UDISE Team at NIEPA, New Delhi

 

 

Rise & Fall of Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE): The Untold Story (1994 to 2017)

Joint efforts made by the Ministry of HRD (now Ministry of Education), NIEPA, and UNICEF towards strengthening of Educational Management Information System (EMIS) in India resulted in improvements concerning coverage, sharing, reliability, dissemination, utilization, consistency, and quality of data generated through UDISE over a period of time.

Efforts made resulted in the establishment of MIS Units both at the state and district levels as well as in case of the majority of blocks, drastic reduction of time-lag in the availability of educational statistics from earlier 7 to 8 years to less than a year at the national level, data available at all the disaggregated levels and no more data gaps resulted into DISE acquired the status of Official Statistics in 2012-13 since then all the MHRD publications related to School Education Statistics are exclusively based on U-DISE data.

In addition, district plans are now been exclusively developed by using U-DISE data across the County both under SSA and RMSA which is likely to be continued under Samagra Shiksha also. From its inception in 1994-95 DISE has consistently improved in every sphere of MIS and it has never looked back.

Before DISE, various efforts were made to improve educational statistics amongst which MHRD initiated Computerization of Primary Education (CoPE) located at NIEPA was the most prominent. Since the beginning, DISE is located in NIEPA which was initiated by Late Prof Yash Aggarwal who unfortunately passed away on 22nd November 2002 before he could establish DISE but the same was confined only to the DPEP States and Districts.

The sudden death of Prof. Aggarwal created a crisis but was managed well by the then Joint Secretary in the Ministry of HRD looking after DPEP and the Director and Joint Director of NIEPA.

A proposal to assign the responsibility to a person holding the position of Chief Consultant looking after MIS in the Technical Support Group of DPEP/SSA and transfer him to NIEPA was not agreed upon by NIEPA authorities.

Subsequently, a meeting was held at NIEPA to decide the modalities of DISE which was attended by the then Director and Joint Director of NIEPA and Joint Secretary of the MHRD. During the course of the discussion, Dr. Arun C Mehta, Fellow (Sub-National Systems Unit, NIEPA) was called and briefed and offered the responsibility of DISE at NIEPA which was accepted by Dr. Mehta who sought some time and assured continuity of efforts initiated by Prof. Aggarwal.

DISE at that time was located in the Operations Research & Systems Management Unit of NIEPA which was later renamed as the Department of EMIS at the time of NIEPA becoming NUEPA during 2006-07.

By the end of the DPEP in 2000, DISE could able to cover 272 districts but all were confined to 18 DPEP states only. At the time of launching the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme in 2001, the Ministry of HRD had taken two major decisions, namely (i) expand the coverage of DISE from primary to entire elementary level of education and (ii) from DPEP states and districts to all the states and districts of the country in view of which DISE Data Capture Format was revised and Software modified and new modules such as Reporter and Consistency Check modules were added which were continuously improved in the light of requirements of the block, district and state-level planning and MIS Officials.

However, DISE took five years to achieve these twin goals when in 2005-06 the entire country got covered under the DISE for the first time; all the 35 States & UTs and 604 districts were covered under DISE and as many as 11,24,033 schools imparting elementary education were covered and data collected by using a single format.

All the schools covered under DISE were assigned an 11-digit unique identification code. It was the year when NIEPA in collaboration with the Department of School Education and Literacy, MHRD started publishing Elementary Education in India: Progress towards UEE, DISE Flash Statistics through which Education Development Index (based on a set of 22 parameters) was also disseminated which continued up to the year 2015-16. Flash Statistics is the latest available for the year 2016-17 and the same for the year 2017-18 (as of 30th September 2017) is still to be published (as of October 2020).

By the year 2005-06, dissemination of statistics collected through DISE in the form of District Report Cards became the regular/annual feature to which the Flash Statistics was the additional feature all of which were used to be released in an annual grand function at NIEPA which continued up to the release of 2006-07 data (2002-03 to 2006-07).

One of the senior professors of NIEPA, in early 2006 announced that individual school progress reports will soon be available in the public domain; subsequently Times of India editorial emphasized the usefulness of such an initiative but the DISE National Team at NIEPA was clueless as to what is the basis of the statement but it started working on developing such a provision which resulted into the School Report Cards which was released on November 22, 2006, by the then HRM Minister Shri Arjun Singh in a function held at IIC Delhi on the occasion of NIEPA becoming NUEPA.

Release of School Report Cards was followed by making available DISE Raw Data to users in electronic form for which users were discouraged to physically come to NIEPA to collect data which was initially not taken seriously by the users assuming that nobody is going to share the raw data. Simply, it was the start of an era of liberalization of education data but the same at a later stage were questioned about the needfulness of sharing data by then more than 10 thousand users from across the World got registered for the downloading of DISE raw data many of which exclusively used data for doctoral research.

