Brunei's Education System

At the last Friday prayer, one of the people who I always bump into every Friday but never really got to know well other than on a nod and smile basis, came over to me. He was asking me where I worked as he saw me sitting on stage at ICC when he was receiving his diploma. He was in his 30s and we chatted about why he is studying now when he already has a family to look after. He was very happy to receive his diploma trying to make up for his youth when he did not do very well academically and he was very glad to be given the chance to study again.

What struck me are two things. The first is the determination of one person trying to make life better for himself by taking the sacrifice to continue his studying. He had undergone the 'school of regret' or 'sekolah menyesal' as most older people would say. He obviously saw that the future to a better life is best by taking up further studies. It was harder as he had to compete with much younger students though at the same time he had the maturity to do it. He was embarrased to be studying so late in his career but to me that's the beautiful bit, age does not matter. What is impotant is that he recognised it and is willing to overcome his handicap. At the same time, we should also help more people like him - those who are willing to go back to school to better themselves.

The second thing that struck me is our nation's education system and our traditionalist approach towards education. This is not the first time I have spoken about it. Though I am not an expert in this matter unlike some bloggers I have to defer to, who are much more opiniated about the subject matter. All I have is the experience of being a member of the Vocational and Technical Education Council as well as Academic Accreditation Council sub-committee on Management and Accountancy qualifications. But what I can sense from the traditional educationalist in the secretariats is that it will be a cold day in July before they stopped considering that it is not necessary for us to continue with our traditional schooling of 6 years primary, 3 year lower secondary, 2 year upper secondary, 2 years post secondary before completing university. GCE O levels and A levels are must haves, without which, they maybe unable to consider your univeristy's qualifications. Even though I am a product of the traditional education system and did very well, I also pitied those who did not have the academic inclination but go through on the trade route. This has always been one of the biggest issue that we have to go through at practically every meeting - the recognition of trade routes.

Being an insider, other people would say I should not have much difficulty in changing policies, but I also have to convince other members and generally have to defer to the council's collective decision. We require pressure from outside and this is where blog readers can come in to help spread the knowledge. I have said this before but to me it's worthwhile repeating - we should all be more concerned with our education system. Our country is too small for us to squander the few qualified people we have. For us to be too choosy may cause problems. But for us to be too liberal may also not be too good. A balancing act has to be achieved. Your role is to help highlight those issues.


Unknown said…
Aisehhhh, thank you for linking to my GVO article! :)
Anonymous said…
True indeed..i have to say i missed the luxury boat during my school days. After squandering & depriving myself of the Brunei free education opportunities, i however feel that it not wise to look back in regret for the missed chances. Yes! Brunei today is no longer "old school" by which seniority in the office will keep you happy until retirement.

Promotions dont come by so easily as the importance & abundance of degree / masters holders are primary factors to my promotion prospects. My former school peers are now holding good positions and even my siblings command higher than your average government officer B2 salary pay.

Today with family and "banking" commitments, the prospect of overseas courses are now distant & I am sure there are others like myself willing to take another shot and pray for the day UBD introduces part time BA courses!

Looking back i remember my former secondary teacher telling us students that only GOD knows how important it was to them to apply for "in service" at UBD during the late 80's.
Anonymous said…
a request:
compare the status of teaching profession in Brunei with the west, or even our neighbour spore or Msia. Wonder how high or how low we fare.
Anonymous said…
awu eh...cana buleh negri lain status teacher rendah and low pay compared to ours?Or is it sama jua rendah and low pay jua di Brunei?mau tau eh..
Unknown said…
Status is the least of our worries Miss/Mr Anonymous.
Anonymous said…
Maurina: why is that? if status doesnt matter, why is teaching the least preferred career even though many apply for it as a 'no other option' program?
Anonymous said…
I think our education is not too bad actually albeit it need a lot of restructuring and improvement to cater for the population of none specialist in A Level before going to University. Im one of the people who are not bright enough to get an A Level (despite attempting it three times) but get through to earn a Degree. At the moment, there is an outlet for students to do foundation coure with the emergence of a few college in Brunei. But the problem is, you have to send your kids overseas to do your Degree. Sending kids abroad nowadays is not easy and cheap either. You have to have at least or the least $30K/year (and that does not include air tickets). So on the whole, at least you have to have $150k for your kid's education (if you want your kids to have a Degree and take care of you when you are old. Having saving like TAP nowadays does not guarantee you the money you earn past 70. Thats another matter altogether). If the Government are willing to establish private Uni or UBD for that matter to accept the students that earn foundation certificate locally, it will do good to the economy long term. Imagine cheap education in Brunei and the money stays in Brunei will have a knock on effect all around the economy. UBD can be enterprising, Bank will have new customers or product to earn profit and the possibilities are endless. Of course with that in mind, quality of education must be kept at a high level and not let it be squandered because of money.
Unknown said…
For a variety of reasons that may or may not allude to status for example, plain old interest, your heart's not in it but you/your parents are scared to death of being unemployed and thus will just apply for a teaching career because frankly it is really the only course in UBD that will actually guarantee an actual career. In these days of vagueness and uncertainty, "guarantee" is very powerful word and it will suck you right in. Status, becomes a distant figment in your memory.

