In 1959, the Brunei government commissioned two education consultants Aminuddin Baki and Paul Chang, to conduct a systematic and comprehensive review on the development and progress of education in Brunei. It resulted in a series of recommendations for change in the education system. In 1970, an education commission was set up with the mandate to evaluate the 1962 Aminuddin Baki and Paul Chang Report, and formulate policies and plans to raise education standards in Brunei. The commission came up with the 1972 Education Commission Report which was approved as a document. The report became the focal point for future system-wide education reforms. Among its provisions was the extension of free education from six years to nine years in all Brunei schools: six years of primary education, followed by another three years of lower secondary education. Ten years later, in 1982, a review committee was appointed to evaluate the education provisions in the 1972 Education Commission Report.
Brunei achieved full independence in January 1984. The historic event provided the impetus for the acceleration of reforms and development in all aspects of education. In an effort to streamline the Malay medium and English medium schooling systems, and to ensure that learners attain a high level of proficiency in both Malay and English, the Bilingual Education Policy was formulated in 1984 and implemented in 1985. With its implementation, all government schools followed a single system with a common national curriculum from pre-school until pre-university. The policy was later extended to private schools (except International Schools) in 1992.
In 1993, the 9-Year Education Policy was replaced with the 12-Year Education Policy. Every student was provided with 12 years of education: seven years in pre-school and primary, three years in lower secondary, and two years in upper secondary or vocational/technical education. In 2003, the new Education Order was inaugurated. It aimed to achieve a status of an effective, efficient and equitable system of education that was both consonant with the national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy or Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB), as well as the needs of a modern, technological and ICT era. In 2007, the Compulsory Education Order 2007 was enacted. The order mandated that every Brunei child residing in this country “above the age of six years who has not yet attained the age of 15 years” receives compulsory education for at least nine years.
In 1997, the Inclusive Education Policy was implemented. It makes provision for pupils with special educational needs to attend mainstream schools. These pupils are assisted and guided by Special Education Needs Assistants (SENA), previously known as Learning Assistant Teachers (LAT) who worked in close partnership with their class teachers.
Education in Brunei has come a long way since 1912, with the onset of formal education. The success of educational policy changes through those years was seen in Brunei’s progressive improvements in its literacy rates. In 1971, it was 69%. It progressively increased to 80.3% in 1981, 89.2% in 1991, and 94.7% in 2001.
Before the War, only primary education was available in Brunei. There were no secondary schools. With the establishment of the Education Department by the government in 1951, the first government preparatory school that taught in both Malay as well as English medium was set up in 1952. English medium preparatory pupils, who graduated in 1953, were able to proceed to secondary education with the establishment of the first English medium secondary school the same year. Secondary education in the Malay medium was not available in the country then. It was only in 1966 that Malay medium secondary education became available in Brunei, with the establishment of the first Malay secondary school or Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama (SMMP).
The First National Development Plan (1954-1959) laid the foundation for the basic structure of the education system in Brunei. The education pattern was 6-3-2. It represented six years of primary education, three years of lower secondary and two years of upper secondary. The 1972 Education Commission Report provided the basis for initiating further changes and development of the structure. With the adoption of the report in 1979, pre-school became compulsory for all children at the age of five years before they could enrol in Primary 1. When the Bilingual Education Policy was implemented in 1985, a more comprehensive education pattern of 7-3-2-2 evolved. Education provision was made for seven years at primary level (including pre-school); three years at lower secondary; two years at upper secondary; and two years at pre-university, post-secondary training, or vocational/technical education. Several higher educational institutions were established to provide for post-secondary and tertiary education. They are University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in 1985, Institute of Technology Brunei (ITB) in 1986, technical and engineering Colleges, vocational schools, and Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah College of Nursing in 1986. To meet the ever increasing demand for vocational/technical and higher education, new institutions were established, for example Wasan Vocational School in 2005, and University of Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic (UNISSA) in 2007. The establishment of a polytechnic is also in the pipeline.
To ensure that pupils progressed smoothly through the different levels in the mainstream schooling, and to lower attrition rate, criteria for pupil retention were set up. In the early 1960s, retention of pupils was based on performance in school and public examinations. Those who failed could repeat only once at each level, for all levels of schooling. However, a more restricted new ruling on retention was later introduced in 1969, whereby pupils were allowed to repeat only once at specific levels: Primary 4 and 6 (Malay stream), English Preparatory 3 (English stream), Secondary 3 and 5, and Upper 6. In 1976, the criteria were extended to include school attendance, whereby pupils with less than 85% attendance were not allowed to sit for public examinations. In an effort to encourage pupils to stay longer in the schooling system, at least up to upper secondary (to reduce attrition rate), the Ministry of Education introduced the Extended Secondary Programme or Program Menengah Lanjutan in 1989. In this programme, lower secondary students who obtained Grades 1 and 2 in their Brunei Junior Certificate of Education (BJCE) examination could proceed to upper secondary and sit for the Brunei Cambridge GCE ‘O’ Level (BC GCE `O’) examination after two years. However, those who obtained Grade 3 in the BJCE examination were given an extra year (three years) to prepare for the same public examination. For the latter group of students, the education pattern was modified to 7-3-3-2. Unfortunately, the intentions of the Extended Secondary Programme were not fully realised, nor was the programme well received. It was later phased out and replaced with the Brunei Cambridge GCE `N’ Level (BC GCE `N’) programme in 1996. With the institutionalisation of the BC GCE `N’, the education pattern was further differentiated into 7-3-2-1-2: seven years of preschool and primary, three years of lower secondary, two years of upper secondary BC GCE ‘N’, and another one year of upper secondary leading to BC GCE ‘O’. However, after eight years of implementation, and upon evaluation, the ‘N’ level too was found unsuitable for Brunei’s context, and was withdrawn in 2005.