Slowly but surely DISE over time improved but still questions used to be raised about the consistency of data because of which in subsequent years, DISE Data Capture Formats started printing from the software by populating the previous year’s data (except enrolment) for which provisions were made available in the DISE SW which helped immensely in improving the quality of data.

By this time states have also started using the provision of adding state-specific supplementary variables, provisions of data-entry, as well as report generation module, was made available in the DISE SW and the same was installed and being used across the Country by MIS Officers at the block, district, and state level.

At the initial stage, DISE was managed by using EXCEL which was later shifted to debase and further to PowerBuilder and Oracle in the back-end. 5 percent random sample checking of DISE data by an independent agency was also made mandatory. States have started bringing out state and district-specific publications as well as disseminating School Report Card at a prominent place in school and its sharing with the SMC members through Jan Vachan.

DISE was progressing satisfactorily, district plans started formulating exclusively based on DISE data in view of which the Ministry of HRD asked NIEPA to extend the coverage of DISE from the elementary to the secondary and higher secondary level of education but for unknown reasons the responsibility of which was assigned to the Department of Educational Planning of NIEPA (DISE Team cautioned that it must be extended with DISE and not independent to DISE) but Department of EMIS helped in developing an online system by assuming that secondary and higher secondary schools are better equipped concerning computers & internet connectivity but in none of the states, data entry took place from schools.

The system developed was later transferred to the Department of EMIS during 2010-11 data collection and switched from the on-line to the off-line mode and continued up to the year 2011-12.

Needless to mention that since the inception, DISE was being managed by the ORSM Unit/Department of EMIS at NIEPA which had already extended the coverage of DISE to secondary and higher secondary level in a couple of states at the behest of the state’s request. In the light of the RTE requirements, the DISE format was adequately modified in 2009 and subsequently, a two-page RTE Report Card was added to the existing School Report Cards and schools were graded on a scale of ten points RTE facilities.

The system which NIEPA followed had given two 11-digit identification codes, one for elementary and another for secondary and higher secondary sections even though the school was a single integrated school.

A lot of efforts were going waste in the form of two data capture formats, one online and another offline system, two different nodal officers, and two data entry points in view of which NIEPA during 2010-11 evolved a single DCF for the entire school education and successfully collected information from all the 700+ schools of UT Puducherry which was repeated during 2011-12 data collection in Puducherry along with West Bengal successfully.

During 2011-12 data collection, the Ministry of HRD proposed to generate DISE enrolment tables: by caste, medium of instructions, and age based on the individual student’s details which was a welcome step but without any piloting the initiative was bound to be failed and dangerous if the then existing system was also proposed to be discontinued.

The plan of action for DISE 2011-12 was discussed in a meeting held under the Chairmanship of the then Secretary (School Education and Literacy), MHRD on 27th July 2012 at IHC, Aadhaar Friendly DISE (Child Tracking System) was on the agenda, and the meeting was attended by the State Education Secretaries and SPDs. Director (NIEPA) and NUEPA Faculty responsible for DISE was also  invited for discussion both of whom appreciated the idea of Aadhaar Friendly DISE and requested to let it be on a pilot basis and let the existing procedure of data collection also continue parallelly till the new system is fully developed.

In view of the concerns raised by the NUEPA, MHRD dropped the idea of Aadhaar Friendly DISE in 2011-12 but the same was again revived during the 2016-17 data collection. However, DISE moved on to become stronger, more reliable, and more schools covered, increasing the number of publications and plans being formulated exclusively using DISE data.

NIEPA, since then was treated as a hurdle in taking initiatives towards improving the quality of data and later used as a case against it (unfortunately a few of the former colleagues who worked on the DISE project at NIEPA played a negative role). In a meeting with the then Additional Secretary on the 17th of August 2012, NIEPA’s concerns presented during the Secretaries meeting were appreciated which was the main reason behind the drop of Aadhaar Friendly UDISE in 2011-12.

In between, MHRD constituted a committee to suggest modalities to develop one uniform statistical system for the entire school education which recommended unification of DISE and SEMIS and recommended one Data Capture Format for the entire school education system, one off-line software, single data-entry point, and one nodal officer for both SSA and RMSA recommendations of which were implemented during 2012-13 data collection; since then DISE is known as U-DISE or Unified DISE.

With some initial hiccups, data were successfully collected by using one DCF from across the Country but in the states having common SPD for SSA and RMSA, the transaction was smoother than in the rest of the states but in subsequent years, U-DISE becomes stronger year after year. U-DISE has now been stabilized and becomes part of the system but still, it was been managed by contractual staff across the country including at the National level. Since the beginning, DISE has always functioned in a project and ad-hoc mode.

