India: using open school data to improve transparency and accountability
The number of countries providing access to school data to the general public has grown rapidly over the past decade, encouraged by the development of information technologies and under the pressure of social movements demanding the right to information. A wide variety of initiatives have been developed by both governments and civil society, to share school-level information in the form of ‘school report cards’. These provide key information about a school, e.g. on student enrolment, funding, number of teachers, teacher qualifications, pupil–teacher ratios, conditions of school facilities, textbooks, and student achievement. But now that such data are in the public domain, how can it be ensured that they are used to promote not only transparency but also accountability in the education sector? This case study compares the design and implementation of two major initiatives implemented in India – the school report cards developed under the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE), and the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) programme. It covers the types of information published, who publishes it and how it is accessed; the critical data for improving transparency and accountability; how different categories of stakeholders access and use it; the requisite conditions for improving transparency and accountability; and the limitations of such processes. The publication highlights the limited extent to which India’s data-rich education system has effectively contributed to improving transparency and accountability. It concludes with a set of recommendations, including: building inter-operable, real-time data bases to enable ease of decisionmaking, strengthening on-line and off-line mechanisms for sharing data with the public, particularly at the school level, strengthening the link between U-DISE data and school level planning, and consolidating grievance redressal mechanisms.