In today's data driven world, the need for accurate data and informed analysis is paramount for innovation and progress. Data and statistics that are collected and aggregated have a huge impact on a country's education initiatives which can reform a country's polices and decision-making.
However, accurate data can be hard to find in undeveloped countries where education measures can suffer from limitations in collection and reporting mechanisms, or can even be skewed to meet political needs. This data is vital in determining the allocation of resources to schools that are in dire need for the right teachers and school supplies. This situation is particularly true in Haiti, where data collection systems are weak.
A new data collection system called PhiCollect is working to solve this problem by creating a comprehensive assessment system that can evaluate a student's intellectual growth. Developed by WebFirst, Inc. in partnership with HavServe Volunteer Network, a non-profit organization that aims to empower rural villages in undeveloped countries—together they hope to break the cycle of extreme poverty, hunger, diseases, and child mortality in small villages through education.
PhiCollect uses an innovative open source approach to mobile data collection, combining the best of Open Data Kit with the Drupal Content Management System. Although PhiCollect is currently being used for educational purposes, the system is a suitable to collect data for any field including health and inventory control.
Pioneering with mobile technology, HavServe and WebFirst hope to address a key educational challenge in Haiti: that on a national average, only 60% of Haitian children between ages six and eleven are enrolled in school and, of those, only half are given the opportunity to go to school in the rural areas. In that spirit, this strategic partnership aims to improve classroom instruction and better evaluate teachers by collecting student data in rural communities in Haiti, using mobile technology for the upcoming school year.
With PhiCollect, WebFirst will help Havserve track and assess a students' learning curve to identify their educational strengths and weaknesses. By collecting this data, HavServe will gain insight on the subject weakness of their students which will allow the proper teachers to be hired. Moreover, PhiCollect will also be used to help Havserve identify logistical needs (training programs, school supplies, etc.) that are most needed and deliver them to the optimal location.
HavServe CEO, Joyce M. Hunter, believes this program will accomplish three major goals on the country's education reform agenda:
- The data collection will help evaluate the effectiveness of teachers and administrators
- Provide information to help legislators make well-informed decisions
- Predict primary school students' difficulties to improve learning and encourage career readiness among students
The data also will be available for legislators and other stakeholders, so they can address educational issues with an accurate picture of student challenges and performances in rural communities.
Carline Brice, cofounder of HavServe, and Kristin Derry, HavServe Education Program Coordinator, have recently launched a data collection project and are looking forward to the metrics PhiCollect will produce.
From Carline Brice:
I am proud of the work of HavServe in Haiti to promote access to primary education for all children and we are working to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for education reform in rural communities in Haiti. Utilizing mobile technology and the use of high quality data will increase the ability of stakeholders to improve instructions and student outcomes.
The current state of the Haitian education sector is a reason for concern both for national authorities and the international community. WebFirst and HavServe concur that this partnership—currently underway with the first set of metrics to be released in the latter half of 2013—will empower villagers with the education, training, and basic services necessary for them to play an ever-increasing role in determining their own futures and creating a sustainable Haiti.