At the lower secondary level, an early intervention programme that enabled students to proceed directly through the vocational/technical route, instead of the mainstream schooling, was implemented in 2005. The Lower Secondary Level ll programme catered to a minority group of students who were expected to benefit from early vocational/technical training. These “practically-oriented” students were channelled to the 2-year programme known as Program Menengah Vocational (PMV). It consists of six months in the preliminary Stage 1, and 18 months in Stage 2, and led to either the National Vocational Certificate (NVC) or the National Technical Certificate 3 (NTC3).
When formal schools were first established, pupils tended to leave the schooling system early to look for jobs. During that period, the highest level of schooling was only primary, for example Primary 5 in 1938 and Primary 6 in the 1950s. However, the situation improved in the 1960s and 1970s, whereby most of the school leavers completed their Form 3 examination (either Lower Certificate of Examination or Brunei Junior Certificate of Education). In the 1980s and 1990s, many school leavers completed their upper secondary education. The fact that pupils were staying longer in the schooling system was largely attributed to the ministry’s persistent effort to improve and develop its education system so that pupils were encouraged to stay longer in the schooling system, and parents became more aware of the importance of education.
Pre-school education which was introduced in 1979 was made compulsory for 5-year old children. The curriculum at this level was more focussed on the basic skills of 3Rs, civics, basic Islamic Religious Knowledge, physical movement, singing, and creativity development.
After independence, the curriculum from lower primary to lower secondary was more general in nature. All subjects at the pre-school and lower primary (up to Primary 3) were taught in Bahasa Melayu except the subject English Language. The medium of instruction for the subject Mathematics at lower primary (Primary 1 to Primary 3), however, has been changed to English beginning 2008. At upper primary level, all subjects were taught in English except the subjects Bahasa Melayu, Islamic Religious Knowledge, Physical Education, Art and History. Prior to 1995, the medium of instruction for those subjects was English.
In the following years, changes in the school curriculum were focussed on the needs of the country, especially in producing human resource who have the capabilities and skills in areas such as science and technology. Rapid advancement in science and technology has brought about an awareness of the importance of science and mathematics education at all levels of schooling. Science became a compulsory subject in 1988 at secondary level. In 1992, Science was upgraded to the status of a subject on its own in upper primary. With the implementation of SPN21 in 2009, this status will be extended to lower primary.
New subjects such as Computer Studies and Design & Technology were introduced at the secondary level in 1993 and 2002 respectively. This is in line with the global importance and development of ICT. The importance of IT was further emphasised through the teaching and learning of ICT across the curriculum.
A further effort to improve its national education system, and to ensure that it is in line with the Education Policy of providing 12 years of education to all Brunei citizens, various programmes and projects were implemented. These included the introduction of the following:
The Extended Secondary Programme (Program Menengah Lanjutan) in 1989 (which was later replaced by BC GCE `N’ level programme);
The Technical Programme in 1989, which incorporated technical subjects into the secondary school curriculum;
The Special Educational Needs Programme in 1994;
The BC GCE ‘N’ Level Programme in 1997 was discontinued in 2005 and replaced by the Upper Secondary Vocational Programme; and
The Lower Secondary Level II Programme in 1997 was replaced by the Secondary Vocational Programme or Program Menengah Vokesional in 2008.
Other value-added projects introduced included the project Reading Language Acquisition (RELA) in 1989, the thinking skills programme Cognitive Research Trust (CoRT) in 1993/2008, Learning Programme Styles (LEAPS) in 1994, Specialist Mathematics and Science Teachers Project for Primary Schools (1994), and Project Active Mathematics in Classroom (AMIC) in 2004.
The provision for students with special educational needs was met through the implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy (1997). This enables students with special educational needs to attend their schooling in the normal school environment with special guidance from Learning Assistant Teachers (LAT) now known as Special Education Needs Assistants (SENA).
At lower secondary level, English medium students sat for the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) examination while Malay medium students sat for their Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) examination at Secondary 3. Both public examinations were set by the Malaysian Examination Board. In 1973, LCE was replaced by the Brunei Junior Certificate of Education (BJCE), a local public examination which was fully administered and accredited by the Brunei’s Department of Education, so that it was aligned to the local curriculum.
