Highlights — 16 June 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Computerized student tracking to be implemented new school year

BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 15, 2015–OpenEMIS – a generic and open source Education Management Information System available to all UNESCO member countries, which is used to collect and report data on schools, students, teachers and staff – is being implemented in Belize by the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and UNESCO, and official sources indicate that the plan is to have the system implemented in schools for the next school year.

Alan Gennity, Deputy Chief Education Officer in the Policy, Planning, Research and Evaluation Unit of the Ministry of Education, confirmed to our newspaper today that the plan is to have the systems in place in the coming months, so that schools could begin to directly input student information.

He told us that during the months of May and June 2015, Education officials visited schools across the country to collect student-level data, such as the names of students, the names of their parents, their address and other background information, and they are in the process of hiring data entry persons to enter the data into the OpenEMIS.

Those data entry personnel would be engaged in June and July, and principals and management staff at the various schools would begin training in August.

We asked Gennity how the Ministry intends to address confidentiality issues, since there will likely be public concerns over the leakage and misuse of confidential student and staff data.

He told us that the UNESCO-based database has a high level of security, and access to information would be limited based on who is using the data. For example, in schools, principals would have access to all their school data, but other schools won’t have access to that internal data. However, all the information would be fed to the Ministry of Education, where access to the data set would also be controlled.

According to Gennity, the plan is to eventually enable parents to see a spectrum of data on their children, such as grades, school attendance, etc.

He said that schools would be able to use the data to monitor performance and trends, which would help them to improve planning.

Gennity said that the data would be available in real time, so that in October 2015, data for that month, which would normally not be available for other months, would be instantly available.

Nelson Longsworth, director of the Examination Unit in the Ministry of Education, told Amandala that schools will be supplied with dedicated computers for the OpenEMIS initiative in the upcoming school year.

This, said Longsworth, would help managers to track students who sit the Belize Junior Achievement Test (BJAT), in order to better understand what happens over the span of three years leading up to the Primary School Examination (PSE), when a substantially lower number of students register for testing.

We understand that the OpenEMIS would be implemented at all education levels, from preschool to tertiary institutions.

The database, we were told, would also be tied to the database on the socio-economic status of the children.

Longsworth said that currently, tracking is weak because of an inadequate paper trail on students.

An information sheet on OpenEMIS states that with its implementation, schools will be able to (1) send and share monthly returns automatically, (2) complete EMIS and other surveys in one location, and (3) view school information online.

Educators will be able to view online personal profiles, skills profiles, work history, classes, leave requests, training requests and more; while students and families will be able to view a personal profile listing attendance, behavior, class results, and national examinations results.

The plan calls for the customization of the system to meet Belize’s needs between January and September 2015, and the distribution of computers to every school between September and December 2015.

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