3. Learning management systems and other digital tools for system and institutional management

Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin

Digital education infrastructures are comprised of many digital tools and resources to support administrative and educational operations at the system and at the institutional level. This chapter aims to provide an overview of countries’ digital infrastructure related to institutional and some system-level management tools. Two other chapters cover specific system-level digital tools: students information systems (or EMIS [education management information systems]) (Vincent-Lancrin and González-Sancho, 2023[1]) and digital tools that support the administration of national assessments and exams (Vidal, 2023[2]). The provision of and access to teaching and learning resources is covered separately (Yu, Vidal and Vincent-Lancrin, 2023[3]). This chapter is concerned with software rather than hardware (Fragoso, 2023[4]). It provides an overview of what countries/jurisdictions provide publicly and what is available to schools, teachers and students based on a survey to which 29 countries/jurisdictions responded. The information was expanded while picturing countries’ digital education infrastructure and governance (OECD, 2023[5]) which provide additional information on countries’ digital platforms and tools as well as links and references.

The chapter presents the nature of provision and type of functionalities of software or platforms used for 1) managing schools, 2) managing student enrolments, admissions credentials and preventing dropout 3) providing study and careers advice to students and teachers.

The first section will cover the following types of tools: learning management systems, understood as digital tools to manage students’ attendance, classes, grades and sometimes to manage teaching and learning content; customer relationship management systems to communicate with parents, students and possibly other parties; administrative systems to manage pay, contracts, etc.; and facility management systems to manage the use of school buildings. The provision and functionalities of learning management systems are presented in more detail given their importance at the local level but also at the system level to feed and receive information from the national (or jurisdictional) student information system. The second section presents admission/registration systems, digital credentialing tools as well as alert and early warning systems designed to address school dropout. The third section presents study and careers guidance platforms aimed at students and at teachers.

The conclusion then provides a summary of the information and makes some suggestions for policy makers to consider. It notes the lack of monitoring by countries of the actual usage of different digital tools, highlights the gap between current technology affordances and the more basic functionalities of most tools, and suggests that, beyond the benefits of digitising specific tasks for efficiency purposes, policy makers and other stakeholders should reflect about how information spread out in their system could help achieve some of their strategic policy goals.

Learning management systems (LMS) are the school equivalent of student information systems for administrators – although they typically have more functionalities. They can be referred to with many different names (e.g. course management system, school information management system, school administration system, student information system, content management system). In this book, a learning management system will be defined as a software used for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses and programmes to students.

At a minimum, learning management systems have the functionalities of a local student information system: they typically collect and organise personal information about students such as their name, (school and or system-level) unique identifier, address, age, parental contact information, class, course(s) and teacher(s), presence and absences, grades, eligibility to school-related social benefits (and thus, directly or indirectly, parental socio-economic status), and at a minimum any other demographic or learning characteristic that will open them some rights in their school or education system. In this minimal format, a learning management system manages learning by documenting what students study, with whom (peers and teachers), their assiduity (absences and attendance), their progress (grades and progression over time) as well as other aspects of their learning (e.g. discipline). Whether these functionalities are digitised or not, they are essential to managing an educational establishment, especially when students are minor and to some extent under the responsibility of schools. They are also important where formal education is mandatory in order for this obligation to be enforced. In some cases, they include the possibility to communicate with parents/guardians and let them know about absences and other relevant information.

A second functionality that some learning management systems have is “content management”. They allow teaching staff and institutions to create and manage lessons, courses, quizzes and other learning/training materials. In that case, they not only manage the administrative learning of students, but also the learning content. They may be used to give access to public or digital learning resources, allow students to communicate with their teachers and sometimes classmates in a closed environment – and in some cases provide some other functionalities such as videoconferencing (virtual classes, etc.).

Finally, learning management systems increasingly include reports and analytics about the data collected within the system. They could report on the percentage of absent students and staff over time, compare different classes or student cohorts for given tests or exams, grade point average, or other characteristics such as socio-economic status. They could also provide predictive or diagnosis analytics, whose accuracy will depend on the software but also breadth of the data collected. This information will be useful for teachers and administrators depending on the quality and legibility of the data, usually presented through a dashboard. Over time, one can imagine that the advancement of generative AI and other chatbots will allow teachers to receive the information through questions and answers, in natural language, or a mix of natural language and figures. The development of other forms of AI may also lead to the incorporation of suggestions for teachers, administrators, and students themselves about teaching, learning and administrative strategies to achieve their goals.

Typically, learning management systems are closed systems and only school administrators, teaching staff and learners who are enrolled in a given school (or given network of schools) can access them. They will have authorised roles that will only allow them to see information that is relevant to them: administrators will see most or all the information in their school; teachers, information about their students and aggregate information about their school; students, their own information, and possibly how it compares with their class. And parents will typically be the recipients of emails or texts, and sometimes have access to information about their children (grades, absences, timetable, communications).

There may be other digital forms of managing student and school information that are not considered to be learning management systems, although they may cover similar functions in a usually less efficient way. Using a spreadsheet would be one example. This information can also be maintained in paper form – and is still in many countries, which limits the possibilities to leverage the gathered information to make it actionable (and is arguably less cost-efficient). Conversely, even though applications such as Google Classroom and Microsoft 365 Education are not always considered as full learning management systems as their main functionalities lies in digital tools that are not usually included in learning management systems, they are often, de facto, used as learning management systems as well, notably for the content management part.

For the same reasons as longitudinal information systems, learning management systems are more helpful when students are tracked through a unique, longitudinal identifier.

The OECD survey on digital infrastructure and governance shows that the public provision (or procurement of) learning management systems is less common than that of system-level student information systems: 8 countries/jurisdictions (out of 29) provide learning management systems at the central level (and some states and provinces in the United States and in Canada do so as well); in 8 other countries, they publicly provided at the sub-governmental level (typically either regions or municipalities); finally, in 15 others they are procured directly by schools, usually with public funds, and possibly in addition to the learning management system provided by educational authorities (see Figure 3.1 and Table 3.1 for details).

According to government officials, most schools within OECD countries use learning management systems, at all levels of school education. The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted their adoption and use. In some cases, schools use “free” systems such as Google Classroom.

