Spoon-fed Bruneians?

In my post sometime last month entitled "Turning Brunei into a Nation of New Ideas", there were a number of very good opinions. But I thought I will just turn to three which unfortunately were all written by anonymous commentators, so I can't credit whoever it is that wrote in the comment box. But if you recognised that among these are your comments and you would like to be properly credited, email me and I can credit you properly.

It's a debate about the way teachings are conducted in our schools and not just a primary level but secondary and tetiary levels. I remembered my own sister who went to United World College in Singapore and later to St Andrews in Brunei. She could see the significant difference between being asked to find her own information as opposed to being spoon fed. With being asked to think and to find her own knowledge, she spent more time acquiring the knowldege but she acquires a skill of thinking and a skill of acquiring knowlege as compared to being given all the information. It's the difference between being taught how to fish or being given the fishes.

Anonymous 1: "...This post reminded of an incident that happened to a friend of mine after returning from an overseas posting with his family a few years ago. His children had the luxury of getting 4 years of UK education. Inevitably they had to return and they ended up back in one of the local schools. A few weeks later his 10 year old daughter received a 1 week suspension because she 'argued' with her school teacher about a particular subject on discussion at the time. This surprised me because his daughter is very well brought up and charmingly intelligent. You would think that you are talking to an adult if you have a conversation with her. When asked what she did that led to her suspension, she just said that she only pointed out to the teacher that the incumbent made a mistake and she offered to give her reasons and opinion, which according to her is the norm when she was in school in the UK.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I am also lucky enough to have my children go through the same UK education and have seen the differences between our system of education and the UK's. Ours does not encourage thinking and reasoning. It does not allow them to express opinions and challenge things which may appear normal to us but different to a 10 or 15 year old child. We tell them to memorise the times table without explaining the concept first. We educate our children through a rota system. Spoon feeding etc etc... This is where we lack and this is why I think Brunei has an uphill struggle to turn into itself into a Nation of new ideas simply because the education system does not encourage our young children to explore 'creative thinking' or 'self expression'. I hope I'm wrong but from what I have seen so far from my work experiences in Brunei and overseas, the light at the end of that tunnel is far from bright. I've not posted this message to offer solutions but to highlight a gap in our education system and to a certain degree, our social way thinking..."

Anonymous 2: "...I agree with anonymous above. It is true, the teaching and thinking of Bruneian's (do not mean to offend or stereotype) need to widen. I was brought up in a similar setting, UK-based teaching and I often found it weird that other students from government school were different to how I dealt with the school system. Take for example studying overseas to an Australian University. Here the people and classes are full of discussions about issues- issues that Brunei shelter's the young generation from. How is that productive when the real hard hitting issues are hidden from them? How are they 'supposebly' the generation to build our future when they themselves are still thinking and acting the same as their parents.
It really was a culture shock to have to talk about certain issues, but over the years I have realised that Brunei has slowly opened up its shell and become more open to all sorts of Issues, especially about women's abuse and other health issues. Thats a positive step I guess. Slowly InsyaAllah, Brunei will be there as recognised as other countries in the world. And all will be happy with the changes happening..."

Anonymous 3: "...I do believe that Bruneians has the capability of churning out new brilliant ideas. We have seen Bruneian students winning all there competitions let it be the Robocon competition or any other competition out there. I fail to believe that the new generation has the 'malas ku ingau' mindset, i've seen students who wants to achieve much more than just the normal academic goal. I've seen students who wants to build and invent new things, those who wants to create something new and unique but alas theres something that sets them back. Creativity does not lack in Brunei and so does red tape. With all the red tape around it takes forever to get anything done. Whenever I talk to someone about businesses, the most common complains is the lack of procedure. Not only there is lack of procedure, you have to know those high up to get things done. Also in order to get things done one has to 'mengampu' those high up so that they would sign the relevant papers. So where can we put the blame on?..."

To repeat, so where can we put the blame on? Or better still, can we move to a better way of teaching?


p o t a t o said…
I am one of the members of the spoon-fed generation. From Primary school to O Levels, I knew nothing of research and creative thinking and still would get good grades.

Foundation Year in JIS had to be the bridge between spoon-fed era and independent learning phase. I acquired research skills and started questioning methods and perspectives.

UQ is the testing ground. How much did 17 years of education in Brunei produce? I'm oblivious to issues relevant to my business degree. I don't know a zilch about the 'Real World'. When discussions take place in class, all I can do is listen because the knowledge that I learnt were too basic and had huge flaws (in terms of assumptions and validity). Other students my age have brilliant ideas in problem-solving and brainstorming. They have broad exposure to business issues.

I was a good student for 17 years. But when I'm in a class of international students, I'm just in the average group.

Perhaps it's the business degree. It requires a lot of reading of business issues and awareness of business news and trends. If I was in, say IT, it might've been different.
Anonymous said…
I didn't realise that this topic had a lasting impact on you good sir. Furthermore, surprised that you have decided to bring the issue back up for a second round of discussion.

My comments (by anonymous #1)are clear in that teachers, parents and society (not forgetting the government) must not provide an environment that supports 'spoon-feeding' but instead encourage self-expression etc etc..(sorry too tired to add in more comments).

Perhaps the 'Thursday Club' members would like to bring this issue up on their next get together.

