04 June 2024

Data Must Speak: United Republic of Tanzania

Evidence-informed decision making is crucial to improve the quality and relevance of basic education in United Republic of Tanzania. Both the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) in Mainland Tanzania and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) in Zanzibar are interested in enhancing data usage and access in order to develop, implement, and monitor evidence-based policies, plans and strategies for primary education.By merging and analyzing existing administrative datasets in both Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, this research helps to identify important associations between school inputs and school performance that can inform public policies and investments in the education sector.Data Must Speak – a global initiative implemented since 2014 – aims to address the evidence gaps to mitigate the learning crisis using existing data. The DMS Positive Deviance research is co-created and co-implemented with Ministries of Education and key partners. DMS research relies on mixed methods and innovative approaches (i.e., positive deviance approach, behavioural sciences, implementation research and scaling science) to generate knowledge and practical lessons about ‘what works’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ to scale grassroots solutions for national policymakers and the broader international community of education stakeholders.The DMS research is currently implemented in 14 countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, the United Republic of Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.
01 December 2023

Data Must Speak: Togo

The Togolese government, through the education sector plan (ESP) 2014-2025, aims to achieve universal quality primary education. With this goal, they recognize the challenges in education access, participation and retention. School performances is among the areas by which they are understanding and addressing these challenges.  What resources and contextual factors are associated with school performance in Togo? By merging and analyzing existing administrative datasets in Togo, the reports and policy briefs in this series highlight specific resources and contextual factors associated with good school performances in Togo. More importantly, they aim to inform policy dialogue and decision-making in Togo and other interested countries. Data Must Speak – a global initiative implemented since 2014 – aims to address the evidence gaps to mitigate the learning crisis using existing data. The DMS Positive Deviance research is co-created and co-implemented with Ministries of Education and key partners. DMS research relies on mixed methods and innovative approaches (i.e., positive deviance approach, behavioural sciences, implementation research and scaling science) to generate knowledge and practical lessons about ‘what works’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ to scale grassroots solutions for national policymakers and the broader international community of education stakeholders.  DMS research is currently implemented in 14 countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, the United Republic of Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. 
21 November 2023

What is effective teaching?

The expansion of education in Zambia has offered an opportunity to consider what effective teaching looks like. , In 2017, only 2 per cent and 5 per cent of 15-year-olds in Zambia reached proficiency levels in mathematics and reading respectively.(1) Furthermore, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, primary school enrollment rates had stagnated since 2014, and had not kept pace with Zambia’s population growth.(2) Although the Zambian government has made quality…,   In response to rising enrollment rates, the Zambian government embarked on the largest teacher recruitment initiative in the country’s history, employing nearly 35,000 new teachers in efforts to combat staffing shortages and reduce high pupil-teacher ratios.(4), Education officials in Zambia face an increasing need to consider how best to prepare new teachers and take on an unprecedented influx of both students and educators.  Since 2021, Zambia’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has partnered with UNICEF’s  Data Must Speak  research team to identify positive deviant (PD) primary schools (those with top…,   Evidence shows that highly effective schools in Zambia practice more teacher-directed instruction., Over 300 classroom observations were conducted to understand the pedagogical differences between classroom practices in PD and comparison schools.  Preliminary evidence found that classes in PD schools are statistically significantly more teacher-directed than other schools. These classes tend to begin with teacher-directed instruction, followed…, The effectiveness of teacher-directed instruction has been evidenced elsewhere. , A balance of pedagogies in which teacher-directed instruction is the main (but not sole) mode of instruction has been found to positively correlate with learning outcomes in mathematics and science in 2012 and 2015, respectively, on the international PISA (Program for International Student Assessment).  In 2012, PISA consolidated student survey…,   What does teacher-directed learning look like? , In Zambia, teachers at PD schools tend to spend more time at the front of the classroom, introducing new academic content or reviewing past material that connect to a subsequent learning activity, such as a hands-on experiment or practice problem.  In contrast to traditional lecturing, students are more likely to actively listen in these moments,…,   What does this evidence mean for teachers in Zambia, and in other comparable contexts? , For Zambia, the MOE must now consider how to best prepare new teachers, and support current teachers, to effectively lead classroom instruction and know when to turn the focus of the lesson to student practice. With a growing evidence base, a structured pedagogy program could serve as cost-effective option for supporting teachers in Zambia’s…
04 July 2023

How to unleash the power of data to transform education policies

Standup meeting Every year, most Ministries of Education (MoEs) conduct a school census.   School directors indicate the resources their school possesses (e.g., books, a library etc.), the characteristics of their teachers (e.g., gender, qualifications, etc.) and the number of students enrolled. This data feeds into the Education Management…,   What have MoEs and the DMS team learnt from linking administrative datasets? , The Data Must Speak (DMS) research team at UNICEF Innocenti has worked closely with Ministry of Education partners to co-create and conduct in-depth analyses of administrative data.   First, we linked the information on schools over time, which allowed us to connect important pieces of data, for example, knowing how many girls and boys were…,   What is the future of research with school’s administrative datasets? , Integrating other datasets within EMIS could open new opportunities  Although these analyses are informative, they are still only scratching the surface when it comes to the potential of administrative data in informing education policy.   Firstly, the monitoring of the education sector could be improved by adding new layers of information in EMIS…,   Regularly monitoring outcomes of education policies , Secondly, it is clear that EMIS data is underused when it comes to measuring the impact of education policy.   Was a policy regarding mass textbook delivery successful at raising exam success rates? Did the drop-out rate decrease when the MoE expanded the number of canteens? In our analyses, the DMS research showed that EMIS data has the potential…, Embed impact evaluations within administrative data to test new education policies , Thirdly, EMIS data could be used to test new education policies and measure if they are successful.   Impact evaluations, including Randomized Control Trials (RCTs), are considered the gold standard when it comes to program evaluation, but they are usually quite time consuming and expensive to implement. However, in some cases, it is possible to…
02 July 2023

