Guidelines for Mapping Education Data in Sub-Saharan Africa

BY TASKEEN ADAM AND IRENE SELWANESS | Originally posted on EdTech Hub

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Are you a government official, NGO or researcher looking to understand what education data is available locally? Our new guidance note shares practical lessons learnt from mapping the availability of education data in Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.

Last year, we posted about the Unlocking Data initiative and its goal to support access, use, and sharing of education data to effectively tell the story of education in Africa. In 2020,  we hosted a series of workshops that aimed to unpack the biggest barriers in data sharing. At these workshops, the community of practice realised that before we can truly discuss (re)using education data effectively, we need to understand what data exists, where the data gaps are, and what data indicators are needed for decision-making. To delve into the topic further, we hosted an event to showcase early ‘Lessons Learnt from Education Data Mapping in Africa’ and created a working methodology for education data mapping.

Moving from theory to practice

Unlocking Data and its partners have been working towards mapping education datasets in selected African countries. Through sharing lessons between the different mapping exercises, we realised that mapping education data happens in different ways. This could involve various stakeholders and can be conducted for a wide range of purposes. We found these different practical aims and approaches to be enlightening and incredibly beneficial to others, so we combined them into a guidance note on mapping Africa’s education data. 

Building on the data mapping methodology, the guidance note takes the theory to practice, sharing practical experiences, lessons learnt, and challenges encountered.

What can you find in the guidance note?

This guidance note would not have been possible without the key insights from the partners we interviewed. We are grateful for their contributions:

  • Eldah Onsomu shared insights on the mapping of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) data in Kenya
  • Esme Kadzamira shared insights on the mapping of administrative and survey data in Malawi, and
  • Iman Beoku-Betts and Chris McBurnie shared insights from the mapping of the supply and demand for education data in Sierra Leone.

The guidance note explores the different questions, purposes, successes, challenges, and key considerations learnt from these mapping initiatives, highlighting factors that other countries and stakeholders pursuing data mapping may find useful.

Initiating a data mapping project can be quite daunting. We found that it is important to scope it well from the onset, understanding what you are — and are not — hoping to achieve from the exercise. To assist future data mappers in scoping, the guidance note unpacks various rationales and approaches of the three data mapping projects through the following questions:

  1. What are the different purposes driving data mapping? 
  2. Who are the potential stakeholders in the process, and who are the end-users for this data mapping exercise? 
  3. What is the area of focus in education?
  4. What are the types of data that the data mapping intends to cover?

What key challenges did we identify in these data mapping projects?

Our review of  the different mapping projects identified  key challenges that are useful for data mappers to consider:

  1. Accessing and analysing data: Issues such as lack of data availability and/or accessibility, trust in data security, and skills to analyse data impact and the use of, and demand for, secondary data.
  2. Coordinating stakeholders: Data mapping involves multiple stakeholders (e.g., government officials, researchers, and non-governmental organisations) and getting a commitment from and convening and coordinating stakeholders is challenging.
  3. Presentation and dissemination of the mapping project output: Decisions around the most effective means of cataloguing and visualising the mapping output (i.e., whether a presentation, report, database or dashboard) have not yet been ascertained.
  4. Resources: Scoping the timeline and human resources needed for the mapping project is difficult as the amount of data is unknown, existing skillsets within teams vary, and the availability of key stakeholders can be erratic.

What’s next for Unlocking Data?

The strength of Unlocking Data is in its community, therefore, we want to learn more from you! What are you or your organisation doing to support access, use, and sharing of education data? In the next few weeks, we’ll be launching our call for more content, so you’ll be able to share your experiences with the network! To keep up-to-date with our knowledge-sharing blogs, upcoming events, and report releases,