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Brunei is in Southest Asia on the Northeast coast of the magical island of Borneo about 500 km north of the Equator. Brunei is divided into two separate sections and is surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The country has a lush, green, leafy feel to it that many people find addictive. Every bush that one passes is alive with the sounds of hundreds of creatures and the amount of flora and fauna. Most people tend to live on or near the coast and the rest of the country is mostly lush, green rainforest.
Despite the enormous amount of development which has taken place over the last ten years, there are still very large areas of untouched jungle. The population remains small and towns are not at all crowded. Overall, much of the country is in pristine condition. I have been here for thirteen years and it is not uncommon to meet fellow teachers who have been here for five, ten or even twenty years! Students are great, workload is reasonable, teachers are treated with respect and the country has a great standard of living ... What's not to like!
The Ministry of Education recruits mainly English teachers, although some occasionally teach other related subjects such as literature or drama. Local teachers, or expatriates from countries such as Malaysia or Singapore, teach other subjects and are directly employed by the government.
A normal teaching load at the secondary level is typically about 12-16 contact hours a week or 24 to 32 teaching periods. Teachers in general teach up to a maximum of 3 hours (6 periods) in any single day. Additionally, secondary school teachers have to be in school for an additional 4.5 hours per week. This time is set-aside for clubs, extra classes and meetings. Periodically, throughout the year all teachers will be expected to attend school functions on Fridays or Sundays. These events can include sports days, teacher parent interviews and other whole school events.
At the primary level teachers can expect a classroom timetable of around 15 contact hours. There has been a recent change in government policy and all primary teachers are required to stay back in school up to twice a week for extension activities and clubs. Each of these sessions lasts 3 hours.
Teachers might also be involved in sports, English quizzes, jungle walks, drama productions, school publications etc. You will be expected to participate in extra-curricular (or co-curricular) activities in your school on a regular basis as part of your normal school duties.
Teachers can be placed anywhere in the country although Brunei is small and anywhere that a teacher would be placed is no further than a one hour drive or boat trip from the capital city. Brunei's four districts consist of the area around the main city Bandar Seri Begawan, Tutong district (about a 30 minute drive away), the second city, Kuala Belait (about one hour from BSB) and the forested district of Temburong which is a 45 minute boat ride from BSB. Each district has its particular charms.
To find out more about Brunei visit the Brunei Tourism website.
Note that the qualifications are set by the Ministry of Education and are not able to be negotiated. Teachers must meet the following requirements:
The Average Monthly Salary is $3300 - 5200 USD depending on qualifications and experience with an additional one sixth of salary (i.e. four months) paid on completion of the two year contract. The benefit package is extensive. Government-employed teachers enjoy the following:
It is highly advised that teachers get a driving licence. However, some teachers are driven to work by their spouses or employ a maid who can drive them to and from work (the purchase of a car is essential for both options, and an interest free loan is given for this). Public transportation is NOT an option. Additionally, there is a very large second hand car market with a wide range of mostly Japanese and other Asian models available. Teachers receive an interest free B$10,000 (USD$8000) car loan upon arrival (paid off over 10 or 20 months) and this enables the purchase of most good quality models. It is still very much a buyer's market, with haggling over price expected.
In general teachers find that the cost of living in Brunei is much less than what they have been used to at home. Remember that there is no income tax. Your quoted salary is what you will receive at the end of the month. In addition you will receive two months' salary per year of service when you complete each contract, housing and certain allowances depending on your family situation. The amount of savings you can make depends very much on your lifestyle. If you are frugal, and don't go on expensive holidays then it is quite possible to save about half of what you earn. However, teachers with non-working dependent spouse and children may find it difficult to make any substantial savings in their first contract.
The education system in Brunei, like that of many countries, is in a state of development as the government endeavors to establish a curriculum that best fits the needs of its citizens in a rapidly changing world.
The students in Brunei's schools are generally polite and well behaved and used to being firmly and clearly directed. They are familiar with being taught by non-Bruneian teachers, especially in secondary schools, and are very tolerant. Naturally, however, it is greatly appreciated when teachers take steps to learn about Brunei's culture. The students have a heavy academic load, which many do not find easy to cope with. Like children anywhere, they respond positively to teachers who demonstrate a concern for their welfare and a determination to help them as much as possible. As with any school in any country, discipline and motivation problems can and do occur. However, there is usually a refreshing lack of the antagonistic stance that students often adopt towards teachers in some other countries.
Schools, and government offices, are closed on Fridays and Sundays, with Saturday being a working day. Brunei operates on a four-term year, each of 10/11 weeks, with a 10-day or 2-week holiday between each term and then 4 or 5 weeks in December. The school year comprises a total of about 200 days. There is also 'Hari Raya', a holiday to celebrate the completion of the Muslim fasting month. This falls 10 days earlier each year. There are also generous amount of public holidays. Teachers are free to take leave during school holidays with the approval of the Ministry of Education.
Greg is the Country Manager for CfBT Education Services in Brunei, one of the world's largest and longest running international ELT projects. Greg combines a PhD in International Education Management with a background in Applied Linguistics and over 25 years of experience in the management, administration and teaching of English language. Greg taught in a government-run secondary school in Brunei for ten years before returning to an educational management role. He has lived in Brunei for thirteen years and remains as enthusiastic as ever about its many attractions for international teachers of English.
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