As the amount of data maintained by the Egyptian Ministry of Education expanded, it needed to find a better way to manage information. Deploying Microsoft SQL Server 2008 on Windows Server 2008 Enterprise made it possible for the ministry to speed up access to information with an interface that meets the expectations of parents and students.
The Egyptian Ministry of Education is responsible for primary and secondary education in Egypt. It oversees 45,000 schools, with 1.3 million teachers educating 17 million students between four and 18 years of age.
Since its creation in 1837, the ministry has worked to ensure quality education throughout Egypt. This focus has expanded in recent years to include upgrading the monitoring, assessment, and evaluation of schools, transforming pre-school and primary education, involving students with disabilities, and revamping technical and vocational education systems.
Integrating information and communications technology (ICT) in education is a primary objective.
For the past 12 years, the ministry maintained an Oracle database for all the schools in the system. But it wanted to improve IT services by giving students, teachers, and parents online access to resources such as available places in schools, attendance records, exam results, and training information. This required a more flexible IT solution that could easily grow as databases expanded and requirements changed.
Dr. Ahmed Tobal, Associate Minister for ICT at the Egyptian Ministry of Education, says: “We wanted to give students and teachers access to information from school or home—at any time. But we couldn’t do this with the databases we were using—it took too long to search the records for specific information. To put the system online, we needed a new solution.”
Dr. Tobal and his staff briefly considered other applications, but preferred to work with Microsoft. He says: “We’ve used Microsoft technology throughout the ministry for years and have always had excellent support from Microsoft Egypt. So when our account manager offered to help us with our databases—under our mutual agreement and at no extra cost—it sounded like a good solution.” Solution
After discussing the ministry’s needs with Microsoft, Dr. Tobal and his team decided that SQL Server 2008 on Windows Server 2008 Enterprise would be the best solution. Microsoft built a proof of concept to demonstrate how it would work and then the Ministry of Education started migrating its databases from Oracle to SQL Server 2008. When the transfer of information proved to be more complex than anticipated, the Microsoft Egypt team provided additional help. It also offered support and one-to-one training throughout deployment.
The first stage of setting up the infrastructure and migrating existing databases onto SQL Server 2008 took two months. “The data on our existing servers was 10 per cent of the data available within the school system,” says Dr. Tobal. The next step was to collect additional data from all 45,000 schools. This took three months, including the creation of a unique identification number for everyone. The final step of deployment focused on the performance of the solution, including customising applications and making them available to all students and teachers within the Egyptian school system.
The databases have now been integrated into the Ministry of Education portal. Students and parents access the portal directly to check schedules, fees, attendance records, and exam results. They can view statistical data, news, and available spaces in schools and computer labs. Teachers can access information on training and communicate directly with parents and students.
Email is provided by Microsoft cloud solution Live@edu. “In a few months, we’ve created and activated 633,000 email accounts and addresses for secondary students and teachers,” says Dr.Tobal, who anticipates provisioning 1.5 million email accounts for students and teachers by the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Users access email through the Ministry of Education web portal. Benefits
By deploying the latest data management systems, the Egyptian Ministry of Education can provide the services and technology that students and parents expect in a 21st-century educational institution. As an education provider, the ministry participates in the Microsoft School Agreement licensing programme, saving money while providing state-of-the-art technology to schools. The organisation will be able to keep more detailed records while data is easily accessible. Improved data management needs less maintenance, freeing IT employees to focus on strategic tasks that enhance teaching and learning.
Ease of management improves productivity. SQL Server offers significant improvement in data management, and databases are easier to program and manage. Mohsen Abdel Aziz, Development Manager at Egyptian Ministry of Education, says: “Database backup used to take a few hours on Oracle—it takes four to five minutes on SQL Server.” Dr. Tobal adds: “Employees can now do more with their time. For example, it’s easy to access all the reports we require. We have next-generation business intelligence that helps us manage the resources schools need.”
Faster performance widens utilisation. Searches are now 10 times faster than the previous solution. Mohsen Abdel Aziz, Development Manager at Egyptian Ministry of Education, says: “Some queries that took a couple of minutes on Oracle, now take just seconds on SQL Server.” Dr. Tobal adds: “This makes it possible to provide online services for all our schools. Thousands of people can access data at the same time. We couldn’t have done that with our previous system.”
Academic programme improves accessibility to software. “We can provide schools and individual teachers and students with all the applications they need at a price we can afford,” says Dr. Tobal.
Built-in email system improves communication. Live@edu, the free email service hosted by Microsoft, gives teachers and students the opportunity to communicate with each other outside the classroom. Parents have better access to teachers, encouraging greater input and participation. This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.