By and large salary of MIS staff was very low (still a concern) and there is wide variation across states for the same nature of work in view of which many times it was difficult to manage because of the frequent professionals leaving the project. Continuation of Project Staff at NIEPA was another major issue that was faced from time to time. Immediately, after the death of Prof. Aggarwal, the issue of extension of one of the Consultants cropped up which was declined by the then administration?

However, a strong case and importance of Consultant continuance were made and presented to the then Joint Director of NIEPA who ignored the file noting and granted an extension to the Consultant who at the later stage was found guilty of favoritism by a vigilance inquiry for granting the extension.

The year 2012-13 was a very special year to U-DISE, a landmark year in the history of educational statistics in the Country during which the MHRD had taken twin decisions, namely:

(i) Henceforth Ministry’s publications including Selected Educational Statistics renamed as Selected Statistics of School Education will be exclusively based on U-DISE data generated by NUEPA in case of school education; which means from the year 2012-13, U-DISE had acquired the status of Official Statistics and all parallel data collection systems including one located in the MHRD was discontinued, not a mean achievement and

(ii) In future, All India School Education Survey if conducted, will confine to variables which are not available in U-DISE; 2008-09 being the latest AISES since then no such survey is conducted and U-DISE has become the only source of information on school education statistics in India which is being exclusively used in formulating annual plans under SSA/RMSA and now under Samagra Shiksha.

From 2010 to 2012, School Report Cards under DISE were awarded four national and regional awards. In view of the successful intervention, NIEPA was invited to Cambodia, Ghana, Southern Sudan, and a host of other countries to review and suggest modalities to improve EMIS in their countries. DISE Team at NIEPA made a series of presentations twice a year before the Joint Review Missions of SSA and RMSA and got applauded from time to time.

U-DISE further improved during the period 2012-13 to 2015-16, it becomes institutionalized across the Country. States were using one uniform system across the country in addition to which states evolved their mechanism to further improve the quality of data, however, though improved, utilization of data remains one of the major areas of concern. Rigorous dissemination strategies adopted by NIEPA created awareness about UDISE as several stories based on its data started appearing in the National media on regular basis in addition to which hundreds of questions based on UDISE were raised and answered in the Parliament which is continuing.

Sometimes in 2014, a new additional secretary joined MHRD. U-DISE activities remain normal all through 2014-15 and 2015-16. Aadhaar-enabled U-DISE was again proposed sometime in early 2016 with the help of NIC. NIEPA is not open to new initiatives also  came up again into the picture which was based on mischievous feedback.

Like 2011, NIEPA again supported the idea and got ready for the same. Whisper was that the new initiative will transfer from NIEPA to NIC through MHRD in view of which NIEPA sought an appointment with the then Education Secretary and made a detailed presentation on student data collection in-sync with U-DISE on 4th July 2016 which was attended by Joint Secretary & Director of MHRD as well as NIC Officers and Vice-Chancellor (I/C, NIEPA) and a few others. NIEPA emphasized that it is capable and ready to launch student data collection as a part of U-DISE.

A lot of uncertainties were there, nothing on paper was communicated to NIEPA, whether or not NIEPA will continue with U-DISE activities. DISE Team at NIEPA though it was small used to be productive and used to bring out a set of 14 publications geared up to meet the requirements of the new initiative. Also, at its NIEPA approached the Technical Cooperation Agency of RMSA to help in developing an online application for student data collection which was readily agreed by TCA which is followed by intensive interaction with the development team identified by the TCA.

With the transfer of the Human Resource Minister from the MHRD on 5th July 2016, whispers of transferring U-DISE from NIEPA come to an end but that did not last long. UNICEF has been supporting DISE activities at NIEPA since its inception i.e. 1994-95; its collaboration (project staff salary, computer HW & SW, etc) with NIEPA becomes stronger with each passing year. It was perhaps the longest collaboration NIEPA ever had with any organization which comes to end in 2018.

Apart from UNICEF (Rs. 70 Lakh approx), MHRD was also used to support NIEPA in bringing out both its online and printed publications. During the uncertain days, even the support from the UNICEF also become uncertain and things moved in a positive direction only when it was cleared that NIEPA will continue with the U-DISE activities during the 2016-17 data collection. UNICEF’s annual work plan of action is supposed to be approved by the Government of India. The negative role played by some of the former colleagues who were groomed at NIEPA was disheartening.

However, U-DISE at NIEPA always continued to get strong support from within the MHRD even during the uncertain days. NIEPA as an institution had always been supported (for MIS activities) and trusted by the most in the MHRD. Once decks for NIEPA for U-DISE were cleared, a host of meetings were held with the Director (MHRD) to finalize the Student Data Capture Format and planning for regional technical workshops which had become necessary in view of launching Student Data Collection in-sync with U-DISE.

