Provincial student information system inadequate

Nanaimo teachers are worried the province could be replacing one bad system with another if it chooses to switch to a new centralized student data system.

Nanaimo teachers are worried the province could be replacing one bad system with another if it chooses to switch to a new centralized student data system.

Last fall, teachers spoke out about problems with the British Columbia enterprise Student Information System (BCeSIS), the system introduced in 2006 to centralize data collection in school districts. Shortly after, the province hired a consultant to look at how to improve the system and evaluate others.

The report found that “BCeSIS, as currently deployed, is not meeting the business, technical or operational needs of B.C. and is not a viable future alternative.”

While the system is capable of supporting the business and technical requirements for the next few years, the report indicates significant investment would be required to evolve the application to support the future vision and direction of the B.C. public education sector and looking into other available systems is recommended.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said change is definitely needed because the system keeps crashing at times of peak usage, such as the beginning of the school year, as it did last year, and at report card time.

“I think it caused more problems for teachers and the district than solutions,” he said.

While teachers would like to see it replaced with another common system for all districts, data should be stored locally, not on a central server, said DeGear.

“The centralization creates overload issues,” he said. “They’re replacing one bad system with another bad system.”

Teachers have concerns about security breaches and how the province uses the information collected from schools, said DeGear.

He said the province is publishing more and more data coming from schools via BCeSIS, information that could identify individual students or classes.

It is easy to transfer student information from school to school or district to district, DeGear added.

BCeSIS cost $16 million to build and about $11 million a year to maintain and operate. Districts pay $10 per student for the system – more than $130,000 for Nanaimo.

The district would welcome improvements to the system, given the problems educators have had in the past with the system freezing up at peak times, said spokeswoman Donna Reimer, adding that there was no major system-wide crash this fall as there was last September.

She said the district has some concerns about the costs of implementing a new or improved system, but recognizes that changes are needed.

In an e-mailed response, Education Minister George Abbott said BCeSIS is a good system, but it could be more user friendly and will not meet future demands.

He said the province is not making decisions about a replacement at this time and it plans to consult with users of the system to create a new tool that meets the needs of the school system and the ministry.