Walking the walk
Outgoing CXC registrar ‘an agent of change’
Dr Didacus Jules has never been someone to just assume a job to sit in a position.
He believes that his function in life is to be an agent of transformation and positive change.
This mantra, one which Jules not only talks but also walks, leaving footprints at whatever professional establishments he has worked at in his lifetime, is what he lives and breathes.
“Our purpose in life is to improve ourselves as a people and to make a difference in the world. You cannot do this by just toeing a line; there is always room for improvement and opportunities for further development and making things better. And sometimes, better comes at a cost. You have to be prepared to put your neck on the line, think out of the box and to walk your talk,” he said during a recent interview with Barbados TODAY.
It is not surprising at all to Jules, outgoing registrar at the Caribbean Examinations Council, that many of his colleagues expressed during a farewell function held in his honour at the Hilton Barbados, that he was a fearless leader and forward thinker who stood by what he believed in.
Nevertheless, they also praised him for transforming CXC into a technologically driven organization, second to none of its kind in the Caribbean.
Jules’ love for technology was a major influence behind the CXC transformation efforts seen today.
“By 2020, CXC would have created the opportunity for every Caribbean person to be certified for their competencies and abilities. A very broad and ambitious statement but it means that nobody should be left behind because you would have created a suite of qualifications where anybody regardless of whether they completed school or dropped out of school will see the pathways of opportunity.
“What we need to ensure is in the Caribbean that we have continuing education opportunities that no matter where you would have reached in your education, you can come back on board for self-improvement and development of your competence to move you to that next level. When we do that we would really be securing our human resource competitiveness. We need to recognize that learning no longer just happens in schools; learning has to adjust itself to the new realities and should be mobile and online available,” he said.
As he officially exits the institution he has spent the past six years with today, Jules is satisfied that his time spent at CXC has contributed to the changing landscape of education in the Caribbean. He was particularly pleased that minutes before yesterday evening’s interview, and hours before saying goodbye to the leadership position, he was present as the administration and finance committee of CXC approved a new 2015-2020 strategic plan.
He pleasantly boasted that the robust and detailed plan created a road map for the future of the institution, built on the convergence of all of the efforts and initiatives that CXC has practised in the last five years.
“What it does, is to look at the trends in education, international and within the region. Look at the deficiencies and the opportunities that exist to [take] Caribbean education to a different level altogether.
“There has been a lot of concern about performance of candidates, and in a lot of the work that is being done now, we can expect to see tremendous improvements in performance because of new methodologies and new ways of working.
“For example, we have the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment that is a replacement for the Common Entrance Examination, but it is more than a new exam.
“It is intact, a new methodology to be used in the last three classes prior to the Common Entrance that would enable students to achieve and perform better, developing the competencies required for success at secondary school,” he explained.
And he has pledged to continue to be a very strong ambassador for the institution, which, to him, was far more important to the region than just issuing exams.
Jules is also a visiting consultant with the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business, University of the West Indies; chairman of the Education Commission of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); and chairman of the Foundation For The Development Of Caribbean Children (FDCC). His career has spanned the public, private and NGO [non-Governmental organization] sectors.
Tomorrow, Jules is expected to take up his new post as secretary general of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
While there, he plans to exceed his performance at his previous position. He agrees that the OECS has done amazing work as it relates to regional integration being more cohesive than larger regional movements. However, he has noticed that the weakness of the regional integration thrust was that “it has happened as an integration of states and the people have been left out of the equation to a large extent”.
“The person on the street in any Caribbean capital or any OECS country must feel and understand and accept that working together than trying to survive separately and they have to see the benefits at their level in the streets. We have had many industries rise and fall in the Caribbean. Bananas as you know was the green gold at one time, and now its gone through; sugar was king, and now it’s gone through.
“One constant in Caribbean development is Caribbean people, and Caribbean people are largely migrant; we are all over the world. Caribbean people have achieved amazing things in the Diaspora. We say that our greatest resources are our people. Well, it’s time for us to operationalize that, and we have to prove it by the attention we pay to human resource development and the investment we make in people.”
Dr Jules has the remedy to fix this deficiency. He has indicated that while the Revised Treaty Of Basseterre described the OECS as a single economic space, if there was a single economic space, there were a number of things that logically followed from that.
“If you are a single economic space, making a cellphone call from Grenada to St Lucia should not be a roaming call. If you are a single economic space, just as I pick up a bus from here to Speightstown, as cheaply as I do that I should be able to move from St George’s to Basseterre.
“If I bring a car into St Lucia, I should be able to take my car on a ferry, drive off the boat in Antigua, do my business in Antigua drive back on the boat and head back there,” the outspoken St Lucian-born stated.
“There are tremendous opportunities for a greater synergy by working together,” Jules added. “As small as OECS economies are, if remained locked in our national geographies, we limit the possibilities of growth. The more we can integrate and open up things, the more economic openness and opportunities for trade, for travel, for understanding, to that extent we will see that growth will begin to happen.”