| Azlan Othman |
THE Ministry of Education (MoE) has been allocated a proposed budget of BND735,331,970 for the financial year 2019/2020.
This consists of a total of BND510,541,710 for staff salaries, BND224,810,200 for recurring expenses, and BND19,582,660 for development expenditure, Minister of Education Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman disclosed when going through a lengthy budget proposal for the ministry on the sixth day of the 15th Legislative Council meeting yesterday.
“The progress of a nation depends on its education. If the country’s education is excellent, so will its people because they are sowed by knowledge,” he said, thanking 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’s government for prioritising education every year despite the challenging economic situation.
“The ministry, therefore, supported the budget theme for this year, ‘Investment Towards the Future’, as investments in education are prerequisites for a prosperous nation and the people’s progress.”
The minister highlighted that these investments have begun to reap positive results, with the country showing great results for the 2018 academic year.
In the Primary School Assessment (PSR) examinations for example, government school candidates who achieved A-C grades in five subjects have increased by 10.03 per cent from 2014, since the inception of the Lower Education Initiative and Secondary Education Initiative.
For the GCE ‘O’ Levels, 36.69 per cent of candidates earned at least five ‘O’ levels, the highest achievement Brunei has seen so far.
For the GCE ‘A’ Level, 75.55 per cent school candidates earned three ‘A’ levels, an increase of 5.49 per cent from 2017, the highest in five years.
Meanwhile, at the higher education level, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) was ranked 349th globally under the QS World University Ranking, with Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) placed 442nd in the same index.
These improvements provide the MoE the encouragement to continue its work to improve the standard of education in the country and raise the quality of students. It aims to do so by spending prudently and implementing education programmes through cost-effective steps, while delivering maximum results.
Toward this end, the minister pointed out, the ministry has devised the Strategic Plan 2018- 2022, which consists of three strategic objectives: transforming existing human resources to a culture-based achievement; providing equal and equitable access to quality education; and enhancing accountability sharing with stakeholders in the development of teaching and learning.
“The ministry will design and implement a comprehensive human resource development strategy to cover every level of education – primary, secondary, technical and vocational, university – and this will cater to the officers and staff of the ministry,” he said.
“This will involve the implementation of capacity-building programmes, human resource competency, energy resource management system and evaluation systems.”
Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah also outlined projects that will be implemented in the financial year 2019/2020 under these strategic objectives.
These include continuing the project to bring in experts and skilled teachers for the Literacy and Numeracy Coaching Programmes; deve-lopment of competence and assessment framework for teachers and leaders for primary, secondary, special education, technical education and vocational education; reviewing the recruitment and selection of teachers; reviewing and expediting the process of placement of teachers’ positions; implementation of training programmes to build competency based on competence; and assessment of manpower and additional staff deployment to schools.
The minister said that under objective two of providing equal and equitable access to quality education, the ministry will carry out a few steps.
“The first is to enhance the quality of early childhood education. The second is to strengthen the delivery of basic education, which is primary and secondary education,” he said. “This will cover the development of student learning proficiency, enhancement of curriculum, strengthening assessment, provi-sion of adequate education infrastructure and provision of ICT services for education.
“The third step is to improve the quality of post-secondary education and broaden access to it. The fourth step is for students who are at risk and underprivileged to be given priority attention by the ministry.
“The final step is to improve life-long learning by developing a framework, guidance, and providing entry into lifelong learning programmes.”
To achieve these goals, the minister said that major projects will be implemented for the financial year 2019/2020, namely curriculum revisions which will look at the development of literacy standards for Malay Language, Science, Digital and Finance to respond to the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and the implementation of Students Assessment Tracker to assess students’ skills in primary and secondary levels in reading, writing, numeracy and science.
These projects will also include the provision of intervention programmes based on assessment to support School-Based Assessment (SBA) and Students Assessment Tracker (SAT) at primary and secondary schools; enhancing safety and health in educational institutions with comprehensive maintenance implementation through the Facilities Project Management; implementation of the Nutrition Programme under the Hope Programme; availing the services of the Centre of Excellence (COE) to students with special needs; and improving networking and ICT connectivity in schools.
The minister also shared projects under the 2019/2020 plan, which include technical and vocational education scholarships; Science College Project in Kuala Belait; upgrading of the government school network infrastructure and national education management system; reconstruction of Sultan Hassan Secondary School in Temburong; construction of additional buildings at Menglait Secondary School, Sultan Abdul Bubin Primary School in Sungai Besar, Bendahara Sakam Bunut Primary School, Batu Marang Religious School, Orang Kaya Setia Bakti Kilanas Primary School and Sengkurong Primary School.
Under the third objective of the Strategic Plan, which is to enhance accountability sharing with stakeholders with regard to teaching and learning, the minister said that the MoE’s main focus for the financial year 2019/2020 is to strengthen engagement with stakeholders internally and externally by reviewing the existing education structure and administration to create more effective execution and monitoring of education plans.
The initiatives planned for this purpose, he said, will “enhance collaboration and strengthen integration with parents and guardians, communities, other ministries, government agencies and NGOs, as well as relevant international organisations”.
“Key projects to be undertaken under objective three are the development of a comprehensive educational data management system using big data and business intelligence, to make data usage easier for students, teachers, school leaders, parents, the ministry, government agencies, the community and the various stakeholders,” he said.
Other projects to be carried out include the implementation of the AgroBiz Project, a joint venture agricultural project between Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) and LiveWIRE Brunei; an international joint venture with 24 Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) Regional Centres; sharing of Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) study outcome 2018; and development of an online payment system for the payment of fees for examinations such as the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels.
“These three strategic objectives of the MoE are designed to enable the ministry to lead the development of our generation to be ready to weather the effects of the Industry 4.0,” the minister said.