Improving the Quality of UDISEPlus Data by Engaging an Independent Body (2023)
This article discusses the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISEPlus), a web-based application that collects and disseminates data on school education in India. While UDISEPlus is a comprehensive data collection system that aims to improve the quality of education and inform decision-making, the quality and reliability of the data have been questioned. This abstract proposes the engagement of an independent agency to improve the quality of UDISEPlus data. The independent agency would develop a data-checking methodology, train staff, and check the data on a pan-India basis. The results would be published to ensure transparency.
Additionally, the abstract suggests using a combination of online checking and random sample checking by an independent agency to identify and correct errors in the data. The involvement of national-level institutions, such as NIEPA or the Ministry of Education, is recommended due to their expertise and independence. The abstract emphasizes the importance of accurate and reliable data for informed decision-making and improvement of the education system in India.
Improving the Quality of UDISEPlus Data by Engaging an Independent Body
Brief about UDISEPlus
UDISEPlus stands for Unified District Information System for Education Plus. It is a web-based application that collects and disseminates data on school education in India. It is a comprehensive data collection system that covers all aspects of school education, from infrastructure to student achievement. UDISEPlus is presently maintained by the Ministry of Education from 2018-19 data collection; the same was conceptualized, developed, maintained, and nurtured by one of the apex government of India institutions, namely NIEPA during 1994-95 to 2017-18, which had many credits in its kitty amongst which reducing the time lag in the availability of educational data is the most prominent ones.
UDISEPlus data is supposed to be used by policymakers, researchers, and educators to make informed decisions about school education in India. The data also monitors various education-related programs’ progress and ensures that all children have access to quality education. The annual plans under the ongoing flagship program, namely Samagra Shiksha, are formulated based on the UDISEPlus data. The time lag, which was less than a year, has again started to rise; because of this, the annual plans are no more developed based on the current year’s data.
Some of the critical features of UDISEPlus are presented below:
- It is a web-based application, which makes it easy to access and use.
- It is a comprehensive data collection system covering all aspects of school education.
- The data is collected from all schools in India, ensuring that it represents the entire school population.
- Policymakers, researchers, and educators are supposed to use the data to make informed decisions about school education.
UDISEPlus is a vital tool for improving school education in India. The data collected through UDISEPlus helps identify areas with gaps in education provision. UDISEPlus also helps to monitor the progress of education-related programs and to ensure that all children have access to quality education.
Here are some of the benefits of using UDISEPlus:
- It helps improve education quality by providing data on school infrastructure, teacher qualifications, and student achievement.
- It helps to ensure that all children have access to quality education by identifying areas with gaps in education provision.
- It helps monitor the progress of education-related programs and ensure that they are effective; and
- It provides a platform for sharing data and information on school education nationwide.
Quality & Reliability of UDISEPlus Data
The quality and reliability of educational data in India have always been questioned. It was impossible to judge the data quality without disaggregated and school-wide data. Thanks to the efforts made through the DISE and then UDISE, and presently the UDISEPlus, disaggregated data is now available, which made it possible to track individual schools and aggregated data at all administrative levels from Cluster to block and from district to state and also at the national level.
Various efforts were made to improve data quality, among which data dissemination and easy access to data were prominent. The period from 2005-06 to 2017-18 was considered as the period of data liberalization during which data users were provided unit-wide data in a hassle-free manner. Consistency check modules were made available as a part of the UDISE software, which was mandatory to use by MIS officials at different levels. Displaying of School Report Cards was mandatory to display at a prominent place in the school. Efforts were also initiated to ensure that the outcome of the data submitted by the schools was shared with the parents, SMC Members, and others interested in school affairs, all of which helped to a great extent in improving the quality of data. In addition, states were encouraged to initiate random sample checking of UDISE data annually and share the findings with all the stakeholders, which helped to a great extent to improve the quality of data. Improving data quality is a slow process, and there is always scope for further improvement.
Quality Checks under UDISEPlus
At present UDISEPlus data under the Ministry of Education is checked at the following three levels:
- School level:The Respondent, i.e., the School Principal/Master or Head Teacher, is responsible for checking the data collected at the school level. Information supplied through the Data Capture Format is expected to be based on records being maintained in schools. Efforts were made in the past to ensure that schools adopt the same set of prescribed records to make uniformity.
- District level:The District Education Officer (DEO) is responsible for checking the data collected at the district level. The Cluster and Block Resource Centre Coordinators are also responsible for checking data they receive from schools/lower levels.
- State level:The State Education Department is responsible for checking the data collected at the state level, received from all the state districts through DEO online.
