Saturday, February 28, 2015

Education Options After O Levels in Brunei



TO MEET the aspirations of Vision 2035 for the people of Brunei Darussalam to be in the world’s top 10 countries with the highest standard of living, the national education system must provide every student the opportunity to acquire the right skills and competencies to seek gainful employment that would build the foundation for a more inclusive and harmonious society.

Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) provides opportunities for students to learn hands-on skills and competencies required in the workplace. These skills are highly sought-after by the industry and TVET will be providing students with skills-based instructions that would benefit those dexterous learners more than other learning styles.

Contrary to popular belief, TVET is not for failures in schools; the stigma of technical education on the societal mindset must also change in line with present-day realities. The success of an education system hinges on its ability to meet the different needs of students through alternative pathways, including that of a quality post-secondary TVET.

This is a primary responsibility of the government. A highly educated and skilled workforce will help to promote investments and build a modern economy that creates quality employment opportunities, especially in the private sector.

This underpins the rationale for the transformation of technical education in Brunei. The new TVET system is expected to stay relevant and responsive to the changing demands from the industry and the community, and also to bring about a change in mindset about technical and vocational training in the society.

Thus, the ultimate aim of the transformation of technical education in Brunei is to restructure and establish a new system of TVET that is better aligned with the social and economic needs of the Sultanate.

In the transformed Brunei Technical Education system, school leavers would benefit from early access to quality vocational training programmes – equipping graduates for high employability and lifelong learning, via building and strengthening linkages with industries.

The transformation of Brunei Technical Education is benchmarked against international standards yet customised to local needs. The focus of its mission is on employability and success of its graduates in their professional career development, further education and entrepreneurship.

The plan is in line with the aspirations of SPN21, the Ministry of Education’s National Strategic Education Plan and Brunei’s Vision 2035. It is a major response and policy shift in education to strengthen the infrastructure and build capacity in human capital development for future generations of young people and working adults.

The Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) will strengthen its focus on the development of practical skills. The curriculum will be “competency-based” and training will be “hands-on”. It will conduct three levels of courses and award its own certificates – ie Industrial Skills Qualification (ISQ), National Technical Education Certificate (NTec) and Higher National Technical Education Certificate (HNTec).

Graduates of the HNTec courses are trained as “technicians” while those in NTec and ISQ will qualify as “skilled personnel” and “artisans” respectively.

The ISQ courses are industrial short courses with the duration of up to one year depending on the nature of the occupation.

The NTec full-time courses will last for one or two years depending on the nature and depth of the training required. HNTec courses, on the other hand, are pegged at a higher level of training with more theory and will need two years to complete. The HNTec courses will also require a minimum of three GCE ‘O’ Levels with prerequisite subjects and grades.

To better respond to the wide range of educational achievements, especially in the English Language, Mathematics and Science, there will be two categories of NTec courses. Programmes under Category ‘A’ such as engineering are more demanding and require at least the completion of Year 11 (or Year 10 in the express programme) with prerequisite subjects and grades.

Programmes in Category ‘B’ such as hair-dressing and beauty are less demanding and only require a completion of Year 11 (or Year 10 in the express programme). ISQ courses, meanwhile, require completion of Form 3 (Year 9) and cater to those who want to obtain more specialised industrial skills for employment.

There are opportunities for students to progress from one level to the next but this will based on merit performance which is measured through Grade Point Average (GPA). In principle, the eligibility criteria for progression to the next level of training should be based on merit performance and the potential to do well. Quality and standards must not be compromised.

The primary mission of BTE is to sufficiently prepare people for the occupations for which they are trained. Its mission should not be relegated to preparing students for the next level of education and training. Those who have performed well must be given the opportunities to progress further. This will provide the motivation for students to do well and enhance the attractiveness of the training system.

The different pathways will add to the robustness of the educational system. With proper articulation and experience, more opportunities can be created for up IBTE graduates to progress to the higher level courses within IBTE and Politeknik Brunei (PB).

For students who opted to further their specialisation and strengthen their knowledge and skills in their chosen field, PB offers a myriad of Level 4 (equivalent to OND) and Level 5 (equivalent to HND) diploma programmes for them to choose from.

From July this year, PB will be offering new and restructured diploma programmes under its three schools – the School of Science and Engineering, Information and Communication Technology, and School of Business – as well as newly inducted Level 4 diploma programmes in health sciences.

These programmes will provide more students with opportunities to progress in their studies and pursue more specialised skills in their chosen field.