In terms of functionalities, according to government officials, in addition to the functionalities of a local student information systems that allow to track students’ education, their timetable, their teachers, their grades, etc, a significant proportion have the capacity to handle learning content and can give students and teachers access to digital learning resources. In some cases, countries provide a different platform with digital learning resources – which assume the content management functionality of learning management systems. As a result, about two thirds of countries/jurisdictions estimate that their schools can use a school system to access digital learning content. As shown by Figure 3.2, most of the systems used by schools provide communication tools (with parents and students), analytics dashboards (presenting student data in a visual way).

Some learning management systems are interoperable with the system-wide student information system and can “push” the student information that they have to report in an automated way. Some are also interoperable with at least some other institution-level systems, although this is not always the case. Finally, almost no learning management system provides recommendation tools (and none had any AI embarked as of end of 2023).

Interoperability with system-level tools, and notably with central or national student information systems (and other relevant systems) is essential from an efficiency viewpoint (it avoids data re-entry and thus better quality and more timely transfers of data), but this is also what could enable the easier reuse of data collected at the jurisdiction or national level. When this is not the case, users will typically have to access state-level information from other digital tools, making it time-consuming for staff and limiting the number of use cases when system-level data can be re-used to inform school-level decisions. Interoperability with other institution-level systems matters for similar reasons, as all data that can improve the decision-making of teachers and school leaders are not necessarily collected by system-level digital tools. For example, if a learning digital tool about collects data about, say, executive functions of students in the schools, it is possible this could enable better uses of the language, history, arts, or mathematics learning tools used in the school (if any).

A few countries provide their schools with a national learning management system. Often, this is because the system-level student information system provides schools with some of the functionalities of an institutional learning management system. This is for example the case in Luxembourg and Iceland (for upper secondary schools). In Iceland, the INNA system is both a learning management system for schools, allowing for student tracking, timetables, communication with students and parents, and handling of school fees, as well as a student information system for the government. In Luxembourg, Scolaria (primary education) and Fichiers Eleves (secondary education) are two student information systems that must be used by all public schools and, from a school perspective, have many of the common administrative functionalities of a learning management system: they help school staff manage student enrolments, enter and consult individual and class data, link students to their teachers or track student advancement and progression throughout the years. In Austria, the system-wide student information system Sokrates contains some functionality to manage the academic progress and attainment of students (e.g. recording attendance and grade, organising class activities, storing certificates in digital format), but other typical functionalities of learning management systems such as organising classes, providing learning resources and exercises to students, and communicating with students and parents are provided by two learning management systems, Eduvidual and LMS.at, which can be used on an opt-in basis. Türkiye provides all schools with a central learning management system, “e-Okul” (“e-School”), allowing schools to manage student registration, transfer procedures, grades, absenteeism, exam information, weekly course programme etc. Students use the web platform to have access to their grades, textbooks, daily study subjects, and school schedule.

Sometimes, countries provide two systems centrally, one focused on student tracking and administrative functionalities and one focuses on learning content management. For example, in Hungary, the e-Kréta platform publicly provided to primary and secondary institutions managed by school district centres has student tracking and content management functionalities. It is supplemented by a public content management system, the National Public Education Portal (NKP), enabling students and teachers to access protected contents or functionalities (learning materials, tests and other interactive activities and exercises, as well as interactive dashboards). Teachers can also utilise the platform to assign tasks or assessments to, and communicate with, students, and create their own content for use in their classrooms. Similarly, in Korea, the National Education Information System (NEIS), whose use is mandated in both public and private schools at all levels of education, combines the features of a student information system, a school administrative function system, a customer relationship management system, and a digital credential system. It helps teachers and school staff to manage student admission and enrolment, record the students’ standardised test results and teacher-given grades, track student progress and learning trajectory throughout the school year, and transfer student qualifications to other educational institutions (including colleges and universities) in the country. Korea provides teachers and students with a content management platform with digital resources: EduNet T-Clear. The French Community of Belgium also provides their schools with two systems: the student information system (SIEL) can be used for some of the administrative functionalities of school administration, while publicly provided Moodle-based applications (Happi) can support them for content management, communication with students and parents (and include analytics dashboard). Schools can also choose to opt for another learning management solution if they so wish.

Another group of countries provides learning management systems publicly to schools, but at the sub-government level. This often follows the devolution of responsibilities within those countries (although this is not a necessity).

In the case of Spain, the autonomous regions are responsible for education (while the national ministry is responsible for the cities of Ceuta and Melilla): all regions provide a (more or less) customised version of Moodle, the free and open-source learning management system, which gives schools access to a learning and content repository, communication tools between students and teachers, and some rostering functionalities. In some regions those can be supplemented by commercial solutions.

In France, while the national student information systems (Onde for primary and SIECLE for secondary education) provide some of the functionalities of a learning management systems, those are typically provided by French sub-governmental authorities (regions, departments and municipalities, which are responsible for the infrastructure of upper secondary, secondary and primary schools, respectively). Most of them procure commercial tools (OpenENT, Open NEO, Classe numérique, etc.) but in some cases they are publicly developed (as is the case in Britany with the Toutatice ENT). They typically include communication tools, a repository of learning content, and are interoperable with other school-level administrative and learning systems, including some popular commercial tools that help manage teacher-given grades, timetable, attendance, sanctions, communication with parents, etc. In Japan, local governments (municipalities for primary and lower secondary education and prefectures for upper secondary education) procure commercial learning management systems for the school under their responsibility. These systems vary in detailed functions, but some of them are cloud-based and single-sign-on (SSO) enabled platforms, display analytic dashboards, provide tools for schools to communicate with students and parents. Some of them are also interoperable with institution-level administrative systems (such as student information systems, national/central assessment or examination platforms, etc.).

In France and Japan, the central ministries of education provide some technical specifications for these systems. For example, the French Ministry of Education publishes and continuously revises a “Blueprint for learning management systems (ENTs)”, defining a common architecture, expected services, and setting technical standards for those tools.

