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What is Census@School?

Census@School is an international classroom project that engages students from first year to sixth year in statistical problem solving.
It allows students to access a large amount of meaningful data easily and quickly.

This international program began in the UK in 2000 to promote statistical literacy in school children through using their own real data. Ireland joined in September 2009 and the Irish website is located at www.censusatschool.ie. The Irish component of Census@School is sponsored by the CSO, NCTE, NCCA, and PMDT.

Why is Census@School so useful?

Census@School provides an easy-to-use way in which students can collect real data about themselves and their peers. When students use data about themselves or their class to learn statistical skills, they are drawn more deeply into thinking critically about the information. In doing so students also get a more realistic view of what statistical analysis is all about. They  find the exercises real, interesting and enjoyable. Using real data allows students to compare their findings against their own experiences. They question, draw conclusions and ultimately construct their own learning. By experiencing real data, students see different types of data arise naturally and with them different approaches to analysing such data. With real-life data (as opposed to sanitised versions of data) students encounter the problem posed by outliers and the ways in which these are dealt with. As well as providing a tool for collecting students’ data, Census@School also provides a comprehensive set of tools for randomly selecting data from different countries around the world and for analysing this data.
Here is a video of a teacher using Census@School to teach statistics and instructional manuals on getting started with Census@School.

Using Census@School in the classroom

Using Census@School to teach statistics has many benefits. Watch a teacher use Censu...



How is data collected from a class?

Under the direction of their teachers, students anonymously complete a brief online survey. This requires only about 20 minutes of internet access time.  To complete the online questionnaire, students need to know their school’s roll number and their teacher’s Scoilnet username. Teachers can register for a Scoilnet account online at https://accounts.scoilnet.ie/registration/. Data from the survey is submitted to a national database, located in HEAnet and managed and maintained by NCTE.  Following completion and submission of the questionnaire by students the class teacher can access the results within 24 hours using their Scoilnet account. These results are presented to the teacher in spreadsheet form. Students can then use their own data to answer meaningful questions about their class. As part of this process students learn about the data-handling cycle, about statistical analysis techniques and about statistical inference. Students can also use Census@School to compare their class to groups of students from other countries.

What type of questions are students asked on the questionnaire?

Some of the questions being asked in the latest questionnaire are:

What county do you live in?

In what county/country was your mother born?

What height are you?

On a school day – what is your usual time to get up at?

How many text messages did you send yesterday?

All questionnaires may be viewed at http://www.censusatschool.ie/en/take-part/questionnaires

Students are always amazed at the amount and variety of data generated from one class by completing the questionnaire.

What else is provided by the censusatschool.ie site?

  • Free downloadable resources containing a variety of classroom activities on statistics, probability, number and algebra, science, geography, CSPE, history, ICT and the 2011 Census.
  • Access to competitions such as the John Hooper Medal for Statistics, The Apps for Gaps competition
  • Airo Census Mapping Module
  • A World Statistics Quiz accessible by typing the word “quiz” into the search box. One can take the quiz by clicking on the link “Take the quiz” at http://www.censusatschool.ie/en/component/content/article/277
  • The Random Data Selector allows access to datasets from the international database for Census@School for sample sizes up to 200, from previous questionnaires, from all participating countries
  • DataTool: This software not only allows quick and easy access to samples of data collected by previous Census@School questionnaires from all participating countries but also gives a quick, easy and accessible way of producing graphical and numerical summaries of this data. Sample sizes of up to 250 can be accessed and resampling is also available to show sampling variability.

What about privacy issues?

The ”About” tab on the Census@School home page links to a privacy statement which may be accessed from this link: http://www.censusatschool.ie/en/about/69-about-the-project/281-privacy

What use is made of the class data generated from the questionnaire?

These class results are used to teach statistical concepts, measurement, data analysis, graphing as well as exploring social trends. Students can compare their results with random samples from students from the international data base. Results are available in the database from all previous questionnaires apart from the current questionnaire. Some questions, e.g. measurement questions, are repeated from year to year and some questions are recycled from previous questionnaires to allow for comparisons.

Students can engage in statistical problem solving by formulating questions of interest that can be answered with the data, collecting and selecting the appropriate data, analyzing it and making appropriate conclusions in context.

Census@School also raises students’ awareness of the importance of our national census in providing essential information for planning education, health, transportation and many other services. Our last national census was conducted in April 2011 and data from this census can be accessed from www.cso.ie

Has any statistical analysis been carried out on previous years’ Census@School data for Irish schools?

Yes, statisticians from the CSO have analysed the results from previous questionnaires completed by Irish students. This analysis is available at http://www.censusatschool.ie/en/get-data/results

Apart from showing examples of statistical analysis this analysis can be used as an aid to achieving the syllabus learning outcome “evaluate the effectiveness of different displays in representing the findings of a statistical investigation conducted by others”. It allows students to engage in interpreting  statistical information presented in graphical form.

What countries participate in Census@School?

Currently the countries participating are the U.K., U.S.A., Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Korea and Ireland.