In a record period of about 1.5 months, six Regional Technical Workshops were conducted from August to September 2016 with the UNICEF assistance which was attended by about 700 district and state-level officers engaged in U-DISE activities but none of these workshops participated by the MHRD Officers. Every year, it was a practice to issue a letter from the MHRD before the launch of U-DISE to all the SPDs (both SSA & RMSA) but no such letter was issued during the launch of UDISE 2016-17 despite numerous requests.

It was also a practice to share the modalities of U-DISE in the coming year in a workshop of State U-DISE In-charges at NIEPA, one such workshop was organized on July 15 & 16, 2016 which was inaugurated by the then Education Secretary but none of the other Officers (Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary and Director(s)) could attend despite confirmation. Needless to mention that it was a practice to release the U-DISE Flash Statistics annually by the HRM but the same for the year 2015-16 despite the confirmation couldn’t be released for unknown reasons.

Instead, NUEPA UDISE Team was asked to approach the then Additional Secretary who refused to meet even though the then Vice-Chancellor (In-charge) of NIEPA also reached MHRD for the release. The above events suggest that all was not well with NIEPA (concerning MIS only) then which was confirmed in a series of events that happened subsequently.

With this background, NIEPA released the letter, oriented both the state and district level MIS officials through a series of national, regional, and state-level workshops and successfully collected data as of 30th September 2016. In addition, individual student details of about 210 million students on 35 parameters from across the Country also got collected 50 percent of which also had provided Aadhaar number, by no standard, it was a mean achievement.

Whatever was proposed by the Ministry in 2011 and planned in 2016 concerning Aadhaar Friendly U-DISE was achieved. Information regarding the number of Students covered under SDMIS along with the percentage of students with Aadhaar was used to be shared with the Ministry every week. States had used both online and offline modes to upload student data on the SDMIS portal but except for Chandigarh, none of the states could upload the complete data directly from the schools.

Chandigarh was the only state, which had generated U-DISE enrolment tables based on student data and submitted the same along with 2016-17 U-DISE data which was later questioned? Existing data, if available through state-specific initiatives such as Samagra of Madhya Pradesh, Saral of Maharashtra, Shiksha Darpan of Rajasthan, and other states, such as Odisha, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, etc were merged into the SDMIS Portal. In between, TCA of RMSA came to an end in June 2016, and NIEPA took a long to sign the AMC with the agency to develop the student portal engaged by TCA. With little or no encouragement, few states continue using the SDMIS portal during 2017-18.

In the meantime, the new Education Secretary joined the Department of School Education & Literacy, MHRD sometime in November 2016, and subsequently took far-reaching decisions that have got implications for U-DISE. NIEPA sought time to share U-DISE activities with the new Secretary in view of which a presentation meeting was held on December 30, 2016, in the Office of the Secretary (School Education, MHRD) which was attended by the Additional Secretary and a few other officers from the MHRD and NIC Officers, as well as Vice-Chancellor (In-charge), NIEPA and faculty associated with the U-DISE at NUEPA.

Before the presentation on U-DISE could formally start, it was stopped and a long sermon was delivered as to how a presentation to the Union Secretary should be made (as if NIEPA never made such presentations in the past). Meeting ended on a disappointing note from the NUEPA’s point of view, practically nothing was presented as planned.

It is not known the background of such treatment but somehow got the impression that it was linked to NUEPA’s engagement with U-DISE and its continuance with Student Data Collection during the year 2016-17. Saturday being a weekend in NUEPA, on 31st December 2016, Secretary (School Education) visited NUEPA to open a new building for the National Centre for School Leadership which is located just outside NUEPA’s main building. While returning to the main building after the opening ceremony, Secretary as it comes to know later asked the then Vice-Chancellor (In-charge) to replace the U-DISE leadership at NUEPA while a couple of NUEPA Faculty members were around.

The next day, i.e. 1st January 2017 was Sunday, passed peacefully. On Monday, 2nd January, the then Vice-Chancellor (Incharge) called U-DISE In-charge at NIEPA and informed him about the Secretary’s interaction with him and asked him to suggest a replacement from within the NUEPA Faculty.

U-DISE In-charge asked VC (I/C) what is the reason for the change and what are the grievances against him in response to which VC (I/C) praised efforts being made in strengthening EMIS in India from the beginning to the stage of U-DISE acquiring the status of Official Statistics but couldn’t cite even a single reason and need for the replacement.

Under the pressure, U-DISE in-charge sent a note to VC (I/C) through email on 3rd January 2017 (2.18 PM) indicting his desire to relieve him from the responsibility of U-DISE. In between, he verbally suggested the name of the new incumbent who could be given the responsibility of U-DISE in response to which he received a call from VC (I/C) asking him to send the Note on the Note Sheet.