In the Nordic and Baltic countries, municipalities typically provide schools under their authority with learning management systems, usually web-based commercial platforms that include, with variants, timetables, homework assignments, grades, evaluations and absences, information for students and parents, and communication tools. In some cases, the provision also follows the devolution of responsibilities: for example, in Iceland municipalities procure learning management systems for primary schools (whereas the state provides the above-mentioned system to upper secondary schools); in Denmark, municipalities procure learning management systems for primary and lower secondary schools, while upper secondary schools procure their management tools themselves. In Latvia and Lithuania, schools also have access to a customised version of Moodle (provided by the National Centre for Education in Latvia and the Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania).

Finally, in about half of the countries for which we have information, schools themselves procure the learning management system of their choice. In Chile, the ministry has negotiated a contract for the use of the free version Google Classroom, which schools can choose to use or not at their discretion.

This is of course a crude picture as situations within countries can mix different scenarios. This is particularly the case in federal countries such as Canada or the United States where some provinces or states may provide their schools with a learning management system or leave it to districts. In New Brunswick (Canada), for example, the province procures a commercial learning management system for its schools, which are mandated to use it. In New York City (United States), the largest US school district, the department of education provides school with a learning management system that they can choose to use or not, and some schools procure directly other similar tools. Variety can be as significant in countries that are not federal, as many educational responsibilities follow “level of education” lines. For example, in Denmark, learning management systems in primary education tend to differ from those in upper secondary education and VET. In primary education, learning management systems mainly manage student administration, a functionality supplemented by access to Microsoft or Google education suites. In upper secondary education and VET, schools typically have a learning management system and student administrative system (e.g. Lectio) and also have access to Microsoft or Google education suites. Learning management systems contain some data about the student, but they are more a preparation tool for teachers and a place for the students to see and hand in assignments.

Most learning management systems include some communication functionality, allowing schools to be in touch with students and parents. This does of course not imply that paper communication with parents (usually through a correspondence book) does not continue. In fact, these methods may remain the main way to communicate with parents in many countries, and they have their virtues. Some of the inconvenience with some of them is that they heavily rely on their children’s willingness to share and properly write down the information (when it comes to homework). Some of this communication is now happening through digital tools, either as a supplement to paper-based information or as a substitute.

In the case of education, customer relationship management systems are software that facilitate the management of relations with different groups of contacts. In the case of schools, those are mainly students and parents; in higher education this would extend to alumni, funders, etc. In some cases, these systems are based on AI in order to customise how and when to address different types of stakeholders.

As noted above, schools often have access to several possibilities. In most countries, schools communicate with students through their learning management systems. Usually, if systems are mainly about content management, they will not allow to communicate with parents. This is the case in France, for example, where schools use other tools interoperable with the content management systems for that purpose.

In a few countries learning management systems do usually not have “communication” functionalities or at least are not used for this purpose. In Canada and in the United States, schools and teachers use separate dedicated communication tools to provide parents with information. In Canada, government officials relate it to their privacy laws. In the United States, most of the time teachers use freemium products for this function. It is possible that a dedicated tool may provide better functionalities or that there was some kind of path dependency in the functionalities of learning management systems.

Denmark also provides an interesting example where a communication tool different from a learning management system is widely used, the Aula platform, which was developed and is maintained by municipalities (through their joint IT organisation, KOMBIT). Aula has been progressively adopted by more than 1 700 primary schools (and over 4 000 day-care providers) and, as of 2024, operated as the primary customer relationship management system for hundreds of thousands of students, parents, and school staff at these levels of education. It emerges as a uniform system across institutions and municipalities. Its scalable, reliable, and robust data processing infrastructure meets all local authorities’ data protection measures. With its massive uptake, it encouraged EdTech firms to raise their transparency standards to connect their products with Aula.

While digital communication with students and parents has become much more common, it is noteworthy that in about one third of the countries for which we have information, learning management systems do not typically have communication functionalities. Where the tools are provided by the central/jurisdictional government, they tend to do though.

Most administrative tasks (e.g pay, budgeting, human resource management) are performed with digital tools, which are typically procured by the authority that employs teachers. Where teachers are central civil servants (e.g. Hungary or France), those tools are usually provided by the central government. Where schools are under the authority of a region, prefecture, municipality or another institution (district, school board, region), those will typically take care of these functions and provide digital tools to this effect. And when schools are independent, they will procure these solutions themselves. In all cases, this is a function that is largely digitised in all countries according to ministry officials.

For example, the management of school funding and school staff may involve the national government. In Italy, the Monitor440 app (accessible via the SIDI platform) supports both government offices and educational institutions with the planning, management, and monitoring of funding from the government. Government offices and educators use the POLIS Online Instances platform (Presentazione On Line delle IStanze) for a range of functions including processing applications for teacher and staff vacancies and transfers, registering staff in the ranking system, and collecting data about teachers’ professional development and activities. Regional governments also share responsibilities for administrative and management processes, some of which may be carried out using local digital solutions.

In Korea, while the National Education Information System (NEIS) covers most system and school management functions, the ministry additionally provides a tool called K-EduFine, which combines formerly dispersed school administration and finance systems. Its use is mandated for budgeting, accounting, and several other administrative tasks, including the approval and transfer of official and work-related documents (e.g. manuals, information conferences, etc.), management of teacher and staff’s schedule, etc. The local offices of education are legally required to use K-EduFine too, but for different purposes, such as allocating funding to schools. Türkiye also provides a suite of administrative functionalities to schools.

In Denmark, the ministry of education distributes state funding to institutions (except primary schools). The ministry does so by using a number of digital administrative systems (e.g. CØSA, FagNavision, INDB, etc.). The CØSA system is used for computing the central subsidies to the institutions, based on data from their administrative systems (educational operations, student enrolments and activities, etc.). These systems allow the payment of subsidy to be updated every quarter of a year. In Latvia, the central government allocates funding to schools through the VIIS system, and municipalities use it to pay salaries to teachers.1

A last class of administrative system relates to administrative documents. In Türkiye, the ministry provides a document management system (Dijital Yönetim Sistemi, or DYS) to facilitate the communication of administrative texts, such as employment and resignation letters, announcements, circulars, appointments, between the central government and local provinces or public schools. As part of a broader initiative to digitalise various parts of government, the electronic flow of administrative documents aims at easier and streamlined administrative and bureaucratic processes.

