Jamaica Learns from Malaysia to Develop Education Leaders

Key Contact
Harriet Nannyonjo
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 47,534
Knowledge-providing Countries
Knowledge-receiving Countries


When Jamaica needed to reform how it built capacity for different levels of leadership in delivering education services, it turned to Malaysia. Specifically, Jamaica was interested in how to design and implement competency-based leadership development to increase the effectiveness of its education system leaders. Drawing on Malaysia’s experience, Jamaica is changing the way it trains, mentors, and holds its education leadership accountable.


The Government of Jamaica has been implementing reforms to improve learning achievement for all school age children in Jamaica by strengthening school leadership and system accountability. To increase the capacity of its education leaders, the country needs to strengthen mechanisms for developing its education leaders to improve accountability. This challenge is exacerbated by the absence of a strategic plan to address issues in the sector.

Jamaica expressed interest in learning from Malaysia’s experience, specifically how to design and implement competency-based leadership development to increase the effectiveness of education system leaders in delivering education services. The exchange would also enable the Jamaicans to examine existing strategies, programs and initiatives with a view of designing contextually relevant responses to support education transformation in Jamaica.


The Jamaica Education Sector Transformation Program prioritizes improvement of accountability in the education system through training school principals and board members. Jamaica wanted to learn about other country experiences related to strengthening the capacity of education leaders to improve efficiency and accountability in the education system.

Malaysia was chosen as a knowledge provider because of several similarities with Jamaica: developing country, similar education structure – universal primary and secondary education – and decentralized education system to promote school-based management. Additionally, the Institute Aminuddin Baki (IAB) of Malaysia has provided similar services to other countries like Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines and Indonesia.

To prepare for the tour, a workshop, which included all agencies related to school leadership, took take place in Jamaica to identify capacity gaps and agree the purpose and activities of the exchange. Several audio-conferences were organized for the Jamaicans and the Malaysians. A study tour May 24 – June 5, 2015 then served the following purposes:

  • NCEL gained insight into the structure and operations of their Malaysian counterparts;
  • Participants experienced first-hand a training program for middle leaders including pastoral care including observing course delivery and quality assurance mechanisms.
  • Face-to-face conversations with Malaysian scholars and practitioners at IAB, and with education officials.

The delegation also attended and made presentations at the International Conference on School Leadership in the 21st Century, had discussions with key officials of the Malaysian Ministry of Education and the Department of Higher Education, and visited the Institute of Teacher Education – Technical Education campus.


Overall, the exchange enabled the delegation to examine existing strategies, programs and initiatives with a view of designing contextually relevant responses to support education transformation in Jamaica. They returned to Jamaica with an increased sense of urgency in addressing teacher development matters, middle level managers and leadership of multigrade schools among policy makers and other stakeholders. They have since:

  • Led the preparation of a proposal for a structured approach to continuous teacher professional development.
  • Held a system-wide discussion involving stakeholders and pertinent practitioners toward development of a strategy to include themes for a module to enhance the competencies of middle level managers, pastoral leaders and aspirants.
  • Led the preparation of a strategy for strengthening leadership of under enrolled or multigrade schools.

A national workshop to share lessons learned from the exchange with Malaysia brought together over 200 participants including school principals, NCEL, education officers, inspectors, teacher training colleges, and Ministry of Education officials. The group discussed ideas regarding leadership development and that could be incorporated into implementation of the Education Sector Transformation Program.

Lessons Learned

  • Clarity on the purpose of the study tour helped to ensure that the right participants were selected and they focused on the right areas during the study tour.
  • Daily reflection during the study tour helped the team to keep in mind what they would focus on when they returned home.
  • Presentation to the political leadership on what the team learned from the study tour and relating it to how that could address the Jamaica system challenges helped to gain immediate buy-in from the top leadership.

World Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank facilitated the knowledge exchange, which benefited from a US$49,500 grant from the South-South Facility.  Country Office facilities hosted several meetings before and after the study tour and the team provided guidance on various technical aspects of the learning experience.


Association of School Principals
Ministry of Education
National College for Educational Leadership

Institute Aminuddin Baki: IAB in partnership with the British Council facilitated the International Conference on School Leadership in the 21st Century.
Ministry of Education

Moving Forward

Subsequent to the delegation‘s visit to the IAB, the Malaysian team has been invited to Jamaica to learn from the strategies Jamaica employs with respect to Boys‘ Education and their Assessment Framework.

NCEL will coordinate the design and delivery of a System Leadership for School Improvement Programme to develop high level education leaders to make positive changes in their Regions and to broadly improve system leadership to positively impact school leadership and student achievement.


The Jamaican delegation comprised of the following:

Mrs. Lena Buckle-Scott, Deputy Chief Education Officer (Curriculum), Ministry of Education
Mrs. Elaine Cunningham, Principal, St. Hugh‘s High School
Mr. Conrad Hamilton, Communication Specialist (ESTP)
Dr. Taneisha Ingleton, Director of Programmes, NCEL
Mr. Philando Neil, Logistics Assessment and Certification Manager
Mrs. Novlet Plunkett, Senior Education Officer, Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission
Dr. Maurice Smith, Principal Director, NCEL
Mr. Damion Spencer, Principal, Inverness Primary & Infant
Commenting on the experience, Dr. Maurice Smith, Principal Director of Jamaica’s National College for Educational Leadership stated:
Our team gained insights on changes which could be made to improve teacher education in Jamaica, and returned home with an increased sense of urgency in addressing teacher education matters among policy makers and other stakeholders . . . We are now better equipped to work toward the goals we have set for developing our educational leaders. We have therefore engaged Teacher Training Institutions to streamline and offer courses for teacher professional development. We have assembled a Technical Working Group for re-positioning Leadership Training for Education Officers, and begun work on the development of a strategic plan for addressing priority issues. . . . [Without this exchange] it would certainly have taken much longer to streamline the approach to professional development of our teachers.”

Learn More

Jamaica Takes Big Steps Toward Improving its Educational System: http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2015/09/16/jamaica-big-steps-improving-educational-system

Jamaica Education Transformation Capacity Building project: http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P107407/jm-education-transformation-capacity-building?lang=en

The Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP), Ministry of Education, Jamaica: http://jis.gov.jm/estp/


The National College for Educational Leadership- Promoting Effective Leadership in all Schools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn8oOESoGzs