What is the logic in hiding UDISE+ School 11-digit Id?

UIDSE+ School-ID is no more unique?

Historically India had limitations in its educational statistics which despite numerous attempts to strengthen still had several limitations among which the time lag was one of the most important limitations because of which the annual as well five-year plans were used to be formulated based on outdated data and that too only state-level data with the number of data gaps was only available. Despite educational data being available at the state level, forget about the school-specific data not even district and block data was ever made available to users barring the 1980’s during which for a brief period, district-level data that too only on selected indicators were initiated on the quinquennial basis but the same could not survive long.

Amongst various attempts to strengthen educational statistics in India, perhaps the District Information System for Education (DISE) through DPEP in 1994-95 can be treated as the most successful initiative towards improving educational statistics in the country which was developed to cater to the need of DPEP and was developed for the primary level of education. With the end of DPEP in the year 2000 and the launching of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program in the year 2001, the scope of DISE was widened to the entire elementary level of education. Because of the success of DISE, the Government of India further extended the coverage of DISE to the entire secondary level of education in the year 2007 and further to the higher secondary level in the year 2012-13.

The process that was initiated in 1994-95 as a part of the DPEP, could finally bear results and DISE/Unified-DISE got the status of the official statistics in the year 2012-13 and it was decided by the Government that no all-India educational survey will be conducted and DISE would remain the only source of information system so far as the school educational statistics in the Country is concerned. The success of UDISE is also reflected in the district annual work plan and budget which started formulated exclusively based on the UDISE data.

In the absence of district and block-level educational data, the focus of DISE since the beginning was on generating district and block-level data which was eventually based on individual school data which was never attempted before in India. In other words, the school was a unit of data collection since the beginning of the DISE. In its first year in 1994-95, school-specific data from as many as 65 thousand schools could be collected which further reach more than 1.5 million schools imparting school education in India in 2020-21. Before UDISE, no attempt was ever made to generate educational statistics based on school data, rather the state-level statistics were used to be generated based on the consolidated sheets which always had limitations and scope for manipulation.

With the above background, school education statistics in India become more reliable year after year. One of the significant reasons for the improvement in educational statistics in the Country was that every school included in DISE was assigned a unique school-specific 11-digit code which helped to a great extent in further improving the quality of data. Ever since the beginning of DISE, it was a usual practice to assign codes to the individual school that was envisaged to remain the same throughout the life of the school. In the beginning, 11-digit codes were assigned to primary schools or sections under DPEP and the same was extended to the elementary schools/sections with the introduction of SSA in 2001. The upper primary section of the school/section was assigned the same code that was assigned to the primary section of the school. However, a few states assigned a separate code to the upper primary section even though the school was the same consisting of grades from 1 to 8; in such cases, the codes assigned were not unique as had been envisaged at the time of launching DISE.

It may be recalled that after Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was launched in 2001, given the success of DPEP not only the coverage of SSA was extended to the secondary level of education but at the same time, DISE was also extended to the secondary level of education in 2007 responsibility of which was also assigned to NIEPA which by then had the vast experience of strengthening EMIS in the country which designed and implemented a separate MIS and assigned a separate 11-digit code to secondary/higher secondary schools/sections.  Because of this, even though schools had grades 1 to 10 or 1 to 12, separate   11-digit codes one each for the elementary and secondary/higher secondary sections were assigned because of which the codes assigned to such schools/sections were not unique and thus forfeited the basic purpose for which the codes were initially assigned to schools at the time of launching of DISE in 1994-95.

But the system that NUEPA evolved in the form of DISE (elementary) and SEMIS (secondary), had two codes; two different Data Capture Formats, one for elementary and another for secondary; two software: one off-line (DISE) and another online (SEMIS); two data entry centers; and two Nodal Officers at district and state levels respectively for SSA and RMSA which causes a lot of duplicity of efforts and created confusion among respondents. Further, to develop a unified school education statistics system, MHRD constituted a committee in 2012 to suggest modalities to develop such a system which recommended the integration of DISE and SEMIS apart from other recommendations that schools will have only one unique 11-digit Identification Code; the year 2012-13 was the first year of unification; DISE since then is known as the Unified-DISE or popularly as U-DISE and each school covered under UDISE has one 11-digit unique identification code (no separate code for primary or upper primary or secondary and higher secondary school/section). Since 2012-13, it was made mandatory for each school to have a unique 11-digit Identification Code: 2 digits each for States, Districts & Blocks, 3 digits for Village/Wards, and 2 digits for School Sequence which is strictly been followed thereafter which has had helped UDISE to improve its coverage and the consistency of data. States were communicated that codes once assigned to a school are not supposed to be changed and will remain the same throughout the life of the school which is being strictly followed since then.

Because of the efforts made by NIEPA with emphasis on effective dissemination and sharing initiatives, demand for unit-wide school-specific UDISE data raised to an unprecedented level, and NIEPA responded positively by launching an online utility to download the school-specific data in a user-friendly format that provides the data as per the user’s requirement in EXCEL files that spread over data concerning to Basic Information, Enrolment, Infrastructure, Teachers and other aspects of school education all which provided with the original actual 11-digit school Identification code so that data be used in a way user wanted to use. More than 10 thousand users from across the World registered and downloaded the data and many of them exclusively used data for empirical research and towards pursuing M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees in and outside  India. The utility to download data is still active and users after registration can download UDISE school-wise data with Ids in any year between 2005-06 to 2017-18 the portal of which was developed and is maintained by NIEPA.

