One of the wealthiest nations in the world, the small oil-rich country of Brunei, is looking for experienced English-speaking educators to teach in its schools. Located on the tropical island of Borneo, Brunei is often overlooked as a destination for international teachers -- a real shame because this little country offers one of the most generous compensation packages out there!
Despite the enormous amount of development that has taken place over the last ten years, there are still very large areas of untouched jungle and pristine coastline throughout Brunei. In addition to the natural beauty to be found here, the people are known for their laid-back island lifestyle and welcoming attitude towards foreigners. Once here, you'll understand why many international teachers come for a year, but stay on for a decade!
There are only three private international schools in Brunei. Consequently, there is a high level of competition for jobs in these schools, which all run on the British model. You will need significant prior teaching experience to be taken seriously as a candidate.
If you are fortunate enough to land a job at one of these schools you will have the opportunity to teach one of several academic subjects, such as elementary education, math, science, history, or art, in addition to English. Classes at these schools are a mix of Bruneian children and students from around the world.
Most likely you will find a job at one of Brunei’s government-run schools. These schools are looking for experienced TEFL or similarly certified educators to teach English as a second language. They are divided into primary and secondary schools. At one of these schools, you will have the opportunity to be fully immersed in Brunei’s education system as you work alongside Bruneian teachers and students.
When to Apply for Jobs in Brunei
It is possible to apply for a teaching job in Brunei throughout the year. However, most recruiting is done from January to March. This gives the schools plenty of time to interview candidates and process visa applications in time for the start of the following school year.
How to Apply for Jobs in Brunei
Most teachers apply for a job in Brunei from their home country. It can be a long and involved process that will include several phone or Skype interviews. Once hired, the Ministry of Education will handle your visa application on your behalf.
There are a number of services that work with the government of Brunei to place qualified teachers in one of the country’s public schools. Before you apply, be sure to get all your papers in order. In addition to your CV, you will need a copy of your teaching license, at least three letters of recommendation, and possibly your college transcripts.
Average Salary for Teaching Jobs in Brunei
Salaries typically range from $3,500 to $5,500 per month depending on previous experience. Thanks to the low cost of living, housing stipend, resettlement allowance, and absence of income tax, most teachers are able to save much of what they earn. Since a car is a necessity for many living in the country, an interest-free car loan is also often included.
The requirements to teach in Brunei are strict and numerous. Brunei has long-standing and close ties with Great Britain and prefers English-speaking teachers from Commonwealth nations. Government regulations state that you must have completed your basic education in the British Commonwealth.
Brunei schools require a minimum of three years of relevant classroom experience including at least a year of teaching ESL. You will also need an active teaching license from the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa. Sorry Americans, but it is unlikely that you’ll find employment here.
Furthermore, you will need a degree in an English-related field, such as literature or humanities. Secondary teachers must be under 55 and primary teachers under 52 at the start of the contract.
Popular Destinations to Teach in Brunei
If you teach in one of the country’s public schools, you will live and work where the Ministry of Education assigns you. Brunei is a small country that is mostly uninhabited rainforest reserves with the population concentrated in the capital. Therefore, you will most likely be in or within an hour of Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB). Since the majority of Brunei’s population lives in BSB or its suburbs, this is probably where you’ll end up.
Bandar Seri Begawan may be the country’s capital, but it is characterized by its small-town feel. Its well-manicured streets, many mosques, and neighborhoods built on stilts over the river make this a charming and unique destination. The city remains relatively laid-back and quiet aside from its popular karaoke clubs. Being built with oil money, BSB has all the amenities of most small modern cities.
Another popular destination is Kuala Belait, Brunei’s second city. This oil-rich town, located on the shores of the South China Sea and the border with Malaysia, presents an even quieter side of Brunei. Its well maintained town beach makes it a great location for beach bums.
Visas & Sponsorship
You’ll need a work visa to live and work in Brunei, but don’t be overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork this involves. Your school or the Ministry of Education will help streamline the process once you receive a job offer. Visas are valid for two years, but can be easily renewed if you decide to stay longer.
Teacher Work Culture in Brunei
Most teachers will teach 15 to 20 hours per week in addition to 10 hours of after-school activities or sports coaching.
Many foreign teachers in Brunei work there for several years. They cite it’s supportive work culture, well-funded schools, eager students, and generous benefits as reasons to stay on year after year.
Bruneians are known for being soft-spoken and polite. Most of the population is Malayan, but there are significant minority populations, making this country quite multi-ethnic. As such, locals will be open to the cultural differences between you and them. Of course, it is always appreciated when you make the effort to understand their way of life.
Being a Muslim country, alcohol and pork are not available. You are allowed to bring your own alcohol for personal consumption. Bruneians won’t begrudge your desire to drink, but it’s best to only do so in the privacy of your own home.
Classroom Etiquette in Brunei
Students in Brunei are expected to be well-behaved. They are used to foreign teachers and are generally understanding of the lack of outside understanding of Bruneian culture and customs. If you make known your interest in your students’ culture, however, you’ll make great connections with them as they’ll be eager to educate you on Bruneian customs.
Health & Safety
Brunei has clean, efficient, and well-equipped hospitals. You can expect the quality of care here to be similar to what you’d find in Europe and North America. Cleanliness standards in restaurants are generally very good, but you should avoid drinking untreated tap water.
Brunei is a safe nation with very low crime rates. Violent crime is essentially unheard of. The biggest danger you may encounter is a crocodile, so take care when near rivers!