In response, a mail indicating “Give me some more time to re-think and send it on note sheet” was sent to VC (I/C) on 3rd January 2017 itself at 4.45 PM which was over-looked and an office order was promptly issued on 4th January 2017 indicating “with immediate effect Prof. K Biswal is transferred from Department of Educational Planning to Department of EMIS and will be Incharge of DISE/UDISE”.

Do not know why the VC (I/C) was in a hurry and what was his compulsion to surrender completely the autonomy of the University on verbal instructions (In almost 40 years of stay at NIEPA never seen such behavior of any of the eight Directors/VCs in the past). With a heavy heart, In-charge U-DISE convinced himself and tried to adjust to the new environment.

The satisfactory point was that U-DISE, despite the change in leadership, was still located in the Department of EMIS. To his utter surprise, on 13th January 2017 through another Office Notification, it was notified that “Prof Biswal, who has been given the charge of DISE/UDISE, shall report to the Vice-Chancellor”.

It was the beginning of the end of U-DISE at NUEPA and with this notification; one of the most productive departments of NUEPA was made defunct, yes totally defunct as the sole was taken out from the body. The VC (I/C) did not even have the basic courtesy to take into confidence the Head of the Department; definitely, he was under pressure not only from the outside but may also from the within. None of the NIEPA Faculty members raised their voice against such an attitude (as always) which was disheartening and the outcome of the almost 40 years stay at NIEPA. With this, the involvement (2002 to 2017) of Prof. Mehta with U-DISE comes to an end.

Good to see that it has acquired the status of Official Statistics and plans both under SSA & RMSA were being formulated exclusively 101 Rise and Fall of U-DISE: The Untold Story based on U-DISE data across the Country and time-lag has reduced to less than a year at the national level and only a few months at the state, district and lower levels, data is now available on all the parameters required for the efficient formulation of plans at all the disaggregated levels in the public domain all which could be achieved by a small team, all contractual with the solid, rock-like support from the UNICEF. Though the quality and reliability, sharing, dissemination, consistency, and utilization of data improved over time still there were a few areas of concern.

Improving the quality of data is a continuous but slow process that can’t be achieved overnight. All through these years allowed meeting hundreds of officers from across the country, visited several schools, also got an opportunity to move around the country and visited all the 36 States and districts numerous times, and could review the EMIS of a couple of countries. Subsequent events were even more disheartening.

From the year 2018-19, U-DISE is shifted to the MHRD and is being managed by the NIC for which an online application in the name of UDISE+ has been developed. The era of strengthening EMIS at NIEPA coming to an end, and a journey of 25 years ended abruptly.

Many of the significant achievements of NIEPA towards strengthening of MIS has already been lost: no data is available in the public domain since 2016-17 (as of October 2020), time-lag at the national level as increased to 3 years, all annual publications are discontinued, limited or no sharing of raw data (sharing policy developed by MoE suggests that even NIEPA is not entitled to access raw data even though NCERT is mentioned in this list), for the past two years annual plans appraised and approved by PAB are based on outdated 2017-18 UDISE data, etc; despite all these drawbacks, no question is being raised as it looks the same is institutionalized.

Before U-DISE was taken over by the MHRD, there was a proposal for the National Roll-out of Teacher Module as an art part of Extended U-DISE/Shaala Kosh (in May 2018) which was initiated by the Ministry towards “its efforts to revamp the existing U-DISE system to make it relevant to today’s educational requirements, this was an attempt to develop a comprehensive integration of State MIS Systems”. During this period, NGOs were made involved for the first time for work concerning MIS/Data and were often seen even attending internal official meetings. Before Shaala Kosh, MHRD also launched Shala Asmita Yojana (to replace U-DISE) and the task was to be completed by February 2017 but nobody knows its status?

In a letter to all the States on 29th May 2018, through Annexure I concerning Shaala Kosh, the following observations regarding U-DISE are worth to mention: Quality of Data: “The current system does not incorporate a comprehensive list of validation checks which results in low data quality”: The statement is totally false as the off-line U-DISE software had very strong Consistency check and validation module despite which though improved; still data was not always free from inconsistencies.

It depends upon how rigorously the user uses this and other modules provided in UDISE SW. Data entry was never been restricted because of the fear of delay in the entire process. The consistency check module immensely helps in further improving the consistency and quality of data. Ease of Use: “The current system is offline and employee a pen-paper format to collect data.

This results in yearly data collection exercise which is time-consuming and has monetary implications”: Yes, the system was off-line and still there is no alternative as the schools are not ready for the on-line system. Subsequent activities in 2018-19 under UDISE+ proved it beyond doubt. We firmly believed that pen-paper format is key to data quality and consistency and must be continued in years that follow.

