Jamaica Takes Big Steps Toward Improving its Educational System

September 16, 2015


Director of the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP), Ms. Jean Hastings provides background and an update of the activities of the Ministry of Education's transformation and modernization initiatives. She was speaking at End of Project Exhibition during the last World Bank Mission. 

Jamaica is transforming its education system and building the capacity of a network of institutions to improve the quality of its educational services.


Jamaica has achieved universal enrollment of students from early childhood through the primary levels up to grade nine.  However, there remains an urgent need to raise the standards and improve the quality of education. The major challenges in the sector included sector governance, shortcomings in teaching and learning quality, equitable access, and enrollment at the higher levels of the secondary system.


Jamaica’s first national development goal is to empower its citizens to achieve their full potential by providing world-class education.  Recognizing the importance of an improved public service delivery system in realizing this goal, Jamaica launched an ambitious Education System Transformation Program (ESTP). The initiative aims to improve learning through a decentralized accountability framework.  The cornerstone of the program is a restructured Ministry of Education, supported by six newly established independent agencies that are accountable for results, quality assurance, service delivery, and monitoring of reforms. The agencies are:

  • Central Ministry.
  • Department of School Services (DSS).
  • Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC).
  • National Council for Education Leadership (NCEL).
  • National Education Inspection (NEI).
  • National Education Trust (NET).

In November 2009, the World Bank approved funding for the Education System Transformation Capacity Building Project to support the Jamaica education sector reform and build the capacity of these agencies.  


The overall result is a comprehensive network of institutions working together to support learning for every student. The government established a framework to provide a legal entity for each of the new agencies. It substantially built the capacity of the newly established agencies and adopted a School Improvement Act focused on enrollment and learning for all school age children. In addition:

  • The project certified 53 percent of all public school principals based on rigorous competency based training and assessment.
  • Ninety percent of all public schools inspected have prepared and are implementing improvement plans focusing on improving student learning
  • Ninety-five percent of all teachers have met requisite standards and have been registered
  • Fifty-two percent of all teachers meet professional standards for licensing
  • National Education Trust has started mobilizing resources from private sources

The program’s success has been recognized outside the country’s borders. Several countries in the Caribbean have approached Jamaica’s Ministry of Education to request support on issues related to school leadership, school inspection, and school improvement. In addition, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development recognized the NCEL with a Bright Spot Award in innovation in leadership development.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank supported the capacity building of the key agencies established to support the national Education System Transformation Program. To this end, the Bank bolstered the Government’s own program, through sponsoring consultancies, training and workshops, and procurement of needed software.


The World Bank Leadership and Learning Institute South-South Facility supported a knowledge exchange for NCEL to learn from an internationally recognized Malaysian institution in strengthening school leadership, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) supported the reform effort with a loan.

Moving Forward

The new agencies and the restructured Ministry of Education are well established and budgeted by the government. The National Education Strategic Plan, which underpins the ESTP, enjoys strong broad-based support. The newly created agencies are popular with the population at large and their services are in demand at the schools. Moreover, NCEL and NET have already begun to generate additional resources.


Students are benefitting from improved teaching and learning quality. School principals, middle managers, teachers, administrators and other school actors and stakeholders (parents, communities, board members, others) are benefitting from the more efficient, well-coordinated and higher quality school support services provided by new agencies, including:

  • Central Ministry: evidence-based policy making and oversight.
  • DSS: supporting School Improvement Plan (SIP) design and implementation.
  • JTC: setting and enforcing teacher standards and professional development.
  • NCEL: developing school leadership of principals and other leaders.
  • NEI: assessing school performance.
  • NET: brokering private support for schools and for managing construction and renovation works.

Finally, agency staff themselves benefited from capacity building enabling them to work more effectively. The head of the government delegation stated that: “What we learnt is going the change the entire sector, not just how school leaders are trained, thanks to the Bank’s support.” 

of all teachers have met requisite standards and have been registered