eApplication for Teachers in Azores (E-TEA)

Published on: 10/06/2007
Document

This project of the Regional Board of Education of the Azores is a measure of innovation and administrative simplification that consists of transforming the application for teaching staff of the Autonomous Region of the Azores from a manual into an integrally electronic on-line process. Its implementation came about in an attempt to improve the fulfillment of the deadlines established for the different stages of the process and the quality of the service provided as a whole and took into consideration the substantial increase of applications over the years, the complexity of the process and the small number of employees involved. In conjunction with other measures already introduced, the Regional Board of Education was able to endow the schools with the necessary teachers through an error-free process with reduced costs and presented in a simple, transparent, reliable and appealing manner, thus obtaining the satisfaction of everyone involved.

Policy Context

The Azores is a small dimension insular region, geographically dispersed and distant from major centres of development. This territorial dispersion generates peculiarities and obstacles that condition our development and must be faced as challenges to be overcome. According to the agenda of the current Regional Government, composed in 2004, the unemployment rate has been under 4% since 1999. We are the region of Portugal with the biggest ratio of young people in vocational schools. Since 1999, our economy grew more than the national average and, since 1998, grew more than the European average. It is the objective of this government to undertake an autonomous reform of the public administration, conjugating the computerization now in course with a new attitude, organizing and mobilizing for the efficiency and the promptness of administrative procedures. The Azores is today, in relative terms, the first region of Portugal in number of Internet accesses, second in number of computers per family, the first in electronic purchases and most advanced in the implementation of eGovernment. The “Açores Região Digital” (Azores Digital Region) project was a decisive contribution to the progress of ICT in Azorean society and was the catalytic agent for diverse interdepartmental projects. Administrative modernization is one of the strategic vectors of the Azorean Government, allied to the concept of a closer relationship between citizens and public administration, thus contributing to European policies such as information society for all. It is our government’s goal to generalize e-government and to review other methods that can contribute to hasten administrative procedures, adjusting them to the new age of technologies and computerization. Our Electronic Teaching Application ties into both in our regional strategies as well as the national government’s strategic measures, aimed at developing eGovernment and promoting the Information Society in Portugal.

Description of target users and groups

Our target group is academically qualified teachers, as well as individuals without degrees in teaching but whose qualifications make them eligible for teaching positions, regardless of nationality, that intend to carry out functions in the public school system of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in pre-school to secondary education, artistic, extra-curricular or vocational education. Therefore, there is a wide universe of potential applicants. In Portugal alone, there are more than 100,000 teachers. The application process, which is highly complex and involves several phases throughout the school year (from September 1 to August 31), differs according to the teacher's professional situation. For this reason, there are different types of applications for teachers with permanent positions in schools who wish to transit to another, those assigned to a pedagogical zone who are applying to specific schools and those who are temporarily or not currently employed.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The management approach for this project was as follows: • Simplification and introduction of improvements in the diverse procedures of the application process, namely, validations, alerts, automatic instructions to fill in the form (for more details on this procedure consult Support Document II); • Establishing deadlines for all the tasks and setting priorities; • Fusion of the various existing forms for the different phases of the application process into one electronic form; • Testing each innovation introduced; • Permanent support for the candidates and the schools, through e-mail; • Acquisition of computer technology; • External and internal training on ICT for the government emloyees working on this process. This project has no partnerships in place. It was conceived and developed by Regional Board of Education, that hired the services of a programming specialist. Multi-channel issues: The Electronic Teaching Application has several online services such as the actual process of applying by filling out the appropriate form, the publication of the lists containing the order of the applicants and the delivery of email messages communicating the placements to the teachers, using a digital certificate named MDDE (Electronic Day Mark), combined with offline methods such as the elaboration of the necessary lists of applicants in hierarchical order. The data introduced in the form automatically feeds the database that produces offline lists of classification. We are now studying the possibility of using SMS services in parallel with the MDDE.

