WRITTEN BY RIGOBERT PAMBE
“Surrounded by data but starving for insight.”
In November 2020, Cameroon adopted the “National Development Strategy 2020-2030”, a reference framework for its development action over the next decade, making education a fundamental pillar for the development of the nation. Despite significant progress in improving access to education, issues revolving around quality and equity remain a major concern with over 77% of students learning-poor.
Unlocking education data can provide valuable insight into the challenges faced by the education system and inform policy and practices for the best routes to tackle these challenges and improve attainment. This is however a very daunting task considering the country’s complex educational system, as well as its diverse range of institutions, programs, and data sources. How can we make sense of the vast amount of data available and use it to improve educational outcomes for learners?
In this article, we explore the challenges and opportunities of navigating Cameroon’s educational data ecosystem. We build on the assumption that by understanding the connections between the key players, data sources, and tools available, we can make informed decisions and drive positive change in education. Specifically, we will discuss the role of government agencies, universities, and NGOs in collecting and analyzing data. By the end of this article, readers will have a better understanding of how to navigate Cameroon’s educational data ecosystem and use data to improve educational outcomes.
A – Complex education data ecosystem with a variety of stakeholders
Cameroon’s education data ecosystem is complex and diverse, with multiple actors and sources involved in the collection, management, and dissemination of information. Government agencies are the primary authority for education data in Cameroon, overseeing the collection and management of data from various educational institutions across the country. Six ministries oversee the education sector in Cameroon. These are the Ministry of Basic Education (MINEDUB), the Ministry of Secondary Education (MINESEC), the Ministry of Higher Education (MINESUP), the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training (MINEFOP), the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Youth and Civic Education (MINJEC).
Each of these ministries is responsible for a particular subsector of the education landscape and is therefore collecting, analyzing and disseminating data solely for that sector. They all use different methods for collecting and compiling data, making it difficult to compare or aggregate their data. This is mostly due to the absence of a coordination mechanism at institutional levels. The Division of Education, Teaching and Research at the prime ministry could fill this gap, ensuring coordination between these ministries. However, they are understaffed and under-budgeted. One final state actor intervening in Cameroon’s education data ecosystem is the National Centre for Education at the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation with the mission of conducting research in the field of education and building the capacity of educational stakeholders.
Other actors collecting, compiling, and disseminating education data In Cameroon include the National Institute of Statistics, universities, international organizations, local NGOs and actors from civil society. These stakeholders are all motivated by the desire to improve educational outcomes; however, they operate in silos, reducing the scope of their impact. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the creation of a holistic and inclusive education data network ensuring collaboration between actors for increased access, use and sharing of data.
B – MINEDUB and the premise of a functional Education Management Information System
The education data management system championed by the Ministry of Basic Education is by no doubt one of the most advanced in the country today. The Department of Planning, Projects, and Cooperation of the Ministry of Basic Education is responsible for drawing up and updating the school map; centralizing and processing statistical records; collecting data on various education systems; putting in place a databank; and normalizing the data collected. In order to achieve these tasks, they partner with various actors at central and decentralized levels including, regional and divisional delegations, the National Institute of Statistics and international agencies such as UNESCO or UNICEF, the latter providing technical assistance and support for education data collection and analysis. This synergy of actors produces useful and reliable educational data for decision-makers, donors, and other data users. However, data collected remains insufficient as it focuses primarily on broad outcomes like enrollment, attendance, academic performance, resources etc… There are invaluable educational data sources mainly coming from other actors within the data ecosystem which are available but unexploited.
Developing and maintaining a functional, inclusive, and sustainable education data ecosystem is essential for achieving predetermined educational goals. Data is crucial in providing a better understanding of the current situation, setting goals, elaborating benchmarks, and measuring success. In a context like Cameroon with multiple actors intervening in diverse education sectors, it is important to understand the role and capacity of each of these actors, establish a working relationship between them and build solid a network of partners working in tandem towards promoting data-driven decision making in education. Education data mapping stands out as the ideal strategy to achieve this aim. Beyond understanding what education data exists and is accessible, it will involve mapping the various actors, their skills, and experiences, and bridging the gap between them. We aim to do this using the methodology and conceptual framework developed by the Unlocking Data consortium. Case studies from Kenya, Malawi and Sierra Leone using this approach are a testament to the benefit of this process as shown in this guidance note. We look forward to sharing our experience of undertaking this approach in Cameroon with the whole Unlocking Data community.
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