Making the grade

National 4 minutes, 25 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

INCREASING opportunities for Brunei’s youths to further their education continues to be the dominating mission for the Ministry of Education (MoE) this year.

Within this report, The Brunei Times revisits some of this year's scholarship news that made the headlines. Education Loan Scheme On August 14, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam approved an education loan facility scheme.

The scheme aimed to help students pursue higher education locally or overseas, especially those who have fallen short of meeting the government scholarship criteria.

The Monarch in his titah said the loan scheme will cover tuition fees and living expenses, making higher education more affordable for Bruneians.

Less than two weeks later, about 400 students were reported to have been to MoE requesting application forms for the scheme.

Hj Ibrahim Hj Bagol, Head of Scholarship Section said no quota has been set on the amount of loans available annually. The first batch In October, 130 Bruneian students officially became the first batch of the Education Loan Assistance Scheme (SBPP) for the 2014/2015 academic year.

Among the countries they will study in include the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Malaysia.

Their universities included Imperial College London (UK) and Stanford University (USA).

MoE stated if a recipient successfully graduates with First Class (Honours) then repayment for the loan will not be required as the loan is converted into a scholarship.

Deputy Permanent Secretary (Higher Education) Dr Hjh Anita Binurul Zahrina POKLWDSS Hj Abdul Aziz said students who took the education loan would be able to work overseas after they complete their courses.

The ministry would not stop graduates from working abroad but students are encouraged to return to Brunei and contribute to the country’s development. Scholarship budget increased

The ministry's budget for the 2014/2015 fiscal year saw a $4 million increase on scholarships and student allowance.

The budget allocation was a jump from $39 million in the previous financial year to $43 million.

The announcement was made at the 10th Legislative Council Session by Second Finance Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim.

He added the government has spent over $426 million for various scholarship schemes under the Human Resource Fund since it started in 2006.

Under the Specialist and Professional Development Scheme, the minister said 119 applicants obtained scholarships to pursue their PhD.

The Education Minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong, said the Special Scholarship Scheme will receive $104.8 million to fund 716 students under MoE to pursue further studies abroad.

Under the Technical and Vocational Education Scholarship Scheme, the government spent $23.15 million to fund 5,735 of ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level students to study in local private education institutions. Fulfilling their Bond About 140 scholarship students bonded to become education officers will succeed future retired teachers once they complete their studies abroad by 2016.

By the end of 2014, the Education Minister said 106 bonded scholars were projected to finish their studies.

He further said 91 students are bound to finish their Masters in Teaching (MTeach) programme at Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education (SHBIE) in September 2014. Cream of the crop Flying under the increased scholarship budget this year were 115 students.

They were selected from 300 applicants that applied in the first round of Higher Education Centralised Admission System (HECAS) 2014 in April.

Abdullah Hj Ahad, previously of the Scholarship Section, said there was no scholarship quota and thus the 115 students were the cream of the crop.

He explained that all the applicants were eligible as they obtained at least 300 ‘A’ Level tariff points, equivalent to a ‘BBB’ or ‘ABC’.

But he clarified that getting the required points does not guarantee one a scholarship and only qualifies one for the Multiple Mini Interviews. Work in private sector Government-bonded scholars under the MoE scholarship can work in the local private sector if they have yet to secure a job in the government and their scholarship scheme is not tied to specific professions such as teachers or doctors.

Scholarship Section Officer Hjh Siti Jarah Hj Jumat said scholars who were bonded to specialise cannot work in the private sector, such as those under MoE’s Special Scheme.

“However, considering that jobs are difficult to get now, those bonded to serve the government with no specific profession can work in the private sector on a temporary basis while waiting for answers to their government job applications,” she said. It all comes down to merit The status of an applicant’s parents does not by any means come into play in the scholarship selection process.

Abdullah confirmed this in a previous interview with The Brunei Times.

“Some believe sons or daughters of top ranking officials can get their way with the scholarships.

“But it all comes down to merit, collected, assessed, and there’s a statistician who arranges the order,” the official said. He assured students who were shortlisted for the interview were already among the best because they met the academic requirements.

“But then those who succeed in the interviews are among the very best of the best students.

“Each is equipped with the appropriate attitude and character – and courses (chosen by applicant) that are relevant to the country’s needs,” he said.

The Brunei Times