The data is checked for accuracy, completeness, and consistency. If errors are found, the Respondent, i.e., School HM, must correct the data through the Cluster, Block, or District. The following are the steps involved in checking UDISEPlus data at different levels:
- The school principal or head teacher enters the data into the UDISEPlus portal in case of a few schools those who got computers and internet connectivity. In most cases, the school data is uploaded onto the online portal from the office of the BRC.
- Through the CRC & BRC, the DEO checks the data submitted by the schools in the district.
- The state education department checks the data submitted by the districts in the state.
- The Ministry of Education, through the National Informatics Centre (NIC), validates the data submitted by the states. The NIC is entrusted with all the technical tasks related to UDISEPlus, including the online portal’s development and maintenance, and provides technical help to all the States & UTs.
The UDISEPlus data is checked by using a variety of tools & techniques, including the following:
- Data validation rules: These rules are used to check the accuracy of the data. For example, the data validation rules will ensure that the total number of students enrolled in a school equals the sum of the number of students enrolled in each class.
- Data consistency checks: These checks are used to ensure that the data is consistent. For example, the data consistency checks will ensure that the total number of teachers in a school equals the sum of the number of teachers in each subject.
- Data comparison: The data is compared with other data sources, such as census data, to ensure accuracy.
The data-checking process is an integral part of UDISEPlus. It helps to ensure that the data is accurate and reliable to the extent possible. However, the online method of checking data is not free from errors. Several factors can contribute to errors, including:
- Human Error:The DEOs and other officers may make mistakes when checking the data.
- Technical Error:There may be technical problems with the UDISEPlus portal that can lead to errors.
- Data entry Error:The data may be entered incorrectly by the schools.
In addition, the DEOs and other officers may not have the expertise to check the data accurately, they may not have the time to check the data thoroughly, and they may not be able to access the data on the UDISEPlus portal if they are not connected to the Internet. The data capture format is comprehensive; DEOs and other officers cannot have every piece of information on their fingers. Despite the limitations, the online method of checking data is considered a valuable tool for ensuring the accuracy of UDISE data. Here are some additional ways to reduce errors in the online method of checking data:
- Provide Training:The CRC & BRC Coordinators, DEOs, and other officers engaged in the data-checking process must be thoroughly trained to check the data accurately.
- Improve the UDISEPlus portal:The UDISEPlus portal needs to be improved to make it easier for schools to collect and submit data.
- Establish a system of checks and balances:A system must be established to ensure that multiple people check the data.
- Use data visualization tools:Data visualization tools can help to identify trends in the data, which can help to identify errors.
Random Sample Checking of Data
The previous system of checking UDISE data under NIEPA was based on a 5 percent random sample check, meaning that 5 percent of the schools in a state were supposed to be randomly selected, and an independent third party checked the data quality. However, the same had several limitations, including:
- It was not always possible to get a representative sample of schools.
- The third-party reviewers were not always familiar with the local context.
- The checking process was time-consuming and expensive.
- All the states did not commission random sample checking of data; and
- States did not have funds to launch such studies.
The present system of checking UDISE data is considered more comprehensive than the previous system, based on a combination of methods, including data validation rules, data consistency checks, data comparison, and on-site verification. Through these methods, the accuracy of the data is checked, which is more likely to identify errors. In addition, the present method does not require a 5 percent random sample check of schools in a state. Because of this, the present system of checking UDISE data is considered improved over the previous system.
The DEO/BRC & CRC Coordinators and other officers who check UDISE data are part of the system. They are supposed to be impartial and objective in their checking. However, there is the possibility that they may be biased or influenced by other factors. Despite many safeguards, there is the possibility that errors may go undetected. However, the present system of checking UDISE data is still the best way to ensure that the data is accurate and reliable. However, there may be a few challenges in ensuring the quality of UDISEPlus data; the following step may help if taken in improving the data quality:
- Increase awareness:There needs to be an increased awareness among school respondents/principals/HM and teachers about the importance of data quality.
- Resources:Schools need to be provided with adequate resources (computers & Internet) to collect and manage data accurately.
- Create incentives:There need to be clear incentives for schools to collect and manage data accurately, and there must be some punishments for defaulters.
- Combat corruption:There must be measures to combat corruption in data collection and management, if any.
Checking by an Independent Agency
Sure, here is a plan using which data on a pan-India basis can be checked by an independent agency not part of UDISEPlus or Samagra Shiksha:
- Establish an independent agency:The first step is establishing an independent agency responsible for checking the data. This agency should be independent of the government and other stakeholders in the education sector.