And rightfully so, because teaching is a job unlike any other, and there you are: a chance to make a significant difference in Brunei staring at you right in the face, every single day of your life. It is that chance you have to seize. You cannot be bothered by closed minded views of the 20s that teaching is some sort of a low status job.

That is all there is to it. Like I said, status is the least of our worries.
Anonymous said…
Employers in Brunei and many other emerging technological countries around the world have critized the education systems for being too academic- oriented. It is important to recognise inorder to establish a sustainable industrial base for countries like Brunei, we should concentrate our efforts and resources in the development of technical workforce i.e skillful workers and hence other trade routes..

For example, no idea conceived by engineers could be transformed to a reality without the contributions of technicians, craftsmen and artisans. It's about time to recognise other trade routes....

yes...we should adopt the culture of life-long learning as well...
Anonymous said…
ok, we know status doesnt count for some people, but the real qn is why nations like msia or even usa has low status of teaching profession and low pay?Is it because teaching is not a 'professional' occupation that requires specialised knowledge base, that it is not an exclusive job, and that the factor 'anybody can teach' is strong?And you have to admit that such matters do influence ppl's choice of occupation?
p o t a t o said…
man. i read this article just this morning from a friend's site. wrote down my thoughts at my own blog. hehe =)

but hey, even Australia needs more people with PhD and people who would like to do research. Getting a degree is just not enough nowadays.

Salutations to the 30+ year old people who'd go for further education at their age. In Australia, you see 60yr old women driving. At such a wise age, embarrassment should be very trivial. Like they say, "education and learning shouldn't stop when you graduate from uni. It should stop when you die"

Being a teacher is a noble profession. We need more enthusiastic teachers. Teachers who could reach out to the youth today. Teachers could be very influential people in a young teenager's life.

Academic-oriented is the right word. The current education system is a bit lacking on the practical side. The spoon-feeding philosophy is still at large too. Quite worrying since it doesn't help them in the long run.
Anonymous said…
I dont think its we (Tom, Dick & Harry)can easily influence the current system.

Probably because SOME policy makers can just easily afford to sent their children overseas & skip the whole Bruneian education system altogether. Not unless if their children study locally all the way then maybe they will constantly listen to their children complain about the system..but hey its free, so cant complain!

"If it doesnt look broken from the outside, dont fix it"

True about O & A levels, A friend had to wait a while to get his OZ degree accreditated because he did not have A levels!

Look at the other side of things. Correct me if i'm wrong, if students finish their studies earlier by a few years, wouldnt there be more unemployment given the current conditions?
Unknown said…
I dont think its we (Tom, Dick & Harry)can easily influence the current system.

---> Not that we cannot.. and no one says it is easy. But hey, nothing is easy. Just because something is difficult to attain, that doesn't mean we should not try and quit altogether!

Kuatkan semangat! Hehehe.
Anonymous said…
hi there.. i interested in ur article and would like to ask a few question..

if in Brunei, what does EB mean in term of salary?

and if a teacher's salary is BND 1400 x 45, what does that 45 means? can u help me?
You are posting on a 4 year old topic. EB means Efficiency Bar. $1,400 x 45 just means your salary gets an annual increment of $45 starting from $1,400. You will get to an EB in which case, your head of department has to certify that you are worthy to go beyond the EB and get a few more annual increments.
Anonymous said…
hahaha.. yah, coz i just type education system in Brunei n just found ur post here.. hehe..
so that $45 means i will get $1400 per month for the 1st yer and $1445 per month for the nex year, is it?

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