Leading for change: Q&A with chief of education planning from Saint Kitts and Nevis

28 May 2024


Carla Livian Mills-Diamond from Saint Kitts and Nevis participated in the IIEP Education Leadership Seminar 2024.

Carla Livian Mills-Diamond, Chief of Education Planning in Saint Kitts and Nevis, was among more than 30 participants from 21 countries in IIEP-UNESCO’s first education leadership seminar. She explains how the seminar offered invaluable insight into her own leadership style.

IIEP: What is your career background?

Carla Livian Mills-Diamond: I'm a teacher at heart. I have always loved teaching. I recall when I left school, I wanted to do nothing else. I had the opportunity to work at a bank. I was not interested, I wanted to teach. So, I think education is in my blood, it’s my passion. I started as a substitute teacher, then I became a trained teacher. I moved on to becoming a graduate teacher. Then I became a head of department, deputy principal, then a principal, then an education officer, then an assistant secretary. Now I'm at the level of chief of education planning. So, I've had quite a career in education. It is the one space in which I have worked, and it is really my passion.

I have been Chief of Education Planning for just one year, so I am very new at it. I think this course is critical in helping me to be better equipped, and I think that is the reason why I am so interested and captivated by what’s happening here because it’s really giving me some insight into some of the issues that I have been having challenges with.

IIEP: How can strong leadership translate into transforming education and equitable learning in Saint Kitts and Nevis?

Carla: Before, I may have seen strong leadership as just the ability to guide and lead and motivate, and I think that is something we can accomplish. But what has become clear is how important it is to move away from the top-down approach, which is typically what we do – at the Ministry of Education, we make decisions, and we expect schools to implement. But this new awareness of how important the buy-in is, and how important it is to make sure that the teachers and the other key stakeholders are part of the design, are things that will help to improve the whole implementation process. We do have a lot of policies, and I am beginning to realize this is one of the reasons why those policies are not really implemented. You get some resistance and pushback from the people you are trying to impose it on, as opposed to getting a partnership with the people who you want to execute it. I think that really is an important distinction.

IIEP: What kind of leadership is needed to accelerate progress for SDG4 in terms of inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all?

Carla: There is no one-size-fits-all for leadership. However, a good model is an authoritative one because it is based on responsibility while allowing for guidance, partnership, and collaboration. It also allows you to get input. I think that if you pair it with other forms of leadership based on the context and the situation, then that's what makes a good leader, that's what makes a good decision. For me, I like the authoritative leadership style because it pays attention to the stakeholder, giving direction while making sure that others are motivated and inspired. I think that motivation and inspiration are key aspects of what needs to happen if you are going to have good leadership.

IIEP: How does training with IEP support this?

Carla: A lot of these things that I am speaking about, they have come to the fore as part of this Education Leadership Seminar. As part of this training, the DiSC assessment was particularly an eye-opener. I saw the whole truth about myself, the uncomfortable truth to an extent, but the good thing about seeing the truth is that you now know what you need to change if you want to be the type of leader you think you are. Sometimes you think you are one way, but when you get an intense look at yourself you realize that what you think may not necessarily be true. I think the opportunity for change, and the opportunity for improvement, are some things that I am not taking for granted.

I am really looking forward to the chance to go back and implement some of the things we learned. This IIEP course is very good, with the opportunity to get a realistic look at yourself, and how you respond to different situations and to learn how to lead and how to implement education policies. 

IIEP: What were your key takeaways during the seminar?

Carla: What I think stands out for me is how relevant and down-to-earth this course is. It really resonates with the people on the ground.

For example, we know that if we make a decision at the administrative level, we may not necessarily get the kind of buy-in we need from the principal, the teacher, and the teachers’ union. But there is a tendency to feel that it has to be done, so it's imposed. I think what this does is it creates more respect for the stakeholders. You recognize that you want it done so that the objective is actually accomplished, and not just something you check off.

I think that we have long made designs without factoring in what that means to the people who have to make a change. That is something that I am a lot more conscious of. What does this mean to the person in the classroom? What have I done to enable, to support? Don't take for granted that the change will happen but look at the kind of support and scaffolding you're going to have to give to the teachers to enable them to do what they need to do.

We also need to measure the impact of what is happening, especially the impact on learning outcomes – which is the ultimate goal of the policies we make.