Guidelines for Mapping Education Data in Sub-Saharan Africa

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The blogpost was written by Taskeen Adam and Irene Selwaness and published on the EdTech Hub blog on June 14, 2022. The blogpost is available at under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International. It is reposted here without any modifications.

Are you a government official, NGO or researcher looking to understand what education data is available locally? Our new guidance note shares practical lessons learnt from mapping the availability of education data in Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.

Last year, we posted about the Unlocking Data initiative and its goal to support access, use, and sharing of education data to effectively tell the story of education in Africa. In 2020,  we hosted a series of workshops that aimed to unpack the biggest barriers in data sharing. At these workshops, the community of practice realised that before we can truly discuss (re)using education data effectively, we need to understand what data exists, where the data gaps are, and what data indicators are needed for decision-making. To delve into the topic further, we hosted an event to showcase early ‘Lessons Learnt from Education Data Mapping in Africa’ and created a working methodology for education data mapping.

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Using ‘building blocks’ to develop digital education platforms cheaper and faster

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Earlier this year, our team at EdTech Hub and partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation noticed a recurring pattern: we saw colleagues around the world — in government, the private sector, civil society — working to develop various digital platforms for learning. We also noticed that most of them tended to need similar platform components — and they either developed them from scratch or used off-the-shelf solutions that weren’t quite tailored to their needs. 

We found ourselves wondering … if we, as a global EdTech community, can understand which platform components or ‘building blocks’, are needed and how they can be used most effectively, we could reduce duplication, increase quality, and conserve resources — ultimately lowering the cost of digital education opportunities and giving access to more children. 

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The Story of ‘Unlocking Data’

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Photo Credit: Image by ESSA

Imagine you are working in the Ugandan Ministry of Education and you want to understand how barriers to girls’ education at secondary level are changing. You can find a few academic articles that look relevant but sit behind a paywall, and a high-level report from a consulting firm, none of which answer the exact question you want to ask. You know the data that was used to write these articles and reports could provide crucial insights if analysed with your priorities in mind. However, tracking down the data is fruitless  —  the data was not deposited, catalogued, or indeed ethically cleared for future use.

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Some links I always share

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I’m at the TeacherFutures workshop (pre-PCF9) organised by the Commonwealth of Learning. Really interesting conversations with colleagues from Cameroon, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Africa.

In these conversations, I usually refer to a few Open Educational Resources, particularly for teacher professional development. These include the following teacher professional development resources:

These programmes are not the only such programmes, but they are distinct in that they provide concrete resources that are publicly available under Creative Commons.

There are a couple of other programmes I refer to. One is OpenUpResources (, producing an open mathematics curriculum (in the USA) as well as Kolibri (, an innovative hybrid online/offline learning management system (with similar idea to some of the ideas advocated around 10 years ago here).

Launch of literature and project surveys on EdTech in LMICs

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In an attempt to gather as much literature, projects and interventions about EdTech in LMICs as possible, the EdTech Hub is launching two surveys to collect such information. 

The literature survey

We recognise that in such low and middle-income regions, much information is not always in searchable peer-reviewed journals or databases, yet may be highly relevant to the EdTech hub. For this reason we are including grey literature such as theses, conference papers, journal articles, NGO reports, and policy papers, among other forms. A link to the publications survey can be found here.

The projects and interventions survey

Similarly, projects may be implemented on the ground but may not have a virtual presence, let alone be captured in journal articles. We are interested in finding out about these interventions. A link to the projects and interventions survey can be found here.

We welcome any suggestions on how to improve these surveys and ideas of how we can better collect information on literature and projects.

Where to begin a systematic literature review?

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How do you begin searching for everything that has been written on education technology in the past 10 years? Over the past few weeks, the research sphere team has been grappling with this question.

It seems logical to first decide which search terms we would use in database searches. However, the main issue with this was the sheer number of words we could be using. For example, we initially came up with 146 terms (and counting!) that refer to specific technologies used in the classroom. Now, most systematic literature reviews, of course, dutifully report on the terminology used in their searches. However, not many appeared to explain how they came to choose specific search words.

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