October 7, 2016

South African School Administration Management System

The project supports the development of User Requirements Specifications for the upgrade of the DBE’s management information system.

Name of Organisation /Service Provider: Department of Basic Education (DBE)

Duration: 2014 - 2016

Programm: System-wide Programme

Where is the Project based: National

1. Background to the development of a new EMIS system

The South African – School Administration and Management System (SA-SAMS) was introduced in early in 2000’s. The system was used by provinces, districts and almost 90% of the schools in all provinces for their data administration, management and reporting to parents. The DBE then decided to upgrade the system to be a cost effective, easy to use and a stand-alone computer solution with the main purpose of addressing the management, administrative and governance needs of public schools in South Africa. The DBE requires information primarily for planning and monitoring the performance of the education system on a regular basis. Most of this information is sourced from schools and usually through a school administration and management system like SA-SAMS.

2. Problems to be addressed

Due to developments in technology and the changing reporting requirements within the DBE, the architecture and platforms of the SA-SAMS application became obsolete. The DBE recognised that its management information system needed to be updated in order to meet its knowledge and information management demands. Specifically, the focus was on SAMS as it provided critical information that informed the Department’s strategies and policies. An analysis of the SAMS suggested that the technology platform was outdated and that the user interface was cumbersome and did not allow for the efficient and effective collection of schools based data. As such in 2012 the Department undertook a process to upgrade the system.

3. Details of the intervention

The aims and objectives of the new system are to:

  • encourage real time interactions and monitoring of the schools by districts and provinces and the national Department,
  • meet the data requirements for the entire education sector and also improve accountability and quality of data in the data entry system,
  • achieve compliance to Government norms and standards, reduce environmental conflicts, have built-in validations, data and system security, disaster recovery and be able to integrate with other systems,
    • reduce operating hardware requirements and reduce the cost of maintenance and support.

a. Project Implementation

DBE is embarking on a three-phased project to introduce the system. Zenex funding will cover the first phase (System specifications and user requirements) which entails

i. Scoping and Evaluation, Adoption and Infrastructure Readiness

  1. Scoping exercise and specification of User Requirements - This entails reviewing the requirements of the education system for school administration and management, taking into account the reporting responsibilities of schools, circuits, districts, provinces and DBE. This will involve engagement with the DBE, the nine provinces, and fieldwork in 18 districts and 30 sample schools who are current users of the various systems linked to SA-SAMS. It also involves conducting a review of the current use and inefficiencies of the system and specifying user requirements for a new system.
    Evaluation of all available school administration systems against the above defined User Requirements and an assessment of the cost implications of adoption and provincial infrastructure readiness will be conducted in relation with the recommended systems to form the baseline for selection and possibly further development. 

ii. Implementaiton Steps

The process for implementation of Phase One will include the following:

  1. The Foundation together with the DBE will set up a Reference Group to manage the process. The Reference Group will include key stakeholders such as the DBE, two nominated provincial and district representatives, a NECT representative, two industry experts and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (who are partnering with government at a district level around data management and usage).
  2. The Reference Group will finalise the Terms of Reference using the initial work developed by the DBE.
  3. The Reference Group will put out a closed call for proposals and appoint a service provider to undertake the scoping and specifications exercise.
  4. The Zenex Programme Manager together with the DBE will monitor the implementation and outputs for Phase One.
  5. The Zenex Foundation will administer the funding and all outputs must be signed off by the DBE before payments are done.

4. Conclusion

The specification of User Requirements for a comprehensive single, mandatory and centralised web-based school administration and management solution for the South African education sector that will also cater for national educational data requirements can enhance the effectiveness of the school system and is thus imperative. The design of the system has been carefully considered and critical stakeholders have been involved at relevant points in the process of development. A business case together with a project plan has been developed by the Department which takes into account all the businesses processes in designing an IT system, viz: project initiation, analysis and design, specification elicitation, business requirements, functional design and quality assurance.

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