As school year 2017-2018 officially commenced this week, an Australia-funded information system at the Department of Education (DepEd) is helping improve the process of learner profile and performance tracking.

Inah Cimafranca, Teacher III at Minglanilla Central School in Cebu Province, generates learners data from schools in Minglanilla I District for which she also acts as LIS district coordinator.

DepEd’s Learner Information System (LIS), launched in 2012, currently stores 25,623,680 learner profiles including those in senior high schools and Alternative Learning System (ALS). It is being used in 47,373 public schools, 17,615 private schools, 10,557 senior high schools and 54,125 learning centers for ALS nationwide.

School principal Dr. Alarico Ramos of Doña Juana Elementary School in Quezon City remembers the difficulty back in the day when school registration was all done manually.

“It would take us sometime before we could verify with other schools the authenticity of student data shown to us by transferring students,” Ramos said. “But now with LIS and through the students’ Learner Reference Number (LRN), verifying a student’s academic history is just a mouse click away.”

“Unlike before, it now becomes impossible to fake a student’s age and other relevant data. There is a system that will always tell us the ‘truth’ about each learner,” Ramos said.

Parents queue up to register their kids at the Doña Juana Elementary School in Quezon City. Along with required legal documents, data submitted upon enrolment by first-time enrollees are then encoded in the LIS by the school LIS coordinator in order to generate the unique Learner Registration Number (LRN).

Australia first assisted DepEd in developing LIS through the Strengthening Basic Education in the Visayas (STRIVE) program in 2009-11. DepEd then issued Department Order No. 22, s. 2012 requiring the assignment of unique LRNs for all students in order “to facilitate the tracking of pupils, students or learners and their performance”. LRN is a permanent twelve-digit number which a learner shall keep for his/her entire student life.

Under BEST, LIS has been rolled out to cover DepEd’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), private schools and, most recently, universities and colleges. BEST developed a more robust and comprehensive software and installed a state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure that can handle a large volume of data and processes on a nationwide scale. BEST is also capacitating DepEd to manage and continuously improve the system.

“LIS is part of Australian government’s broader strategy to assist DepEd in improving education systems in the Philippines towards inclusive socio-economic development through information and community technologies (ICT),” said Felicity Lee, Australian Embassy First Secretary for Development.

“It is part of our broader initiative to help DepEd establish ‘single sources of truth’ for critical data on learners, schools, physical and financial resources; promote data-sharing of quality-assured learning, teaching, and professional development resources; and provide an on-line venue for educators to share ideas and collaboratively vet resources in one portal,” Lee said.

A tool for planning and governance

Jeremias Masapol, principal of San Fernando National High School in Camarines Sur, said using LIS made him appreciate the value of data management as a tool for school management planning.

“From the LIS, we can easily view various performance indicators such as how many students dropped out, transferred out, transferred in, or have been retained or promoted,” Masapol said. “It is now easy to generate these data and be factored in our school management plan.”

At the division and regional levels, DepEd can easily view the drop-out rates and prepare for necessary interventions because of the quick generation of data.

“While before, we would wait up to end of school year to receive these school data, LIS now makes them accessible to us within the first month of classes, making us become pro-active in our strategic planning,” said Agustina Albiso, planning officer of the DepEd Division of the Province of Cebu.

“Because of LIS, learners are enrolled in the right grade levels, and are assured to have single identities all throughout their school lives,” DepEd 4A Regional Director Dr. Diosdado San Antonio said. “Most importantly, we can now easily detect if there are ghost learners.”

He said that while students before could freely enrol under different names or be registered with unverified personal data every school year, “LIS now gives learners a new sense of confidence because it captures and protects their real identities with an almost zero chance of duplication.”

San Antonio said that as a planning tool, “LIS allows us to retrieve critical information faster so that we can make more responsive decisions and assign appropriate resources.”

“If LIS tells us that one school has a very high dropout rate, we can then check how our existing dropout reduction strategies are implemented in that school, and then make corresponding action right away, such as assigning more teachers if necessary,” San Antonio further explained.

At the central office, LIS forms part of the digital transformation agenda that highlights four key areas where ICT can be applied: teaching and learning, communication, governance planning and decision making, and process and operations.

“LIS helps us transform into an agency that values data sharing and transparency, breaking the culture of data exclusivity in the past,” said Aida Yuvienco, head of DepEd Information and Communications Technology Service.

A DepEd data center has been established at DepEd Central Office with a mirror site located in DepEd VII Regional Office in Cebu City as shown in this photo. The technology is part of the multimillion-peso ICT infrastructure that Australia is funding to help improve basic education governance in the country.

“Data from LIS and another equally vital system also supported by Australia—the Enhanced Basic Education Information System (EBEIS)—help us improve data collection and consolidation. They are now being used to produce dashboards for planning and decision making. We now have business intelligence (BI) tools and analytics that help executives, education managers, and planners in their planning processes,” Yuvienco said.

In October 2015, eight months before the first year of Senior High School,  LIS was used to collect Grade 10 learners’ preferences for school and program. During the school opening in June 2016, LIS served as DepEd’s main source of real-time enrolment data which helped the agency quickly make adjustments in their SHS implementation strategies.

More benefits

DepEd NCR planning chief Vicky Mayo said LIS provides a facility to detect ‘fly-by-night’ schools or mainly private schools with no appropriate permits to operate from DepEd.

“You can tell that the school where you enrolled your child in is accredited with DepEd because they are able to provide LRN,” Mayo said. “Make sure your child has an LRN or else, he/she will have difficulty transferring to another school or progressing to the next level,” Mayo said.

The ease in student profile verification is experienced today by schools accepting transferees who are suddenly displaced by the armed clashes in Marawi City. At a press briefing last week, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said displaced learners may enrol in another schools even without bringing any documents as long as their profiles are encoded in the LIS. This setup for Marawi learners, Briones said, is “in effect nationwide and not just for schools in Mindanao”.