Training Statisticians in Asia and the Pacific, 4

4.0.      Developments in SIAP Training

Given the continuing national and international statistical developments along with client feedback during the past academic years, the changes described below were adopted in the work programme.  These are grouped into four categories: improvement of training content, new and enhanced course offerings and modalities, strengthening of course administration, and enhancement of training capabilities and knowledge management.

4.1.      Improving Training Content

A.                 4.1.1.   Addressing diverse capability-building needs in official statistics

With respect to official statistical systems, ESCAP countries are at different stages of development; thus, SIAP has addressed the diverse capability-building needs through judicious selection of statistical training modalities and subject matter content.  The courses were continually revised and restructured to take into account factors having a bearing on the relevance of training imparted at SIAP to the work of the participating NSOs.  Aside from resource considerations, the strategies so adopted took into account the level of preparation of participants, priorities set by national statistical systems for subject matter content and extent of geographic representation.  It has also added in its programmes the provision of interaction and communication skills, both virtual (electronic) and actual (physical); of the discipline and dedication required in research; and mentoring and tutoring in project, research and analysis work.

TMA-based Courses

Analysis and Interpretation of Official Statistics Course

The course focus alternates between economic statistics and social statistics.  For the topics on economic statistics, the System of National Accounts (SNA) framework has been adopted to integrate the different topics in the curriculum into a coherent, integrated set.  Introductory micro- and macro-economics laid the foundation for the discussion of SNA and the requisite data production system, especially the establishment and/or enterprise surveys and censuses.  The emphasis of the course curriculum on social statistics has been presented in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, human development framework and the programmatic thrusts of ESCAP, particularly reduction of poverty and emerging social issues.  Furthermore, given the objectives of this course and the relatively more senior level of participants, additional standards (in form and style) imposed on research papers were included for the project work required of the participants.

Course in Application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to Production and Dissemination of Official Statistics

Formerly the Statistical Computing Course for Trainers, this course was realigned to train statisticians in the use and consequences of the application of ICT for their statistical activities.  The main aspects of the new curricula are[1]:(a) overview of applicable ICT technologies and the consequences of their implementation; (b) training in MS Office focused on the applications of EXCEL (spreadsheet) and ACCESS (database management) in statistical surveys; (c) software packages which are in demand by the NSOs (for example, IMPS-CSPro) presented with some depth; (d) related application software packages which are also being used by NSOs such as SAS, SPSS, GIS, BLAISE, Super Cross demonstrated to participants; (e) website design and construction; and (f) use of existing statistical databases in the NSOs of some developed countries (Canada, United States, Sweden, and the Netherlands).

Course on Modules on Fundamental Official Statistics

Statistical frameworks of analysis have been discussed to integrate the wide variety of course topics into a coherent set.  Topics on survey methodology use the concept of total survey error as a framework as practiced in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology offered by the consortium of the University of Maryland, University of Michigan and Westat.  Hence, error control is the common integrating theme in discussions on sampling frames, sample design and standard errors, field operations, questionnaire design, processing and estimation.Recent participants have expressed the need for more discussions on the importance of maintaining good business registers in sampling and on agricultural statistics.  Resource materials in the handling of the topics of poverty measurement and analysis have come by way of a partnership with the World Bank Institute under its program of Poverty Analysis and Data Initiative.  

Area-Focused Course for Central Asia

An assessment of the first area-focused course for Central Asia organized in 2001 guided the revisions in the curricula.  The course content focuses on the collection, compilation and analysis of official statistics needed in the framework of a market economy.  Not only will the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ of official statistics are presented but also the ‘whys’.  The coverage though will be calibrated to accommodate the limited grasp of the concepts and methods of probability surveys by participants and the disparate language proficiencies of participants vis-à-vis the faculty.[2] 

4.1.2.   Meeting statistical challenges in the United Nations context

National Human Development Report

Earlier in 1998, the UNDP and SIAP embarked on a project (RAS/97/065) on “Establishing and Strengthening National Capacity in Data Collection/ Compilation and Statistical Analysis Required in the Preparation of NHDRs”.  The project was implemented through providing training courses/workshops/seminars at both the country and regional levels. At the country level, upon request of countries, SIAP in collaboration with NSOs, and often supported by UNDP country offices, organized country courses and provided training materials, lecturers and resource personnel.  The participants were middle-level official statisticians, plus a number of economists with statistical background from other ministries/organizations since the NHDR is a collaborative effort among different ministries/organizations of various disciplines and persuasions.  Each course ran for 10 working days and was attended by approximately 20-30 participants. There were 16 country courses held and 474 participants were awarded with certificates for their satisfactory completion of the courses.In addition the country courses in the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were organized in a new format of collaboration intended to encourage national capability building in statistical training.  SIAP contracted local institutions to impart the training, including selection of participants and of resource persons.  The course schedule, course content and training materials were provided by SIAP.  In the Philippines, the task was entrusted to the Statistical Training and Research Centre, while for Indonesia and Sri Lanka the training responsibility was assigned to the respective NSO.  A sub-regional course for the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) in Samoa was also conducted. 