At Secondary 5 and Upper 6, English medium students sat for the Malaysia Certificate of Education (MCE) and Higher School Certificate (HSC) examinations respectively, while Malay medium students sat for their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) examinations respectively. Other examinations were administered by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London Chamber of Commerce, and City and Guilds.
In 1974, the Brunei Examination Board was established within the structure of the Department of Education. It was mandated to administer all public examinations. In 1976, the Board of Examination conducted all local examinations such as the entrance examination to preparatory school, the Primary Certificate of Education (PCE), Brunei Junior Certificate of Education (BJCE) and Brunei Cambridge GCE `O’ and `A’ Levels (BC GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’).
After independence (1984), the Brunei Examination Board introduced public examinations at key levels. The public examination for entrance to Primary 4, at preparatory school was abolished. At Primary 6, pupils sat for the Primary Certificate of Education (PCE) which was later replaced by the Primary School Assessment or Penilaian Sijil Rendah (PSR) in 2002. Students who passed the PCE examination will proceed to lower secondary level. In 1987, the Brunei Examination Board was upgraded to that of the Department of Examination within the organisational structure of the Ministry of Education. In 1997, the Lower Secondary Assessment or Penilaian Menengah Bawah (PMB) replaced the BJCE. At the end of upper secondary, students sat for the BC GCE ‘O’ Level examination. Students who obtained the required number of `O’ levels can either further their studies in BC GCE ‘A’ Level, or enrol into vocational/technical institutions, the teacher training colleges, or seek employment.
In an effort to increase the number of local teachers, the Teacher Training Centre was established in Brunei in 1956. However, there was still a critical shortage of teachers, especially in subjects such as English Language, Mathematics, Science, Home Crafts and Physical Training. Therefore, in 1963, the centre made provision for the training of teachers for English medium subjects. In 1985, the Teacher Training Centre was upgraded and renamed as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers’ College. It provided a variety of courses for preschool, primary and secondary levels.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the qualifications of most local teachers were either LCE or Cambridge School Certificate. Later, the academic requirements were gradually changed to that of BC GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. In 1987, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers’ College was renamed as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education (SHBIE) and was incorporated into UBD. Since then, various courses at certificate, diploma and degree levels for pre-service and in-service teachers have been offered. As a result, the proportion of local teachers holding degrees has increased significantly over the years.
The development of vocational and technical education has seen some improvements over the years. In 1971, the enrolment was 111 students with 19 teaching staff while in 2007, it rose to 2551 students with 470 teaching staff.
To accommodate the growing number of students, more schools and colleges, vocational and technical institutions, and higher educational institutions were built (Table 1). These are:
· Form Sixth Centre (1974, now known as Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College)
· Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Science College (in 1971, it was known as Maktab Melayu Paduka Seri
· Institute Technology Brunei – ITB (1986)
· Universiti Brunei Darussalam – UBD (1985)
· Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Rashidah Nursing College (1986)
· Sports School (2003)
· Wasan Vocational School (2005)
· Business School (2005)
· Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University –UNISSA (2007)
In 1970, the Education Advisory Commission was formed to review the education planning and development and come up with proposals for improving the education in Negara Brunei Darussalam. In 1974, based on the recommendations put forth in 1972 Education Commission Report, the Inspectorate Unit, Examination Board and Education Council were formed within the administrative structure of the Department of Education. In 1976, the first local Malay became the Director of Education. In 1980, three new sections were added to the department. These were the Administration and Services Section, Educational Planning and Development Section, and the School and College Section.
After independence, the Department of Education came under the Ministry of Education and Health, which was headed by a Minister. New sections or units, such as the Curriculum Development, Extra Curricular Activities, Publication Unit, Secondary Section, Planning and Information Unit, and Primary Section, were added to the department. In 1987, some units or sections were upgraded to departments. These include the Department of Curriculum Development, the Department of Schools, the Department of Examination, the Department of Schools Inspectorate, the Department of Administration and Services and the Department of Planning Development and Research.
In 1989, the Ministry of Education and Health were split into the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. The latest change in the organisational structure was the localisation of the whole education system in terms of the school curriculum, certification and text books. To ensure the smooth implementation and monitoring of educational changes and to achieve the aspiration and educational aims of the nation, new bodies and departments were formed. These include the:
· National Qualifications Accreditation Council in 1990
· Brunei Darussalam Technical and Vocational Educational Council – BDTVEC in 1991
· Department of Technical Education in 1993
· Special Education Unit in 1993
· Department of Co-Curriculum Education in 1995
· National Education Council in 1999
· The Science, Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre in 1999
· Department of Information and Communication Technology in 2001
In order to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, some educational services were upgraded. At the same time, new educational services were also developed, for example, the ICT programmes, which focus on the provision of e-education (Edunet, E-learning, Education Information, Digital Library and Human Capacity Building). In order to carry out the various ICT programmes both at the ministry as well as at the school levels, the Department of Information and Communication Technology was formed in 2001.