7th September 2018

Focus Education: technology can help teachers do the thing they love most - teaching

Technology can help educators balance the burden of increasing administration duties with their core job, which is teaching and spending more time with students.

Teachers today are faced with increasing demands of administrative tasks that eat into the time they spend on teaching. This is evident from the data collected by the New South Wales Teachers Federation, which states that more than 95 percent of their respondents (teachers, executives and principals) reported that there was increased complexity in the wide range of duties, and administrative and data work. While many teachers and educators are trying their best to retain their primary focus on working with students, evidence shows that many, in fact, are struggling.

A recent report by the University of Sydney and Curtin University has revealed that, on an average, a teacher faces 55 hours of work every week (44 hours at school and 11 hours at home).

The study titled Understanding Work in School further states that these duties not only impact teachers themselves but also threaten teaching and student learning. 89 percent of the respondents from the study revealed that a high workload, the need to provide evidence of compliance with policy requirements (86%), and the new administrative demands introduced by the Department of Education (91%) impacted teaching and student learning.

While we may not be able to eliminate the regulatory, compliance and other requirements that add on to their administrative duties, what we, as technology companies, can do is offer tools that improve, streamline and speed up these activities. Schools and educational institutes can engage private partners to invest in and deploy a holistic schools management solution as the first step towards helping our teachers focus on education outcomes of the Australian students.

Where the knot is and how we can untie it

Data and evidence collection can be a cumbersome and a time-consuming task in absence of a robust system. Amongst other duties and responsibilities, teachers today have to collect and analyse data, report to parents, guardians and caregivers, provide evidence of policy implementations, participate in planning and implementation of state-wide policies, report student-attainment information and other compliance-related information as well as undertake general administration duties. These tasks need to be undertaken every day. However, the time spent on these activities can be cut down by deploying the right technology.

Benefits of an education management system

Technology provides a strong foundation to assist educators expedite tasks that are not their main focus while maintaining data accuracy. Typically, a good school management solution will provide efficiencies for school admin, billing, and finance while offering teaching tools and business intelligence software which teachers can use. On top of this, it will provide communication tools and portals for parents. However, what differentiates a great system from the good ones is the understanding and consideration of the complexity of a school’s environment. Getting this part right means that the solution can meet the needs of a single school, or a group of schools (like a Catholic diocese) or an entire jurisdiction (like a state government) who may want to manage all of their schools within one enterprise system.

My opinion is that a great school management solution follows these underlying principles:

  1. Make it easy to enter data: The technology we deploy must make it easy for teachers and school staff to enter and use their data. A great example of this is attendance management. Solutions these days enable teachers to call the roll quickly from any location and on any device. A couple of clicks and then it’s done.
  2. Maintaining data integrity: To ensure that the data is correct, the solution will have mechanisms to validate different types of data. At a school level, this may be as simple as asking parents to validate contact or medical information through the parent portal. For a Catholic Diocese or State Government, it may be checking that a duplicate student account is not created when a student moves between schools. Technology provides us with great opportunities to reduce the burden on school and head office staff by automating or sharing the responsibility across this area.
  3. Data is only entered once: Once someone has entered the data, it should be accessible ubiquitously within the system without anyone ever having to enter it again. The Civica Education Suite, which offers modules in Timetabling, Billing, and Finance modules is a great example of this. E.g. A teacher adds a student to a lesson or an event that has an associated fee. By doing so the Finance system creates a debtor account, the Billing system notes that the student’s bills are split between two parents and a grandparent, on a 40/40/20% basis and raises the bills accordingly, and the Timetabling module records the student’s registration for the class, and makes this visible to the student, teacher and carer/s.
  4. Easy reporting and analysis: This final guiding principle is that it has to be easy to get your data out of the system and the Civica Education Suite does this in a variety of ways. On every screen, the solution provides data in the form of grids which can quickly be exported to a CSV or spreadsheet format to allow really quick access to data which the school may want to use elsewhere. To ease the burden of reporting to central bodies such as DEEWR (Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations), ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority), and the ATO (Australian Taxation Office), the solution provides schools with all of the reports and extracts they need for national and state government bodies, allowing schools to simply submit them as required. For school staff that want to create their own reports (without learning complex reporting tools, it also includes an ad hoc report writer to provide quick and easy custom reports.

Additionally, the solution offers strong business intelligence capabilities. This can be used by teachers and other staff to build interactive graphical reports from all of their databases. As well as providing analytical capabilities, CE Analytics can also be used to start predicting outcomes for students, whilst providing alerts for teachers to intervene when a student starts to veer off track. The education sector continues to experience a significant digital transformation. Each year Australian schools collect an enormous and ever-increasing amount of data, which is used intensively by our education community. To compound the situation, they need to achieve more, whilst spending less - which means that the technology must do a lot of the work for us. 

We are listening and adapting. 

By Simon Jones, Managing Director of the Libraries and Education solutions at Civica International