The project also supported a sub-regional course on sample design for the PICs in Fiji and a sub-regional course on intermediate sampling techniques and applications in the Islamic Republic of Iran in December 2002.  The objective of the country courses was to establish and strengthen national capability in the areas of collection, analysis, interpretation and disaggregation of reliable statistics and other information for effectively assessing and monitoring the impact of economic and social policies.  Through sensitizing the country’s statistical officers regarding current issues relating to gender, environment, poverty, health and nutrition, and by establishing a sound statistical base for the NHDRs, the social indicators so generated should eventually provide useful measures and tools for policy discussions on the implication of sustainable human development.  It was envisaged that the project would support informed policy discussions, especially at the national level, among the key stakeholders on the basis of up-to-date reliable data and high quality statistical analysis. 

Other important conclusions were also derived from the various country courses and the sub-regional workshop in Bangkok in August 2002 held by SIAP.  More than 40 middle-level statisticians from NSOs and representatives from UNDP country offices attended the sub-regional workshop.  Three main themes were addressed, namely: (i) experience in data collection, (ii) experience in analysis and interpretation of data, and (iii) experience in publication and dissemination of data for NHDRs.  The current situation of the NHDRs, especially the role played by NSOs in the process of compiling and constructing statistics for NHDRs were also reviewed.  The workshop identified areas where additional training was needed for further strengthening national capacities in the region and other follow-up action related to enhancing the quality and reliability of statistical information.  The workshop concluded that many NSOs in the region have not been significantly involved in the preparation of the NHDR in their respective countries; most have simply provided data.  It agreed that the NSOs should be increasingly involved in the compilation of the NHDRs as their capacity to provide the relevant data needs to be strengthened over time and their professional involvement may provide the needed sustainability to the NHDR.  The statisticians in the workshop took note that statistics from traditional sources of data like the census and the vital registration systems are being used in the reports.  The seminar participants, while agreeing that the project achieved its objectives, emphasized the importance of sustaining the gains made in enhancing statistical capability and extending this by fulfilling requirements posed by the MDG indicators. 

As a result of the findings and recommendations of the workshop, SIAP crafted and obtained approval for a UNDP-support of a project on building national capability in statistics to monitor the progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  The two-year project built upon and extended the experience in the successful implementation of RAS/97/065, focusing on developing human resources through training (basic appreciation and high-level evaluation seminars and intermediate-level technical sub-regional courses on statistics for MDGs); organizational capacity building for NSOs (statistical operations and production of MDG indicators and improved organizational presence and data coordination roles); and boosting regional MDG resources (knowledge-base of training materials, monographs and resource group of experts).

Millennium Development Goals Report

SIAP has completed the implementation of a component of the UNDP-supported project (RAS/04/060) on building data/statistical capability for the promotion and generation of quality and reliable data to monitor the progress of the MDGs and contribute to accurate MDGRs.  All the training activities were conducted, as well as the high-level evaluation seminar at the end of the project.  What remains to be done are to organize and build up the regional MDG resources (training materials and resource persons) data bank.

SIAP organized a 2-day expert group meeting in Bangkok on 28 and 29 September 2004 to solicit expert guidance on the content, strategies and design of the sub-regional course/workshop.  This meeting convened the MDG focal points of selected countries that have undergone the process of preparing MDG reports, regional offices of international agencies, and eminent resource persons.  As a result of the meeting, the curriculum/syllabus, topical outlines/guides of contents of training materials, and training strategies and tools for the conduct of the training course/workshop were finalized.  An inception seminar/workshop was held in Kerala, India from13 to 15 December to get the approval and commitment of the top management of the NSOs to the objectives and activities of the Project.  It also provided the opportunity to enhance the coordination linkages between the NSOs and the United Nations country team MDG focal points in the context of the MDG report preparation and subsequently in related joint statistical undertakings.  After the processes of conceptualization and buy-in, SIAP proceeded to conduct the sub-regional training courses in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran; Beijing, China; Hanoi, Viet Nam; and Nadi, Fiji.  The target participants for the training course/workshop were technical staff from national statistical offices, line ministries and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) agencies that are engaged in or are expected to be involved in producing MDG-related statistics and indicators and in providing statistical and/or analytical support to national reporting of MDG targets and indicators.  It was targeted that each country would be represented as a ‘country team’ with 3-4 participants, as follows: 1 or 2 statistician(s) from national statistics office and/or from line ministry producing statistics for MDG monitoring and reporting; 1 technical staff representing the national MDG focal point institution; and 1 technical staff representing the UNCT MDG focal point.

The main topics of the two-week course were organized into six modules, namely:  MDG Goals and Targets, MDG Indicators; Specialized Techniques for Data Generation for MDG Indicators; Management and Analysis of Statistics for National MDG Reports; Institutionalizing the MDG Reporting Process: Issues and Guidelines; and Action Planning for Improving Statistics for MDGs.  In addition to the in-class contact hours, participants spent additional working time in order to complete a supervised project work.  For the project work, country teams calculated MDG indicators from available country data and drafted some elements of a national MDG report based on these indicators.  These teams also worked together in fine-tuning a draft country action plan, which participants from the NSOs brought with them to the workshop, for improving statistics for national MDGRs.

