August 9, 2013
In 2012, the Senegalese Ministry of Education and USAID Senegal launched the PALME (Partenariat pour l’Amélioration de la Lecture et des Mathématiques à l’Ecole Elémentaire) project to improve the reading and math skills of more than one million students in all of Senegal’s primary schools.
This three-year, $18 million project supports a new effort to improve classroom instruction for reading and math, strengthen school monitoring and student learning assessments at the local and national levels, and increase research and evaluation capacity within the Ministry.
As an initial step towards modernization, USAID and the Ministry of Education decided to prioritize the collection of standardized test data from over 9,000 primary schools nationwide. For the first time, the Ministry planned to conduct nationwide standardized tests in reading and math for 2nd, 4th and 6th grade students in order to determine which of three different treatment interventions best improved reading and math outcomes.
The Ministry’s previous data collection efforts required each school to fill out and send paper forms to their district supervisors to collect, compile and validate the data. District officials would then send the paper-based data on to their regional supervisors who performed the same collect, compile, and validate step before sending the data on to the national level. This occurred once per year, and the complexity of the reporting made analyzing and publishing the results before the following school year a daunting task.
Ministry officials decided to use DataWinners to collect data by school, subject, gender, class and scoring interval (bottom third, middle third, top third) both at the start and the end of the school year. Due to near universal cellular coverage throughout Senegal, it was decided that the over 9,000 primary school directors nationwide would submit this data via SMS. Ministry administrators used DataWinners to create project questionnaires and upload school data to create a unique profile for each director. Human Network International (HNI) then assisted the Ministry of Education administrators in conducting a training of trainers for 160 regional and district officials on SMS data submission.
It has only been a few months since the launch of the PALME project in Senegal, but DataWinners is already revolutionizing the way in which data is being collected. According to Lamine Ndiaye of the Ministry of Education, DataWinners has shortened the time required to collect data and minimized the risk of error and loss. He reports that the primary school directors are currently submitting SMS data with a 95% success rate and that the Ministry is even looking at the possibility of expanding their use of the DataWinners tool to collect statistical data for all of their projects. Keep up the great work, PALME Senegal!