I am currently into my third year of teaching in Brunei. I’ve enjoyed the overall experience of teaching in Brunei so much that decided to renew my contract and extend my stay. Since taking up a teaching job at a local secondary school I’ve had a very positive experience; my employer is supportive, the school facilitates a good working environment and the students are a pleasure to teach. Prior to this I spent 18 months in the UAE working as a primary school teacher in Al Ain. My wife has been with me in both postings.
In Brunei I teach English to second language learners whereas in the UAE I taught English, Maths & Science.
From my personal experiences teaching in Brunei, working in a classroom here is far more manageable and enjoyable than it was in the UAE. For a starter, Bruneian students are respectful and generally well-behaved. They greet the teacher, listen and usually will work on-task either individually or in groups. With guidance from the teacher they will endeavor to complete their tasks to their best ability and in a timely manner. Some students will excel and some will find the work challenging, but they will try. Overall during an English lesson in a Bruneian school, the students will always do their best while showing respect and good manners.
In the UAE I found nearly every lesson required immense classroom management from the teacher. You find yourself utilizing a bank of strategies to maintain an effective learning environment – but usually to no avail. Essentially, from my experiences many students lack the self-control needed to focus on learning English, Maths & Science. There are a myriad of reasons that hinder their desire to learn, from low-English ability to destructive behavior patterns. Now, not all of the students are unteachable – some are most respectful and willing to learn. Sadly they are in the minority. From my personal observations and the feedback shared with me by colleagues in the UAE, fooling around and fighting is an everyday fact in most classrooms and in most schools.
Life outside of school is thrilling and exciting in the UAE. The holidays are great and a trip to a nice hotel in Abu Dhabi or Dubai will usually allow a stressed teacher time to recover and build up stamina to meet the school and students head on with a renewed vigor. Unfortunately the reality is that you need at be very thick-skinned to survive as a teacher in the UAE. I admire those that have mastered it.
Living in Brunei is quiet and peaceful. I like that most of the time. Socializing with fellow expats is a healthy break from teaching. School holidays are generous in Brunei allowing for short trips outside of Brunei to nearby Malaysia or even further abroad where incredible destinations in Southeast Asia await. Classes and teaching in Brunei runs Monday to Thursday plus Saturdays. Fridays and Sundays are your days off. After a short adjustment period the split work week just became the norm and it doesn’t bother most me or most of my colleagues.
I will always be thankful for the opportunity to teach in the UAE, however I am so glad that I am now teaching in Brunei where the classroom functions, students participate and I can do what I enjoy most – teaching!
By: Steve Clark
English Teacher at SMPAPHRSB Lumut, Brunei Darussalam
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