Data Usage and Dissemination: “There is a huge time lag between data collection and data usage. The data is currently collected as of 30th September and is used next year. This time lag results in usage and stale data and thus inaccurate decision making. The current system does not provide information to all the relevant stakeholders”: Not true the time lag has come down to less than a year at the national level and only a few months at block and district levels. What best than using the same year data in formulating annual plans and presenting the same for appraisal to the PAB?

The current system does not provide information to all the relevant stakeholders as a blatant lie as data is  available to all users without any restrictions at all levels such as from school, cluster, block, district, state, and national level. Besides, more than 10K users have been registered for downloading the raw data. By making the statement that Time lag results in usage and stale data and thus inaccurate decision making means that all these years PAB approved state annual work plans based on the inthe accurate decision?

Needless to mention that the prime responsibility of data collection lies with the MHRD and NIEPA’s responsibility was limited to dissemination and analysis of data after the data is received electronically from the Ministry. In a NIEPA Faculty meeting held on 14th August 2018, the above issues were raised, and cautioned that information provided about UDISE mentioned in the letter is not true and must be refuted. However, with the new Secretary (School Education & Literacy) joining the MHRD sometime in July 2018, the idea of launching Shaala Kosh was dropped for reasons not available in the public domain. Web-portal, www.shaalakosh.gov.in developed for Shaala Kosh is since then down objectives of which were supposed to be achieved by December 2018?

Instead, the idea of an-online UDISE+ from the year 2018-19 was mooted, accordingly, states were informed through a letter indicating that “it has been decided that UDISE database would be taken over from NIEPA by Department of School Education and Literacy, MHRD from the year 2018-19 and the NIC, MHRD has developed the software to collect the school, teacher and student data” in October 2018. Off the table, during the sidelines of one of the meetings, it was said that we have unilaterally snatched UDISE from NUEPA, Initially; responsibility of UDISE+ was assigned to DDG (Statistics) for a short period which was later shifted to the Economic Advisor (School Education) in the Ministry.

No formal handing and taking over the meeting was held, no briefing but a project that was evolved over more than two decades was simply taken over.

Timely intervention at the highest level could have saved U-DISE for NIEPA. Developing an online application is a good idea and should have been done much before, but the mute question is whether the system is ready for the same? Needless to say that only 29.57 percent of the total 15,58,903 schools have got access to the computer(s) out of which only 13.07 percent of schools have got functional computers and 13.61 percent of schools had the internet connectivity in 2017-18. Of the total 1.56 million schools, 54.03 percent alone is the Primary only schools (8,42,295 schools) of which 12.20 percent of schools have got access to a computer with only 4.19 percent being functional and 3.54 percent have got the internet connectivity.

Precisely for these reasons, NIEPA though developed the online application but didn’t implement the same because of lacking computer facilities which is true for the entire country except for a few states/UTs like Chandigarh and Puducherry. In the absence of computers, data entry is bound not to be taken place from the schools, and developing a real-time system is termed over-ambitious and will take much longer time than expected. School-specific information on the UDISE+ platform has not been uploaded from schools in the absence of which how a real-time data system would be developed is a mute question?

How many of the remaining 87 percent of schools have been provided computers with the internet before or after the launch of U-DISE+? Has the issue of providing a computer to schools across the country ever been discussed in the PAB or UDISE+ been launched without adequate preparations? Had the States were advised to improve computer facilities in their schools before the launch of UDISE+. Booklet published on UDISE+ by the Ministry of HRD in April 2019 following observations is worth mentioning.

Do not know whether NIEPA has officially refuted these observations most of which are factually incorrect and baseless and have been put to purposefully defame U-DISE to gain its control.

Lack of Coordination and Supervision: “NIEPA lacked the requisite infrastructure, expertise, and authority for coordinating with officials of the States and UTs to ensure smooth and timely availability of the information. Further, the UDISE was being handled in the project mode by a small team, and data was hosted in a private server rendering it vulnerable” is factually not correct. NIEPA has got the adequate infrastructure for the smooth functioning of U-DISE.

Yes, the UDISE at NIEPA was being handled in the project mode by a small team which was the beauty of the system that was evolved over more than two decades. In fact, achievements by a small team had always been applauded in different forums including by the Joint Review Missions of SSA and RMSA over a period of time. U-DISE/SDMIS data was never hosted on a private server.

A data center was developed at NIEPA where all the servers are located. Www.dise.in, www.udise.in, www.student.udise.in and www. schoolreportcards.in all are hosted in-house on servers installed in NIEPA. NIEPA doesn’t have the expertise is a joke of the day as it has got the best-experienced faculty those who have soiled their hands playing with the numbers. Is the present leadership more experienced? It would not be an easy task for any agency to bring out a set of 14 publications in a year. Time will show whether the new arrangement accepts this challenge or term the existing publications simply not required (nothing has been published as of now).