The Project wrapped up with a Seminar/Workshop on Evaluating Capacity Building Initiatives for Statistics for MDG Indicators that brought together stakeholders, partners and beneficiaries of capacity building initiatives for improving country data systems in support of producing timely, reliable and relevant indicators for monitoring progress at the country level in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The seminar workshop provided a forum for assessing the outputs and outcomes of these efforts, with particular emphasis on the data/statistical capability building project component of the UNDP Millennium Development Goals Initiative in Asia and the Pacific.  Target participants were heads of national statistical offices, key officials in government ministries responsible for producing statistics on health and education, and country and UNCT MDG focal points.

SIAP also conducted follow-up country courses as a result of the Project activities through the MDG focal points of the UN country teams.  A course was conducted in Yangon on the use of the statistical software package STATA for the Myanmar Integrated Household Living Conditions Assessment Survey.  Similarly a course was conducted in Phnom Penh on Statistical Analysis of the Cambodia Household Social Economic Survey.  The Institute also ran a course on the Analysis of Statistics for Monitoring Millennium Development Goals in Thimpu, Bhutan and a course/workshop on DevInfo and MS Access software in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Clearly, implementation of RAS/04/060 will further increase the relevance of its training activities to the programme thrusts of UNESCAP and the United Nations as a whole in the years to come.

ESCAP programmatic themes

Over the last three years, the training directions and implementation strategies of SIAP have increasingly been aligned to the requirements for national and international official statistics arising from the programmatic themes of the UNESCAP and the agreements reached at the global Summit Conferences, particularly the commitment to monitor the MDGs.  Major statistical implications of the ESCAP priority themes of poverty reduction, managing globalization and emerging social issues are generating poverty indicators and the requisite capability building for this; capacity building for ICT; gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment and gender statistics; disability statistics; and social policy development through analysis.  Moreover, commitment to monitoring the millennium declaration goals (MDGs) is a priority set by the 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit that presents ongoing challenges for generating the related indicators on an annual basis at the regional and global levels.

In relation to the ESCAP programmatic themes first enunciated in December 2000, SIAP has gradually integrated the statistical implications into its training content.  In the area of poverty reduction, poverty statistics has been given more coverage.  Specifically, SIAP partnered with the World Bank Institute which supported a resource person to handle sessions on poverty statistics in the 4th Module Course and, various country courses.  The annual training on sample designs for improving data collection now addresses issues for emerging data needs especially on poverty indicators and poverty profiles.In the area of managing globalization, the group training course in Application of Information and Communications Technology to Statistical Processes directly responds to the sub-themes of ICT applications and policy aimed at assisting ESCAP member countries to address “economic and social challenges and to participate effectively in the global information economy and society, through knowledge networking and capacity building” and “development and enhancement of strategies and policies supporting national goals for maximizing benefits from new developments in information and communications technologies.”  Emerging social issues focus particularly on health and development, gender and development, empowerment of persons with disabilities and population dynamics, including population ageing, international migration and reproductive health.  Subject matter contents of SIAP courses provide some coverage of concepts and data collection methods of statistics on gender and development, disability and health, and population dynamics.  In addition, the course on analysis and interpretation of official statistics (social statistics) provides analytical skills for situational analysis and assessing and monitoring progress and trends of indicators related to social issues.

In summary, SIAP courses integrated the current priorities of ESCAP at least partially and to the extent the themes are logically relevant to SIAP’s institutional mission.  Areas in which SIAP can further increase its relevance to ESCAP priorities are in the subject matter content of managing globalization (trade and transport; investment) and in gender mainstreaming as reflected in decreasing gender disparity in the participants nominated by countries and selected for the courses.

4.2  New and Enhanced Course Offerings and Modalities

Management Seminars for Senior NSO Officials

 In addition to the conventional training that it provides to junior and middle level statisticians, SIAP found it also essential to equip senior officials of the NSOs in the Asia-Pacific region with knowledge of important and emerging issues relevant to the management of NSOs.  In its first 3-day management seminar arranged with the ESCAP Statistics Division for the heads of the NSOs in the Asia-Pacific region held in Bangkok in February 2003, the focus was on (a) advocating for a higher priority for statistical capacity building in the national government budget; (b) adopting and adapting information and communications technology (ICT) to the NSO environment for capturing and sharing data within and outside the NSO; and (c) producing and monitoring statistical indicators as meaningful milestones to the development agenda of their countries.  The second management seminar was conducted jointly by SIAP and the Statistics Division of UN ESCAP in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR and brought together the heads of NSOs in the ESCAP region to discuss statistical challenges arising from national and global goals and draw out plans strategically as they carry out their mandates in an environment of economic, social, political, and technological change.  To understand the change process in order to move their organizations successfully into future by balancing between short-term pressure for change and strategic goals, the focus of the 3rd seminar in Bangkok centered on implementing and managing change arising from the strategic planning exercise of the 2nd seminar.  The seminar benefited from expert assistance from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics New Zealand, Statistics Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and the World Bank.The fourth Management Seminar focused on understanding the basic principles of results-based management (RBM) and the logical framework approach (LFA).  Done in a highly interactive and participative approach, the seminar aimed at participants to be aware of key issues in programme or project management, including the project cycle, and to consider applying the LFA in programme or project management.  The participants also benefited from the experiences of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Statistics New Zealand in managing statistical innovation and improvement programmes.

