Teaching In Brunei
In spite of many similarities between schools in Brunei and those in western countries, teachers taking up any contract in a foreign country must be prepared for considerable differences as well. Although it has maintained a long association with Britain which makes it more familiar than some foreign countries. Brunei is an independent, sovereign state with its own culture and perspectives.
Teachers (and their families) must be prepared for varying degrees of culture shock, particularly if they have not undertaken overseas postings before. Flexibility, patience, tolerance and a sense of humour are all qualities of inestimable value to the newcomer. Initially, frustration levels in a new schools in a new country can be very high, and there can be a natural a tendency to make comparisons between the way things are done in Brunei and at home. Voicing these thoughts will not endear the newcomer to his local colleagues and will bore the more experienced expatriates who have heard it all before. It is far better to adopt a pragmatic approach and try to work within the system as effectively as possible. All teachers are expected to engage in extracurricular activities and to undertake occasional duties such as attending parades on national holidays which would be outside the normal realm of a teacher’s work elsewhere. That said, the vast majority of teachers find that they have far more free time to spend on hobbies or with family than they did in their home countries.
The education system in Brunei, like that of many countries, is in a state of development as the government endeavours to establish a curriculum that best fits the needs of its citizens in a rapidly changing world.
Schools in the country vary widely in terms of size, age, location and state of repair, from the very modern to those in real need of extensive renovation. CfBT employees must be prepared to serve in any school, in any district in the country, rural or urban, despite the implications for lifestyle. The Education Department does its best to marry individual circumstances and preferences to schools and location, but the prime consideration has to be the needs of the client, the Ministry of Education.
No matter which district teachers are posted to, however, they are all assured of similar standards of housing, and access to welfare and educational support.
The students in Brunei’s schools are generally polite and well behaved and used to being firmly and clearly directed. They are familiar with being taught by non-Bruneian teachers, especially in secondary schools, and are tolerant of them and their lack of knowledge of the country, its language and its customs. Naturally, however, it is greatly appreciated when teachers take steps to learn about these areas. The students have a heavy academic load, which many do not find easy to cope with. Like children anywhere, they respond positively to teachers who demonstrate a concern for their welfare and a determination to help them as much as possible. As with any school in any country, discipline and motivation problems can and do occur. However, there is usually a refreshing lack of the antagonistic stance that students often adopt towards teachers in some other countries.
Schools, like government offices, are closed on Fridays and Sundays, under normal circumstances, with Saturday being a working day. Brunei operates a four term year, each of 10/11 weeks, with a 10 day or 2 week holiday between each term and then 4 or 5 weeks in December. The school year comprises a total of about 200 days.
There is also ‘Hari Raya’, a holiday to celebrate the completion of the Muslim fasting month. This falls 10 days earlier each year. There is also generous amount of public holidays. In the normal course of events, teachers are free to take leave during school holidays with the approval of the Ministry of Education. As in most schools around the world, teachers are not permitted to take leave during term time and occasionally may be expected to attend INSET workshops or national events during part of the pupils’ holidays.
The following is a breakdown of holidays in 2011:
- 10 individual public holidays during term time
- 10 days holiday in March
- 13 days holiday in June
- 16 days holiday in September
- 31 days holiday in December
With one or two exceptions, primary schools operate a morning session only from 0715 to 1230 hours. Of the 30 secondary schools, half a dozen run morning and afternoon shifts (1230 to 1730 hours) with three running all day. The rest conduct morning lessons during the same hours as the primary schools. Secondary school extra curricular sessions are mounted in addition to normal teaching hours, and all teachers are expected to take part in these activities to varying degrees, even when these take place outside normal school hours. In most schools this involves teachers on three afternoons a week. Occasionally, teachers are asked to attend local celebrations even when these fall on Fridays, Sundays or declared national holidays.
A couple of schools require teachers to be on duty in the evening once or twice a month to supervise students in the hostels.
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