Dr Surin: Master English to take advantage of AEC

National 2 minutes, 52 seconds


BRUNEI must continue to prioritise the English language in schools and at work as proficiency in the language is key to maximising the opportunities presented by the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

Former Secretary-General of ASEAN Dr Surin Pitsuwan said this during a lecture yesterday at the Chancellor Hall of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

Dr Surin said that since English has been adopted as the official common language (lingua franca) of the AEC, Brunei must continue to uphold the importance of the language in schools to be able to take advantage of opportunities in trade and cultural exchanges.

“Today I am happy to be able to say that the English language is the official working language of ASEAN and this is the result of one of Brunei’s more significant contributions towards sculpting the socio-economical landscape in the region,” he said.

“The AEC as a unified community now plays a more important role on the global trade and political stage compared to the previous decade so we must be ready to face the challenges and opportunities ahead by equipping ourselves with the necessary skills – English language being one of them,” he said.

According to the former diplomat, mastering the English language is an important skill in developing the human resource of a nation as English is the “language of the market”.

“Bruneians already have an advantage over other ASEAN peoples as the emphasis on the English language in schools allows them to effectively communicate on a regional and global scale,” he said.

Dr Surin stated that proficiency in the English language is a key factor in attracting foreign investors to set up businesses in the service sector of an economy, which could be a potential area of growth in Brunei as it strives to diversify its economy away from the oil and gas sector.

“The ASEAN region attracted more than US$140 billion ($197 billion) in foreign direct investments (FDIs) last year, nearly 70 per cent of which went to the service sector into businesses providing backroom support services,” he said.

“If you look at countries who have been beneficiaries of such FDIs into the backroom support industry such as Philippines, India or Ireland, they were earmarked due to the availability of workers who could fluently communicate in English... something that can be seen in Brunei as well,” he said.

Dr Surin went on to praise the continued efforts of the Brunei-US English-Language Enrichment programme for ASEAN in building the English language capacity amongst ASEAN member states.

The programme is funded by the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

“Communities in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar are already benefitting from the training and teaching provided by the programme which will help develop the human resources of these communities,” he said.

“Even my old _madrassa _in my hometown is a beneficiary to the efforts of the programme and we have to thank the efforts of both the Bruneian government and the Fulbright Institute in the US for that,” he said.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, who now lectures as an emeritus professor at Thammasat University in Thailand, was in the sultanate yesterday to deliver a special public lecture entitled ‘The ASEAN Community and Its Unique Cultural Diversity’ at UBD.

The lecture was co-organised by the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies, the Institute of Asian Studies and the Institute for Policy Studies at UBD.

The Brunei Times