The process of sharing school-wise data with the school Id was continued between the period 2005-06 to 2017-18, NIEPA never hide the school Id as it immensely helped researchers to undertake progress of schools over time, many of them have undertaken longitudinal studies which could be possible only because of the UDISE data which was provided along with the school ID. In addition, school Id-wise UDISE data was extensively used to draw samples which included many reputed institutions including NCERT for its All India School Education Survey, the then Planning Commission, School GIS, National Scholarship Portal, the World Bank, and many other such organizations and individual researchers.

The process of assigning 11-digit Id to new schools covered under UDISE continued and as well old schools those who were assigned ID over a period of time (about 1.5 million schools) also continued even after UDISE was shifted from NIEPA to the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education from 2018-19 data collection and still 11-digit Ids are being assigned to new schools covered under UDISE for which the Ministry of Education has come out with the concept of School Directory Management utility which is a step in the right direction. In this regard, the Guidelines of the UDISE+ 2022-23 Data Capture Format is worth quoting:

 “UDISE+Code: A unique code given to every school… The code acts as a unique identifier for all schools (recognized and unrecognized) imparting formal education from pre-primary to class XII.  UDISE+ code is permanent in nature once it is assigned to a specific school. In the current UDISE+ ecosystem, UDISE+ code once generated shall be strictly allocated to single school only. Even in case of permanently closed schools, UDISE+ code would be archived.” [Source: Guidelines For Filling Up Data Capture Formats (Dcf) For Unified District Information System For Education Plus (UDISE+) Year 2022-23.]

The data sharing initiated by NIEPA during 2005-06 continued till the year 2017-18 and all through these years, unit-wide data along with the 11-digit unique Id codes were shared with an enormous number of users and agencies all through the years, in particular, there was no written data sharing policy but before the request of the user has approved response of the each of the registered users about how they would use the data was reviewed and access was granted or denied within 24hrs. It may be observed that immediately after the UDISE was shifted to the Ministry of Education, it has come out with the data sharing policy [Data Sharing Policy for School Education and Literacy, Version 1.1, September 2020] and put numerous conditions on data users and researchers  on using the UDISE+ data one of the provisions of the Data Sharing Policy is worth quoting:

“Department of School Education & Literacy may, at its discretion, decide to openly publish any data which it feels is required in the interest of transparency or public good. An example of this from the UDISE+ is given at Annexure D (i): Sample School Report Card (Urban) and D (ii): Sample School Report Card (Rural) which shows the school-wise data items which would be available for all users. This will neither reveal UDISE+ code nor school name, but shall carry a pseudo code for each school instead of UDISE+ Code. All data items available in this will be available in bulk form for use as non-sensitive data.”

 It may be observed that NIEPA used to share information on all variables that it used to collect through the Data Capture Format except for personal information such as the contact number of the School, Teachers, and Head Masters and their email Ids. On the other hand, the Data Sharing Policy of the Ministry of Education divided the entire UDISE+ information under two headings, namely sensitive and non-sensitive information, and both the urban and rural School Report Cards as mentioned above are classified as non-sensitive information but for no reasons explained it has decided not to share the11-digit school ID Code; instead, users are now being provided a pseudo or dummy ID which has far-reaching implications for researchers who have launched longitudinal studies or are monitoring the implementation of RTE Act 2009 through the individual School Report Cards or block and district-wise distribution of schools meeting the requirement of 10 RTE parameters on the year to year basis. However, the original 11-digit school Ids are still being maintained in UDISE+ database and being used for internal purposes.

It may be observed that UDISE+ from the year 2018-19 onwards disseminates only state-level educational statistics (UDISE+ Booklet) and through its portal district-specific indicators on a few selected indicators can also be accessed but printed publication or the portal does not provide block-specific reports or indicators which was otherwise available for the period 2005-06 to 2017-18. However, as mentioned above, the raw data on the selected indicators can also be downloaded school-wise with a pseudo id (but without an actual school 11-digit Id) after registration. Despite this, it is possible to compute a few selected indicators block-wise but block report cards as such are yet to be provided for the year 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Many a time, a few indicators such as grade to grade drop out and promotion rates as well as transition and retention rate, etc. are required to be computed based on the common schools. Common schools are the schools which are covered in a year as well as in the previous year. Drop-out rates etc if are not based on common schools may generate an underestimate of the same; thus dropout rate of 0.80 percent at primary and  1.9 percent at the upper primary level reported in the UDISE+ 2020-21 Booklet, unless computed based on the common schools may not be treated as presenting the true picture of retaining capacity of the system; there are a few other such crucial indicators which needs to be generated only based on the common schools given which the Ministry of Education must relook into its Data Sharing Policy and may like to provide the data-users school-specific data with the actual 11-digit Identification Code of each school, not the pseudo ID and dummy name of the school. In addition, benefits of hiding the school Ids with the data users and researchers may also be presented.

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