Education Data : How do we present it in such a way that people engage with it?

Education Data

Reliable data is the cornerstone of any reform. It helps us pinpoint specific changes that need to be made. It helps us understand what is working and what needs to be tweaked/changed.

There are three major challenges with data in our country:

  1. Availability – A lot of times data is not available. It is either incomplete or not available at all. This is possible the worst possible place to be in terms of data. Data is the backbone of any research and without it, analysis is not possible and hence any decision taken would be based on hypothesis more than anything else.
  2. Reliability – It is very important the data we collect or have is reliable. If we are going to use it to design solutions or strategies, the authenticity of the data becomes very important. Unreliable data is almost as good as no data.
  3. Accessibility – A lot of times data is available and reliable but it either out of reach because of bureaucratic inefficiency or because of how much effort it takes to gain access to the data. Sometimes the data is presented in such a way that it becomes impossible to draw conclusions from it. Accessibility also includes the ease with which we can understand the data.

Education is one sector where these challenges are even more apparent. The data with the government was limited until recently. It was very difficult to think of specific reforms in the field because there was so little reliable data available to the common citizen. Organisations working in the field had to start by collecting their own data and then drawing conclusions from it.

Take for example DISE (District Information System for Education) data which the government collects every year.

The reliability of this data is dodgy at best. This becomes clear from an example where there is a school named “Privt. HS. Savitri Vidhya Peeth” at Pipariya in Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh which reportedly has negative number of classrooms.  On the same note, financial aids received by some schools were found to be negative. There are also instances of schools having only one teacher and 12,000 students! [1]

Government shares this data on the DISE website. The only time the citizens engage with this data is when they read a short article about it in the newspaper or a website. Only a handful of people to go the website and engage with the data because well, it is presented in the most unattractive way. Take for example the district level reports [File is huge so might take time to load]. The entire content is just tables after tables with numbers. It is visually unappealing.

It is really exhaustive data and would definitely throw up some really interesting trends but its design makes it very unattractive to engage with. This is also one of the reasons why when we read newspaper articles about such reports, they usually are about two or three aspects of the report and provide very little insight into the bigger picture.

To be fair, the government is trying to make the data more visual by making graphic representations and thematic maps but it is still a long way away from making it truly interactive. I say that because in both these methods, the maximum number of variables we can compare is one. It also becomes difficult to see how different districts are doing as a whole and not just on one particular variable.

The solution?

Two organisations, Oxfam India and Social Cops, made an interactive map using the DISE data to see how different districts stack up when it comes to compliance with the Right to Education parameters.

The table on the right helps you check data for any district in India. It gives data about various variables at once and even gives us names of Members of Parliament from that district in case anyone is interested in taking it to higher authorities. It makes it easy to understand, analyze and compare data from different districts. That’s how easy it should be to engage with data.

Are there different ways like this to represent data? If you know other organisations which do this, post about them in the comments.

Why do we need to make data more interactive?

Three advantages from making data presentation more interactive:

  1. Better understanding – When data is presented in a visually appealing way, it makes it easier for people to understand. Presenting data in different formats makes it more accessible for all kinds of learners to understand it.
  2. Increased engagement – The easier it is to engage with the data, the more people will engage with it. The more they engage with it, the more it will benefit them which in turn will increase the engagement even more. It is a cycle.
  3. Better data – When understanding and engagement will increase, the demand for better data will go up too. This in turn will push everyone to look for or collect more data in a way that the reliability of it remains constant.

When we talk about reform. It is very important the we back it up with data. It is also very important that we present this data in a way which invites people to engage with it and makes it easier for them to understand.

What do you think can be done to increase the data available about the education sector? How do we ensure that this data is reliable? How do we make people engage with this data?

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[1] – Is our DISE Data failing us?

4 Responses to “Education Data : How do we present it in such a way that people engage with it?

  • Even though the graphical representation of the data is an important step, but it’s the last step to show your conclusion. It’s also easiest step and shortest step. We already have so many libraries for it like javascript libraries, matplotlib in python or different graphic libraries of R.
    The most exhaustive steps are collecting RELIABLE data (like what data to collect, how to collect, how much to collect etc., accuracy of the data, and many more) , and applying the right algorithm on the data to draw conclusions.

    • Apoorv
      1 year ago

      I completely agree that collecting reliable data is a very important step. I wanted to talk about how sometimes the way the data is presented is unattractive and hence stops people from engaging with reliable data. All three aspects i.e., availability, reliability and accessibility are equally important in my opinion.

  • Jayanta
    1 year ago

    The article was really informative and did share a perspective I agree with.
    @Amiya, could you please let me know more in detail on how these Libraries work. Also, if I were to learn them on my own are there resources available?
    Would really appreciate the help.

    You can reach me at jayanta.das@varthana.com

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