Ph.D. Thesis – C. J. van Wyk

VAN WYK, CHRIS J. (2006). The development of an education management information system from a sense making perspective and the application of quantitative methods to analyse education data sets.

Ph.D. Thesis

Author(s): Christoffel van Wyk

Supervisor: Professor S. Berhout; Professor Servaas van der Berg

Institution: Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Education, Deptartment of Education Policy Studies.

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Information is a necessary resource, produced by information systems and is a key building block to the management and decision-making in any organisation. The National Department of Education’s guidelines to establish Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) in provincial departments is a recognition that proper management, planning and evaluation are contingent on quality data, data that is complete, relevant, accurate, timely and accessible. The lack of quality data and the lack of integration with other information systems hamstring the effective use of EMIS. This study addresses these limitations in three basic objectives: a) developing an information systems development model, b) applying the model in a real-life context of the development of the Western Cape EMIS, and c) applying quantitative methods on integrated data sets derived from the EMIS in the Western Cape and other information systems.

The study culminates in the development of a four-phase process model for developing and using EMIS in an integrative manner that would provide a more comprehensive picture for policy and decision-making. It outlines the establishment of an information systems development (ISD) model that integrates innovative emerging trends, such as improvisation, bricolage and sensemaking, in designing and implementing information systems. These approaches postulate that beyond the numbers and quantifiable world there is a complex reality that traditional approaches do not always capture. These include, amongst other things, the atmosphere, culture and structure of an organization, together with the behaviour, emotions, knowledge and experiences of all the people who in one way or another interact with the information system.

The research presents an empirical application of this developed ISD model in education management information system (EMIS) and underscores the role of information systems in everyday practice. This work practice (Practice-in-Action) approach is used to describe how the day-to-day actions and practical experiences of role players contribute to the design, development, implementation, testing, maintenance and improvement of the EMIS and is used as a lens for understanding ISD.

The study further uses quantitative methods, namely education production function and learner flow-through models, to illustrate how the process of knowledge discovery in large data sets in EMIS could be facilitated. The education production function aims to identify those variables that could have a significant influence on the achievement of students in the matriculation examination. The learner flow-through models attempt to measure the effect of learner dropout and repetition on internal efficiency of the education system. Data analysis was facilitated through integration of data sets from various sources, and in turn illustrates the important role of bricolage in ISD. Through this analysis, the role of information systems of this nature to make sense of reality was highlighted. Policy making then can build on the findings from such data analyses to investigate in greater depth any trends or emerging problems, going beyond only the quantitative and macro level analysis by studies at the qualitative and micro levels.