 Research-based Training Programme (RbTP)

The RbTP was launched in April 2001 as a Tokyo Metropolitan Area based programme. It aimed to provide an additional training modality for middle and senior government statisticians with the objective of raising their capabilities in undertaking independent research in official statistics and preparing quality statistical reports.

An annual academic programme cycle was defined with allowable dates for submission and selection of research proposals to the programme.  Selection and evaluation requirements and procedures for research proposals were established.  The requisites for the proposals to be submitted were articulated to include: specifications of file formats of the data and the software package to be used; description of how the data has been collected; the research method and models to be employed; and the formulation of the research problem and its possible contribution to the stock of knowledge.  All research papers produced by participants of the RbTP were referred to a capable resource person in the relevant field of research for critical evaluation from an academic perspective. Over the two years that the RbTP was conducted in Japan, a total of ten (10) fellows from 10 different countries were selected from among 58 applicants nominated by 21 countries.  Areas of proposed research were varied.  Research reports produced during these two years of implementation, including the comments of their respective referees have been compiled in CD-ROMs for dissemination.    In order to expand the number of participants while maintaining cost effectiveness, the Governing Board approved its reformatting from a TMA-based to an Outreach programme, effective AY 2003.  The RbTP was revised to a two-phased training activity in contrast to the first two programmes which were single-phased and wherein five participated every year and carried out their research within eight weeks in the TMA.  Under phase 1 of the revised format, participants numbering at least ten underwent basic training on research principles and methods for 2 weeks and worked on a draft research paper for 4 weeks at a country partner institution.  Upon return to station, the participant finalized the research paper (phase 2) within an additional 4 weeks.  This format increased the cost effectiveness, geographical representation and research supervision and benefited both the participants and the Institute.  Twelve fellows completed the programme in one academic year compared to the ten fellows trained in Japan over two academic years. 

The completed research reports in the first regional (Philippine) course tackled the following topics: poverty incidence at district level using small area estimation (Georgia), determinants of poverty (Nepal), poverty incidence estimation using correlates (Philippines), poverty profile (Samoa), poverty of Thai farmers (Thailand), risk coping behavior of rural households (China), life expectancy and life tables (Iran), access and quality of basic education (Myanmar), mortality situation of districts (Papua New Guinea), study of non-observed economy (Mongolia), statistics for local development planning (Cambodia), and development of aquaculture master sample (Philippines),

The second Research-based Regional Course for AY 2004 was held at the Statistical Training Center of the Korea National Statistical Office in Daejeon, Republic of Korea from 16 August to 24 September 2004.  Fifteen fellows were selected from 31 nominees from 21 countries.  There was also one participant from the Republic of Korea.  The completed research reports in the Republic of Korea course tackled the following topics: population projections (Vanuatu), inequality and economic growth (Malaysia), contraceptive usage (Maldives), labour force survey (Kiribati), impact evaluation of poverty reduction programme (Georgia), disabled persons (Sri Lanka), area selection for the International Comparison Programme (China), natural resources accounting (Mongolia), unwanted pregnancy (Indonesia), fertility rate and development (Islamic Republic of Iran), poverty statistics (Cambodia), merchandise trade classification (Afghanistan), consumer price index and urban consumption patterns (Fiji), manufacturing value added in national accounting (Pakistan), seasonal adjustment of economic data series (Hong Kong), and response burden on establishments (Republic of Korea). 

The third Research-based Regional Course for AY 2005 was held at the Statistical Training Center of the Korea National Statistical Office in Daejeon, Republic of Korea from 26 July to 2 September 2005.  Fifteen fellows were selected from 48 nominees from 22 countries.  Five countries were selected for the first time, namely: Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Tonga, and Azerbaijan, although the latter failed to arrive due to tight travel arrangements.  The completed research reports in the Republic of Korea course tackled the following topics: ageing of population (Bangladesh), health care preferences (Cambodia), measurement of female poverty (India), informal sector employment (Kyrgyzstan), statistical analysis of household and expenditure survey (Myanmar), infant mortality rate (Papua New Guinea), proxy variables of household income (Philippines), household income distribution (Samoa), fertility trends and differentials (Tonga), competitiveness in manufacturing (Turkey), quality assessment of household enterprise sampling survey (Viet Nam)  rice balances (Lao PDR), quality assessment of fishery statistics (Maldives), and estimation methods of economic surveys (Hong Kong).  Each participant had a research adviser coming from reputable Korean universities and research institutions as well as the Korea National Statistical Office (KNSO).  The fourth Research-based Regional Course was organized from 2 November to 9 December in the Philippines for the remaining countries that could not be accommodated in the earlier Republic of Korea course.  The reasons for this additional course were: (a) most of these countries submitted more than one good proposal, and (b) more than half of them were not invited to participate in any of the TMA-based courses this year.  Ten participants from nine countries, including two from the host country, underwent training.  The research topics included: poverty and fertility (Nepal), energy sustainability (China), innovation economy measurement (Georgia), poverty (Indonesia), informal labour force market (Thailand), human development indices estimation (Mongolia), foreign direct investment (Iran), consumer price index (Afghanistan), and data quality assessment (Philippines).  SIAP Occasional Paper No. 23 features the executive summaries of the research papers written for the first Research-based Regional Course held in Metro Manila, Philippines in February-March 2004.  The executive summaries of the 16 research papers completed in the 2nd course in Daejeon, Republic of Korea have been published in SIAP Occasional Paper No.24.

