Brunei promotes active reading habit
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TODAY, the 49th International Literacy Day is being observed after the date was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on November 17, 1965.
The worldwide celebrations bring attention to the significance of literacy to individuals and societies, with the focal point this year taking place in Dhaka where the Government of Bangladesh and UNESCO are organising an international conference.
Supporting this year’s theme of “Literacy and Sustainable Development”, the international conference centres on the topic “Girls’ and Women’s Literacy and Education: Foundations for Sustainable Development”.
UNESCO on its website says, “literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development” and “is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development”.
Statistics released by the ASEAN Secretariat in 2013 revealed that Brunei had the second highest adult literacy rate, 96.8 per cent, in the Region during the period 2000-2011.
However, the country continues to be proactive in promoting literacy, especially among children. Earlier this year, the Language and Literature Bureau introduced a programme where all parents of newborn received the Early Literacy Programme pack.
Through the programme, the parents receive reading materials, in both Malay and English languages, for them to read to their children as way to foster an interest in reading.
Head of Library Section at the Language and Literature Bureau, Hj Sahari Hj Nassar, said in an email interview that reading is a key that unlocks a warehouse of knowledge and should be turned into a lifelong habit.
Several teachers from Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Masna Secondary School (SMPAPHM) also talked to The Brunei Times regarding the importance of developing literate individuals.
The school’s Head of Department for Malay Language, Rafidah Mohd Daud, also said that being literate gives students access to various information channels for knowledge. “With the advent of the internet, students are given the choice of several sources for a specific topic.”
However, she said that literacy is not only tied to one’s ability to read and write, but also one’s ability to understand the written text.
The head of department said, “because of the many sources, understanding and analysis of the reading materials is important to select which ones are reliable”.
An English Language teacher, Rabiatul Hj Mohamad, said that although students are able to read and write, they have trouble communicating their ideas.
Rabiatul said that from her observations, the cause of this problem is that students do not find reading enjoyable as they have difficulties understanding the contents of books.
Another English Language teacher, Aimi Liyana Hj Matali, said that she usually sees students choosing books that do not suit their reading level.
“A lot of the students read challenging books, which requires them to have a high command of vocabulary.
“As teachers it is good to see our students reading, but we want them to understand what they are reading as well,” said Aimi Liyana.
A PE teacher, Siti Raufah Hj Omarali, suggested that teachers should assign students a book to read and discuss with each other, as it can help them understand and communicate their ideas better.
The Brunei Times