Interview: Pehin Dato Abu Bakar Apong
How is the use of technology in the classroom being promoted through initiatives such as e-Hijrah?
PEHIN DATO ABU BAKAR APONG: The e-Hijrah scheme is one of seven programmes that the Ministry of Education (MoE) has outlined as areas of focus toward the achievement of the National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21). These projects, e-Hijrah included, were identified through extensive research as well as dialogue with various players and stakeholders in the nation’s education sector. As a result of our efforts, e-Hijrah is part of our five-year ICT development programme and its main purpose is to demonstrate how ICT can be an enabler to education and the learning process. To outline and implement this initiative, we pooled the opinions of all relevant parties, including school administrators, heads of department and ICT teachers, to design a plan, and through this process we have come up with a multitude of applications. As ICT is a constantly evolving field, we also continuously review our programmes to ensure their continued relevance.
In order for e-Hijrah to be properly implemented, there needs to be a culture change emanating from the MoE itself. To date we have been successful in introducing technology to the classroom for the benefit of both students and teachers. As the MoE alone cannot develop all of the technology and software necessary, there is potential for local ICT entrepreneurs, which is already happening with the development of the Media In-Service Centre and programmes such as the one undertaken by the Brunei Economic Development Board and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) to develop entrepreneurship on the campus.
In what ways is the transformation of technical and vocational education in the Sultanate helping to better identify and satisfy industries’ needs?
PEHIN DATO ABU BAKAR: The transformation of Brunei Darussalam’s technical and vocational education system is in line with the goals set out by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, as well as being a core pillar of SPN21. The main aim is to identify the employment needs of various industries, as in the past graduates were not always well qualified to meet them. Another goal is to change the perception among the public that technical education is secondary to academic education.
For this purpose, we at the MoE have worked very closely with other government bodies, including the Energy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office, to properly respond to the demand for manpower in the oil and gas sector. We have expanded the number of programmes we offer so that student, both with O-level credentials and without, can have tailored technical educations that result in guaranteed job placement. Given our success in the oil and gas sector, we are now looking to implement similar changes in other industries, such as construction and hospitality, but will obviously require the full support and cooperation of the relevant ministries and agencies to be effective. I can safely say our efforts have resulted in a workforce with improved employability prospects.
On what areas are Brunei Darussalam’s universities now focusing to achieve a higher standard?
PEHIN DATO ABU BAKAR: UBD’s inclusion in the QS World University Rankings for the Asian region is an important step and reflects a long-term drive toward achieving a global standard. It sets an example that can be studied and emulated by other universities in the country as they can identify specific strengths to capitalise on. Some key areas in which the Sultanate’s universities continue to improve include better studentto-teacher ratios, more foreign students and increased opportunities for local students to go abroad. Initiatives whereby students can take years abroad or undertake innovative or community service programmes help to develop the personalities of our graduates, as employers are increasingly looking at personal abilities and talents apart from good qualifications. Facilitating all of these elements is critical to the development of Brunei Darussalam’s universities to meet a higher standard.
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