Australia: 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 analyses the design and implementation of a major open school data initiative implemented in Australia – My School – led by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority. 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 concludes with a discussion of the balance to strike between displaying data which are beneficial because widely understood by users, while minimizing the risk of misinterpretation of data. It ends with a set of recommendations, including making My School mobile-friendly, developing a best practice forum, integrating a local map facility, and releasing My School data through a more incremental process to improve its currency.