Education is an essential social service rendered by all governments to their citizens. The education sector has a number of similarities in information requirements when compared with the health sector. DHIS2 has been traditionally deployed in the health sector in many low and middle-income countries. DHIS2’s generic data model makes it an ideal candidate for it to be considered to be applied for information requirements in the field of education. Several countries in the African region have started deploying DHIS2 for education over the last couple of years. The objective of this exercise was to explore how DHIS2 can be utilised for information requirements in the education sector in Sri Lanka. Setting up a successful implementation of DHIS2 requires years of experience and learning of the context. Hence, our approach was to learn from experience in implementing DHIS2 in health domain and adopt best practices for speeding up the establishment of DHIS2 for education.
While exploring the existing context of the education system in Sri Lanka we noted several interesting aspects. The education sector gathers school census data on a paper-based information system once a year, assisted by the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka. By practice, it is well understood, that the transmission frequencies are needed to be increased as it has been practiced in the health sector along with appropriate monitoring mechanisms set up at intermediate levels. In addition, the prevailing practices in the education sector incorporates transmitting data from school level to national level through several digital solutions including free and open-source platforms, however, they are fragmented digital information systems, compared to the context in the health sector. The Ministry has in-house expertise both in ICT and education domains. The strong presence of resources at the provincial level is another positive factor that could facilitate the implementation of systems in the education sector. Infrastructure is generally satisfactory in national schools which are spread across the country which could be a good focus for the initiation of implementing information systems.
The approach has been to establish an information system owned, implemented, and maintained by the Ministry of Education. The selection of DHIS2 to set up the information flow from school to national level was largely driven by its open-source and community-driven nature that facilitates the sustainability of the platform. Establishing core capacities in customizing and sustaining the platform within the ministry was largely focused. Experts from the local HISP community who have vast experience from implementations in the Health domain were involved in building core competencies in the Ministry. Customized DHIS2 Academy for education was conducted targeting to customize a simple data collection and analysis use case with the Ministry core team.
The customized aggregate data set is planned to be piloted in national schools as the initial step. The plan is to build capacity at the provincial and school level at a gradual pace and to scale it up for advanced tracker implementation.