The Statement is made by the National Schools Interoperability Program (NSIP) Steering Group, on behalf of Australia’s State and Territory Education Departments and the non-government school sectors’ representative bodies. The NSIP Steering Group is authorised by the Australian Education Senior Officials Committee (AESOC) to provide sector-wide advice on the technical and interoperability aspects of national education projects. 

This Statement is also endorsed by the SIF Association AU Management Board (SIFAAMB), which operates SIF in Australia and includes elected representatives of vendor members of the SIF Association active in Australia.

Background to SIF in Australia

The Systems Interoperability Framework, widely known as SIF, is an international specification for the exchange of school data, which is managed through the global SIF Association (now known as the Access4Learning (A4L) Community).  The A4L Community is comprised of education providers and software vendors who have a common interest in having software applications interact and share data. Globally there are 92 vendor organisation members and 1,158 end user members of the A4L Community.

In November 2009, SIF was endorsed by Australia’s State, Territory and Commonwealth Education Ministers as the preferred method for exchanging information across the Australian school sector.

This decision was based on the acceptance of a business case that showed that the number of information and learning systems used in the education sector was growing rapidly and that the corresponding complexity of integration would continue to grow without collaborative efforts. This led to the establishment of the National Schools Interoperability Program (NSIP) in 2010 to develop and promote common national approaches, including hosting the SIF Association and its work in Australia.

In a scheduled review of NSIP during its third year of operation, independent reviewers found that the need for interoperability support continues, with added impetus due to the rapid expansion of online products and services and the national action on curriculum, assessment and reporting. In a review of the Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution program the same reviewers noted that “there is justification for interoperability standards to be set at the national level” and that “SIF allows for the exchange of information between all Australian school sectors, reducing the need for schools and education authorities to design customised approaches to information sharing.”

The NSIP Steering Group and its members use this Statement to reiterate their support for the use of SIF as their preferred method for data exchange in the Australian schools sector.

 

Adoption and Market Penetration

SIF has been used in the USA for more than a decade to enable interoperability between software products within schools districts and to facilitate data exchange between schools, school systems and education authorities. SIF is also in the early stages of adoption in the UK and under investigation in several other countries. Currently more than 15 million students benefit every day from interoperability delivered via SIF. 

In Australia currently there are 43 member organisations including education authorities and software vendors. SIF has been used in projects involving government and non-government schools in all States and Territories. These include local, national and cross-jurisdictional initiatives spanning access to online learning resources, online assessment, enterprise wide data synchronisation, student data transfer and national reporting. School System Authorities nationally are progressively implementing education data hubs based on providing SIF 3 interoperability for third party providers.

In Australia, the a recognised the benefit in creating a targeted subset or profile of the full Australian Data Model to assist in more speedy and lightweight adoption of the interoperability standard. The Student Information System Baseline Profile (SBP) is a set of core data and business rules defining the relationship between students, parents, teachers, schools and classes. It has reduced the complexity and cost for schools and increased the ease for vendors in creating interoperability between applications and student (or school) information systems.

The level of SIS vendor engagement with SIF is evidence of the degree of general market adoption of SIF. Ten out of thirteen leading SIS vendors have an active interest in working with SIF and five have operating agents developed as a result of participation in NSIP supported pilot projects. 

SIF enjoys wide support across the Australian education software community. The full list of members and supporters is provided in A4L AU Members table.