Outreach Programme: Regional/Sub-regional Training

The Outreach Programme consists of courses at the regional/sub-regional levels which were either the continuation of a series of training activities that had been migrated out of Japan, courses that were recommended under the UNESCAP external evaluation, or special topical courses specifically requested by the countries.  The Course/Workshop series on Sampling Design for Household and Establishment Surveys is one of the courses that was initially conducted at the TMA and subsequently offered in partnership with and in the facilities provided by the NSOs of various countries of the region.  For instance, the 11th Course/Workshop held in partnership with the Statistical Centre of Iran (SCI) discussed the basic principles of the survey sampling design and techniques of national level household and establishment / enterprise surveys in detail in the course along with exposure to the practical applications in the current annual round of the SCI socio-economic household and enterprise surveys.  The course also included important topics such as interpenetrating samples, small area estimation, and poverty profiles and poverty mapping as well as use of the STATA software for computational issues in sampling.  Besides lectures, the participants in groups also undertook project work to prepare sample design for household and enterprise surveys appropriate to their countries.  Earlier additional topics on small area statistics and poverty mapping were added to the Korea and Malaysia sampling courses.  The sample designs and estimation procedures for surveys of industries, enterprise surveys and household socioeconomic surveys in India were presented in the India sampling course.

The first as well as the second Regional Course on Poverty Measurements conducted were held in partnership with the BPS-Statistics Indonesia.  Topics covered in the training geared towards developing basic skills for carrying out poverty analysis on household survey data, e.g. household income and expenditures survey (HIES) and living standards measurement survey (LSMS), with the aid of computer software such as STATA or SPSS.  It focused on data sources and methods for constructing poverty lines and techniques for poverty mapping and profiles.  Participants worked on a group project on constructing poverty profiles that were presented at the end of the course.

The format of the first Sub-regional Course in Statistics for Pacific Island Developing Countries held in Fiji in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) had three 1 week modules addressing survey design issues, social statistics, and economic statistics respectively.  It linked the modules together as much as possible using a common set of household survey data to illustrate the relationships between the various topics being taught, and to place a solid emphasis on MDG indicators wherever appropriate.  It commenced with a 1/2 week introduction giving an overview of the operations of a National Statistics Office, and finished with a 1/2 week conclusion summarizing the key aspects taught during the course.  The second course was held in Guam.

The first Course/Workshop on Statistical Quality Management and Fundamental Principles of Official conducted in partnership with the Korea National Statistics Office was designed for middle-level managers of national statistical agencies in Asia and the Pacific, who develop departmental/division plans, set goals and deadlines, develop procedures to improve the quality of statistics and statistical services; and who direct their department’s activities with the support/help of senior managers and their staffs.  The concept of statistical data quality and the Data Quality Assessment Framework, its prerequisites and dimensions were introduced to the participants as well as the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, which provide general guidelines for the functioning of national statistical system as it is an important factor in building statistical systems that produce quality information.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) assisted in the design and conduct of the course.  The Course also provided some ideas about techniques used in results-based management and also the sharing of practices in applying these to the national statistical systems.

The first Regional Course on Price Statistics and the International Comparison Programme (ICP) was conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and National Development of Maldives to help participants understand and develop the concepts, objective and use, scope and coverage, data sources, compilation and calculating techniques of price indices, especially on the consumer price index.  The week-long course also dealt with different aspects of in producing comparable purchasing power parities under the ICP and indicated how this programme can fit into the existing price collection system of the country.  Resource persons from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) assisted in the design and conduct of the course.  The duration of this course needs to be assessed as most participants opined that a week did not allow sufficient time to have a practical knowledge of the topics.

The first Regional Course on System of National Accounts (SNA) was conducted in partnership with the Macao Statistics and Census Service to help participants understand the 1993 SNA and its recommendations to compile the national accounts statistics of their countries.  It aimed to strengthen the capability of national statistical services in improving their economic statistics and quality of national accounts aggregates, with the able assistance of resource persons from the Statistics Division of the United Nations.  This course has been widely received; in fact nominations from seven countries had to be turned down due to lack of slots available while three countries were ready to send additional participants on their own account.

A one-time sub-regional course/workshop on Industrial Statistics also ran for a week in India for SAARC member countries in the first quarter of 2006. The second editions of these new regional courses have already been scheduled and it is likely that these will continue to be programmed in the coming years.

Outreach Programme: Country Courses

Country courses are conducted to cater to specific needs identified and requested by the country’s national statistical organization and offer easier and affordable access to the course by local participants. 

Diverse Offerings 

SIAP corresponded with the NSOs to solicit requests for country courses from 2002 to 2004.  NSOs were asked to identify their prioritized areas of training in official statistics and to specify the topics to be covered, target group, proposed period of training, venue and counterparting arrangements.  Twenty-four (24) countries responded, with twenty (20) submitting substantive requests in the areas of data analysis, methodology, applications of ICT in statistics, and management and coordination tools.  To establish priorities in selection of country courses, SIAP ranked the 20 countries according to (1) extent of counterpart support to SIAP, (2) date of submission of proposal, and (3) number of SIAP course/s held in the country in the past 3 years.  In this prioritization scheme, higher rank was given to countries with greater counterpart support, earlier date of submission and less number of SIAP courses held in the country.  During the eighth session of the Governing Board in October 2002, a three-year round of country courses from academic year 2003 to 2005 was approved.  The focus and content of these courses are as varied as the statistical training needs of each country.  

