I was reading the comments about my blog on the Brunei Education System. I love the comments as one of the objectives of this blog is to bring to the attention of readers of issues in Brunei Darussalam, our beloved country. I believed passionately that we collectively can do so much better than trying to change the world alone. What is important is that we can share in this task and we have to respect one another's opinions as believe me, after being in the civil service for 20 years, there is no right and wrong policy - all policies are intended to do good but not all policies ended up doing good.
The argument about the status of teachers to me is one such point. The teaching profession is an honourable profession. It is probably one of the few profession in the world that can actually change the course of history and the course of mankind. As a teacher, you get to mould the students in front of you to be somebody that you want them to be. There is no greater honour than being called a teacher. Once a teacher, always a teacher for the rest of your life. I don't remember many people from my younger days but teachers - them, I remember very well. I owe them the position I am sitting in now.
One of the difficulties in being teachers in Brunei is not so much about the low pay. Our pay is so much better than what is being paid in our neighbouring countries. Even in Singapore, it is comparable (don't forget Singaporeans have to pay taxes and higher living costs). Graduate teachers in Brunei start off on G13 which is now B$2,630 for a degree, B$2,810 for a masters and there is a further increment on completion of the postgraduate CertEd or DipEd, the maximum salary will depend on where you end up - the highest of course being Permanent Secretaries. For non-graduate teachers, the starting pay depends on the qualifications, full details of which you have to get from the Education Ministry but generally teachers can be on G2 ($1,050 to $2,465), G3 ($1,310 to $3,140), G5 ($1,485 to $2,505), G8 ($1,600 to $3,685) and G9 ($1,485 to $2,505). There are other salary scales depending on what kind of appointment that you get.
But what I am afraid is that our societal expectations make it sometimes difficult to honor the teaching profession. Some of our society's expectations are the high government posts, the big bank accounts, the fancy houses, the latest cars etc. These expectations brush any jobs aside which is a non-government job or jobs not in the fast track of the government career services. Parents ask how come you are not in the ministry? How can you be promoted faster if nobody sees you? Don't join the private sector - low pay. Don't become a teacher - you must be desperate. With this kind of societal values, it is almost impossible to get even able and dedicated students who want to be teachers. When people ask some parents, what is your son doing - he would humbly mumbled, he's only a teacher. I can absolutely cry here.
To me, there are 3 ways of looking at your job, teaching or otherwise. You can treat it as a JOB, as a CAREER or as a CALLING. As a job, you are just in it for the money. As a career, you are looking at longer term. But if you treat teaching as a calling, you are looking at it as your lifelong work to do something, to dream and to aspire. Only you can see that your job as an honourable job for it to give you meaning and peace in your life. If you cannot find any worth in your current job, that lack of worth will likely haunt your career change. It has been said that only you can create your own values by looking for the honour in your work now. Finding the honour in everything you do builds up the dignity and the honour within you. Most importantly, teachers hold the future in Brunei in their hands. We should not forget that.