EVENT: On February 21st, 2018 the Center for Universal Education at Brookings and AidData co-hosted a presentation and panel discussion on their joint report, Toward data-driven education systems: What information do education leaders want and need?, featuring Elizabeth King (Brookings), Samantha Custer (AidData), Tamar Manuelyan Atinc (Brookings), Shaida Badiee (Open Data Watch), Deon Filmer (World Bank), Liesbet Steer (Education Commission), and Nathaniel Heller (Results for Development). Watch the recording via Brookings or follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #data4education.

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Policy Report

Toward data-driven education systems: Insights into using information to measure results and manage change

Date Published

Feb 20, 2018


Samantha Custer, Elizabeth M. King, Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, Lindsay Read, Tanya Sethi



Custer, S., King, E. M., Atinc, T. M., Read, L., & Sethi, S. (2018). Toward data-driven education systems: Insights into using information to measure results and manage change. Washington, DC, and Williamsburg, VA: The Brookings Institution and AidData at William & Mary.

Update: An edited version of this report has been published in the Journal of International Cooperation in Education.


Governments, organizations, and companies are generating copious amounts of data and analysis to support education decision-making around the world. While continued investments in data creation and management are necessary, the ultimate value of information is not in its production, but its use. Herein lies one of the biggest challenges of translating information into actionable insights: those that produce education data are often far removed from those that make crucial decisions about education policies, programs, and investments. With limited insight on what decision-makers use and need, the likelihood of disconnect between supply and demand is high.

Yet, there has been surprisingly little systematic research on the types of information education decision-makers in developing countries value most—and why. Much of the available evidence on the use of education data in developing countries relies upon individual case studies. These qualitative snapshots offer deep insights on use patterns and challenges in a single context, but make it difficult to draw broader conclusions.

In this report, we offer a unique contribution to this body of knowledge by analyzing the results of two surveys of more than 300 education policymakers in low- and middle-income countries that asked about their use of data in decision-making. Survey participants include senior- and mid-level government officials, in-country staff of development partner organizations, and domestic civil society leaders, among others. 

This report helps the global education community take stock of what information decision-makers use to measure results and manage change. Drawing upon our review of the literature and the two surveys of end users in developing countries, we offer practical recommendations to help those who fund and produce education data to be more responsive to what decision-makers want and need.

Featured Authors

Samantha Custer
Policy Analysis

Samantha Custer

Director of Policy Analysis

Tanya Sethi
Policy Analysis

Tanya Sethi

Senior Policy Analyst

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