The Maldives course dealt with statistical methods and social statistics.  The Armenia course centered on user focus in dissemination and web design.  The Nepal course on poverty statistics not only included all the related concepts and formulas but also applications to the actual data set of the 1995/96 Nepal Living Standards Survey by using the statistical software STATA.  The participants to the Pakistan course learned advanced demographic methods and analysis and worked on the results of the 1998 Population Census as the data set.  The Brunei course on constructing price indexes also came out with a set of general recommendations plus a blueprint for a statistical system for Producer Price Indexes that were presented to the management of the Economic Planning & Development Department of the Prime Minister’s Department.The Indonesia course on strategic planning had the participants from the provincial statistical offices to prepare draft strategic plans in supporting national and global development goals.  The Cambodia course on statistical classifications recommended that migration to the use of international classifications (in original or nationalized versions) be done as soon as possible.  The China country course highlighted the urgent need for national capacity building on environmental statistics for the country.  The participants to the Sri Lanka course on statistical methods in analysis worked on a survey data set from a poverty monitoring survey using the SPSS software package.  The Malaysia course on analysis of survey data grouped the participants to prepare project papers using various statistical techniques.  The course on small area estimation required the participants to work on Philippine data during workshops to apply the theories presented during the early part of the training.  The Sri Lanka course on database management introduced the basic functionalities of MS Access: table, forms and report design, and the steps in creating a DevInfo database; this was pivotal as the Department of Census and Statistics would start disseminating statistical databases using the DevInfo interface.The Philippine course on Geographic Information System had the trainees become familiar with the components of GIS, such as hardware, and software as well as get hands-on training with the popular free GIS software called Geographic Resource Analysis Support System (GRASS), which runs on a Linux platform – another very popular free computer operating system.  Resource persons from the Statistics Division of UN ESCAP and ISTAT – Instituto Nazionale di Statistica conducted the Thailand course on Advance Techniques on Data Imputation for Processing Establishment/Enterprise Data with custom built software developed in SAS. A course on Poverty Statistics was conducted in Mongolia while a course on the Use of Administrative Registers in Producing Social and Cultural Statistics in the Islamic Republic of Iran is scheduled in the second quarter of 2006.   

SIAP wrote to all member countries again last 20 April 2005 to seek proposals to jointly conduct country courses.  Seventeen countries/administrative region submitted thirty-one proposed courses for consideration.  On the basis of the recommendation of the Governing Board during the tenth session, SIAP has prioritized the conduct of the courses using the criteria of (a) degree of alignment with UN ESCAP programmatic thrusts, and (b) being classified as into one of the UN ESCAP priority groupings, namely: least developed countries (LDCs), Pacific island developing countries (PIDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and countries with economies in transition.  As approved, SIAP will schedule these courses over the next three academic years in accordance with available resources and the concurrence of the requesting country.

4.3       Strengthening Course Administration and Gains

Selection of participants

Selection of participants for the TMA-based courses is now done en banc with the faculty. The Institute has coordinated with selected UNDP country offices to objectively evaluate English proficiencies of selected participants of countries where English is not the medium of instruction in the university.  Advance information on English proficiency alerts the faculty on the appropriate pace and level of instruction of courses and on the needed support for language-deficient participants

Interaction in the courses

At each TMA-based course, sessions on personal introductions and expectations setting have been added to optimize participant interaction in a conducive learning atmosphere leading to more facilitated absorption of knowledge.  A convener from among the faculty is assigned to each course to infuse more direction and integration in the various subjects offered on the basis of accepted statistical frameworks of analysis.  Participation at the courses is emphasized as one of country representation rather than of an individual undertaking.

Flexible Participation Arrangements

In order to be more responsive to the needs of countries, SIAP has exercised some degree of flexibility in conducting and/or supporting training programmes.  Two examples illustrate this modification of policy: (a) with the sponsorship of the UNFPA country office, two (2) participants from the Afghanistan Central Statistics Office participated in the training sessions on the ‘Census and Survey Processing System (CSPro)’ which was a component of the Third Group Training Course in Application of Information and Communications Technology to Statistical Processes; and (b)  under the Outreach Programme, trainees from adjoining countries participated in two (2) country courses.  Participants from China and Macao, China joined the Hong Kong Course on Statistical Techniques in Analyzing Time Series Data while participants from Viet Nam and Lao PDR also went to the Cambodia Course on Statistical Classifications. 

Evaluation of participants

A more rigorous selection procedure is followed for participants to the TMA-based courses.  Accordingly, almost all participants become eligible for a certificate of completion by satisfactorily meeting the professional competence requirements of the course.  However, the Institute is contemplating to give a certificate of attendance to a few, if any, who do not for reasons of disinterest and/or inappropriate conduct, and are unanimously considered by the SIAP faculty, as not having met the completion requirements.  A participant receives, at the same time, a record of his ratings/score for subjects he/she had taken at SIAP.  Furthermore, the head of office where the participant works is immediately informed through a letter from SIAP of the performance of their representative.  Starting in AY 2002 SIAP started evaluating participant performance using objective methods.  The method is based on administering pre- and post- tests and looking at the group and paired differences in the scores as indicators of effectiveness of the training in enhancing participant knowledge. Moreover, by tradition, there are three special awards, one each for the 6-month module course, the 2-month statistical computing course, and the 2-month data analysis and interpretation course.     

