This article has been published in Enabling Education 8
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Title: C-Emis as a Tool for Inclusive Education For All
Author: Heijnen, E
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2004

C-Emis as a Tool for Inclusive Education For All

Els Heijnen

“Mainstream schools with an inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving Education for All (EFA); moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system.”

Adapted from Salamanca Statement

EFA is not automatically inclusive. Large numbers of children continue to be excluded from mainstream education. Children who are marginalised from government schools remain ‘invisible’ in data collection processes, resulting in a lack of reliable information on the number of out-of-school children and the reasons for non-enrolment, irregular attendance, poor learning or dropping out.

Reasons for exclusion are generally based on beliefs that certain children are less able and valued because they are poor, they work, they are girls, they have disabilities, they are from ethnic minorities or are perceived to be ‘different’ in other ways.

As part of every government’s commitment to the EFA Dakar Declaration (2000) national Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) are being developed to systematically collect statistical information for education planning and monitoring and to get all children into school. Though a good start, government EMIS still misses out on many children both in enrolment and programming. An important reason for this is the lack of inclusive thinking and planning among policy planners and decision makers. Other reasons why government EMIS still excludes vulnerable and marginalised children include:

  • data collection is top-down – central governments determine the information to be collected
  • enrolment rates are over-reported and drop-out rates are under-reported
  • there is a focus on numbers, rather than reasons why
  • national averages conceal local variations
  • school focus, rather than a child focus
  • lack of information related to the rights of children
  • lack of community participation and capacity building
  • focus on government schools only.

There is, therefore, no reliable information on the scale of the problem of out-of-school children, nor enough information about who these children are, and why schools fail them. If schools are to improve and become responsive to local needs, they must be given greater autonomy to assess and resolve their own problems.

Community-based EMIS (C-EMIS)
Since there are so many limitations in the national EMIS, it is necessary to develop community-based systems, or C-EMIS. This is a decentralised data collection system, implemented with the active participation of communities, parents, teachers, local government officials and even children. Information is analysed and used at the point of collection. One of the objectives is to increase local ownership and accountability – in both formal and non-formal education.

C-EMIS has been piloted in South and Central Asia (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) technically supported by Save the Children or UNICEF in partnership with national governments.

Successful implementation of C-EMIS contributes to the empowerment of communities to manage decentralised education systems designed to provide quality education to every child. It is not a parallel system, but it complements government EMIS to create better understanding of, and inclusive educational responses to children. C-EMIS highlights the importance of finding and making visible all children in an administrative area, especially those whose rights to education have previously been denied. It seeks to build the capacity of stakeholders to use quantitative (EMIS) and qualitative (C-EMIS) data for local level education development and school improvement. As such C-EMIS is a tool for inclusive planning and programming.

Apart from data collection and analysis, communities monitor education performance and management. Criteria for local monitoring are developed in partnership with the government and include tools to measure inclusiveness, quality and local cost-effectiveness. A particular feature of C-EMIS is the inclusion of data on learning achievement, which is overlooked by most government systems. Children, parents and communities have a right to know how well the school is providing basic learning competencies.

“Children who learn together, learn to live together!”

Els Heijnen was Senior Education Adviser for Save the Children Sweden-Denmark-UK in Bangladesh until May 2004 and is now Project Adviser (Helvetas/SDC) for the Bhutan government’s national teacher education capacity building project. She can be contacted at: