Teachers in Brunei Society

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.


Anonymous said…
I really needed this today MR BR:)Thank you.
the lazy turtle said…
I love this post of yours. :) I too believe that teachers are, I quote, sculptors of the young minds. And yes, teachers do stay for a long time in one's memory when very much appreciated. I know some who look down on this career path and it upsets me to hear that. Thank you for posting this up, for voicing out what needs to be heard.
Anonymous said…
Teaching is indeed an honourable profession. Most teachers have one appealing quality that is their passion of teaching : palpable and a valuable asset which money can't buy.

Perhaps it is good to find out what teachers think of their profession and compare their views with graduates who chose different careers.
Anonymous said…
I missed the first train, but... I returned to Brunei a couple of months ago to help tutor my sister for her O Levels this year. A number of discoveries shocked me: the syllabus is shrinking, the official O Levels exams have gotten much, much easier (this year's June 2006 D Maths paper was something an average Form 3 student could pass), and yet the percentage of students struggling pretty much remains the same.

In having to assist my sister with her English papers, I realise that having even a fluent grasp of spoken English and a good vocabulary doesn't necessarily equate to excellent English O Level results. The skills you need to have to pass this paper are good information retrieval skills, a certain maturity in understanding the passage, and a minimum level of eloquency. That said, if you fail your English in all these aspects, you will most definitely fail your Malay. The current English paper may feel quite robotic to some of the better students, but it is a necessary preparation for higher education. Most higher education texts are in English, and it would be preferrable, should the opportunity ever arise to publish a technical journal on , say, a discovery or an important study, that it is in English.

That said, although I aced my English all the way, there was a period where I agreed to accompany a friend to all her IELTS classes as she was the sole registrant and of a shy disposition. Frankly, they were the most dry and boring lessons I have ever attended. If there ever was an ultimate in rote learning, IELTS would be it. My friend was a passionate and hardworking student, but had come from a Chinese education, so found it quite hard to the point of being driven to tears in class. Anymore complaints about O Level English?

Some of my close friends have by now been well immersed in the teaching profession. One of them is absolutely appalled at his Form 1 students still being incapable of forming a proper simple sentence in English, and has been persevering on his own initiative to make his classes more interesting, using an assortment of toys. Another, who teaches in Primary school, mentioned a conversation at a PTA meeting. The parents had asked him why the school examinations were so difficult, and he replied that they intended to compete with Singaporean standards. Said parents had then responded: "But we're not in Singapore!!" Which begs the question: exactly who is complaining about the examinations, the students, or their parents, who are only monitoring their kids' results?

By the way, if anyone is looking for good revision books for O Level English, get Letts' - a UK-based revision series. I am using these for my sister and her English is already showing a marked improvement. And for goodness' sake, read good English literature.
Anonymous said…
well said
Anonymous said…
teaching really is a noble profession. there aren't many jobs where you can truly make a difference in others lives. it's just a shame that not many young people realise this.

a lot of graduates who are bonded under the MOE scholarship are offered jobs and teachers, but unfortunately, they simply see the teaching profession as a stepping stone to "something better". and even sadder are ubd graduates, who spend 4 years getting a degree in education, complaining when they are asked to teach and desperately searching for "a better job".
Anonymous said…
I totally agree with your post; 'teaching' is a noble profession. Well-said.....
p o t a t o said…
I remember at one point in my life, I've grown arrogant that I looked down on teaching profession. I saw people who could become nuclear scientists or math genius chose teaching as a career. I was shocked, thinking of how their talents would be wasted.

But now I know that being a teacher is one way of passing knowledge and wisdom. Teachers reach out for the youth, they can be the most influential people in the students' adolescent lives.

Think of a teacher who not only teaches his/her subject to the students, but also make them feel understood, make them feel heard and make them feel that they have a place in this world. Teachers who give hope, who inspires and befriends.

Brunei doesn't need those teachers who sees teaching as their last resort. We have more than enough of those kind. We need teachers whose objectives are to positively change as many lives as possible, to nurture as many successful people through cultivating creativity and independence and to spread wisdom and humanity.

That is what Bruneian students need.
Anonymous said…
it's my CALLING.
Anonymous said…
I agree with what Di and Obi-chan said and would like to add as perhaps a side comment that I abhor people who accept scholarships as teachers and yet once their education is complete, seek different employment altogether. This is not only restricted to the teaching profession but to other fields as well, I have heard of many instances, particularly of medical scholarship students, that turn their back on the government after completing their studies, to accept HIGHER paying jobs in other countries outside the UK.

Siapa yang terasa, Shame On You!! The government invests money in you, the least you can do is pay them back for the 5years you are contracted for!
Anonymous said…
Yeah,yeah. I've heard it again and again. Teaching is a noble thing. Bla, bla, bla! But org Brunei cakap tidak serupa bikin. Do we get a lot of respect? No! It's just plain talk! Only few appreciate us. Why don't you work as a teacher and see the real situation.
Anonymous said…
Sorry if my comment seemed harsh but your view about teaching in brunei is one-sided.
Seabiscuit said…
I can't help responding to the anonymous teacher in Posts #10 and #11.

Sounds like you have an attitude problem. Judging from your comments, you don't seem to be a happy person yourself,lashing out at complete strangers who were merely expressing their opinions on the 'Net.

Perhaps working on people skills may help at the job...not trying to be rude, just factual. Otherwise, look for another job.

Good luck.
Azim Kassim said…
Its wonderful to see that this post is dated in 2006 and this blog is still up and running till now.

An inspiration for amateur bloggers like me.

Reading through this post on teachers, though I intend to venture into MOFAT I do feel for the teachers in Brunei.

Teaching is an incredibly honorable and self-sacrificing job. It is time for Bruneians to change their perception and appreciate them.

Good post author <3

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