Facility management systems allow schools to manage their facilities: school buildings, sport facilities, cafeterias, going beyond a “booking system”. These tools are usually used for either sustainability purposes (minimise energy use), to analyse and better channel the use of the school buildings, etc. They can assist decision-making about when to make some spaces available to whom, etc. They remain very uncommon among schools according to ministry officials. They are virtually never provided by central authorities. Probably they are mainly interesting where school campuses are very large. While three countries reported to provide such system centrally to schools, they did not provide any evidence this would go beyond a room booking system.

In 2021, on average 10% of student enrolled in general secondary education programmes had not graduated and were no longer in education; the average was 23% for secondary vocational programmes (Education at a Glance 2023, B3.2 (OECD, 2023[6])). Dropout from school is high on the policy agenda in many OECD countries (and is also a burning higher education issue in some countries). In many low-income countries, keeping students (and notably girls) enrolled is also an issue.

Early warning systems are digital tools that use data available in usually (education system-wide) student information systems, learning management systems (or just other schools using the same early warning system) to predict early signs that specific students are at risk of dropping out of (usually upper secondary) school, based on a series of “early warning” indicators. Research indicates that early warning indicators can be very effective with as few as 3 observations, even though the most effective model so far included many more. Moreover, early warning indicators vary from place to place, influence by some local factors (Bowers, 2021[7]). Nonetheless, early warning systems need to have data beyond a single school, even if not many data per subject, in order to make more accurate predictions.

Early warning systems could be depicted both as an institutional and a system management tool: the information should be in the hands of teachers or school administrators so that they can intervene before dropout can take place; the more information the better to predict the risk, and thus ideally systems should us a greater amount of data than what is available within specific schools to establish their model (even though the number observations per person could be limited in number). Often, they use data from system-level student information systems to predict whether students might be at risk of dropping out from school, using AI quantitative techniques.

Those systems only have value if they manage to flag students at risk of dropping out that teachers had not identified as such (and they do it with a certain level of accuracy). In most cases those systems use AI techniques to reach their suggestions. As people who are “not in education, employment or training” (NEET) have become a policy issue and that school dropouts.

At the central level, Chili rolled out a governmental early warning system called SAT in 2020. It aims to predict and prevent school drop-out from 7-to-12th grade students enrolled in public or publicly subsidised schools. The system’s indicators are based on demographic, socio-economic, attendance, and performance data pulled from other interoperable systems such as the SIGE student information system. Based on an algorithm developed by the Chilean Ministry for Social Development and Family (MIDESOF) and transferred to the ministry of education for management and implementation, the system assigns a drop-out risk to every student. The use of the SAT is not yet widespread within the Chilean education system. A couple more countries have ongoing projects.

Hungary and Ireland also have developed early warning systems. To achieve its policy priority of reducing the ratio of early school leavers, Hungary’s Educational Authority operates an early warning system that leverages student data from classroom-based assessment performance, attendance, grade repetition and feeling of belonging for particularly vulnerable groups, refugees and asylum seekers. The information may lead to specific interventions, and notably include students in support programmes. Within its School Completion Programme (SCP), a central element of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative operated by the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) under the central government, Ireland leverages collected student data for flagging groups at risk for intervention given a comprehensive set of indicators.

In the United States, most districts use early warning systems of some kind. Some of them are based on AI-based diagnosis/predictions – which makes the United States the country that presumably has the most use and variety of AI-powered early warning systems in the OECD area.

A few countries are working on developing one. This is for example the case in Latvia. In Helsinki (Finland), an AI-based system, AI-HOKS, was piloted to explore how to support VET students to graduate (and limit their risks of dropping out). Its indicators are based on personal competence development plans, login and use of various tools and learning environments, weekly mobile questionnaires sent to students’ cell phones, and students’ feedback. As of 2024, the ambition was to provide, within a couple of years of use and the enlargement of the available datasets, an ethical learning analytics about drop-out.

Finally, while not informed by predictive analysis, several countries maintain “alert systems” (to distinguish them from early warning systems). This is still the majority of early warning systems in the United States. Their data models are less ambitious and are mainly based on absenteeism. In many countries, and this would be true for low-income countries, one of the ambitions is to enforce compulsory education.

In Brazil, minimising school dropout and tracking and supporting individual students to meet the national plan policy goals is a top policy priority, and more or less advanced digital tools tracking students’ attendance are present throughout all States, with some notable implementations such as the classroom journal (Diário de Classe) platform in São Paulo state, and a tracking system connected to SMS messages to parents’ mobile phones implemented in the state of Goiás using principles of behavioural economics. A few platforms provided by the federal government and other stakeholders support educational institutions to ensure some social interventions follows students’ observed absenteeism. Similarly, in Gujarat (India), the VSK student information system allows the state to follow in real time student absenteeism, which is acted upon after a certain time, ensuring that enrolments in schools for all is effective rather than procedural.

New Zealand is an example mixing the “alert” and “early warning” approaches: schools use the Attendance Service Application (ASA), a national student attendance system, to make absence referrals. Once a referral is generated, a local service provider will allocate it to an adviser for action to reduce student absenteeism. This data also feeds into a statistical predictive modelling tool used by the NZ Ministry of Social Development that essentially functions as an early warning system to identify at-risk youth and ensure they have access to the Youth Service for young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). In Korea, the student information system (NEIS) is also considered to operate as a support system to intervene when students appear at risk of dropping out of school.

Bringing these two types of early warning and alert systems together, five countries or jurisdictions (out of 29, so 17%) used them, including 3 (one in ten) leveraging advanced technology.

Student admission (or enrolment) systems deal with different types of enrolments. In some cases, they are used to enrol a child in school through a digital system so that the information is immediately digitised. In other cases, digital tools are used for selective applications to schools and to support admission decisions. This may be when parents have some level of discretion in choosing the school of their children, when schools are selective, or when funding follows students. In most cases, digital student admission systems support school transitions, and notably the transition from lower secondary to upper secondary, and pathways towards vocational education and training and towards higher education. In all education systems, this is when choice becomes larger, and study tracks more numerous. Most centrally provided systems are used for admission in upper secondary education, vocational education and training and higher education.

