| Siti Hajar |
LEADERS of the country’s education system have been called upon to cross traditional boundaries of what it means to provide, share and encourage the development of the younger generation, especially in an environment that requires constant change to meet insatiable human resource demand for only the best of candidates.
During the opening of the Strategic Leadership and Management Course for Senior Executives of Universities yesterday, the Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, stressed the need for pioneering strategies to improve educational services among higher education institutions through effective leadership, and pointed out that building relationships with other related stakeholders will be among the key strategies to fulfil Brunei’s educational aspirations.
“Innovative thinking on new strategies is crucial to provide an essential guide to further educational provision and practice,” said the minister as he referred to the challenges that are currently facing the core philosophy of higher education not just on a national scale, but also in a more competitive educational services arena.
He added that among the areas that need addressing from different perspectives with the fusion of the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) concept and meeting the Brunei Vision 2035, include new strategies in improving quality assurance and accreditation systems, a review of programmes to ensure that they are relevant and are more responsive to the country’s needs as well as the promotion of an institution’s linkages with its stakeholders.
Taking into consideration that undertakings such as these will require significant investments from institutional policy makers, the minister reminded that the leaders of today “must have the skills to motivate change and eloquently articulate it for diverse audiences” for the purposes of keeping up with current trends, overcoming obstacles especially in a more globalised world and ensuring that each respective team member feels included in the decision making process.
The essence of leadership is not the leader, but the relationship. Leaders must cultivate relationships in multiple ways and adopt a decision-making process that is more open, less linear and more collaborative in order to foster creativity, whilst at the same time providing others the opportunities to lead and create environments that foster enthusiasm and mutual cooperation.
“This needs to stem from a strong understanding of where we are and where we are trying to get to,” elaborated the minister as he urged not just vice-chancellors but also those working behind the scenes. What should be done, he urged, is for stakeholders to “challenge the traditional notions of higher education and explore ideological shifts in the purpose and value proposition of higher education” especially for the sake of their students.
“For them to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex world, we must equip our youngsters with a broad knowledge base, an aptitude for life-long learning and the readiness to venture into new frontiers of knowledge whenever necessary”, by way of addressing cross-cutting global issues that require interdisciplinary collaboration through the creation of authentic learning experiences.
“Today’s dynamic environment means that the vision, mission and values of many institutions are fluid and always challenged”, and therefore, “higher education institutions need to find a balance in developing itself according to the global standards and defining their identities true to their fundamental roles”, with strategic plans that are based on an institution’s distinctiveness as well as national and global interests.
Describing universities as institutions that are unique and provide space for thought, learning, growth and reflection that allows for risk-taking as it challenges the boundaries of conventional thinking, the minister also emphasised that the fundamental purpose of universities is to provide a stimulating environment where staff and students can study, think and carry out research, enrich the society and benefit the state and economy, in the role and capacity as the future leaders of tomorrow.
“We need a strong core of strategic leaders who are committed and passionate to develop Brunei Darussalam’s higher education system”, who possess the capabilities to execute “thorough assessment of the environment in which he or she must operate, to identify trends and challenges that might affect the future course of events, to articulate an attainable vision and to turn one’s vision into reality”.