More early childhood care and education teachers needed
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE lack of early childhood care and education (ECCE) trained teachers, especially in private schools, is a cause for concern for the sultanate.
Brunei has been providing ECCE for the development of its children through concerted efforts and initiatives between three ministries, but recent statistics highlight the pressing need to provide more training for teachers.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) told The Brunei Times in an email interview that it is an on-going process to have more specialised teachers and professionals.
Former Education Minister Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong, at last year’s Legislative Council meeting, said that the government planned to offer Bruneians early childhood education for children under five years old.
He added that MoE would be improving its schools’ facilities, and that the construction of new primary schools would include amenities for early childhood education.
The issue of early childhood education programmes had been raised by Belait district LegCo representative, Yang Berhormat Hj Mohd Shafiee Ahmad, who noted that early education was essential and an ‘investment’ to the nation.
The Brunei Darussalam Education for All 2015 National Review states that the ECCE Unit was set up in June 2010 to support the Ministry of Education’s national agenda of investing in early childhood education.
According to the MoE, ECCE covers medical, developmental and educational services for children at their most crucial stage of growth and development: from birth up to the age of six.
The ECCE comprises services and programmes provided by the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the MoE, as well as private non-government institutions.
ECCE Education Officer Ermawaty Yacub said these agencies mainly provide the following services: child health services, private child care centres, public preschool and private preschool.
The MoH provides health services for children aged five and below, including child health services, school health services and child therapeutic interventions.
The MCYS is responsible for the running of private child care centres for children from birth to three years old, while the MoE is in charge of preschool care and education at government schools for those aged five years and below, and those aged between three and five at private schools.
According to statistics from the JPKE, 13,095 out of an estimated total of 24,962 children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in government and private preschools in 2012.
Government preschool provision begins at the age of five, while private preschool provision covers children aged three to six.
The MoE said almost all children who attended preschool programmes successfully progressed to Year 1.
According to statistics from MoE, only 36 per cent or about 89 of 247 preschool teachers were trained in ECCE in 2012.
The MoE said since then, the total number of teachers had decreased due to teachers retiring or furthering their studies.
Latest statistics dated December 2015 showed that of the 184 government preschool teachers in 2015, only 82 were certified to teach ECCE.
In addition, only 49 preschool teachers were certified to teach in the Brunei-Muara district while 25 teachers were certified in the Tutong district, three in the Belait district and only five teachers were qualified to teach students under the age of five in Temburong district.
Figures for private schools this year showed that 95 per cent or 448 out of 473 teachers are not qualified to teach ECCE.
This shows that more teachers in the private sector need to be trained in ECCE so the education ministry’s goal to provide greater access to ECCE in Brunei can be achieved.
In contrast, the UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE) 2006 report on Singapore’s ECCE programmes, indicated that out of 5,213 teachers at childcare centres, 4,170 were trained. Out of 3,775 teachers in kindergarten, 2,910 were trained.
According to the 2006 report, there are two main sectors of ECCE for young children in Singapore.
Childcare centres provide care and education for children aged two to six.
Kindergartens provide preschool education for children aged four to six and these are private education institutions that have to be registered with the city-state’s MoE.
As part of Brunei’s MoE’s initiative in raising the quality of preschool education in the sultanate, Ermawaty said the ministry is developing its National Quality Framework for ECCE.
She added that the framework seeks to improve the quality of care and development provided for young children.
Improvements in ECCE school facilities
Ermawaty said three primary schools, including preschools, have undergone renovation on their building to suit MoE’s goals in improving ECCE in Brunei.
According to the education officer, Mulaut Primary School, Pusar Ulak Primary School and Kebun Primary School have undergone renovations.
She added that one primary school – the Katok B Primary School in the Brunei-Muara district – was also established in 2015/2016 to provide greater access to ECCE.
Facilities in these schools include children-sized toilets, information technology rooms, special buildings for preschoolers, kitchens, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor spaces.
As LegCo proceedings are about to start, it remains to be seen whether the concern over the lack of teachers trained in ECCE will be brought up.
The Brunei Times