Student admission systems are thus both an institutional management tool (schools can use them to register students or to select them) and a system management tool (systems support the matching between schools and students through a digital matching process). They aim to make the enrolment or selection process more efficient, and notably avoid duplications of data entry or loss of information.

Enrolling or registering a student in a school is still done in person and on a paper basis (or low teach means) in many countries, especially for lower levels of education. Admission systems tend to become digital in secondary education and beyond.

A few countries provide national tools to this effect though. Sometimes this is purely out of administrative efficiency, as is the case in Korea, Hungary, or Luxembourg, where a central system to manage student registration in school simplifies the enrolment procedures of students to their local school, school transfers, as well as the admission process to secondary schools. In Hungary, should parents wish to send their child in another school than the local one, the selection process of the preferred school also goes through the system.

In some Nordic and Baltic countries, municipalities sometimes also provide digital tools to that effect. In Denmark and Latvia, municipalities provide schools with digital systems to enrol or register students. In Iceland, where primary and lower secondary schools are operated by municipalities, parents fill in enrolment forms for their children directly on the websites of schools. In the United States, enrolments are devolved to school districts and schools, and US states do typically not provide school platforms to this effect. However, the process is typically done online, except in smaller districts. In most cases this is just a registration process. In Canada, enrolments are also done at the school level, and usually do not involve digital tools.

When parents or students exercise some level of “school choice” or when schools have criteria to admit students or can select them, central admission tools fulfil a more important function.

There are two types of matching systems. A first type of digital systems implements rigid algorithms based on regulatory criteria to indicate in which school students should or could study: usually distance between home and school, and sometimes academic performance. Those algorithms can include some equity or other types of dimensions and be used to influence the composition of the student body and make socio-economic background a decision criterion. They are also used to support parental choice (especially when there is no selection), notably by giving them information about schools or supporting their “strategic” decisions. From a system perspective, they help regulate an allocation process, especially when choices are numerous.

A few countries publicly provide central registration systems.

In Spain, student admission management systems are publicly provided by the relevant governing ministry to manage the allocation of students to schools. Parents use the system to apply for a place for their child in one or more schools. In Italy, since 2014, the ministry provides a centralised student admission management system called Iscrizioni Online: online enrolment is compulsory for all first-year students in state schools at primary and secondary levels (and optional for private schools). Parents can consult the Scuola in Chiaro website to find information about the schools they are interested. In this case, one rationale was to contribute to the general digital transformation of Italy, which was considered as lagging at the time.

In Chile, admission to all public or publicly subsidised private schools, at all education levels, goes through a school admission system managed by the central government (SAE). Families enrolling students have access to a broad variety of school information, such as available places and how competitive admission was in the previous year, teaching plan and curricula, performance information, and extracurricular activities. This information is pushed into the SAE system directly through interoperability with the SIGE student information system. Interoperability of the system with the Chilean Civil Registry systems allows the pre-filling of a significant part of their applications with key variables for the selection process such as socio-economic variables and the existence of enrolled siblings. Should there be more applications than available places, a selection process is performed through an algorithm taking several priorities defined by existing regulations into account (e.g. enrolled siblings, socio-economic disadvantage, children of school staff, etc.). The system randomly assigns any remaining school places.

In the French Community of Belgium, parents use a system called CIRI (Commission Inter Réseaux des Inscriptions) to enrol their children in secondary schools online: the admission depends on multiple legally established criteria (e.g. localisation, study record and envisioned study path, number and order of other students’ applications). Parents can also visit a government website to check whether primary (and pre-primary) schools in their area have any free place left.

In France, regional academies (rather than the ministry of education) use the Affelnet platform (meaning “online student assignment”) for applications and admission to upper secondary schools, whether general or vocational. Students (and parents) express their school and study preferences, and then criteria such as students’ place of residence, academic achievements, and socio-economic background (based on the reception of a social scholarship) determine which upper secondary school they will attend. Each regional academy can calibrate the system (by allocating fewer or more weight to the different criteria). First piloted in the Paris region, the introduction of the system initially raised strong opposition, especially as it implemented new policies of social inclusion (Grenet, 2022[8]; Grenet, 2022[9]).

A second type of systems can be described as a manual “matching” system. They also essentially match students and institutions through an online application-admission process: students get information about education institutions, express their wishes, provide documentation; institutions use this information to select and rank applicants; and through a system of acceptance/rejection of offers students find a place in an institution. Admission systems based on the “matching” model are more common for the transition from high school to higher education or to vocational education and training. In this case there is usually no “automation” of decisions, although there are automatic verifications of credentials, etc.: these systems mainly focus on communication.

Admission to upper secondary education or to higher education is managed by such systems in an increasing number of countries.

In Denmark, the central government maintains a student admission management system, Optagelse, which students use to apply for upper secondary schools, vocational education and training (VET) programmes, and higher education institutions – which, in turn, use the system to review and select applications. Part of the system uses rule-based algorithms as part of the process. In Estonia, students apply to upper secondary institutions (gymnasiums and VET) and to higher education institutions via the Student Admission System (SAIS10). The platform provides information about the ranking of the educational institutions affiliated with the system, allows students to register for entrance exams and to receive notifications about the progress of their applications. SAIS uses existing data about the applicants from the Population Register, the Estonian Education Information System and the Examination Information System. Hence, students do not have to provide paper certificates and other documents with personal data to schools they apply for.

Brazil and France have relatively similar platforms to manage applications for higher education institutions. In Brazil, high school and VET student have to use the SISU platform to apply for a place in one of the country’s public higher education institutions. Students list their preferred degrees, universities and institutions on the online platform, other selection variables (such as eligibility to affirmative action initiatives), and they are then selected based on their performance in the national university entrance exam (ENEM). The SISU platform is made available for admissions twice a year, reflecting academic semesters in Brazil, and students are invited to select and adapt their choices based on dynamically calculated student rankings and threshold grades for admission before the deadline. In France, upper secondary students submit their study wishes on the Parcoursup platform. Following a unique national calendar, students must use this platform to application for a (capped) number of the 21 000 higher education study tracks affiliated to the platform, receive advice and information on their study tracks, and receive/reject offers from institutions willing to enrol them. The platform relies on non-AI based algorithms to sort out applications based on certain criteria (e.g. academic achievement, rank within their class by subject, scholarship status, etc) and on an iterative matching process between institutions and their candidates. The platform in itself neither reviews nor ranks students’ applications; it just allows post-secondary education institutions to rank applicants according to criteria they decide, before a final manual screening process.