The School of Science and Engineering will be adding six new programmes, on top of the one engineering programme and one design programme that it is currently offering.

In July 2015, the school will also be offering Level 5 diploma programmes in electrical and electronics engineering, tele-communications engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and science technology (specialising in chemical laboratory technology).

These programmes require a strong foundation in mathematics with sound knowledge in relevant subjects such as electronics, mechanics and physics. Students who possess five ‘O’ Level credits that include mathematics, English and relevant subjects, as well as those who have relevant TVET qualifications, will be able to pursue specialisation in these fields.

The school will also be adding a diploma in architecture programme, in addition to the diploma in design programme that it currently offers. Students with a strong foundation in art, design, and design and technology who want to further their skills this field will benefit from these programmes.

The School of Information and Communication Technology is offering more restructured programmes that are demand and industry-driven. The restructured ICT programmes will address the shortcomings identified by the National ICT Manpower Master Plan survey that the exiting national institutions for ICT education and training are unable to meet the demand for ICT professionals both in terms of quantity and quality.

The School of ICT will be offering diploma programmes in network security, information systems, web development, digital media, and library informatics and computing. The school has been working closely with key industry players in the field of ICT to have its programme modules (subjects) certified professionally and kept abreast with current technology.

The recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by Politeknik Brunei with Microsoft will see its instructors and students utilise the latest in ICT teaching and learning tools made available by the latter. This would enable PB instructors and students to acquire ICT skills that are current and on par with global practices.

Students who wish to pursue careers in ICT-related fields at PB will have to have a strong foundation in Mathematics and English as well as other relevant subjects such as Computer Studies, ICT, Design and Technology, and Art and Design.

The nation’s drive to diversify its economy and unsustainable reliance on the oil and gas industry are not lost on the development of PB’s programmes and curriculum. Small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurship have been identified as key players and factors that would drive our diversification efforts.

In response to this as well as conclusions from discussions with key stakeholders, the School of Business is restructuring its programmes to realise the country’s economic aspirations and to meet the needs and demands of the changing economic landscape.

The school is consolidating its current five programmes into two diploma programmes that would provide a more focused and solid foundation for students with business acumen.

The diploma in business accounting and finance will provide students with more specialised skills in accounting and finance, while the diploma in business studies will give opportunity for students to specialise in entrepreneurship, marketing, and human resource management.

The restructured programmes will also equip students with the skills and competence that would better prepare them for the world of business and commerce.

The latest addition to the stable of diploma programmes at PB is the Level 4 Health Sciences diploma programmes. Applicants will have to possess a minimum of four GCE ‘O’ Level credits that includes a credit (A1-C6) in English and relevant subjects.

Those with a recognised Certificate for Assistant Nurse, Certificate in Midwifery (Division II) or a Certificate in Nursing with a working experience of not less than two years are also eligible to apply.

The development of the programmes at PB is part of the transformation of the national technical education that is currently in place. The new three-year diploma programmes is designed to provide opportunities for every student to choose an education path that is more suited to his or her abilities and capabilities without compromising their chances for a fulfilling career.

The post-secondary multiple pathways strategy is a key element in the national technical education transformation drive to leave no student behind in their education and to equip students with relevant skills and to make them job-ready for employment.

Information on the different programmes run by IBTE can be assessed through the website www.ibte.edu.bn. Application for the July 2015 intake commenced on February 16 and will end on March 26. Applications can be made online through TVECAS (http://ibte.edu.bn/tvecas). For more information, call IBTE during office hours through the Head of Student Affairs at 2425555.

The public are also welcome to the IBTE Campus Open Day to learn more of what is offered at its institutions as below:

– Mechanical Training Centre, Tungku, Gadong (March 3 and 4, 2015)

– Jefri Bolkiah Engineering College, Kuala Belait (March 5 and 7)

– The Vocational School (March 7 and 9)

– Sultan Saiful Rijal Technical College, Jalan Muara (March 7, 9 and 10)

– Nakhoda Ragam Vocational School, Lebuhraya Muara-Tutong (March 9 and 10)

– Sultan Bolkiah Vocational School, Seria (March 12-15)

– The Business School, Gadong (March 14 and 16).

Meanwhile, PB will be organising an open day from February 26 to 28 and also on March 2 to be held at the CAE Brunei Multipurpose Training Centre, Tungku Highway, Kg Tungku in Gadong, open to the public from 8.30 am until 4.30 pm.

For further information, visit www.pb.edu.bn or contact PB during office hours through the Registrar at 2234466.

(Courtesy of IBTE &PB)

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