Abu Dhabi: For the first time in the UAE and the Middle East, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) is developing a new student information system (e-SIS).

The system will initially focus on 300 public schools across Abu Dhabi, addressing changing requirements in education techniques and tools in classrooms, while efficiently managing student-related data to better cater to students' needs during their academic years, right across to their career paths.

School administrators will be able to manage student admission and registration, course selection and enrollment, assessment and examination records, and student alumni records; while teachers, students and parents will have self-service capabilities to meet the schools' growing requirements anytime, anywhere and at their own pace.

Gulf News learnt more about the new system through an interview with Walid Nsouli, the Student Information System Project Manager at ADEC.

Gulf News: Why did you initially decide to implement the student information system across public schools in the Emirate?

Walid Nsouli: For a number of reasons. Schools didn't have a centralised database with relevant information for students, parents and teachers.

Generating statistics and reports related to education to have accurate information is vital.

Students should be able to access their records, grades, attendance and teacher comments, where-as parents should be able to send messages directly to teachers, while keeping track of their child's grades, attendance and general academic record.

Not to mention that our aim is to encourage a paperless environment.

Why waste paper when we can do everything via the computer?

Why print reports if they are already available with back-ups? An 8-10 report paper for instance will be replaced by one report on the system.

We also want to eliminate the process of filling too many forms, such as a transfer form [from one school to another], or a leave form.

Is this system used internationally?

More than 7,000 schools use it in Canada and [elsewehere in] North America. We're the pioneers in the Middle East, and have been benchmarking its efficiency for the past one year, and are ready to roll it out.

What are some of the safety measures that the system will bring along with it?

An SMS will be sent automatically on a daily basis to parents by teachers with regard to a student's attendance. In other words, if a student is missing from class, or left early for whatever reason, the parent is immediately informed via SMS.

Which target group(s) do you wish to reach and by when?

We started in May 2009 and plan to fully deploy the system by September 2011.

Over 300 schools across the emirate, Al Ain and the Western Region (Al Gharbieh) are set to go live by December 2009 and Abu Dhabi in March 2010

The secondary beneficiaries would be private schools.

How much money was invested in this system?

The cost of the programme alone is worth Dh40 million.

What makes you so sure this project will be successful among schools. Don't you think it will limit human interface?

ADEC is doing this under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education which has already tested the [system] through a pilot project among 20 schools.

The system will bring with it a complete curriculum change, and the ministry as well as education authorities will have more information regarding grades, shortages in certain topics and students will be given more freedom to pick out whatever subjects they want.

Face-to-face communication will not go away; this is simply an additional facility that will help create faster and easier communication among teachers, students and parents.

What's your current and next step?

The programme has kicked off with the inception phase on May 3, 2009. It's now in phase 1, which is the implementation of a partial scope.

Our next step is a pilot project to train 10 schools and pick parents who are computer literate.

This will start in the Western Region by November in two separate training locations (for males and females).

We will also be targeting 700 principals and administrators on the following:

  • Student demographics
  • Student registration (K-12)
  • Daily attendance
  • Class Marking/grading
  • General Reporting
  • Teacher details
  • SMS

Functionality to support parents and another 11,000 teachers will be implemented as part of phase 2.

What has been the most challenging task for you and your team of 30 employees?

Minimising dependency on paper and combating resistance towards changing a whole academic system that has been going on for the past 20 years.

How do you plan to evaluate the programme?

Evaluation will be undertaken first at the end of phase 1 according to a set of key performance indicators that have been developed for this purpose, to assess the effectiveness and impfact of key functions and scope implemented; after which an expanded scope on ten pilot schools will give us a better indication on how successful the e-sis implementation is.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm Lebanese, 40 years old, and graduated from IT management from Lebanon and completed my masters in IT in Liverpool University.

My passion is computers, and I knew that as a kid when my first computer was a ZX computer, which I used to connect to the television and apply the basic programmes on it, with all the mathematical formula.

I was only a teenager back then.

But one thing I must mention is that the e-SIS is a team effort. More than 30 employees from different zones have been working very hard to make this work. I cannot without doubt take credit for this alone.