Brunei Education

Although formal education is not compulsory in Brunei, the country enjoys a literacy rate of around 93 percent in adults and 99 percent in children. Education is free for all citizens, heavily subsidized by substantial funding averaging at nine percent of the national budget per year. Any child aged five years or older is offered free government schooling. Everything is covered by the government including tuition, textbooks, supplies, food, transportation and even accommodation for students who come from rural areas. Even if a student is not a citizen of Brunei, they need only pay a small fee for secondary tuition.

The state also helps subsidize several non-government schools if they meet certain requirements. Only three percent of primary school-age children do not attend school. Around 52 percent of young children are enrolled in preprimary schools, and 94 percent of children are enrolled in primary school, with a 100 percent completion rate for primary education. Around 90 percent of children attend secondary school, although five percent more girls than boys are enrolled. At the university level, only 15 percent of students attend. Nearly four times more women than men receive degrees from university.

History of Education

The education philosophy in Brunei’s government schools is based on the corresponding national philosophy of a Malay Islamic monarchy. In addition to classic reading, mathematics and science skills, students are taught a curriculum which incorporates the elements of naqli (study of the Koran) and aqli (reasoning). Thus, although the education system in Brunei has openly Islamic principals, it is similar in many ways to traditional Western education.

The two underlying Islamic elements are believed to produce citizens who are both knowledgeable and skilled, as well as pious and loyal to the monarchy of Brunei. The sense of a national identity is heavily infused into the practical aspects of students’ education from primary level all the way through to university. Brunei’s modern education system is relatively new, and the Ministry of Education strives to provide the highest possible education to produce citizens who are committed and able to contribute to the future growth, prosperity and stability of Brunei.

The Ministry of Education reviews its education system every year in order to keep up with the demands and changes of the nation and world. It also seeks to develop each child’s individual abilities to their fullest. The ministry is currently implementing a 10-year strategic objective that began in 2006 with the objective of prioritizing human resource development. The aim of this agenda is to help Brunei meet its own workforce needs and be as self-sufficient as possible. Yet, as always, the system also maintains the need to infuse strong Islamic moral values into its students.

The ministry is in the process of making education compulsory for every child, with seven years of primary and five years of secondary education. The bilingual policy, started in 1984, encourages each child to learn both Malay and English. This shows an understanding of the need to be able to compete in the global market.