Religious studies compulsory for all Muslim students
Aziz Idris

A new Education Order will come into effect January 1, 2013 as His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to enact the "Compulsory Religious Education Order 2012", which focuses on religious studies to be made compulsory for all Muslim students in the country.

His Majesty made the announcement in his titah yesterday during the 22nd Teacher's Day celebration at the International Convention Centre in Berakas.

The monarch said he was confident that with the enforcement of the new order "Insha Allah, not one Muslim child in this country will be left out from understanding the basic Islamic knowledge. There would also be no one who will not know how to perform prayer or read the Quran".

His Majesty explained that in education, there are two fundamental elements - religion and general (studies) - whereby people so often prioritise only general (studies) and forget the religious aspect.

The ruler said it is regrettable for the country not to have a compulsory religious educational system even after almost 50 years.

His Majesty then highlighted current issues, the development of primary and secondary education before zeroing in on the progress of technical education.

With regards to development in primary and secondary education, the ruler said, "In my observation, and from results gathered from my working visits to government schools (primary and secondary), students' proficiency in Mathematics and English subjects, although progressing steadily, still has room for improvement.

"This is important, since the basic level of proficiency acts as a strong base for students to continue their studies in secondary level or higher."

In view of this, efforts must be intensified to overcome the shortages of local teachers who teach both - Mathematics and Language, pointed the ruler.

But when the ruler said 'language', it is not limited to merely 'English' but also 'Malay'. His Majesty said he heard rumours that exami-nation marks in the Malay Language tend to be lower than that of English Language.

"If the rumours are true, then why the Malay Language is not strengthened?" asked His Majesty. "Remember, language is the soul of the nation."

His Majesty then spelt out some initiatives that are being actively pursued by the Ministry of Education in order to enhance education through international best practices including the implementation of projects such as the Model Schools and Learning Educators Advancing Pedagogy for 21st Century (LEAP21).

Some of the salient aspects of the Model Schools include the autonomy in administrative management, the relationship with the community, changes in school culture, and capacity building for teachers. These are among the best practices that have been initiated, said the ruler.

His Majesty expressed his hope that these initiatives will help students excel in their respective fields.

The monarch then moved onto the progress that has been achieved in field of technical education whereby an in-depth research is currently under way and will be examined before its implementation.

"A strategic plan should be developed for the purpose of achieving the technical education. This includes, if necessary, direct involvement by the industry and operators to enable them to share their experience and expertise," suggested the ruler.

His Majesty called on the Ministry of Education to look at service scheme for technical education and provide innovation to enable the workforce in this industry to become instructors in technical education institutions, either part-time or full-time.

His Majesty then commended the aptness of this year's theme 'Quality Teachers Innovative Learners'. "The theme clearly states that the capacity of teachers that is required and their role in producing students who are more progressive.

"In my opinion, the quality of teachers matters in various subjects and they should lead by example for students to emulate. They should possess sincere attitude and be efficient and rich in knowledge in educating students to become knowledgeable."

In conjunction with the Teacher's Day celebration, His Majesty also extended his appreciation to all teachers in the country. "Hopefully, the celebration can continuously ignite the passion among teachers in contributing their service as educators."

His Majesty also took the opportunity to acknowledge the involvement of all students from both public and private schools under the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religious Affairs for the 66-time Khatam Al-Quran, especially dedicated to His Majesty for his 66th birthday celebration last July.

Such an activity, according to His Majesty, will help produce role models who are both knowledgeable and faithful to the religion. - Borneo Bulletin (25 September 2012)