A life in teaching on the other side of the world

28 Apr 22
Seven young children sitting in a classroom

What is your role?

I am the Deputy Country Manager for CfBT Education (part of Education Development Trust) in Brunei and I have been in post since January 2022. I lead the English Language Teaching Project which employs 200 native English-speaking teachers in most of the government’s 150 schools. About a third of our teachers are from the UK and a similar number from South Africa. The remaining third is made up of teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

CfBT are contracted by the Ministry of Education, not only to place teachers in schools but also to ensure the professional development of both ex-pat and local English teachers. A key aspect of our work is ensuring an enduring positive legacy in Brunei, so capacity-building within the system is vital. The team here also ensures that our work is evidence-based, so embedding research into our practice is fundamental. We are currently undertaking an evaluation of a large-scale ‘lesson study’ project involving 400 teachers, as well as research into a 4 – 18 vocabulary syllabus. However, my favourite part of the job is visiting schools and seeing the incredible impact our teachers have on the pupils.

Where is Brunei?

Brunei is on the tropical island of Borneo in South-East Asia. It borders Malaysia and is very close to Indonesia. Places like the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are only a couple of hours away.

It is a tiny country of only 440,000 people so it is definitely like living in a village nation – everyone knows everyone else! However it is a beautiful country and nowhere is very far away. We have been able to go hiking in the jungle most weekends, as well as walks on the beach. We have been involved in the Chinese new year celebrations and the national day parade with the Sultan. Currently it is the holy month of Ramadan. Soon people here will be celebrating Hari Raya (Eid) which is a time of giving thanks and festivities.

How did you prepare yourself for this role?

I qualified to teach nearly 20 years ago and after working in several Hampshire schools, I moved into the Hampshire advisory service, specializing as a language consultant in primary and secondary schools across the county. Whilst I love teaching, I also really enjoy working with teachers to reflect and develop their practice. This led naturally to a career in initial teacher education for the next ten years. Working for CfBT has been an exciting change to work within a different education system and with teachers from all over the world. This is such a unique educational environment and one where we can learn so much from one another.

Have there been any challenges?

Yes – it is not simple to uproot your whole family to the other side of the world, especially during Covid-19 times. Between August 2021 and April 2022, the primary schools were shut and only teaching online. Consequently, I have been managing a remote workforce and my children have only just entered their school for the first time this week after being here for four months – this has been a real challenge for us all. Learning the etiquette of how to do business in Brunei has also been a steep learning curve.

Would you recommend other alumni undertaking a similar challenge?

Yes, definitely! For all of its challenges, this will be one of the most impactful and memorable times in my entire career. I work with people from all over the world and I will have opportunities for personal growth and development that I would never have had elsewhere. My children go to an international school and they are developing friendships with people from many different nationalities, cultures and religions. They are beginning to understand their own cultures more through the contrast and are developing a much broader perspective on life. I would definitely recommend grasping international opportunities when they come along – life is too short to pass them by: “The danger of adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort.” ― Paulo Coel

CFBT are currently recruiting for Native English-speaking primary and secondary teachers with at least three years’ experience. Please visit https://careers.cfbt.org/vacancies/vacancy-search-results.aspx or contact Louise to find out more: email lpagden@cfbt.org

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