Will it be able to maintain and update www.schoolreportcards.in and downloading of raw data or the same may also not even found useful. Unfortunately, an institution lacking in expertise was allowed to be engaged for over more than two decades. Yes, NIEPA doesn’t have authority to directly deal with the States and UTs but it had never experienced any problem in communicating, coordinating, and dealing with the states which are evident with the fact that even in the absence of the letter released by the Ministry before the launch of U-DISE 2016-17, it had successfully collected student data of about 200 million which by no standards is a mean achievement.

States treat NIEPA and its Faculty more seriously than any other institution concerning MIS.

Lack of Accountability due to Absence of Audit Trail: “The data was uploaded in the system by district/block MIS officials who were contractual in nature. In many states, the data entry work was outsourced. Hence, there was no clear traceability/audit trail of those who were responsible for the authenticity of the information provided.” Transferring the U-DISE from NIEPA to MHRD/ MoE will make the contractual staff regular? Since the transfer, how many of the MIS Officials are made regular?

Is it because of NIEPA, the MIS staff are contractual, or because of the SSA Guidelines? Except, in the initial period, that too only in a couple of states, never the data entry work had ever been outsourced, totally a false statement, do not know the intention of making a false statement. Bihar has outsourced Block Information Centre with one manpower and one Laptop for UDISE+, others have also done similar arrangements for UDISE+ which is large because schools are not equipped to facilitate online data entry. “Transfer of officials at the cluster, block, and district levels further compounded the problem as a result of which the data was never verified.

Since there was no accountability, the officials concerned did not take adequate care to upload consistent and correct data, thereby compromising the reliability of the UDISE” Has the transfer now been stopped? Data was always supposed to be verified first at the cluster level by the CRC Coordinator (100 percent) and thereafter at the block (20 percent) and district level (10 percent).

In addition, there was a strong in-built consistency check module in U-DISE off-line software which is now totally missing in the new setup. Even a complete reporter module has not yet been provided to users. District MIS Coordinators/In-charges have not got access to raw data, unlike the previous arrangement under which every bit of information along with the reporter module to generate ‘n’ number of indicators at district and lower levels were made available.

Instead of taking signature (on DCF) at all these levels, the emphasis is now on authentication at all these levels online, which is very tiresome for schools that do not get access to computers. Since data was not fed by the schools onto the online portal, the authentication in most of the cases is being carried out by the Data Entry Operators at the Block level which forfeited the basic purpose of developing an online system. Mute point is to ensure which is key to the quality of data is whether schools have submitted correct data? Which cannot be assured by taking signatures online or offline?

How many capacity-building programs, like through EDUSAT have been conducted and how many respondents (HMs, Principals, Head-Teachers, etc.) across the Country have been imparted training before the launch of UDISE+?

Multiple Versions of Data Collection Software: “Because of the limitations of UDISE, many states and UTs developed their own MIS systems to collect data required in UDISE DCF. Therefore at the national level, the Department had to contend with two sets of data. Thus, over time, the authenticity and utility of the UDISE gradually decreased and aggregation of data at the national level became difficult” False statement, in fact, the quality and reliability as well as utility of U-DISE data improved with each passing year. What more one can expect is that PAB used to appraise and approved annual work plans based on the current year’s data which has now been badly missed.

The current year’s plans are no more developed using the current year’s data. Every year now states used to submit data which is nowhere true now, we have already missed a year. There is now a gap of a year, 2018-19 data shall be used in 2020-21? And when shall 2019-20 data be utilized? In which year’s work plan? At the national level, states never at any point in time, submitted two sets of data. It is not because of the limitations of U-DISE data, states developed their own MIS systems just because of their state-specific requirements. After the transfer how many states have discontinued their own MIS systems is a mute question that must be answered.

The majority of the states continue using their MIS systems despite the UDISE+ in place and will upload the data by using the Web Service/API onto the online portal. Is this an improvement over the previous arrangement? Certainly not! Previously, we had only one off-line uniform system, now we have more than 25 such systems. In fact, states those who didn’t have the state MIS systems previously are also now planning (like West Bengal) to develop one such system so that UDISE+ requirements are met. Single DCF for all Categories of Schools: “In UDISE there was one Master DCF for all schools irrespective of the category.

However, many of the fields were not applicable to a particular category of school. … This created confusion as a result of which there were instances where the data for the relevant school category was wrongly inserted.

Consequently, the information provided by the schools suffered from inconsistencies”. False statement and questioned the understanding of those who are engaged in U-DISE+. Yes, UDISE had only one DCF unlike 18 DCFs (?) under the present UDISE+ and were used to be printed from the SW for over more than a decade. The previous year’s data, except enrolment, was printed as per the category of school obtained based on the lowest and highest class in a school. As it seems officials engaged now were initially more confused than the respondents i.e. schools. Printed DCF from SW has helped immensely in improving the consistency of data.

