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Meet Greg, the Country Manager for CfBT Brunei

Greg_Keaney_Prof2What do you do?

I am the Country Manager for CfBT here in Brunei. I look after the educational side of our work here and ensure that we continue to provide world class education to all the students we teach.  

For those unfamiliar with CfBT's role in Brunei, give us the overview of the local organisation.

The main focus of CfBT's work in Brunei is on the recruitment and management of teachers of English to work in government schools. CfBT is contracted to employ over 250 teachers at Primary and Secondary level. In addition to the work in government schools, CfBT in Brunei also offers various courses and programmes such as personal enrichment and leadership courses, language and computer classes and teacher development courses such as the Cambridge In-Service Certificate in English Language Teaching (ICELT).  CfBT also works in partnership with the Ministry of Education, local companies and organisations such The Brunei English Language Teachers' Association (BELTA) to organise events such as conferences and national competitions such as Wordplay. We are also involved in the development and publication of teaching materials for use in Bruneian schools. 

How has CfBT impacted the local curriculum?  

CfBT has been in Brunei for more than 25 years. The role of our partnership with the Ministry of Education has grown and developed throughout that time. There have been significant improvements in the achievements of students at O level examinations through the combined efforts of CfBT and Bruneian English language teachers. In 2010 more than 30% of students received a Credit in O level English. Fifteen years earlier only 7% of students achieved this important result. Brunei is a world leader in the provision of English language education in the early years of Primary school. Students with this strong foundation in English will continue to raise the Bruneian achievement in English language examinations.

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What have been some of the highlights of CfBT's journey in Brunei from the early years (pre-1995) and from the recent past (post 1995)?  

Prior to 1995 CfBT assisted in the development of textbooks and teaching materials in government schools as well as working closely with students to improve their performance in English. In 1988 CfBT devised its own advanced course for experienced practitioners, validated by Cambridge as the Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Primary / Secondary Level. More than 150 teachers successfully completed this programme over the following decade. In 1992 CfBT also gained approval to run the Cambridge Certificate for teachers earlier in their careers. More than 200 teachers gained that qualification. This ensured that CfBT teachers delivered the highest possible standard of education to students in Brunei.

Since 1995 CfBT has continued its tradition of providing excellent education through the development of teachers. In 2004 CfBT piloted the new Cambridge ICELT programme which has become increasingly popular with our teachers. We have worked together with local organisations in the hosting of important conferences that bring together professionals from around the region. We have continued to produce teaching and learning resources that help to stimulate students and motivate them to improve their English. We assist the Ministry of Education in their professional development programmes for English teachers. In recent years we have also focused on ensuring that student assessment information is used to help each and every student achieve their potential.
 

Is the English language really all that important? Why?  

There are a wide range of opinions about this. I believe it is important to separate the cultural and the communicative sides of the English language. The key importance of English in the Bruneian education system is its role as an international language. In order to access and exchange the greatest amount of information English has become the new ‘lingua franca’. In Asia, the real value of English is to be able to communicate with other people from non-English speaking countries and to be able to access the most up-to-date technical, industrial and scientific information. I believe that Brunei has an excellent balance between the protection of Malay and other local languages combined with the advantages of learning English. To be bilingual is a wonderful achievement, to be a bilingual nation is absolutely remarkable. All Bruneians should be proud of their achievements in this area. 

How have teaching methods evolved over the past 10 years? Do students learn differently now as compared to 10 - 20 years ago?  

The key ingredient in successful teaching is relationships. Teachers who can build positive relationships with their students will always be effective. The most significant trend in education over the past 20 years has been the movement from ‘teacher-centred’ to ‘student-centred’ classes. This essentially means that students should be doing more and teachers should see themselves in the role of ‘facilitators’. Compared to most countries in the region Brunei is very advanced in this area. CfBT Brunei is part of CfBT Education Trust which is one of the largest non-profit private educational organisations in the world. CfBT Education Trust is a leading researcher of educational practice and their research informs all of our activities here.

