Geospatial Data in Educational Planning and Management

Building the right school in the right place at the right time, creating educational programmes or services that take into account geographic constraints, social challenges, and local economic realities: planning is always a matter of context. This IIEP-UNESCO development program explores ways to improve micro-planning, using geolocalized data previously inaccessible due to the lack of sufficiently powerful technologies.



Educational planners have always relied on location data to produce their analysis and policy recommendations. However, the availability of free, open source software combined with an avalanche of geospatial data makes it now possible to process large amounts of highly precise information at low cast. In this context, micro-panning becomes increasingly relevant, accurate, and responsive - and educational policies better adapted to local needs and contexts.

Led by IIEP with its partners, the Geospatial Data in Educational Planning and Management programme aims to develop new tools and methodologies that transforms the integration of location-based data into educational practices.


Why focus on geospatial data?

To inform national sector plans, educational planning must take into account local characteristics at the level of smaller communities. This is the approach IIEP has been advocating for many decades. Cross-referencing data from the education system with geo-referenced information enables educational planners and managers to generate highly contextualized policies that ensure that the education system is responsive to the needs of local communities:

  1. greater equity in the distribution of educational opportunities,
  2. better adaptation of these opportunities to the needs of local communities,
  3. more efficient use of all available resources.

Through this programme, IIEP collaborates with experts, academics, and practitioners to develop methodologies and practical tools to improve current knowledge and techniques in micro-planning. And thus provide education authorities with increasingly refined insights to meet the expectations of their communities, according to local constraints and contexts.

Amélie A. Gagnon - Head of Development at IIEP-UNESCO


Current projects and activities

School-age populations exposed to natural hazards

Gagnon, A.A.; Vargas Mesa, G. 2022. School-age populations exposed to natural hazards: An approach to triangulate internally displaced population estimates. Background paper to the Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID) 2022. Geneva: International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)

Download the paper

School-age population estimates at the local level

Often, local planning offices do not have access to school-age population estimates for their districts, preventing the calculation of key education statistics that can inform responsive interventions. This is particularly important for areas with fragile information systems, or with old population census data.

In order to fulfil this need, IIEP designed a tool that transforms 5-year age group population data into school-age populations that coincide with the structure of the education system, and map to any territory (100x100m grid).

Download the Technical Note

Use the tool (GitHub repository)

Contact us for support


Geographically-weighted regressions to inform educational planning

Multiple explanatory variables influence educational results across space – but it is often difficult for planners and policy makers to determine the strength of these interactions and their location, to target responsive policies accordingly. This is particularly true when working in contexts where multiple external factors might have mixed effects on the education system, such as civil unrest, food insecurity, or natural catastrophes.

To tackle this challenge, IIEP developed a methodology that uses Geographically Weighted Regressions to obtain maps of interactions between the dependent educational variable and the explanatory variables, allowing policy makers to better inform where to implement specific policies in priority.

Use the tool (GitHub repository)

Contact us for support

Download the Technical Note


Infrastructure suited to natural environment and hazards

New schools need to be built in the most suitable locations in order to resist natural hazards. Conversely, existing infrastructures need to be maintained, refurbished, or relocated. Planning departments need clear insights on the suitability of terrain and presence of natural risks to anticipate investments in education facilities and infrastructure.

IIEP and UNOSAT develop a tool that uses multi-criteria decision analysis to find the more suitable areas for educational facilities, and identify quickly risky areas.

Use the tool (GitHub repository)

Contact us for support

Download the Technical Note


Improved access to schools with isochrones as catchment areas

Catchment areas used to be buffers around schools, not taking into account physical obstacles and hindering factors that may turn the journey to school into a long and dangerous hike.

IIEP and GISPO use walking time and walking distance to show how accessible schools really are. Isochrones can reveal, analysed together with population density, how students are accessing learning opportunities, and can help guide strategies for improving access to existing schools, or the construction of new facilities to service cut-off populations.

Use the tool (GitHub repository)

Contact us for support

Optimized inspection routes for improved quality of education

Inspection and supervision visits improve the quality of education, but how can we be sure that every school gets visited when staff, time, and resources are limited? Utilizing geospatial data together with methods like Traveling Salesperson Problem, Minimum spanning trees, and fleet management, it is possible to determine the optimal distribution of schools to teams of inspectors, and optimize the routes that will maximize the number of inspected schools over a school year.

Contact us for support

Hacking EDplanning: IIEP's hackathon

Everything digital has penetrated teaching and learning – but it has yet to fully integrate into the field of educational planning and management. At IIEP-UNESCO, we see great potential for computer science, geospatial and big data, and other types of technology to offer new solutions in the way education systems function and cater to the specific needs of the communities it serves. That is why we have teamed up with Latitudes, a tech for good network organization, to host Hacking EDplanning, IIEP-UNESCO’s hackathon. 

Hacking EDplanning is an event that brings together developers and educational planners over a 48-hour collective working session to solve educational planning challenges by creating digital prototypes. These innovative ideas – based on real country needs – could redefine educational planning practices and offer new ways to support governments with meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal for education (SDG 4).

The second edition of Hacking EDplanning took place in an online format, from 6 to 8 May 2022.

Learn more



The designations employed and the presentation of the material in these publications and resources do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO or IIEP concerning the legal status of any country. territory, city, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.