Increasing multiplier effect

Other developments in the TMA-based group training courses focused on increasing the active participation of the trainees through group discussions and project work, and building their skills at training and presentation techniques to further equip them in re-echoing knowledge they gained upon return to their countries.  Moreover once a course begins, SIAP writes to the head of office of the participant providing details of the training (course outline, topics to be covered, etc.).  The offices are likewise informed that participants would be given a package of course materials in CD-ROM at the end of the training and are encouraged to arrange for participants to give a seminar after completion of the training.  A copy of this letter is also provided to participants. 

Training-related Technical Assistance

Moreover, SIAP provided technical assistance, rather than fellowship support, to two activities under the expanded Outreach Programme.  It provided a resource person to the sub-regional workshops held in Malaysia and India on the training for price surveys in connection with the International Comparison Programme for Asia and the Pacific.  It also supported the development of a training manual on the collection and production of disability statistics using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework of the World Health Organization, to support the statistical requirements of the Biwako Millennium Framework for Actions Towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. Post-SIAP Academic OpportunityIn accordance with an agreement made in March 2001, capable participants at selected TMA-based courses, who are interested in acquiring a Master degree in the field of Economics at Tokyo International University (TIU) and are nominated by or secure the permission of their respective Governments to apply for admission to the aforesaid course, are assisted by TIU to secure a scholarship through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MECSST) of the Government of Japan.  In addition, the training acquired at SIAP may be credited for 8 units in the case of the 6-month course, and for 2 units in the case of the 2-month analysis and interpretation course; the Master degree requirement at TIU is 32 units plus a thesis.  Applicants would liaise directly with TIU, and upon request by TIU, the Director of SIAP would issue a letter of reference based on the participant’s performance in the concerned course. Two former SIAP participants have been awarded scholarships through the MECSST to pursue the Masters degree for school year 2002.  Although all the nine recommendees of SIAP were accepted by TIU for admission to the Graduate School of Economics, the other seven were not successful in securing their own funding.Four former participants (from Georgia, Indonesia, Thailand and Uzbekistan) of the 6-month course were admitted and awarded fellowships to this programme for the school year 2005.  This is in addition to the four (from Georgia, Indonesia, Nepal, and Mongolia [on support from own government]) who began their studies in October the previous year.  Moreover three (from Bangladesh, Korea and Indonesia) are in the doctoral studies programme after obtaining their Master’s degree.

4.4       Building Training Capability and Knowledge Management

Standardization of course materials

An effort to build a collection or archive of materials used at the various training courses of the SIAP for easy use and reference has been in progress.  Training materials used in the outreach training programmes have also been included in this task.  As part of improving in-house knowledge management, all syllabi of the subjects in a course are being compiled using a common template for easy reference and guidance, especially in evaluating and improving the design of courses.  These and the CD-ROM compilations of course materials are available upon request and are intended to increase the multiplier effects of SIAP training in the region.  These would eventually constitute the base materials to be converted electronically for the distance education programme.  SIAP continues to upload and upgrade the content of its website which was improved by a staff member of the UNESCAP Statistics Division.  A course information system has been developed to principally consist of data subsystems on course offerings, course materials, employees, nominees, employee participation, participants’ evaluation and costing.  Work on the course offerings and nominees subsystems is up to date, and on the employees, in progress.  Loading of the other subsystems will follow.  Moreover the feasibility of storage and access of training materials in the public domain is presently being considered.  The infrastructure to support the improvement of training as well as in-house knowledge management was enhanced by the replacement of all computers in the Institute and the provision of additional internet connections by the host Government through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) in September 2004. The email and web servers used by SIAP are provided by the MIC, thus it is understandably covered by the ‘Information Security Policy’ of the Ministry.  However as a result, some web pages are blocked for viewing and the web log file, which keeps records on who is accessing which page and when, cannot be accessed  Moreover the security policy prevents access to our emails from outside the office desktops.  In view of this, the Governing Council agreed that SIAP acquire its own servers in view of the additional requirements to be generated by the e-learning initiative.

Distance Education

The modality of e-learning was proposed in 2001 to be pursued through a Virtual Statistical Training Access (ViSTA) facility involving the participation of four groups: the contents provider, the supervising trainers, the course administrators, and the technicians responsible for the infrastructure.  SIAP would have been responsible for the first three groups, with possible assistance from the NSOs or key training centers in the country or the region.  The infrastructure support was to be outsourced, and possibly the provision of the contents in e-learning format. Under the active (structured) mode, class discussions and interaction were to be optimized in the country/regional learning centers which will be virtual (through the Internet) SIAP facilities.  However the Governing Board advised the Institute to move slowly and cautiously on this modality, to review developments in similar fields elsewhere, and to initially develop materials for CD-ROM. 

