Teaching in Brunei FAQ

Teaching in Brunei FAQ

Living in Brunei

Where is Brunei?

While many people believe that Brunei is in the Middle East as it is a small oil-rich Muslim state, it is actually situated in Southeast Asia on the Northeast coast of the island of Borneo, 450 KM north of the Equator. Brunei is divided into two separate sections and is totally surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

What is the environment like in Brunei?

The country has a lush, green, leafy feel to it that many people find very attractive, and the amount of flora and fauna is one of the many appealing aspects of life in Brunei. Most people tend to live on or near the coast, as the rest of the country is mostly primary or secondary rainforest. Despite the enormous amount of development which has taken place over the last ten years, there are still very large areas of untouched jungle, as there has been little or no extensive logging and there is not really any heavy industry. The oil industry is concentrated on the southwest coast and does not have a serious degrading effect on the environment. Because of the small population, the towns are not crowded. Thus, much of the country is in pristine condition.

What is the social scene like in Brunei?

Brunei is a Muslim country, therefore Western style nightlife is limited and there are no official pubs or nightclubs. However, the lack of such establishments means that people tend to organize more events and parties themselves. There are a number of clubs and societies one can join to meet people, cinemas showing the latest Hollywood blockbusters, and several restaurants in various price ranges. As well, it is easy to cross the border into Malaysia, where one can visit bars and nightclubs. The border is not usually more than an hour’s drive away. In general, Brunei is a more family-oriented place with many events revolving around children’s activities. However, many single teachers find that they can socialize with other singles and go into the neighbouring states quite easily, making Brunei quite liveable for everyone.

Are there many travel opportunities for teachers in Brunei?

During vacation time, teachers in Brunei can spend their holidays in various places throughout Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Many teachers take the opportunity to visit Australia and New Zealand, while adventurous types may go farther afield to China or India. It is also fairly easy to travel around Borneo by car, plane or boat.

Is there much crime in Brunei?

Although not crime-free, the crime rate is much lower in Brunei than in Western societies. There is little or no street crime; burglaries are quite rare. It is advised that teachers exercise the same caution as they would in any location. Overall, though, teachers find that Brunei is a very safe place to live, and many prefer the idea of their children growing up in Brunei.

What is the cost of living in Brunei?

In general, teachers find that the cost of living in Brunei is much lower than what they have been used to at home.

How easy is it to buy a car in Brunei?

There is a very large second-hand car market in Brunei, with a wide range of mostly Japanese and other Asian models available. Teachers receive an interest-free B$10,000 car loan upon arrival (paid off over 10 or 20 months). It is still very much a buyer’s market, with price haggling expected. Traffic is quite light in Brunei, unlike most other Asian countries. Apart from certain times of the day, such as when schools finish, traffic tends to flow freely. Roads are generally very good, although in more remote areas they can occasionally be in a poorer state of repair.

What is the electricity supply like in Brunei?

The standard electricity supply in Brunei is 220-240 volts. Plugs are of the 3 prong variety, the same as in the UK. Adapters for other plugs are easy to find. Power outages happen occasionally, in some areas more than others, but usually not for more than a couple of hours.

Where do dependants attend school?

There are two excellent options for expatriate children. Firstly, there is the International School Brunei, where most teachers send their children. Established over 30 years ago, the school follows the UK National Curriculum from Kindergarten up to GCSE and the International Baccalaureate program for years 12 and 13. Teachers at the International School Brunei are mostly UK or Australia trained. Teachers in Brunei will receive an education allowance, assisting with school fees for up to two children. Teachers will need to pay the initial entrance fee to the school for each child. The second option is the Jerudong International School. This school was established in the mid-1990s and also offers the UK National Curriculum through to A Level. The buildings are extensive and purpose-built, and facilities are excellent. Once again, the education allowance makes a considerable contribution towards the cost of education at JIS but, as the fees are quite a bit more than ISB, teachers choosing this option will have to make up the difference themselves.

What are sports facilities like in Brunei?

Nearly every sport is available in Brunei. Popular options include tennis, swimming, scuba diving, squash, football, rugby, and golf. Sporting facilities are typically modern, well-resourced, and fairly inexpensive.

Teaching in Brunei - Salaries and Benefits

How much can a teacher save in Brunei?

Teaching in Brunei offers teachers great savings potential as there is no income tax. Teachers will receive the quoted salary with no deductions. In addition, teachers will receive two months’ salary per year of service upon contract completion. Teachers will also receive housing assistance and allowances. The amount teachers can save in Brunei will depend upon personal spending habits. Teachers with modest spending habits are able to save about half of their earnings since many expenses are covered.

What are teachers' accommodations like in Brunei?

