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Unlocking the value of education data

Access to education data is critical to support research to inform policies and strategies that improve student outcomes in NSW. The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) is Australia’s first dedicated hub of education data and evaluation. CESE’s functions are to:

  • provide data analysis, information and evaluation that improve effectiveness, efficiency and accountability
  • collect essential education data and provide a one-stop shop for information needs
  • build capacity across the whole education sector so that everyone can make better use of data and evidence.

Five years ago, CESE developed the NSW Education Data Hub to enable department staff, researchers, educators, parents and students to access data appropriate for their needs.

The challenge

The breadth of the functions and accountabilities of the department meant that many data resources were stored in disparate locations, across websites or internally in different divisions. This meant that it was difficult to:

  • understand the extent of data available.
  • locate and access the data.
  • ascertain the most current version of the data.

CESE began their journey by scoping out connections across the various agency divisions to confirm what data was available and who the data stewards were. They then worked with the data stewards and supported them to proactively release their data on the Data Hub in a machine-readable format.

“We anticipated that we may receive a lot of resistance. What we found was business areas were more than happy to make their data open and available. The proactive release of information made the ‘GIPA’ process less onerous. Everyone is used to it now.” 

Rustum Abdurahman, Director of Innovation and Digital Services, CESE

The Data Hub is a searchable, central education data repository that stakeholders can use to find data relevant to their needs. It is built on CKAN, a web-based, open source data portal and data management platform. The platform has a harvesting function, enabling users to pull in metadata from other data portals. It also enables users to publish and manage data over time. The Data Hub contains almost 100 different data sets and is accessed about 6,000 times a month.

Benefits

The Data Hub is one of the mechanisms used to enhance the availability of open data. It provides the data, which users may download and explore themselves, rather than submitting a formal request for information. If an individual cannot find the data they need, they can make a custom data request or have a discussion with CESE’s data services team. This process helps the department be seen as approachable and transparent with their data.

The public release of data has reduced the amount of time staff spend on responding to requests for information. It has also promoted transparency of government data and using data for evidence-based decision-making, in line with the NSW Government open data policy.

CESE also provides other resources to share data and make it accessible, for example, the School Finder tool. The School Finder pulls in school location data from the Data Hub and overlays this information onto maps. This allows parents and guardians to find their local school enrolment boundaries by entering their address.

Key Messages

  • Open data saves time for both the department and the community.
  • Open data promotes transparency, trust and evidence-based decision-making.

Do you have a story you would like to tell?

With so many agencies across the NSW government developing innovative methods to apply data and generate evidence-based insights to improve the customer experience for citizens across our state, it’s important that we share our work to advance our collective knowledge. DFSI will be telling as many of these stories as we can. If you are aware of anything interesting going on in the data world, please get in touch with us! Contact Us