All the schools were supposed to get 2017-18 populated data under U-DISE+ 2018-19 which is not true for schools that are upgraded in between. Despite the online system, the majority of schools got blank printed DCFs which are expected to adversely affect the quality and consistency of UDISE+ data. Were the filled-in DCF checked by the CRC Coordinators or being checked online only?

Even at this stage, there is no alternative to printed DCF irrespective of how good schools are equipped with computer and internet connectivity. Lack of Verification and Analysis of Data: “it was mandatory from 2006-07 for all states and UTs to carry out sample checking of U-DISE Data… However, largely due to the lack of proper guidelines … the verification of the UDISE data was hardly being carried out.

Bulky paper reports were never analyzed and feedback was not made available to States and UTs.” The statement is partially correct as this was perhaps one of the weak areas of UDISE. Guidelines to conduct random sample checking of data were provided and are still available at www.dise.in because of this at one point in time as many as 27 states conducted such studies and submitted to the national level summary which was made available to states and shared which is available in the public domain for five years.

However, momentum couldn’t be mainlined in the subsequent years because of a lack of adequate funds for the same which despite the JRM Recommendations, and repeated requests from the states were never been provided in the absence of which slowly the number of states conducted such studies declined. Major findings of studies conducted used to be shared with the states annually in July at NIEPA during the annual conference of MIS Coordinators of both SSA and RMSA.

It was expected that sample checking of UDISE+ data across the Country by an independent agency will soon be initiated but the task of checking data is assigned to officers who are part of the System? Is this third-party verification? But, first let us wait for the full 2018-19 data, which is already late by more than twenty-four months as most of the states have missed the deadline i.e. 29th July 2019.

Preparation for U-DISE 2019-20 is supposed to be started in September 2019; do states and districts are left with enough time to utilize and analyze UDISE+ 2018-19 data? Even if the 2018-19 data is populated in 2019-20 UDISE+, the same is not expected to be updated from the schools because of which it will be impossible for U-DISE+ to become real-time data in the real sense.

In the process which is now been adopted, there is no data of reference (like 30th September), it is said that since it is real-time data, no date of reference is required? This is a departure from being followed over the last more than 50 years. Was it recommended by Experts or recommended by a committee headed by an expert, were the states taken into confidence, or was just decided by some individuals without knowing its implications?

The Draft National Education Policy 2019 reemphasized that “a major effort is called for in the country for data collection, organization, analysis, and the building capability to study trends and patterns of the various aspects of education.

We have suggested that the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) be strengthened and all the data gathering, analysis, and dissemination work be consolidated and expanded there, under a new Central Educational Statistics Division (CESD) as an independent autonomous entity within NIEPA” in the light of which it is hoped that not only UDISE but the entire educational statistical system will be strengthened in years that follow and NIEPA will play an important role in establishing CESD but unfortunately the same for an unknown reason didn’t find mention in the final policy document. DISE/UDISE may be a good case study to know how an institutionalized well-established project can be de-railed at the whims of an individual or two without acquiring any responsibility.

The story is coming to end but will remain incomplete without mentioning the names of DISE/UDISE Project Staff at NIEPA-NUEPA-NIEPA those who all have contributed significantly towards strengthening EMIS in India.

To name a few: Sahil Bhatia, R. S Thakur, Aseela Muhammad, Monu Lakra, Anugula Reddy, Naveen Bhatia, Swati Sharma, Deepesh Kumar, Atul Babbar, Jay Prakash, Jitindar Arora, Aparna Mokherjee, Rekha Tanwar, Sheeja Biju, Alka Mishra, Nikhil, Shakun Sethi, Prashant, Sangeeta Arora, Kamal Uppal, Maya, Ritika, Jameel Ali, Mihir Kumar, S Vasudevan, Arun Joshi, Ruby Gupta, Mahesh Kumar, Mohd. Talha Khan, Babu Lal, Rohit Kumar, Dinesh, Shalender Sharma, S. A. Siddiqui, Deepesh Kumar, and many more.

Besides, State, as well as District and Block MIS Coordinators from across the country over a period of time played a crucial role in improving the quality, reliability, consistency, sharing, dissemination, and utilization of data, they are the real winners of the awards won by the DISE at the national level. Since its inception, UNICEF supported DISE; thanks to the Chief (Education), Education Specialist, and Consultants over time who all ensured continuity of DISE at NIEPA.

UDISE/UDISE+ Publications

UDISE+ Homepage 

Forty Years of Prof Arun C Mehta at NIEPA, New Delhi (e-Book released)

Recent U-DISE Data & Analysis: 2018-19

How Much we Gained: A Case of U-DISE-Plus

Strengthening Educational Management Information System in India through U-DISE(A Story of its Evolution)

Has Enrolment Projections in School Education become the history?

Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+) Plus

Awards won by NIEPA (UDISE)