Why should I use data for planning?

As per the Planning Commission, planning is the process of initiation of development which would raise the standard of living and provide new opportunities for people to lead a richer and more varied life. This definition from 1950 is broad, and it is important to remember that planning is a wide term, used in many different contexts, with different meanings.

In the context of education, the most important forms of planning is the creation of Annual Work Plans and Budgets as well as state plans for the year. The creation of these require a substantial amount of data, on the basis of which the state can then decide what it would want to prioritise.

Say, there is information with the state that several schools do not have adequate classrooms. If there is no information on where these schools are, how many classrooms need to be built in each of these schools, and how much it would cost in each school, it is hard to allocate resources and make a clear path to achieve the objective.

Therefore, data is necessary.

Why should I use data? The use of data makes it possible to create plans with greater accuracy and granularity. Resource allocation, time costs, and other requirements can be carefully tailored, which is critical in the context of resource scarcity and competing priorities across sectors. High quality data can also inform what should be prioritised, by highlighting critical gaps - such as the time taken to provide textbooks, the lack of human resources such as teachers, and so on.

It can also highlight issues across geographies and social categories, which can direct planners to choose among methods to address issues. High quality data can also generate insights on governance, financing, and process related bottlenecks, especially if trained analysts and researchers can use the data.

Therefore, using data can significantly improve the quality of plans, as well as help tailor plans to specific contextual challenges.

Some examples of the use of data for planning:

  • If an official wants to plan monitoring visits, having a list of schools with geographical location is useful to plan such a trip, in order to cover the most schools possible in a given amount of time.
  • If one plans to improve quality via a teacher training programme, then knowing how many teachers are there, their skill sets and experience, as well as their location for logistics, the languages they speak, etc.
  • Increasing salaries – requires information on current salaries, and the number of teachers to understand the cost burden of such a move.
  • If new textbooks are being printed – knowing enrolment in each grade is critical.
  • Scholarships – knowing the social category of the student or other criteria are important to understand requirements.