Earlier SIAP had conducted a mail survey directed to the fifty-one (51) heads of NSOs in the ESCAP region to gather inputs to be considered for its future e-learning strategy.  The following are some of the findings: (a) twenty-two of thirty responding countries agreed that e-learning is a good initiative for SIAP to follow through while seven countries indicated to be waiting for results of small-scale projects and/or feasibility studies; (b)  about ninety percent (26/30) advised that SIAP proceed with small-scale projects and six countries suggested a companion feasibility study; (c)  subject matter priorities varied from poverty indicators to business registers to dissemination standards to website design to time-use statistics and the differences in priorities did not appear to be significant; (d) Internet access for participating in the e-learning courses via the World Wide Web is available today in at least half (15/30) of the responding countries; (e) participation in e-learning courses with CD-ROM as medium is additionally at least possible in 9 countries without Internet access for participants; and (f) seventy percent (21/28) is prepared to partner with SIAP in the future development, design and conduct of the e-learning courses. 

Subsequently SIAP worked on a partnership with the Korea National Statistical Office to collaborate with the e-Learning Center of the Korea National Open University (KNOU) in piloting the development of a prototype distance learning material on introductory statistics.  The KNOU provides e-learning in, among others, graduate level education in public administration, business administration, information science, and continuing education.  It has developed about one hundred eighty (180) coursewares, including one on Introductory Statistics, and presents itself as a worthy partner of SIAP in this endeavour.  SIAP has come to terms with the KNSO and the KNOU on the work plan, roles and responsibilities and the proposed budget.  It is expected that SIAP will forward an acceptable draft for a Letter of Agreement to be processed by UN ESCAP, which will sign this jointly with the KNOU.

Collaboration with Country Training Centers

SIAP organized a meeting of the Directors of National Statistical Training Centers of the ESCAP region in November 2002 to interact, exchange information on resources and experiences, and draw up plans to build training capability at the country level, singly or jointly with SIAP as facilitator and collaborator.  It also discussed the possibilities of future collaboration for jointly conducting, at the national training centers within the region, some of the regional/ sub-regional courses under its outreach programme.   As it has a very small core faculty, one of the outcomes expected is that SIAP will be able to take advantage of the training expertise available in the region in implementing its work programme. In the ninth session of the Governing Board, it was agreed that institutions will be sought out in countries, which upon meeting standards of quality become SIAP partners.  These country partner institutions (CPIs) will run specific courses funded by SIAP using standardized training design and content to international participants as well as local in their own or locally-sourced facilities and with both country and regional expertise.  In addition SIAP can undertake to collaborate in the build-up of training materials and expertise in that particular training area for these CPIs as centers of specialization in the region.  So far, four institutions can be identified as CPIs, namely the Korea National Statistical Office, the Statistical Centre of Iran, BPS-Statistics Indonesia and the Philippines Statistical Research and Training Center.

SIAP also chairs the task team created by the PARIS21 (Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century) Secretariat to deal with questions related to statistical training and to promote regional and global partnerships in training of official statisticians.  Established in November 1999 in response to the UN Economic and Social Council resolution on the goals of the UN Conference on Development, the PARIS21 Consortium was launched to act as a catalyst for promoting a culture of evidence-based policymaking and monitoring in all countries, and especially in developing countries through facilitating international events, supporting country-based activities, regional workshops, and subject matter task teams. The Consortium is a partnership of policymakers, analysts, and statisticians from all countries of the world focusing on promoting high-quality statistics, making these data meaningful and designing sound policies. SIAP has twice convened  the task team (on November 2004 and April 2005) to deal with questions related to statistical training and to promote regional and global partnerships in training of official statisticians.  It was agreed that PARIS21 would identify and prepare a list of all known agencies involved in statistical training and draft a beta version webpage that presents a link to these institutions with a contact name (and future “network coordinator”). This page now uploaded in the PARIS21 website (www.paris21.org) will be the embryo of an international network/partnership on statistical training.  Emphasis will be placed on transparency through the availability of materials and information on programmes. The institutions linked on the webpage will be encouraged to post their relevant materials on their site (curricula, syllabi, etc.). The Institute with the assistance of the members from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Indonesia and the Philippines also finalized the terms of reference for a consultant to be hired by the PARIS21 Secretariat to write the guidelines on how countries need to conduct their own training needs assessments and human resources development strategies.

On another front, the assistance extended by SIAP to the Maldives Ministry of Planning and National Development and the Maldives College of Higher Education in offering a diploma course in Applied Statistics at the latter institution has borne fruit.  SIAP had earlier provided its subject offerings, content and coverage of the individual subjects and appropriate textbooks or training materials, and course standards for the two-year tertiary level course granting equivalent university credit to enable the participants to pursue a bachelor’s degree, by taking one-year additional academic credits towards a particular degree course.  Thirty-three students from various government offices are now enrolled for the first semester of the first year in the newly organized course patterned after the training courses of SIAP.


[1] This design was implemented during its first offering 13 May –12 July 2002.[2] The revised curriculum was implemented in the Second Group Training Course in Collection and Analysis of Official Statistics for Central Asian Countries, 29 July – 27 September 2002.

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1 Comment

Filed under statistics, training

One response to “Training Statisticians in Asia and the Pacific, 4

  1. Very good info. Thanks.

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