What is baseline data?

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Baseline data is basic information gathered before a program begins. It is used later to provide a comparison for assessing program impact.


If your program has specific goals and objectives, the needed baseline data will be quite obvious. If the goals and objectives are vaguely defined or undefined, you will find it difficult to know what kind of baseline data to gather.


Literacy program planning


There are two kinds of baseline data:

  • Determinate baseline data is closely related to the proposed program and is clearly indicated by the goals and objectives of the program.
  • Indeterminate baseline data is not obviously related to the goals and objectives of the program but provides useful background awareness of the sociolinguistic and cultural context of the program.

Here are some examples of baseline data.


If a project has the following goals and objectives:

  • Achieve 20 percent literacy
  • Train 100 teachers
  • Encourage all literacy program graduates to read something at least once a day

Then the appropriate determinate baseline data would consist of the following:

  • Assessment of current literacy rates
  • Information on the number of trained teachers already available
  • Data on current reading habits of people in the community

For the project described above, some appropriate indeterminate baseline data might be as follows:

  • Information on the number of people who have traveled to the national capital in the last 12 months.
  • The average number of children per family
  • The number of schools in the area
  • The attitude of the people towards the use of the language of wider communication
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