Ireland also deals with its points-based higher education admission process through a unified digital platform maintained by the Central Admissions Office, a non-governmental not-for-profit organisation.

One of the areas for where the technology is ready lies in digital verifiable credentials and degrees. Smolenski (2021[10]) highlighted the efficiency benefits of using blockchain technology or other forms of unfalsifiable verification technology to ease the domestic and transnational transferability of credentials. Another reason relates to data protection and the management of digital credentials by their recipient. Finally, one of the hopes, which will still require some social changes, is that badges and micro-credentials will allow people to certify a variety of skills beyond those that are formally assessed. This can start in school, assuming students have access to the corresponding digital tools.

In most cases, diplomas and other qualifications are still managed through paper-based systems. According to our survey, 11 countries/jurisdictions out of 29 provide digital credentials to their school pupils. This uncovers different realities.

Some countries include a digital credential system in their education information system. This is for example the case in Korea, Mexico and the Netherlands. In Mexico, the education information system (SIGED) gives students access to their degrees. Similarly, in Korea and the Netherlands, students can access the education information systems (the DUO platform in the Netherlands and NEIS in Korea) to retrieve their degrees. As mentioned above regarding admission systems, Estonia allows for the verification and transmission of digital credentials within its digital infrastructure.

The Flemish Community of Belgium and France have dedicated platforms. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, the ministry of education’s platform for digital credentials called LED records students’ credentials (e.g. diplomas, proofs of experience) and makes them easily accessible online (and automatically when the credential is issued by a Flemish institution). People retrieve their credentials using their electronic identity card (eID), and can demonstrate their authenticity, for instance as a proof of eligibility for a study grant or they apply for an employment position. The platform is interoperable with other services of the Flemish government in education as well as non-education sectors’ platforms (e.g. environment, social affairs). The LED credentials are aligned with Europass’ “European Qualification Framework”. In France, all national diplomas awarded since 2003 are digitised and accessible on a digital credential platform (diplome.gouv.fr) that allows to retrieve certified digital certificates and allows third parties to verify the authenticity of a person’s degree through a digital key.

Italy has a different type of platforms that looks more like a student credential wallet. To better document students’ experiences in school (e.g. their study paths, examinations), Italy’s Digital Plan created a digital student profile for all students in secondary education. They use their student card, “IoStudio” (“I study”), to register their digital profile and are provide with opportunities to certify their skills, acquired both during and outside of school. This is an example of digital credential focused on “informal” credentials.

Some countries, such as Austria, are planning to implement a digital degree system.

Careers and study guidance are essential aspects of education systems, especially for students coming from families that are less equipped to navigate their country’s education system and labour market opportunities. As students progress in their study paths, getting appropriate and, if possible, personally relevant information becomes key. The possible interactivity of digital technology and adaptive possibilities of AI make digital platforms particularly suited to provide a more personalised and up-to-date advice to students and families.

Most countries/jurisdictions maintain some digital study and careers guidance system for students: 23 out of the 29 countries/jurisdictions that answered the OECD survey on digital education infrastructure and governance, that is about 80%, reported the existence of national or jurisdictional platforms.

A few countries do usually not provide those platforms publicly. This is for example the case in Canada and the United States. Given their devolution of responsibilities, there are counter-examples though. For example, in Canada, the province of Manitoba has developed the public Manitoba Career Prospects platform to help students navigate the education system and find information about their future career. The platform also provides guidance to educators to help young people in Manitoba explore careers options and appropriate study paths in the province. Platforms for careers guidance are available in Brazil, but not universally provided for public students (except in vocational education and training). As of 2024, Sweden was in the process of developing of a nationwide careers and study guidance platform.

The absence of public platforms does not imply that students do not receive any guidance. In Canada, some provinces and territories report providing schools with access to commercial platforms tailored to students’ province or territory of residence and providing them with a comprehensive study and careers planning programme from lower to post-secondary education, self-assessment tools to understand their skills and aspirations, information about eligibility criteria into selective tracks, province-specific graduation requirements, and more. While England maintains a national platform for all the population, English schools have the statutory duty to provide good careers guidance for their students themselves (and are supported by the ministry-funded Careers and Enterprise Company that provides an online resource to support schools and colleges to manage their careers programmes, plan careers activities, target support and collect student feedback systematically.

Countries (and jurisdictions) that do provide students with study and careers guidance tend to use three types of platforms.

Most platforms are simple, usually just a website including static information about the different study paths in the education system and some careers information. These websites often include self-assessment tools to help students and families make choices.

In Chile, the government makes resources available to students interested in continuing their studies in higher education through the Mi Futuro portal (“my future”): students can find information about higher education institutions, about admission criteria as well as on careers and future job prospects. This is typically the information available within the admission systems mentioned above. Czechia also provides a range of information and self-assessment tools through its National Pedagogical Institute (NPI). Similarly, In the French Community of Belgium, Brazil (for VET careers) and Ireland, the platforms are typically based on static information coupled with self-assessment tool(s). In New Zealand, the careers guidance platform provides information, tools and resources for secondary school students on choosing subjects or orienting career decisions after post-secondary education (and hosts a dedicated section on tools and resources for careers advisers in school). Similar guidance is provided by the Meng Schoul website in Luxembourg, the UddannelsesGuiden (Education Guide) website in Denmark, the ONISEP (Office national d'information sur les enseignements et les professions) website in France, or the HIFIVE and CareerNet platforms for VET guidance in Korea.

A second type of platforms includes recommendations based on students’ experience, achievement, and interest: they allow for a more personalised and adaptive access to study and careers information. Their navigation is usually powered by (non-AI) algorithms. This is the case in Austria, where recommendations are adaptive to students’ declared interests and experience. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, the Columbus platform is partially powered by non-AI algorithms.