Main results, benefits and impacts

A modern and efficient public administration cannot be compatible with excess bureaucracy, that becomes difficult to manage and prolonged. A modern public administration should perceive the citizen as a customer who must be satisfied with the public service that is provided to him. To provide a good service means to know what the citizen needs. Only this knowledge allows establishing standards of quality for the services. The Electronic Teaching Application was first implemented in the Azores in the school year 2004/2005 and was intended to transform the process previously used by teachers to apply for teaching positions, which was entirely manual (despite several unsuccessful attempts prior to that year) into an exclusively electronic online process. The primary objectives were: • To reformulate the entire process of application, gradually and in stages, to render the process more efficient; • To publicize the various lists of teacher placements in an error-free manner and maintaining all deadlines established for the different stages of the application process; • To simplify all the procedures legally demanded of the applicants and the administration; • To minimize the possibility of errors in the process and respective effects, such as cancellations of procedures or even placements. The benefits were: - The recruitment and management of the teaching staff for the region’s schools, completely avoiding delays in the time periods initially set; - The process was conceived to be simple, transparent and reliable; - Since the project was initiated the Regional Board of Education enlisted and transferred the necessary teaching staff in an error-free manner; - The satisfaction of everyone involved in the process; (for more details consult Support Document I); - The reduction of costs, taking into consideration the low cost of the computer program and the reduced number of employees required to work on the process; - The satisfaction and commitment of all the employees at the Regional Board of Education who worked with great persistence and fulfillment towards the success of the project. There was not an increase in the number of applicants but a decrease of the number of days necessary for the process of placement to be complete and a reduction of the number of complaints, especially about errors (many times on the applicant’s part), which were somewhat common considering the large amount of data that had to be analysed manually. In 2004/2005, 10,568 teachers applied. In 2005/2006, 10,169 teachers applied. In 2006/2007, 16,042 teachers applied. In 2007/2008 (until de 11th of June 2007), 15,171 teachers applied. The expectations for the following years are high and the improvements are already underway. This project, that was initially proposed as the solution for a specific problem – the simplification of the process of application for teaching staff – will gradually progress to include all areas of human resources management within the Regional Board of Education, with the objective of a gradual simplification of procedures, improvement of the services and a more efficient control of the system’s necessities. In the future, the Regional Board of Education intends to operate in a dynamic database both for public and private education, which every intervening organization of the regional education system can access. This database will make available the data relative to teachers of regular and vocational education. In fact, in the next school year of 2007/2008, this database will be tested in select schools. Innovation: In 2004, when this project was implemented and its first steps were given, it was a remarkable occurrence, and there was no other project like this in Portugal. The application for teachers in the Autonomous Region of the Azores and in Portugal is a very complicated and difficult process that raises many questions and is carefully followed by the Portuguese society. Our project was and is exceptional, because it was the first to simplify the process and to innovate using ICT and providing an online service. A legal diploma was issued to allow the transition from a manual application process to an electronic one. The process is executed entirely on the internet and every candidate has to apply online. All the data provided in the forms is used in the database that permits the administration to continue the work in an automatic way, providing them with all the necessary documents and making the progress of the process much faster. Throughout the last years the process has been in constant evolution, always improving and providing better and more reliable services.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

It’s possible that we influenced other initiatives, but we have no evidence of this. The Electronic Teaching Application was widely promoted within the educational community, so that every possible applicant would be informed of the new process. This innovation was also divulged in the political field of the government. The media in Portugal also gave special attention to this project. On May 10th of 2007, an interview occurred in the headquarters of the Ministry of the Internal Administration regarding the OECD Peer Review of Administrative Simplification and e-government in Portugal, where a memorandum of this project was presented. This project was also taken into consideration by de Common Assessment Framework - CAF work group created in the Regional Board of Education, following the government policy to elaborate a regional plan for the promotion of quality in public services. Should any administration adopt this project or any other project that deals with Teaching Application, we are available to provide the necessary know-how that we gathered, as well as to support the implementation of similar applications.

Lessons learnt

We think that this experience can be important to all of those in the administration that are looking for an improvement and for innovation in their services. Changes must be done in stages, always analysing the results and making the necessary adjustments. The three main lessons that we think can be learned from this case are: - The importance of making human resources profitable, promoting the promptness of results and the satisfaction of the customer. - The importance of technology in transforming our world into a smaller place, accessible to everyone from anywhere. - No matter how many applicants we have, the time consumed will be minimal compared with the previous process, therefore increasing productivity.

Scope: International