3 outcomes of research co-creation

While there are many valuable innovations in education, few are brought to scale. The  Data Must Speak (DMS) Positive Deviance Research  and  District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2)  teams strive to ensure that innovations in education are scaled up by co-creating research with key partners and stakeholders from inception to policy…,   Outcome 1: Well-aligned research with in-country priorities and needs , The EMIS hosts most of a country’s education-related data and can inform priorities for improving the education system.   Countries face recurring challenges to build, maintain and utilize the EMIS data. Improving management information systems, such as EMIS, is more than finding the perfect software -- but a socio-technical undertaking filled…, Outcome 2: Strengthened capacities on data use and empowerment of education stakeholders  , Continuous EMIS strengthening efforts are enabled by long-term investments in local capacity and community resources.  The DHIS2 ecosystem enables a range of contributors -- ministries, education staff, researchers, experts, developers -- to build meaningful applications and services on top of EMIS. These services have an open-source license which…,   Outcome 3: Improved research uptake and impact on education systems , Research co-creation improves evidence uptake and impact. When MoEs and key partners are meaningfully engaged throughout the entire research process, they become champions of the research who use the evidence to inform their own decision-making. To date, the DMS research has informed formal education sector planning processes in Lao PDR, Nepal and…
01 June 2023

4 realities when co-creating education research

Since its launch in 2019, the  Data Must Speak (DMS) Positive Deviance Research , together with Ministries of Education (MoE) and education partners, has worked to identify and scale the behaviours and practices of exceptional schools (i.e., positive deviant schools). Through a co-creation and co-implementation approach, the DMS research has…,   1. Different perspectives and capacities , The DMS research team, MoE, and partners offer different perspectives and expertise when working together. The DMS research team recognizes the uniqueness of each country’s education landscape and acknowledges that the MoE and local partners are in the best position to drive change and impact within their own system. At the same time, the DMS…,   2. Competing priorities and changing in-country conditions , One of the realities when co-creating research is the shifting priorities of governments and local partners. The DMS research has witnessed such shifts during the pandemic, where governments primarily focused on emergency response and recovery programming. These shifts naturally happen during changes in government leadership and political…,   3. Data-related realities: Access, preparation, and utility , The DMS research leverages existing administrative datasets (e.g., Educational Management Information System [EMIS], learning assessments/examinations data, and household data) to identify positive deviant schools and scale their excellent behaviours and practices.   In Tanzania (Mainland and Zanzibar), the DMS team and partners sat together to…, 4. Demand for contextualized research outputs, There is a high demand from MoEs and local partners for contextualized and easily digestible research outputs. Usually, full reports are complemented with shorter thematic policy briefs. Additionally, to meaningfully co-create at country level and break down language barriers, DMS research outputs are written and published in the national language…
31 May 2023

5 ways Data Must Speak is co-creating education research

The  Data Must Speak (DMS) Positive Deviance research  believes that the most significant agents of change in the education sector are grassroot-level stakeholders, and that they should be at the forefront of addressing education challenges within their contexts. As such, the DMS team co-creates our research with stakeholders and partners, working…,   1. Identification of DMS champions from all levels , Champions in the education sector are those who aspire to effect change, have relevant technical capacity and skills, and have a certain level of authority, such as staff from the Ministry of Education (MoE) and representatives from the development sector. The DMS research identifies and engages champions actively throughout the research journey.…,   2. Formation of consultative and technical working groups , The consultative and technical working groups (TWG) are two distinct groups of country-level stakeholders and partners. The consultative working group is usually composed of 20-25 members, including decision-makers and experts from the MoE, school-level stakeholders, development partners, and local academics. This group acts as a steering…, 3. Collaborative design and implementation of data collection tools with school-level stakeholders , In all participating DMS research partner-countries, research tools are co-developed with key stakeholders. This co-creation strategy puts school-level stakeholders (e.g., school leaders, teachers and community members), the implementers of education programs and policies, at the center of evidence generation. For instance, representatives from…, 4. Data analysis with key stakeholders, The TWG and DMS researchers jointly prepare, merge, and analyze existing datasets to identify exceptional schools (i.e., positive deviant schools) in given contexts. The technical co-creation sessions help DMS researchers better understand country-specific contexts. They also strengthen the technical research capacity of the TWG members, fostering…, 5. Development of research outputs and dissemination strategies with country stakeholders , Outputs from DMS research are co-developed with the MoE and country stakeholders. Due to the demand for contextualized research outputs, DMS researchers have prioritized producing outputs in easily digestible formats (e.g., thematic policy briefs, human-centered videos, and podcasts). In Togo, findings from DMS research stage 1 analysis were…