Using open school data to improve transparency and accountability in India

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.

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It is widely acknowledged that India’s school system suffers from severe accountability deficits. High levels of teacher absenteeism and poor learning outcomes are two manifestations of this. One response to this accountability deficit has been the proliferation of data on school systems. These databases have emerged through a combination of government and civil society action.

However, relatively little is known about how data are used and to what extent this has enabled citizens and the government itself to strengthen accountability. With over 1.5 million schools in India, the education ecosystem consists of a range of different actors – including government, private entities, parents and community, and civil society organizations.

All these actors work with some form of data. Yet, while numerous studies have tried to understand the relationship between transparency and citizen engagement for improved service delivery, very few have tried to understand how school-level data in India are accessed and utilized by different stakeholders.

India has over the years made a number of interventions to improve access to information at the school level. However, as with other developing countries, there is a significant gap between access to information and the use of information by stakeholders as a tool for demanding accountability.

This study collates experiences of users of data at different levels to understand the bottlenecks and challenges to achieve transparency and accountability in India’s public education system. The publication highlights the limited extent to which India’s data-rich education system has effectively contributed to improving transparency and accountability, and concludes by emphasizing the need to strengthen the link between open school data and school level planning.

Selected recommendations

  1. Build inter-operable, real time data bases to enable ease of decision-making
  2. Strengthen on-line and off-line mechanisms for sharing data with the public
  3. Strengthen the link between U-DISE data and school level planning
  4. Consolidate grievance redressal mechanisms

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About the authors

Mridusmita Bordoloi is a Senior Researcher at Accountability Initiative, at the Centre for Policy Research, which promotes accountability in public service delivery in India. She has extensive experience in quantitative data analysis of the use of survey datasets in India’s socio-economic sector. Her areas of research include the Indian labour market, education, and consumer economy.

Varun Kapoor holds a B.A. in Economics from Amity University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He was working for the Centre for Policy Research of the Accountability Initiative when conducting this work.

Research Support: Ritwik Shukla

Field Support: Ram Ratan Jat; Tajuddin Khan; Poonam Chaudhary; Indresh Sharma; Vinod Verma; Swapna Ramtake

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