Shortage in teaching workforce, quality teachers still an issue

National 3 minutes, 5 seconds


THE shortage of teachers in Brunei has persistently been highlighted by various members of the public over the past few years, and it will not be surprising if the issue is raised yet again at this year’s 10th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) also recently acknowledged the shortage of teachers – both in number and quality - during a Brunei paper presentation at the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) Consultation and Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January this year.

According to the paper, the ministry is currently undertaking some measures to counter the problem, such as implementing the School Leadership Programme (SLP) for school leaders and administrators, and the Teachers Service Scheme which is aimed at making teachers feel highly valued, and making teaching as a prestigious career.

During the Eighth LegCo session in March 2012, Yang Berhormat Hj Mohd Yusof Hj Dulamin raised a question to the Minister of Education, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong, with regards to the availability of teachers under the ministry.

YB Hj Mohd Yusof said that secondary schools in Kuala Belait lacked teaching staff, including relief teachers, and proposed that the ministry took immediate action and attention so that education (for the rising number of students) does not suffer.

In response, the minister said that the ministry was working to remedy the situation and that relief teachers have been provided to schools that need them in order to substitute teachers, who were on leave.

Relief teachers were also cited during the Seventh LegCo session in 2011 as a solution by the education minister with regards to temporary lack of teaching staff as a result of female teachers going on maternity leave (which was officially extended from 56 to 105 days in that year).

In the month following LegCo, an issue was raised with the education minister during a SLP about the quality of relief teachers and whether they would be able to deliver quality education, without the mandatory training.

Nevertheless, the limited number of relief teachers in the Sultanate was still observed last year - most notably by an anonymous expatriate who had been residing in Brunei for over a decade. The expat remarked that she had received responses of “no relief teachers” and “no budget” when she made inquiries at the Department of Schools, as well as the MoE, about the limited availability of teachers in the Sultanate.

In last year’s LegCo session, LegCo member Yang Berhormat Hj Jumat Akim inquired if relief teachers could be absorbed into daily paid or permanent positions in primary and secondary schools, arguing that absorbing them into permanent positions could fill the vacancies needed for teachers.

The education minister answered that relief teachers could be incorporated into daily paid or permanent positions, but only after applying for the positions, and undergoing written tests and interviews.

In that session, YB Pehin Dato Dr Hj Abu Bakar also said that a total of 62 vacancies were available for teaching positions in various educational institutions in 2013, adding that relief teachers could apply for these positions.

Shortage mentions of specialist teachers has also happened over the years – a shortage of English teachers was reported in 2007, whereas a shortage of art teachers was mentioned by then-Minister of Education, Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman, in 2010.

A shortage of pre-school teaching assistants was also mentioned by Datin Dr Hj Asmah Hj Morni, head of Early Childhood Care and Education Unit at MoE, in 2012.

There have also been repeated mentions of not enough trained special-education teachers in the Sultanate in the past five years – including sign language teachers and speech therapists for the hearing-impaired.

The Brunei Times