In general, teachers in Brunei live in houses which are much larger than what they may be used to in their own country, though it should be noted that houses can vary a lot from one district of Brunei to another. Rental costs have decreased considerably in recent years, and very favourable rates can be negotiated. Teachers in Brunei will be offered an excellent standard of living. Teachers who travel with family members will usually live in large detached houses with gardens. Single teachers are able to live in similar accommodations, but may prefer to live in smaller accommodations and save the housing allowance surplus. Basic furnishings are provided for teachers in Brunei, and some landlords provide extras such as TVs and washing machines.

Do teaching jobs in Brunei provide health insurance?

Teachers in Brunei and dependants aged 12 and above receive treatment in government clinics at a nominal cost. For those under 12 years old, treatment in government facilities is free. The standard of care in Brunei is very good. For other types of insurance, several major international companies are represented in Brunei. House insurance is easy to obtain at very competitive rates. Car insurance is also reasonably inexpensive and companies will often honour an existing no-claims bonus from outside Brunei.

When and how are teacher salaries in Brunei paid?

Teaching salaries in Brunei are paid directly into teachers’ bank accounts before the end of every month. Teachers' salaries are paid in Brunei dollars, which are pegged to the Singapore dollar. The Brunei dollar has remained relatively stable throughout the economic crises of recent years.

How flexible are the teaching contract terms in Brunei?

Once a contract is signed, the teacher is then legally bound to complete the contract. Additionally, once a contract is signed, the employer is legally bound to honour the terms of the contract.

Work Environment when Teaching in Brunei

What subjects will I teach in Brunei?

Foreign teachers are recruited as teachers of English (EFL/ESL), although some occasionally teach other subjects. This may happen in primary schools, but would be rare in secondary schools. Other subjects are taught by local teachers or expatriates directly employed by the government.

What are the students in Brunei like?

Most of the students in Brunei public schools are Malay Muslims, but there are also quite a large number of Chinese students who may be Bruneian citizens or permanent residents of Brunei. In terms of ability and motivation there is quite a wide range, from highly motivated students with almost native-speaker English language competence to the disaffected and unmotivated students with very little English speaking ability. As in any country, discipline problems do exist, although they tend to be born of frustration and manifest themselves more in lethargy than in confrontation.

What resources are available for teachers?

In three of the four districts of Brunei, there are education centres, with an extensive stock of books, magazines, and videos as well as photocopying facilities. Each teacher has an annual photocopying allowance. When comparing schools, resources may vary greatly.

What is an average teacher’s workload like in Brunei?

At the primary level, teachers can expect a classroom timetable of approximately 15 contact hours. A recent change in government policy requires that all primary teachers participate in extracurricular activities and clubs twice per week. Each of these sessions lasts 3 hours. A normal teaching workload at the secondary level is typically about 12-16 contact hours a week, or 24-32 teaching periods. Teachers can teach up to a maximum of 6 periods in any single day. Additionally, secondary teachers are required to be in school for an additional 4.5 hours per week. This time is set aside for clubs, extra classes, and meetings. For those teachers on the afternoon shift this can mean they are expected to be in school on Friday mornings once or twice per month for extension activities or extra lessons. Periodically throughout the year all teachers will be expected to attend school functions on Fridays or Sundays. These events can include sports days, teacher parent interviews and other whole school events.

What are the extracurricular activities like?

This depends very much on what teachers can offer to students, but can involve any number of sports, English quizzes, jungle walks, drama productions, and school publications. Teachers are expected to participate in extracurricular activities on a regular basis as part of normal school duties.

What opportunities are there for involvement in materials development?

There are many opportunities for teachers to participate in materials development. Teachers are often involved in revisions of the textbooks, as the schools have very close links with Macmillan Publishers in the UK.

What opportunities exist for Professional Development?

Teachers have the opportunity to take the Cambridge ESOL In-service Certificate in ELT, as well as various computer courses, and Malay Language lessons. There is also the possibility of financial assistance for teachers who wish to undertake further study by distance learning, such as a Master’s degree or post-graduate certification courses.

How many teachers are teaching in Brunei with this program?

Currently, there are 75 primary teachers and 190 secondary teachers in Brunei.

How are the schools organized?

The structure of any school will depend on its size. In primary schools, teachers report to a Head Teacher, who is usually assisted by a Deputy. Secondary schools are usually run by a Bruneian Principal, who is assisted by two Deputy Principals. Although some teachers in this program are Heads of Departments in secondary schools, or hold another similar administrative role, there is less possibility of career progression in an individual school than teachers might expect at home. However, teachers who successfully complete a contract in Brunei are in a great position to take on other international teaching posts, some with more opportunity for advancement.

How big are the schools?

Primary schools usually have a school population of 300-400 students, although some have as few as 100, or as many as 1000. Some secondary schools have over 2000 students, often split into two shifts. However, most have an average of 1500 students. It should be noted that teachers could be posted by the ministry to any school, on either a morning or an afternoon shift. Obviously, a teacher’s family circumstances are taken into account wherever possible.

How many foreign teachers are in each school?

In primary schools, there is usually only one foreign teacher, who may also be the only expatriate in the school. In secondary schools there can be up to 10 or 11 foreign teachers.


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