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How do people interested in teaching in Brunei contact the CfBT?  

CfBT teachers in Brunei come from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and South Africa. People who are interested in working for us usually contact us through our website. Often they have heard about Brunei from friends or relatives. Most CfBT teachers love living and working in Brunei and share this love with their friends. In fact we have even had the children of some of our original teachers a generation ago return here to teach. The recruitment process is very strict. The Ministry of Education and CfBT insist that all teachers who come to work in Brunei are qualified and experienced. Typically teachers have to have qualified teacher status in their own countries and have five or more years of experience as a teacher of both English and English as a foreign language. People can find out lots more at our website: www.cfbt.org

What would you say to the educator outside of Brunei who is considering Brunei as a work / life option?
 

I would say that Brunei is a fantastic place to live and work. It best suits educators who are passionate about what they do and who really value the opportunity to be a part of one of the most exciting educational projects in the world. Being a teacher is more than just a job. For many of our teachers Brunei offers an excellent lifestyle combined with the opportunity to teach motivated students. CfBT has been in Brunei for more than 25 years and is a caring and committed employer. Our website includes lots of testimonials (see link) from our current teachers about their experiences in Brunei so people thinking of coming here can really find out all the details before deciding to move here.

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What are some of the challenges faced by new and current staff?    
Of course moving to a new country brings with it many challenges as well as many rewards. The most significant challenges involve areas such as housing, vehicle purchase and visa issues. CfBT has a very professional organisation to assist new and current teachers in all these areas. Occasionally new teachers misunderstand some aspects of Bruneian culture but the friendliness, hospitality and generosity of Bruneians usually ensures that recent arrivals settle in quickly. Indeed, many of teachers have stayed here for 10, 15 or 20 years – a tribute to Bruneian society which has made us all feel so welcome! 

You have been in Brunei now for over 10 years. Share a few memorable "Bruneian" memories.  

I have so many wonderful Bruneian moments that it is extremely difficult to mention just one or two. Great food, wonderful friends, outstanding colleagues, beautiful scenery, professional opportunities...many, many great moments. I worked for almost 10 years at SM SMJA before becoming the Education Director at CfBT and still feel a part of the SMJA ‘family’. Seeing my former students grown up and some with children of their own always makes me feel very proud. I’ve also enjoyed playing rugby for many years here and have many friends in the rugby community. I was a commentator at an international rugby tournament at Belapan Stadium when the Brunei team beat Laos in the dying moments of the game. I felt so proud of the national team that night and realised that I felt as ‘Bruneian’ as I do Australian.  Every day here I appreciate the warmth of the people and the peaceful, positive lives they lead. 

What does the future hold for CfBT in Brunei?  

CfBT is committed to our partnership with the Brunei Ministry of Education. In January this year we re-signed an ongoing contract up to 2015 to continue to provide professional English teachers for work in Ministry of Education schools. We have an array of exciting projects coming up including a significant international conference and a range of national competitions for students. We are very interested in promoting the success of the Bruneian education system around the Southeast Asian region. We are always interested in finding new ways to help Brunei continue to grow and prosper and we look forward to continuing our long partnership with the government of Brunei for many years to come.

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Editor’s Note: The first time I took notice of CfBT was after a meeting at Fleur de Lys in Kiarong. I looked across the block and there staring back at me was the CfBT signage. "Must be some sort of educational organisation" I thought. This was back in April this year. Since then I have gotten to know a few expatriate friends who tell similar stories. "I am teacher. CfBT helped get me a job here in Brunei." This sparked my interest; I made a few calls and got connected to Greg Keaney, Country Manager for CfBT Brunei. He proudly shared about CfBT's history and role in Brunei and it is a story I felt had to be shared.

If you are an overseas reader involved in education and are interested in finding out more about life and work here in Brunei, reach CfBT here. 

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." ~ Oscar Wilde

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