A third type, generally geared towards vocational education and training, are platforms that not only provide information but also access to human advisers or ways to connect to particular apprenticeship or study positions. Their information may or may not be more personalised than a static website. In Korea, the ministry’s Ggoomgil (Guidance for Dreaming Children) platform targeting all students enrolled in formal education provides them with opportunities to “try out” various careers and to reach out to physical “experience centres”. In England, the National Careers Service maintains a digital careers advice platform, which provides people over the age of 13 with skills self-assessments and the possibility to receive advice from professional advisers. Similarly, in Lithuania, the AIKOS platform hosts counselling services and general information about VET-related professions, qualifications, study and training programmes, and about VET institutions and their admission rules. In Denmark, the Lærepladsen platform helps students find an apprenticeship in ministry-approved companies.

Compared to study and careers guidance for students, teachers and other school staff are less often guided within or out of their current career. This type of advice can be useful to attract teachers in the profession, to help teachers navigate their possible options across a country or jurisdiction, or just to find out what other options they could have to change job if they so wish. Four countries/jurisdictions out of 29 (14%) provide a digital careers guidance aimed at teachers.

The French Community of Belgium and England provide similar platforms for teachers and aspiring teachers: Pourquoi pas prof (why not teacher?) in Belgium and Get into Teaching in England to inform them about career opportunities and requirements. In New Zealand, the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand provides a career website for teachers, with a range of information resources on certification and teaching practices. Korea also has the Kkumgil (career.net) platform for teachers.

Countries were also asked to indicate whether they provide other kinds of digital software for system or institutional management purposes beyond those mentioned in our survey – and whether other types of systems were commonly procured by schools, sub-government or states. (Digital platforms of learning resources and tools, which are publicly provided at the national or jurisdictional level in a number of countries are presented in another chapter.) There is no common class of tools that were indicated under this category.

On the administrative legal side, Türkiye maintains centrally a document management system (Dijital Yönetim Sistemi, or DYS) to facilitate the communication of administrative texts between the central government and local provinces or public schools. As part of a broader e-government initiative, the platform aims to streamline administrative and bureaucratic processes by digitising the electronic flow of administrative and legal documents (such as governmental announcements, circulars, etc.). In many countries, these documents can be found on legal websites or the website of the education ministries/agencies.

Almost all countries/jurisdictions provide teachers with platforms for professional development services and resources. Those are not covered in this chapter. For example, in Luxembourg, the ministry of education provides the Eformation platform to make its training offer available to teachers, help teachers keep track of their mandatory training, and is used by the ministry to validate their training (through data exchange with their EPI system).

Beyond student information systems (EMIS), digital assessment platforms and knowledge/content platforms for teaching and learning resources, which are presented in other chapters, this overview showed the variety of countries’ digital infrastructure for the management of their education system or their educational institutions. While some digital tools are publicly provided almost everywhere (e.g. learning management systems and online careers/study guidance), some remain rare (such as early warning systems, digital credentials or career guidance for teachers). Figure 3.3 and Table 3.2 summarise the state of the public provision of those tools, either at the central or sub-governmental levels.

Before discussing the opportunities and challenges of a strong digital infrastructure of institution and system management tools, one should note that the availability of digital tools does not equate that they are being used. This is particularly true for teaching and learning resources, but this sometimes extends to the tools discussed in this chapter. For example, while public learning management systems were already available before the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases this is when their content management functionalities were used.

The use of some of the tools is mandated and thus not really for discussion: this is the case for digital systems geared towards administrative operations and for many admission or digital credential systems. This just means that all schools in the respondent countries manage the payment of their teachers digitally, for example. Where enrolment/registration systems are provided, they must be used. In the case of admission systems, they are mandatory when it comes to “school choice” in formal education, but can just concern a sub-group of institutions affiliated to the system when dealing with applications to higher education or vocational education and training institutions. Depending on the nature of the platforms, they can be used more or less. Where they deliver or verify official degrees, one can expect systematic usage (unless they duplicate paper degrees).

For all other digital tools covered in this chapter, use is optional – and, when devolved to sub-governmental levels, so is their provision. In some cases, sub-governments may mandate their uses. In the absence of regular statistical monitoring of their usage by countries (or international comparative surveys), there is no reliable information about the actual usage of these tools. Our survey (and interviews) included a question asking a best educated guess about the use of these different digital tools by schools in their system (for each level of education). Apart from the administration function systems, which were reported as universally used, the reported levels of digitalisation should be interpreted with caution – despite the digital game changer that the COVID-19 pandemic was. For this reason, they are not reported here. However, even though one can discuss the extent to which these tools are used, which probably varies by level of education, the responses can be expressed as rough bands of usage across countries: the widespread or common digital tools are administrative functions systems, learning management systems, digital communication tools with parents (either part of the learning management system or separate), digital registration/admissions and study/careers guidance for students. The use of digital credential platforms is moderate, while the use of facility management systems, early warning systems and career guidance for teachers is rare. This is largely aligned with the public provision pattern. Hopefully domestic and comparative studies will cast light on the real prevalence and use of these digital tools within schools.

While many of the discussions focus on automation and the use of AI within education systems, it is noteworthy that none of the digital tools mentioned in this chapter us AI-based algorithms – except for some early warning systems in the United States or in pilot phase in some other countries. Some systems use criterion-based algorithms, notably in application/admission systems, or other types of advanced technology, notably for verifiable credentials, but overall, as of 2024, there was no algorithm based on machine learning or AI to report across countries. There were also very little diagnosis tools, recommendation tools and virtually no automated decision-making tools (with only the admission management tools getting somewhat close).

Harnessing the possibilities of hard-coded and machine-learning AI to grasp the affordances of current technology may be one of the upcoming opportunities (and challenges) of countries. For example, even though most learning management systems provide dashboards to help administrators and teachers to make sense of the collected data, those are relatively simple data visualisations. Very few include predictive or analytical models or make recommendations, for example about what teachers should consider using as a learning resource given the characteristics of their class, who they could contact to share notes, how school principals and teachers should form classes, how they could join efforts with schools or classes having similar issues, interests, or strengths, etc. The main interactive element of study/careers platforms lies in (personality) self-assessment tools that help identify the types of careers a student might be interested in. Given the quantity of data and recorded opinions education systems have about each student, probably technology could help to make the guidance more personalised and relevant.

