Shaping the future of learning, teaching

National 4 minutes, 20 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

IMAGINE a classroom where students are seated on colourful beanbags with eyes fixated on the latest gadgets in their hands.

This is the future of teaching and learning envisioned by the Ministry of Education (MoE) as schools nationwide are urged to harness the power of technology to prepare students with the skills required for success in the 21st century.

In August, the first of such learning space was launched at the Rimba II Secondary School following the completion of the year-long Computing in Model Schools (CiMS) project.

CiMS was the ministry’s project to explore and investigate a number of possible futures through model schools. As part of the Foresight and Innovation Pathway of MoE’s e-Hijrah, CiMS was designed to transform teacher methods and classroom practice to improve student learning.

As a result, the new learning space at Rimba II Secondary School was markedly different to most classrooms in Bruneian schools.

Perpendicular rows of chairs and tables were rearranged into groups of five or six, allowing students to interact with one another. Colourful beanbags dotted the carpeted flooring, bright walls and glass doors reflected the upgrades made to the classroom.

It was modelled to suit 21st century education to provide teachers and students with a vibrant, creative learning environment.

While 20th century learning focused on the memorisation and recall of information for examination purposes, a 21st century classroom is geared towards developing skills for lifelong learning, such as solving real world problems innovatively.

Beyond the redesigning and refurbishing of learning spaces, CiMS encouraged teachers to rethink their existing teaching practice through professional development workshops.

Other schools that were selected to participate in the project were Wasan Vocational School in Brunei-Muara, Panaga Primary School in Belait, Kg Bukit Beruang National Housing Scheme II Primary School in Tutong and Sultan Hashim Batu Apoi Primary School in Temburong.

Each of the model schools underwent a journey to achieve new models of teaching and learning based on 21st century education for their community of students and parents.

MoE said the project was successful in targeting three aspects of education reforms simultaneously: teacher and leadership pedagogy and practice, creation of flexible, engaging learning spaces, and upgrading of school IT infrastructure.

The move also meant integrating tablet devices and digital technologies to enhance learning.

However, MoE added that “the focus was not on technology or tablet devices, but on teachers and their methods, students and their learning, leaders and their model of leadership, classrooms and their modernisation and recognising the ability of fit for purpose technology”.

Initial findings that have emerged from the CiMS project found that participating teachers have begun to adopt a more student-centred approach to learning.

According to the ministry, they have created a more active learning environment for their students and are deliberately delivering the curriculum in a more engaging way. Teachers no longer work in isolation, but collaborate with their colleagues to plan, teach and monitor student learning.

CiMS teachers observed that students were more able to think for themselves and work with their peers, resulting in a more engaged learning process.

Although the project is officially complete, MoE said the CiMS schools have continued to grow whilst teachers have reassured that stepping back into the past way of teaching and learning is not an option for them.

However, change was not only limited to the classrooms as there was also a significant shift in leadership practices in each model school.

The principal of Rimba II Secondary School, Hjh Suriani Hj Noor Hashim, explained they have been empowered, guided, modeled and shown how to implement changes for the 21st century. “I have been able to empower my teachers and they, in turn, have empowered their students,” she said.

Participating principals adopted a distributed leadership approach, which required leading from the front and also being able to delegate and share the lead when appropriate.

Following the project’s completion, they said they are more confident to take risks as they adopt the SPN21 system and set in place the structures as well as resources needed to transform their schools into exemplars of 21st century education for Brunei.

“The impact of this project on teachers and students was huge. I could actually see the changes in teachers and the students,” said the principal of Wasan Vocational School, Saiful Rizal Hj Marali.

CiMS schools also involved their local communities in the changes taking place and kept them informed along the way. The ministry noted parents were supportive of the schools as they embarked on the CiMS transformation programme that was seen as “intenstive and, at times, radical”.

Despite their initial hesitation, they were keen to see their children being prepared for a bright future in the 21st century.

“As a result of participating in the CiMS projects, students are happier and more excited to learn. School teachers have become enthusiastic about their teaching and are exploring new teaching strategies in their classes,” said Hj Siasa Tambah, headmaster of Sultan Hashim Batu Apoi Primary School.

It is unclear whether CiMS will be rolled out nationwide, but the five participating schools will be used as models of 21st century teaching, learning and leadership by other schools in Brunei.

The Brunei Times