Brunei’s education system is one that is highly regarded and has a strong focus on academic excellence. It is a system that is continuously evolving in order to meet the needs of the country’s growing and diverse population.
With the vision of ‘Quality Education, Dynamic Nation’, the Ministry of Education (MoE) aims to equip the citizens with knowledge and 21st Century skills to contribute to the nation’s growth. The MoE plans towards a first class education system under the long term outcomes of the ministry’s Strategic Plan 2018- 2022, delivering holistic education to achieve the fullest potential for all.
The country’s National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21) takes into account the abilities of individual students, offering multiple pathways. Highly capable students are able to complete their secondary education in a shorter period. Through this system, students have the option to choose programmes that best suit their abilities, interests, growth and development.
The MoE has a policy of providing a minimum of 12 years of education. This comprises seven years in primary education (inclusive of one year in preschool).
Primary education in Brunei is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of six and 11. It is provided through a network of government schools, which follow the national curriculum set by the MoE. The curriculum covers a wide range of subjects, including Malay, English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Islamic Studies, and Physical Education.
Formal schooling in the country begins at preschool level at the age of five, followed by six years of primary education. After the primary school assessment at the end of Year 6, students will proceed to secondary (tertiary) level.
Secondary education in Brunei is also provided through a network of government schools and is divided into two levels: lower secondary education (for students aged 11 to 15) and upper secondary education (for students aged 16 to 18). Students in lower secondary education are required to study a core curriculum that includes Malay, English, Mathematics, Science, and Islamic Studies. In upper secondary education, students have the option to choose from a range of academic and vocational subjects.
The upper secondary level is split into three programmes. The first is the General Secondary Education Programme, split into two categories: Express (two years) or Normal (three years). Second is the Applied Secondary Education Programme, lasting three years. In both programmes, students sit for the Brunei Cambridge General Certificate of Education (BC GCE) ‘O’ Level and IGCSE. Third is the Special Applied Programme, which follows a different pathway. Students enrol into Pearson Business and Technology Education Council Programme gearing students towards vocational and technical education. Students with special needs and learning difficulties have a curriculum adapted to their abilities based on the individualised education plan and remedial education plan.
Private schools follow the national curriculum but may have additional subjects or a different emphasis on certain subjects.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on education systems around the world, with many schools and universities transitioning to online or distance learning in order to reduce the spread of the virus since 2020. As countries around the world began emerging from the pandemic and vaccine rollout gathered pace, face-to-face schooling started resuming in phases.
Following months of online or homebased learning for most of 2021 and the early months of 2022, Brunei began face-to-face learning at public, private and international schools in April 2022. Special recommendation was given for any educational institution that wished to conduct teaching and learning via online or home-based learning.
Children aged five to 11 began face-toface learning in May 2022 regardless of vaccination status with the decline of COVID-19 infections in the country. Permission was also given to international schools to begin face-to face sessions on April 11 to coincide with the start of their third school term. Parents and guardians were advised to constantly monitor their children’s health and ensure they did not experience any symptoms such as coughs, colds and the like before going to school, as well as to undergo antigen rapid testing (ART) twice a week.
To address students’ learning loss and reduced learning gaps brought on by school closures, the ministry initiated a learning recovery task force. Their objectives are to support schools develop short, medium and long-term learning recovery strategies; to collect, evaluate, and exchange assessment data; and to establish monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools.
The expected results are reduced learning gaps, improved learning outcomes, increased student attendance, effective use of assessment data, and teachers with the knowledge and skills to administer the Learning Recovery Programme. The necessity of establishing a datadriven culture in schools was also emphasised repeatedly throughout the Learning Recovery Programme workshop.
The introduction of the Learning Recovery Programme and an emphasis on data-driven culture has helped schools to gradually improve and address issues to create a better teaching and learning environment. The pandemic has also enhanced the use of digital technology which can be incorporated into learning approaches.
The MoE in Brunei is responsible for the development and implementation of education policies and programmes in the country. One of the key areas of focus for the ministry is ensuring that all students have equal access to education, regardless of their socio-economic background. To this end, the ministry offers a range of government aid and scholarship opportunities to support students from disadvantaged families.
The MoE provides scholarships for talented and qualified students to pursue higher education through its Government Scholarship Scheme to study abroad, whether to pursue their first degree, master’s, professional or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
Aside from the Government Scholarship Scheme, students are able to study abroad through the Education Loan Assistance Scheme (SBPP). If a recipient successfully graduates with a First Class (Honours), the loan is treated as a scholarship and the recipient is not required to repay it.
Other scholarships include the prestigious Sultan’s Scholar scholarship scheme offered by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah for the highest achievers in the country. Bruneians also have the opportunity to obtain a scholarship under the Ministry of Defence to study at the world’s top and renowned universities. The scholarship is aimed to develop outstanding leaders who will contribute to the nation’s defence and security.
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