While many observers focus their attention on the potential dangers of AI in education, our overview of countries’ digital infrastructure for system-level and institution-level applications shows that the latest possibilities of technology are largely untapped. Few countries seem to be exploring use cases that would make those possibilities effective for students and other education stakeholders.

There are different models to give access to schools, students and their families, and teachers, a digital infrastructure. Some countries provide the tools publicly at the central level; others delegate the public provision to a sublevel of government responsible for a group of schools; others provide public funds to schools and let them procure the tools they need. A second decision is to develop/own public tools or to just license them from the for-profit education technology sector. Each of these models have their advantages and disadvantage, as presented in Table 3.3.

In most countries, the models are based on the usual devolution of responsibilities within the education system, often justified by legal reasons and sometimes by habit. This need not be the case. For some digital tools, countries may consider using a different model than the one they are used to. It depends on many factors and the objectives that they want to meet: equality of access; quality of the education technology offer; further integrating the system; avoiding the purchase of inefficient tools, etc. This may require an amendment to their legislation or their habits.

Some countries have a dual model whereby they publicly provide a central or jurisdictional tool and allow for the purchase of similar tool with public funds by sub-governmental authorities or schools. This is an interesting model: while it could be seen as duplicating efforts and a waste of public resources, it does have the advantage of providing all schools with a free-of-charge “minimal” digital infrastructure. It also has the advantages of providing schools with some choice, and of building some level of technology competency within public ministries/agencies. In some cases, schools and stakeholders do not use these public tools because they do not know about their existence, because they are not as user-friendly as commercial tools, or just because they prefer to continue to use tools they are already used to. Countries should monitor and understand the reasons for the use and non-use of these public tools and their actual role in countries’ education policy and digital strategy.

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, countries should consider what they expect schools, teachers and students to have as a minimal digital infrastructure. According to government officials, the pandemic led to a boost in the adoption of learning management systems by schools. Public authorities have also increased their direct provision of digital tools. While a devolved digital infrastructure has many advantages, a resilient infrastructure is also one that can be quickly expanded and that ensures all schools, students and teachers in a country will have access to at least a minimal sufficient amount of learning resources – whose delivery requires a minimal amount of digital tools in schools.

As noted above, a key element in any digital ecosystem lies in a robust longitudinal student information system (or EMIS). The main reason is that centralising some important data about one’s system allows to feed it back to other platforms when relevant. At the institution level, learning management systems are the equivalent to student information systems, and therefore arguably one of the key tools for institutions. A key feature is for learning management systems to be able to seamlessly push information to student information systems, which was possible in about half of the countries for which we have information. However, it is also important for schools to receive (or pull) system-level information to make their learning management system more powerful.

One way to describe would be to move from efficiency to effectiveness, from targeting local average efficiency to system-level learning to have more effective implementation of countries’ policy goals.

Cost-efficiency and increased productivity is a desired benefit of the digitalisation of administrative processes, in the education sector as in other sectors. Many of countries’ efforts so far can be described as an effort to digitise the operational management of many processes in education. The management approach tends to focus on some specific task and see if it can be digitised and semi-automated, thus involving less human intervention than previous processes.

Digital credentials require fewer human resources to address graduates’ delivery requests or third parties’ verification requests than paper credentials. They also require less waiting time for users requesting the degree or its verification: except when there is a problem and a human intervention is needed, the retrieving and verification processes are automated. Moreover, fraud becomes much more difficult. Registering a student to a school digitally has similar benefits: it increases the speed and accuracy of the process; moreover, the registration may trigger several administrative actions automatically and save time for school staff. Sometimes the information can be pre-filled from other official databases and maximise time-efficiency and accuracy.

This piecemeal managerial or operational approach to digitisation is important and should be continued, but alone it will not lead to a digital transformation. A digital transformation comes from reaping the benefits of the whole data and digital ecosystem and invent new processes to achieve identified policy goals. From a mere local perspective, the digitisation process is not always more efficient, which may explain the lack of use of some digital tools, at least prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The true value of digitising some processes at the local level may be to provide possibilities of learning and of interventions to the whole system. This should be clearly communicated to stakeholders.

For example, in a rural school with a handful of students and classes, there may be no perceived need for the administrative functions of a learning management system and just getting on with informal (or paper) management may be less time-consuming and as effective. What is missed here is that the data provided to the overall ecosystem by all these local schools can help improve the system. In Gujarat (India) for example, the use of the VSK student information system (or EMIS), which brings together a variety of data, allowed policy makers to diagnose shortcomings of educational provision in rural areas and to design a new policy intervention (e.g. the creation of excellence boarding schools).

Similarly, a region or neighbourhood with very little school dropout may not see the need for an early warning system – or just collecting data to design early warning indicators. This tends to be the case for low occurrence phenomena. This does not imply that their information cannot help reduce dropout elsewhere – and even in the few cases when they may occur locally. Several countries have used their data infrastructure to enforce attendance (in line with their compulsory education policy) or just support it (in line with their policies to prevent school dropout).

One challenge in designing or thinking about a digital education ecosystem is the multiplicity of digital tools: on the positive side, this can be depicted as welcome diversity and emulation; on the negative side, this can be seen as fragmentation. Fragmentation is not always a problem though, nor destiny. Interoperability of at least certain digital tools, that is, their ability to “share information” seamlessly (or with very little effort) is a condition to a digital transformation (and, in many cases, to efficiency). But interoperability has to come with imagination and strategic vision. For example, most countries favour the creation of “professional learning communities” among teachers. In secondary education, depending on the subject(s) they teach and the size of the school, establishing such professional learning communities may be difficult. Could technology and the information collected in different parts of the system help create meaningful groups of teachers and harness the power of technology to achieve this declared policy goal? A key question when providing or supporting the provision of a digital infrastructure is thus: given some policy objectives, how can the digital infrastructure be mobilised to create new education processes, and what are the digital tools that schools, teachers and students should have available for this purpose?


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