JIS: Jean Hastings will tell you that she is not an educator by profession, but her contribution to the transformation of Jamaica’s education system is second to none.
For almost two decades, she has worked with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information on various projects, including the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP), which was established to execute the Ministry’s modernisation agenda.
For her outstanding contribution, Ms. Hastings has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for service to education. She was among 40 persons recognised at the awards ceremony held in June at Jamaica House.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Barbara Allen, who has worked with Ms. Hastings, tells JIS News that the honour was well deserved.
She noted that Ms. Hastings’ knowledge of Jamaica’s education system is on par with the most seasoned educator.
“She has contributed significantly to the growth and development of the education sector and has, therefore, deservedly earned this recognition,” Ms. Allen adds.
A native of western Jamaica, who worked as a management consultant, Ms. Hastings’ sojourn in education began in 1998, when she was contracted as project manager of the Primary Education Improvement Project Phase 11 for 15 months. Among the objectives were to develop the revised primary curriculum, complete the national assessment programme that was already under development, coordinate construction work for 26 schools under that project, and organise institutional strengthening activity within the Ministry. With the successful completion of the project, Ms. Hastings was engaged to manage several other undertakings and would work with the Ministry up until her retirement in May, 2017.
These include the Primary Education Support Project, which saw the roll-out of the revised primary curriculum aimed at improving the quality of delivery of primary education and the strengthening of the capacity to manage that delivery.
Ms. Hastings is perhaps best known as Director of the ESTP, aimed at modernising the operations of the Ministry and creating a more effective, efficient and accountable system.
The cornerstone of the programme is a restructured Ministry, with independent agencies that are accountable for results, quality assurance, service delivery, and monitoring of reforms.
The ESTP has seen the establishment of six new entities, including the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), the National Education Inspectorate (NEI), the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC), and the National Education Trust (NET).
The programme resulted in the establishment of a modernised Ministry of Education and related support agencies, development and implementation of the National Standards Curriculum, and revisions to the National Assessment Programme at grades two, six and nine.
Other measures include initiatives to improve special education service delivery and improvements to education management information systems, all aimed at improving educational outcomes and increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the management of education in Jamaica.
Ms Hastings hails the significant strides that have been made over the years in improving the education system.
“The thing about education is that we are never short of ideas and we are always seeking to improve, and that was what the projects that I managed were all about. Overall, I think everyone is motivated to work towards improving the system, and there have been notable improvements,” she tells JIS News.
She notes that the Ministry must be focused on meeting the demands of the 21st century learner.
“The children in 2018 are vastly different from the children in 1962. They are much more aware, they are born better equipped to deal with a 21st century world, so the education system has to deal with engaging these children,” she argues. Ms. Hasting, who is the mother of one son and has one granddaughter, tells JIS News that her philosophy in life is “we are here to make a difference, and I try to do so and give of my best at all times”.
“Whatever I am involved in, I want to know that I give of my best. I am eternally motivated, so I have to feel good about what I am doing and what it is I am contributing,” she adds.
She says it is important for children to know that “failure is really about giving up, not trying. It is not about not succeeding the first time you try”.
Citing her own life experience in this regard, she tells JIS News that she did not pass the Common Entrance Examination, but was given the opportunity to sit an entrance test to Mount Alvernia High in St. James, which she passed “with flying colours”.
She would later attend Hampton High in St. Elizabeth, before matriculating to the University of the West Indies where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics (with honours) and a postgraduate diploma in management studies.
She also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Baruch College, City University of New York.
Though retired, Ms. Hastings continues to offer her services as a management consultant.
CAPTION: Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, presents former Director of the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP) in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Jean Hastings,with the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education at the awards ceremony held in June at Jamaica House.