- Develop a data-checking methodology:The agency should develop a data-checking methodology (on a sample basis) that will be used to check the data. This methodology should be comprehensive and consider the challenges of checking data on a pan-India basis.
- Train the agency’s staff:The agency should be trained in the data-checking methodology. This training will ensure that the staff can check the data accurately and efficiently.
- Check the data:The agency should check the data on a pan-India basis. This process should be ongoing and should be repeated annually.
- Publish the results:The agency should publish the results of its data checking as it will help ensure that the data is transparent and that stakeholders know of any errors or omissions.
Here are some of the benefits of having an independent agency check the data:
- The agency will be able to check the data independently and without bias; and
- The agency will be able to use various methods to check the data, which will help ensure that it is accurate.
The following are some of the challenges that may be encountered in implementing this plan:
- It may be challenging to establish an independent agency that is free from bias.
- It may be challenging to develop a data-checking methodology that is comprehensive and takes into account all of the challenges involved.
- Training the agency’s staff in the data-checking methodology may be difficult.
- It may be challenging to check the data on a pan-India basis.
Despite these challenges, the proposed plan is believed to be feasible to ensure that the data is accurate and reliable. Establishing an independent agency and using a comprehensive data-checking methodology makes it possible to check the data on a pan-India basis and ensure it is transparent.
DEOs and other officers can help ensure that the data is accurate and reliable.
Online Checking or Checking by Independent Agency
It is advisable to continue with the online checking method and launch a pan-India basis by a third party on random sample checking of UDISEPlus data. The online method of checking data is a valuable tool for ensuring the accuracy of UDISE data. By addressing the limitations of the online method mentioned above, it is possible to make it a more effective tool for ensuring the accuracy of UDISE data.
In addition, launching a pan India basis by a third party (on a random sample) checking of UDISEPlus data will help to identify errors that may not be caught by the online method. The third party will have a fresh perspective and may be able to identify errors that the DEOs and other officers may not have noticed. However, ensuring that the selected third party is independent and has the expertise to check the data accurately is essential. The third party should also be transparent in reporting the results of the random sample checking.
Because of the above, it is recommended that both the present online checking method and launching pan India basis by the third party on checking of UDISEPlus data must go together as it may have the following advantages:
- By using a combination of methods, including the online method and the random sample check, it is possible to identify and correct errors in the data.
- Using a third party to check the data makes it possible to ensure that an independent and impartial body checks the data.
- Identifying and correcting errors in the data makes it possible to improve the data quality.
Because of the above, it is believed that continuing with the present online checking method and launching a pan-India basis by a third party on random sample checking of UDISEPlus data is the best way to ensure that the data is accurate and reliable.
Role of Independent Agency
Who should be the third-party body engaged in the data-checking process? The national levels institutions such as NIEPA or NCERT could be explored as these institutions have the expertise to check the data accurately. The national institutions could develop the methodology for the random sample checking, ensuring that the methodology is sound and the data is checked consistently. Alternatively, the Ministry of Education could handle this task which has the authority to oversee the collection and checking of education data. They could also develop the methodology for the random sample checking. The best way to handle this task would depend on several factors, including the availability of resources, the expertise of the national institutions, and the priorities of the Ministry of Education. Some of the benefits of using national-level institutions to check the data are as follows:
- They have the expertise:The national-level institutions have the expertise to check the data accurately and deeply understand the education system and the data collection process.
- They are independent of the government, meaning they can check the data without bias.
- They are transparent in reporting the results of the random sample checking.
On the other hand, if the Ministry commissions the task of pan-India checking of data, have the following benefits:
- The Ministry of Education has the authority to oversee the collecting and checking of education data, which means they can ensure the data is checked consistently using the prescribed methodology.
- The Ministry of Education has the resources to check the data accurately. They have a team of experts who can check the data and have the budget to do so.
What Must be the Best Arrangement
It is recommended that the Ministry of Education work with national-level institutions to develop a methodology for random sample checking of UDISEPlus data. The Ministry of Education could then oversee the implementation of the methodology by the national institutions, as this would ensure that an independent and impartial body checks the data and that the methodology is sound and consistent.
Here are some of the benefits of this approach:
- The Ministry of Education would be working with national-level institutions with the expertise and resources to check the data accurately to ensure that the data is checked consistently.
- The Ministry of Education would be transparent in reporting the results of the random sample checking; this means that the public could have confidence in the accuracy of the data.
- The Ministry of Education would not have to develop its methodology or train its staff to check the data; this would save time and resources.
The suggested approach is the best way to ensure accurate and reliable data. Before the scheme of checking data is initiated, the data capture format and methodology must be tested through a pilot survey.