Data Drives District Decisions in South Africa

In this blog series, we will discuss the growing importance of the use of data in South Africa’s education system – why it matters to parents, learners, and educators, and how providing educators with the information they need can help learners excel. In this post, we explore how access to data is assisting district-level officials to monitor schools effectively and support learners to pursue excellence in education. Click here to read all the blogs in this series.

Mohatsi Mothebe is the District Director of Xhariep District in South Africa’s Free State Province, a semi-rural area with vast distances between each town. Part of his role entails conducting visits to underperforming schools that require intervention, which often involves a drive of up to 200km to reach a school. When planning school visits, Mr. Mothebe uses the Data Driven Districts (DDD) Dashboard to get a holistic view of which schools to visit, what to investigate and who to engage during his time there. This not only saves him time, but also enhances the focus of his visits.

In South Africa, access to the DDD Dashboard – an online dashboard that visualizes school data – has empowered education officials like Mr. Mothebe to make data-driven decisions to better support schools with the goal of improving learner outcomes. The DDD Dashboard now houses data for more than 11 million of South Africa’s approximately 12.5 million learners. With over 9,000 active users of the dashboard, principals, district officials and provincial managers are able to access data on multiple metrics that inform their decision making. In the hands of committed and dedicated education officials, this information translates to specific and targeted interventions to provide sustained change for public schools in South Africa.

Given limited resources and large school load, district officials like Mr. Mothebe use the DDD Dashboard to plan their school visits and allocate appropriate support following a needs-based approach. The tool provides them with objective data that they use to formulate constructive conversations with school principals that previously would have been very difficult to conduct due to lack of information.

Mr. Mothebe states that the DDD Dashboard is the most effective management tool he has used in his 37 years in education. The dashboard helps him identify which of his circuits (clusters of schools) are performing well, and which require additional support. He uses the attendance tracking and assessment completion sections most often, helping identify key issues before visiting his schools.

The Vhembe District in Limpopo Province uses the dashboard as a solution to a different need. In contexts where support is needs-based, high performers are often not a priority. However, this is not the case in Vhembe District, which has been the best performing district in the Limpopo Province for three consecutive years.

Through implementation of the DDD Dashboard, the district’s intervention team has switched from a labour-intensive, manual and paper-based selection process. They now select and support the 550 highest-performing learners online and in real-time. Curriculum officials identify content knowledge gaps in high achievers and use this information to encourage these learners to perform at their full potential.

“Before the DDD Dashboard, we had different data sources that were being used, compromising the standard of the data,” said Dr. NG Rambiayana, Vhembe District Director. “With the dashboard, we now have a one-stop shop for district data which allows us to track the performance of learners.”

The district officials are now able to conduct performance analysis at a learner level. This analysis is used to provide tailored support and monitor the learners’ performance and attendance. This has enhanced the ability of district officials to assess the standards of teaching in schools and to inform the appropriate support is provided by subject advisors.

The DDD Dashboard provides education officials like Mr. Mothebe and Dr. Rambiayana with a variety of insights to inform the right programmatic support for all their schools and learners.