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|News for Early Childhood Education|
The “Early Learning Information System” (ELIS) announced in last year’s Government Budget (2011) is to go ahead and more details have been released.
The ELIS will enable political needs to be better met for monitoring services more closely, tracking children’s attendance, and identifying and reducing the incidence of incorrect or fraudulent funding claims. The title of the data management system “Early Learning Information” suggests that it is for collecting and providing information on children’s learning and their learning outcomes, but child assessment data and related outcome measures such as family participation and child accidents and injuries are not to be included.
The Ministry of Education is calling for tenders to develop the ELIS and says it welcomes proposals from suppliers for commercial off-the-shelf, software as a service and bespoke developments.
About $1.5 billion per annum is paid to private and community early childhood service operators to provide education to children before they start school, childcare for parents, and support the bureaucracy surrounding this. The ELIS will enhance the “Ministry’s ability to report in a timely manner to the Government on its early childhood objectives”.
According to tender documents, the ELIS will meet government objectives by:
- using a National Student Number to uniquely identify children participating in ECE;
- capturing detailed enrolment, attendance, identity and demographic information for individual children;
- capturing demographic, qualification, and employment information for individuals providing education and care;
- implementing a variety of methods for the ECE sector to submit child-based participation information;
- implementing a variety of methods for the ECE sector to submit information about individuals providing education and care; and
- facilitating the exchange of information between the ECE sector and the Ministry, within the ECE sector and between the ECE and compulsory sectors as appropriate.
The ELIS will not come cheaply: $12.8 million operating and $18 million capital expenditure over four years has been allocated to getting it up and running.
When the ELIS is in place administration through additional recording and reporting will be increased for early childhood services. The extra admin created for ECE services by the ELIS may not have a noticeable impact on chain and large ECE services, but staff in services with small numbers of children may find significantly more of their time is spent doing administration work for the Ministry. ECE services without Internet access (estimated to be approximately 11-12% of all services) and those that have got by without paying the cost of subscription to an online Student Management System (SMS) will likely experience difficulty in adequately complying with the new data reporting requirements involved with the ELIS although paper based reporting will still be permitted.
As a Government Department, issues of privacy of information can be expected to be adequately addressed, but ‘big brother' type issues may arise surrounding how the data is used. For example, current government objectives include increasing children’s participation in ECE institutions because it is thought that benefits for children can be measured by their attendance level. Once children’s details are in the ELIS the Ministry and any of its contractors could potentially pull up information on children whose attendance is not deemed to be high enough, frequent enough, or for example whose parents have decided to withdraw their child or take an extended holiday, and contact families to get them to better comply with government participation objectives.
The Ministry intends that the ELIS will continue to record and process much of the same data it currently collects from early childhood services and it will also require data to be sent for input into the ELIS as soon as it happens, for example, at or very near the date and time of a child’s attendance.
All children are to be given a National Student Number (NSN) when they first enrol at any early childhood service and services will be able to access the NSN through a web interface or create an NSN for a new child and then input it into their records. Early childhood services will be able to query the data that the Ministry keeps on it and its children and staff through their SMS if they have one or through an interface with the ELIS. Ministry staff will be able to query the records for administrative and quality control purposes.
A briefing for potential tenders is being held in Wellington at the Ministry’s offices on Friday (29th June, 2012). The deadline for tender proposals with the Ministry of Education is 25th of July 2012.
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