| Ishan Ibrahim |
THE Ministry of Education in its efforts to provide quality education has structured a strategic plan that incorporates four ‘Vision Checkpoints’.
These checkpoints were revealed by the Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, in a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Education and members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) yesterday, which was held at the Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Institute of Health Sciences.
The Minister of Education explained that the checkpoints focus on reducing unemployment by up to 80 per cent by 2017, ensuring that the education system fulfils the requirements of employers by that time, improving upon Brunei Darussalam’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index and achieving a top 50 position in the Programme for International Students Assessment by 2018.
To ensure these checkpoints are achieved, seven initiatives have been created – Teachers and Professionalism, Leadership Development, Numeracy and Illiteracy, e-Hijrah, Transformation of Technical Education, Talent Pipeline and Whole School Improvement.
The ministry has also established a Strategic Enterprise, Performance and Delivery Unit (SEPaDU) to ensure the Strategic Plan is well organised and effective.
The minister said SEPaDU is responsible for the reviewing of strategies, management of the ministry’s resources and initiative portfolio programme in coordination with stakeholders.
With regard to Numeracy and Illiteracy, a comprehensive strategy is being embraced to enhance basic skills for successful learning in all subjects by ensuring all students reach the required literacy and numeracy levels.
Meanwhile, LegCo members voiced issues pertaining to students at primary schools not achieving satisfactory results in basic education, where the minister responded that 15 primary schools have been incorporated into the ‘Catalyst Schools’ programme because they achieved less than 75 per cent in the PSR examinations over the past two years.
The programme has so far seen the majority of these schools achieving higher results than in the previous year.
The minister said the Catalyst Schools programme will continue in all government primary schools and Year Seven for secondary schools.
The Ministry of Education has set a national target of 90 per cent of students achieving A to C grades in PSR examinations by 2017.
On the issue of students’ unsatisfactory school attendance, the minister said that this is regrettable for various reasons that include family and social problems.
He said one focus of the ministry to enhance attendance rates is to update the Standard Operating Procedure at the school level, where a Key Performance Indicator will be introduced this year in all primary schools to ensure attendance is consistent, with a 95 per cent goal having been set.
Through the introduction of the Integrated National Education Information System (iNEIS) under the e-Hijrah initiative, the live monitoring of students’ attendance is ensured so that data of school attendance from early on in the academic year is reliable. In essence, iNEIS aims to effectively enhance the Mandatory Education Act by accumulating data of students’ attendance in schools, the minister said.
An additional budget of $220 million has been approved over the next three years for the intake and management of experts in the English language and Mathematics, where this group of people will guide local teachers in enhancing their performance.
The minister expressed his hope that this expenditure in capacity building for local teachers will bear fruit.
Separately, a Service Scheme for Academics of Higher Education Institution (SPTA), which will cover promotions for academics, has been approved in the hope of attracting more academicians of high quality.
The minister then revealed that an ad hoc committee has been established to review policies and ensure the process of selecting scholarship students is made efficient. In addition, an affordable loan system for students to support their educational expenses and living costs has also been approved. Since then, 141 loans have been given to applicants who are pursuing their studies in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Malaysia. Applications for the loans are available throughout the year.
The minister also discussed the importance of Technical and Vocational Education, highlighting how vital this field is in generating youths that are skilled and marketable in a knowledge-based global society.
This is why His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam approved the Technical Education Institute Act Brunei 2014, in support of this goal, the minister said in conclusion.
Representing the LegCo delegation, YB Awang Haji Ramli bin Haji Lahit, said they will continue to work with all ministries as the issues covered are of great significance.
The meeting ended with the delegation touring the institute’s science laboratories, classes and other facilities.