Analytics sets directions in education

Big data analytics is helping education authorities to improve quality and to create learning programs that meet national development goals, says Deloitte

Tags: Big dataDeloitte, Middle EastSaudi Arabia
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Analytics sets directions in education Mercer: Analytics is aiding government in understanding how the skills they need for the future can be taught to students in education today.
By  Mark Sutton Published  April 6, 2016

Big data analytics is playing an increasingly important role in helping to define strategy for the education sector, according to consulting company Deloitte. Julie Mercer, partner, Global Industry Lead, Education Consulting, Deloitte, said that technology in general has a growing role in the sector, from developing policy through to cost reduction and enhancing student experience, but large scale analytics is gaining traction in providing strategic insight and enabling education systems to be more predictive about their outcomes.

“We are seeing most interest coming from universities and school groups around IT strategy, how digital embeds into their corporate strategy and how they can make sense of the data they have got,” Mercer said.

“We have worked with the UK government, taking the National Pupil Database, mashing it with lots of databases and open data sources, looking at the impact of everything from socio-economics to health to crime, on the school performance; through to supporting universities in Australia and Holland to use analytics to understand the student body, to look at how they improve retention rates and to attract more students.”

The benefit of analytics is that it is able to examine a whole set of student data, Mercer explained, and with more sources of data being made openly available, more factors can be included in analysis. In the Gulf region, analytics are being introduced to education to increase the numbers of local students joining further education and to also benchmark the performance of schools and universities. The introduction of league tables of schools has helped to improve standards of educational institutions, and analytics is feeding into this desire to improve quality.

“The Gulf is investing heavily in education, in really understanding how they can encourage nationals to continue in education, to study, to stay in the region; and that means that the universities and the schools need to be high performing,” she explained. “One of the ways that we believe that they can respond to that is to use data and information and the power of analytics to really understand the student body, what motivates them, how they can develop programs and create an aura around going to university that is attractive and means something in the local context — which I think is very different here than it would be in the US or Europe.”

The quality of analytics data is important, Mercer commented, as is understanding the local context and acting on that data. While changing a whole education system is not something that can be done overnight, analytics can help governments to understand current performance and adjust any shortfalls, and also to develop programs that align students with the fast-paced requirements of the changing digital economy.

In this area, analytics is being deployed to create education programs that match skills, and also attitudes and behaviours, with the needs of the workplace. Deloitte is working with many governments on developing vocational training programs to create graduates with the right skills for market, she added. In Saudi Arabia, the company is working with the government and Ingeus, a company that is specialised in helping people to find employment instead of taking social welfare, as part of Saudi’s TAQAT programme.

“It is helping them to make the links between the skills that they will need for the economy of the future and how that translates into programs and opportunities. I think there is a big opportunity there,” Mercer said.

“Whichever country you are in, government and business understand the importance of education, not just in driving economic growth, but in social cohesion, and political rest. For me it is about how do you create an environment and a curriculum and an ambition that will support that broader political, economic and social development in a challenging world,” she said.

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