons aged five and above), and schooling status for the population aged 5-24 (or 6-14, 6-19, etc.), and marital status for all adults who are aged 15 and above.
A detailed (or individual) questionnaire explores the main theme of the study. This questionnaire is usually only completed by specific respondents, such as head of household, married couples, mothers of children under five, ever married(???) women, out-of-school children, disadvantaged children, etc.
Once the collection of data from households in the field is complete, the data is coded, checked and edited, entered into a database, verified, analyzed and used to produce reports. A range of different computerized database systems, including dBase, MS Access, CSPro or IMPS may be used to store data from the household surveys, but many household surveys use SPSS for final data analysis and creation of tables, graphs and charts. Moreover, although a survey may use different programs for data entry and analysis such as dBase, MS Access, MS Excel, CSPro, IMPS, …, the final data files for analysis are generally available in SPSS data format.
1.2.2 Household survey and population census
The datasets created from household surveys and population censuses normally include information about household members that are useful for policy making, planning, monitoring and evaluation in education, such as:
(i) population by age and sex, people who have special characteristics such as ethnic minority or disability or rural/urban location (for larger surveys).
(ii) literacy status of respondents (self-reporting) and other family members (proxy reporting).
(iii) highest educational attainment of the respondent, and population under study.
(iv) schooling status (currently attending , dropout or never attended) of children at the school- going ages, and
(v) reasons for dropping out or never been to school for children who are of the school going age.
Apart from the information mentioned above, several household surveys could provide migration. status of household members, and socio-economic characteristics of household such as:
(vi) place of birth and/or place of residence over the last five or ten years (migration).
(vii) household income and expenditure (in some cases, separate health and education expenditures) and/or household wealth index factor score/ household by wealth quintiles.
(viii) possession of household amenities or durables.
(ix) food security.
As such, data from household survey and population census can complement school-based data by providing information about aspects of children’s background that may influence household schooling decisions and children’s participation in school (such as enrolment and/or school attendance).
Household surveys provide a wider range of more detailed information on a sample of households, while population censuses provide full-coverage information about age and sex structure and education and literacy status of the entire population.
1.3 Inputs from Household Surveys for EFA Monitoring and Assessment
Household surveys and population censuses can also provide data about adult educational attainment and self-reported literacy skills. These can be disaggregated by household characteristics, such as the household’s economic standard (wealthy or poor), household’s location (urban, rural or remote areas), distance from school (near or far), and etc. Disaggregating education data according to these criteria are especially useful for monitoring and assessing the goal of “reaching the unreached”, which is specified in the national EFA goals and targets.
1.3.1 Key education indicators we can derive from surveys
The following education indicators that can be derived from household surveys and population censuses are essential for EFA monitoring and assessment. They are also often used for formulating and aligning education policies, preparing, monitoring and evaluating education development programmes and projects.
1) Adult Literacy Rate (for population aged 15 and above).
2) Youth Literacy Rate (for population aged 15-24).
3) Literacy rates for various sub-groups in the population, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, ethnic minorities, disabled persons, and those from poor families and remote areas.
4) Educational attainment – measured by the number of years attended school, or the highest level and grade of schooling, or the proportion of adult population who completed primary or secondary school (adult primary and secondary school completion rates).
5) Gross and net intake rates for primary grade one.
6) Gross and net enrolment rates by education level or by age.
7) Transition rates (from primary to lower secondary, and lower to upper secondary level).
8) Student flow rates (promotion, repetition and dropout rates), and
9) Out-of-school children.
One important benefit of deriving education indicators from the household surveys is the ability to compare the indicators among different population groups, such as:
- male and female,
- ethnic minorities and other ethnic groups,
- disabled persons and general population.
- those living in remote areas and those living in urban/rural areas.
- among households with different wealth levels (measure by quintiles of household expenditure per capita or ownership of household amenities).
Such information is not available from school records, but these are important for understanding the household factors affecting education, and measuring the achievements and shortfalls of education policies, especially regarding progress toward achieving the Education for All goals.
1.3.2 Utilization of household survey data in education
All such information from household survey can be very valuable for education policy-makers and planners. Household survey information have not been fully utilized for several reasons:
- lack of awareness about the existence and accessibility of household survey data, even within the same ministry, due to bureaucratic procedures, cost, and not knowing where to find or how to request such data;
- little information about education and literacy is presented in the main report of household surveys – only a few paragraphs or just a section about education;
- additional more in-depth analysis of education and literacy status are very rare; and
- lack of knowledge and skill about how to analyze and use education and literacy data from household surveys to support evidence-based policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.
In general, only a few researchers and consultants from international agencies use the education and literacy data from household surveys to prepare studies. Most of such studies are either academic or exist to serve specific purposes of programmes or projects that were initiated by international organisations. They seldom exist to provide information for formulating policy recommendations.
It is crucial, therefore, to build the capacity of staff from the Ministry of Education and other line ministries to enable them to analyze data from surveys and incorporate their findings from surveys into the policy formulation, program implementation, monitoring and evaluation, including those for achieving EFA goals.