Assessment of School Information System Utilization in the UAE Primary Schools

Article excerpt

Introduction

Information Technology in Education Management (ITEM) was initially introduced to keep student records and to control school finances (Fung, Visscher, Barta, & Theater, 1997). The concept of ITEM first appeared under different acronyms like Computer-Assisted School Administration (CASA), School Information Management Systems (SIMS), Computer School Information Systems (CSIS) and School Administration and Management Systems (SAMS) (Barta, Telem, & Gev, 1991; Visscher, 1991). Currently ITEM is playing a greater role in education management as it assists schools to function more effectively. Tantall and Davey (2001) describe ITEM as a well-designed functional system that provides useful reports and standard operations. Furthermore, School Information Systems (SIS) are perceived as an implementation of ITEM within a school context. Hence, Telem and Avidov (1994) define a School Information System (SIS) as a specialized Management Information System (MIS) that "matches the structure, management tasks, instructional process and special needs of the school".

ITEM can bring a number of benefits to a large number of stakeholders (administrators, teachers, students and parents) in an educational institution. The list of benefits includes but not limited to: improving information quality, saving time and effort and improving control and utilization of school resources (Barta et al., 1991). In addition, the use of ITEM could facilitate the activities related to school management, student registration, fee collection, reporting and timetabling (Friedman, 1994). Furthermore, school administration can use ITEM in all steps of the decision-making process to improve productivity (efficiency and effectiveness), labor quality and organizational structure (Barta et al., 1991; Oostheok, 1989; Visscher, 1988, 1991, 1996).

The educational system in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is managed by utilizing a mixture of manual and computerized tools in a number of primary schools. SIS utilization in the UAE can be considered as an early sporadic experience rather than a planned diffusion of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and Information Systems (IS). Consequently, much of the schools' time and effort is wasted as a result of the under-utilization of such technologies and systems. The researchers explored the early experiences of SIS utilization in a number of primary schools in the UAE in order to clarify how a planned diffusion of SIS can be successfully executed in the educational sector of the UAE in the near future. The paper is organized into a number of sections. Section two of this paper provides a chronological overview of the UAE's educational system. The third section of the paper provides a detailed exploration of ITEM tools and applications used in primary schools in the UAE. The fourth section provides an overview of the research plan used to realize the objectives of the research plan. The last section of the paper provides the findings of the research agenda and a number of concluding remarks.

United Arab Emirates Educational System

The first public governmentally funded school was established in the Emirate of Sharjah in 1953 well before the political union between the seven emirates (Abu-Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras-Al-Khaima, Al-Fujira and Um-Al-Quwain) was established in 1971 with a school population of (230) students (Al-Motawi, 1999; MoE, 1993, 1996a, 1996b, 1996c; Morsi, 1981). During the academic year 2003-2004, approximately 306,752 students were being admitted into 780 public schools and a further 234,250 into 426 private schools; the latter type of schools is self-sustaining funded through tuition fees (MoE, 2004).

The educational system structure in the UAE consists of primary schools and secondary schools. At six years of age, the student starts at a primary public school. …