Garbo Gabby
Anonymous said…
Hi Mr. BR, I just realised the 2nd comment (anonymous #2) is me.. *haha* forgot I wrote that. As nice as it would be to get credit for writing that, Thank you but no thanks sir. I just want to let you know that it was me- a loyal reader of yours. ;)
Anyways, this issue is a re-occuring issue and it is very tough to tackle. Brunei can change its education system, but I find that method to be too difficult as it would mean that you would have to restructure and re-train all the teachers, who I know will not agree to this. Again, it comes down to the mindset of our population. I guess its the culture that we have that leads to schools sheltering the hard hitting issues because they are afraid to speak out, afraid to offend the others and be known of this. With an attitude like this, sadly there will not be any movement in the system. It's an issue which I am interested in to change as a passion of mine is to improve the health of children and seeing as schools is a large setting with my focus target- it would seem suitable for me to focus on promoting health in schools (as thought in theory). Insyallah if I was given the chance, but I alone can't do that. I have no power nor authority to do so. I can only try and dig my way up to gain that power to implement a program as such. We have to take down the red tapes (meaning the minister led/royalty led rules in our culture) then maybe then we can do something about it.
I don't know Mr. BR, it is a tough issue. All I know is that Brunei has to restructure its education system as well as the whole entirety of how things are run in Brunei, but just by training Bruneian teachers and not foreign workers. Thats another issue all by itself.
I just hope it is able to change. There are already small hints of a large potential to upgrade and improve our teaching and education system.. I guess we just have to keep our eyes open for this change in the future..
Thanks again Mr. BR sir for the acknowledgement. All the best. God Bless.
Anonymous said…
Its true....reaching a certain age...i soon came to realise what i have been missing... its a good thing some people like to read or listen to the news about the world around us....sometimes i wonder what/how my life will b if situation is different...especially if i have been educated outside Brunei...it will open up more opportunities for me...since ones potential is recognised at an early age....those who are 'education-challenged' antah-antah jadi the most sought after artists, actor, technicians, event managers if opprtunity is given to us...i am optimistic that my life..eventhough sheltered...will be the best possible life i have...hopefully the younger generations will take advantage of technological advances and the opportunities they now have....
Anonymous said…
I don't know but.. what I think is, the older generation of teachers are really less creative, lazy and they show less passion in education.
(Of course this does not apply to ALL teachers out there)

Do give the new batch some time to change all this as we're all still young and passionate in this field.
Anonymous said…
I felt that my earlier comment (see Garbo Gabby’s) didn’t go further than what Mr BR would hope for. Besides it was 1 am at the time and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, especially after having spent the entire evening finishing off, no trying to finish off my report. So fatigue crept in but my fingers were itching to put in my thoughts, or at least key in those few letters just to say that I’m reading BR’s blog.

I’m still trying to finish off my report and I couldn’t help thinking about my lacklustre response so I’ve decided to spend a few minutes of my lunch time to refine and add in a few more on the subject.

What can we do to improve our education system? That’s the million dollar question that every policy maker in the MOE would like to know. The answer is right under our noses! Look at the international schools for crying out loud! Just plagiarise the whole system and use it as one of our own! But can the present system, or educational policy allows us to do that? This is the first question that we have to answer because we need to find the right balance between what is acceptable in our society and what isn’t. Because in order to remain educationally competitive, we would need a major policy review, conduct a gap analysis of where we are (educationally) and where the rest of the world is (and this I mean countries like S’pore or Korea or Japan or UK or …you get my drift). A whole load of work and something which is in my mind, a desperate and unachievable idea. Just look at the failure of the ‘morning-to-afternoon’ schooling. What a mess! And everybody knew this wouldn’t work even before it started.

We already have a proven educational system; well okay it probably needs another review, but it works because I wouldn’t be here typing all these comments. The problem here lies with the environment that we have set ourselves up in our teaching methods, in our classroom and our normal social behaviours. “Children are only to be seen not heard”. I made a comment in your blog before on behavioural changes and I mentioned that it takes about 2 generations before we can see a reduction in the number of smokers. Similarly with the ‘“spoon-feeding” educational system’ this require a concerted effort from everybody; MOE, parents, teachers and students, and a lot of perseverance.

There’s always a downside to this in that these behaviours we’re aspiring for, may not satisfy our traditional ways where the elders and superiors are always right and you must not question their authority or else you will be labelled as ‘kurang ajar’, ‘derhaka’, ‘biadap’ etc..etc.. Food for thought…
Anonymous said…
Education system should be INCLUDING home and parent guidance. Personally, I strongly believe that young minds should be protected from some of the issues. Let the young one enjoyed the innocent life, some children might be able to cope with open discussion but most of them couldn't due to their characters. Spoon feeding is nothing wrong, that's what it should be done - because of being young. You would not feed the baby solid food until they are ready.

We have to let them go slowly. A lot of time, it can be done at home, by cultivate them with curious mind. Spoon feeding at school with basic knowledges is perfectly fine, because a lot of children are not discipline enough to do their research or they just simply don't know HOW???

There is Good/Flaw for both system, the best is to combine them via home environment if the parents are capable.

Anonymous said…
In some schools, you'll realise that THE TEACHERS have to keep the brooms! Something so trivial is even put in the care of the teachers. It's very annoying to me to keep my eyes on their broom as if they are snotty primary schoolers. I think the term spoon feeding is not even the right word to describe the kids.

One day they might come in diapers & I have to change them!

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