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Sunday, December 3, 2023
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Brunei Town

Ironing out educational challenges

Izah Azahari

Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman discussed efforts by the Ministry of Education (MoE) to ensure the safety and welfare of children and school staff are maintained, through the implementation of appropriate business continuity plan (BCP).

He also said to ensure teaching and learning can continue during school closures, an online home-based learning (HBL) approach through various channels has been implemented.

He said this during the MoE Muzakarah session with Legislative Council (LegCo) members, held at the MoE on Tuesday.

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah was the Chairman of the Muzakarah session, while LegCo member Yang Berhormat Haji Ramli bin Haji Lahit led the 12 LegCo members at the event.

The MoE took note of the challenges faced in implementing the HBL approach – including skills, competencies and lack of resources such as devices and Internet data, particularly for underprivileged families. The MoE also acknowledged online teaching challenges for educators in terms of use of Internet data and the skills to use teaching applications.

The MoE has rolled out initiatives that include a joint venture with parties to provide Internet devices and data to those in need. These efforts are in line with MoE’s strategic objectives to increase cooperation and strong support from various stakeholders, as well as to provide equal and equitable access to quality education.

To deliver effective online teaching and learning, the MoE provides professional development for teachers in need, through the Brunei Darussalam Leaders and Teacher Academy (BDLTA) – where online programmes have been provided by the academy.

Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman speaks at the Muzakarah session. PHOTOS: IZAH AZAHARI
A section of the attendees at the meeting

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah said with the consent of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, teachers have been given an additional BND20 allowance per month for the purchase of Internet data for teaching use.

Meanwhile, underprivileged students are also given 10GB of Internet data per month.

Additionally, educational programmes for various levels of education are also broadcast, in collaboration with Radio Televisyen Brunei (RTB). Schools also provide a home learning pack (HLP) for parents and guardians in need.

The minister also highlighted that school leaders play a crucial role in school management, ensuring that teaching and learning can continue to be implemented effectively.

The MoE, through the School Leadership Unit under BDLTA, also continuously strives to improve school leaders’ competencies, particularly in instructional leadership. Various professional development programmes for school leaders have been and will continue to be implemented.

The first round of the Signature Programme, a one-year school leaders programme for Tier 3, ended at the end of January 2022, involving 23 deputy principals and assistant headmasters from primary and secondary schools, and sixth form centre.

Participants followed modules based on the competency framework for school leaders, better known as the Brunei Darussalam School Leadership Standard and Competency Framework.

Meanwhile, 20 newly appointed school leaders, five deputy principals and assistant headmasters are participating in the second round of the programme, which is expected to conclude by the end of 2022. These efforts support the MoE’s strategic objectives to develop competency in human resources to achieve system excellence.

The MoE intends to continue its ‘blended learning initiative’ education method employed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. One of the efforts to ensure the initiative’s success was by introducing a policy of granting permission to bring your own devices (BYOD) to school.

It is hoped the effort strengthens the existing ICT competencies of students, teachers and administrators, while at the same time, paving the way to ensure teaching and learning becomes even more efficient and effective.

This approach was initially implemented in 10 pilot schools under the Progresif for School programme, covering students sitting for the GCE ‘O’ Level, ‘AS’ Level and ‘A’ Level examinations.

This year, this policy will be extended to Years 10 to 13 students across secondary schools and sixth form centres under the control of the Department of Schools, MoE.

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah also shared that the Educational Technology Centre is working to integrate teaching and learning video contents into one online platform, allowing teachers and students to access the material any time, any where. This hopes to serve as a source of additional information outside of curriculum time.

The centre also plays a role in developing digital learning approaches, SMART classrooms and digital content, as well as integrating a Learning Management System (LMS) for students’ learning as well as teachers’ professional training and development.

In line with changes in teaching and learning approaches, curriculum software is also constantly monitored and evaluated periodically to ensure the curriculum remains relevant.

The MoE through the Curriculum Development Department is in the process of developing, reviewing and reviewing the national curriculum. This includes strengthening digital literacy to prepare students with 21st Century competencies and skills.

The Department of Schools has also stepped up efforts through the Learning Support Programme – piloted to several primary schools in 2021 and extended to all primary schools in 2022 – that involved an intensive 13-week intervention for each group of students requiring support. Studies reported a positive effect, with most students showing encouraging improvements.

The MoE is also aware that the challenges, including those brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, has brought mental and emotional stress onto teachers. With this in mind, a Welfare Unit for School Leaders and Teachers has been established under the Office of the Director General of Education. Its role is to assist school leaders and teachers by providing support services through counselling. It is staffed by officers qualified in Psychology and Mental Health Nursing.

The subject of re-opening secondary schools, sixth form centres, technical and vocational institutions and higher learning institutions was also addressed. It was pointed out that the MoE, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), has completed the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme for students aged 12 to 17. Additionally, teachers and school leaders have also played their part by getting fully vaccinated.

The MoE has also prepared standard operating procedures (SOPs) as guidelines for educational institutions, which include dealing with students returning from abroad; implementing sanitation operations at educational institutions found to have positive COVID-19 cases; re-opening of schools in stages during the Early Endemic Phase; students transportation, control during attendance and recruitment of students; health and safety measures when entering school buildings, in classrooms, canteens and toilets; and ringfencing and isolation room procedures.

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah also said that department heads and school leaders will take appropriate action should a staff member test positive for COVID-19 after undergoing antigen rapid test (ART) either at home, school or office. An ART is performed once a week at present, however, it is likely that this will soon become a twice-weekly practise to allow for the swift and easy detection of positive cases among students.

Even in the pandemic, the MoE continues to provide new facilities and infrastructure, according to current needs, to ensure teaching and learning can be implemented in a comfortable manner.

This includes the improvement and development of infrastructure for students with special needs, with the establishment of a Centre of Excellence (CoE), ensuring the provision of equal and equitable quality education for all students.

Deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, vice chancellors, rector, deputy permanent secretaries, acting director general of education, department heads and senior MoE officers also attended.


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