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Find out more about life in Brunei as an English Language Teacher.
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ANNA VAN SCHALKWYK

An English teacher in her hometown in South Africa who has previously worked at an International school in Antofagasta, Chile.

Age: 32

Nationality: South African

Home: Uitenhage, South Africa

Has been in Brunei for 1 years.

What do you like most about Brunei?

Brunei is such an easy place to live.  The people are welcoming and friendly and are often eager to include you in the local community.

Please describe where you live.

At present I live in a beautiful, modern 5-bedroom home in Tutong.  My house is next to the Tutong River and I regularly spot crocodiles, monitor lizards, squirrels and birds from my balcony.

Please describe a typical working day.

I prefer to get an early start, so I’m usually in the office by 6:50.  Our staff room gets quite chatty and sociable, so I usually take advantage of the early morning calm to plan my day and catch up on some corrections.
I am assistant class teacher to a Year 8 class, so every other month I am responsible for taking attendance in the morning. This starts at 7:30. Our students then have a 15-minute reading programme from 7:45 to 8:00. The first period starts at 8:00. Periods are 25 minutes long and are usually double or triple sessions. Break time is from 10:10 to 10:35.

This year I teach two Year 7 classes and two Year 8 classes, each with six English periods and one library period per week. The classes range in size and at our school students are grouped per their academic performance. My biggest class has 28 students and the smallest has only 8 students.

The learners are dismissed at 12:30. Teachers are required to do stay backs, so I often stay until about 14:30 to do corrections and planning or to make resources.  Meetings are usually scheduled from 14:00 to 16:00.
The typical day also includes some socializing in our staff room. As I have mentioned before, my colleagues are very chatty and social and we gather every day to share delicious treats for breakfast and lunch.

How does teaching in Brunei compare to home? (e.g. discipline, teaching hours, admin load, etc)

Compared to the South African students that I have taught, the students at my school are well mannered and quite reserved. In my opinion, they are more childlike and innocent.  At first, my students struggled to voice their opinions and think critically about work, but with encouragement and practice they have become more confident to share in class.

Regarding the teaching hours, I prefer Brunei as I have smaller, more manageable classes, and more time for admin.  Before I came to Brunei I was worried about how I would adapt to the split weekend, but I prefer it.  To me, the week feels shorter.  I try to complete all my stay backs early in the week, so unless I have a meeting or training scheduled on a Saturday afternoon, I can leave between 12:30 and 13:00.

What do you do in your free time?

Although many might describe Brunei as a “boring” country, I enjoy the peace and quiet.  I spend my free time cooking at home, socializing with friends, and going on nature walks along the beach or in the jungle.

What do you do in your holidays?

The shorter holidays are great for travelling around South-East Asia.  I have also enjoyed taking road trips to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.  Although the roads are narrow and bumpy, there are some fantastic sights to see in Sabah and Sarawak, and having your own car to explore at your own pace is great.

What would you say to a teacher thinking about Brunei?

I would recommend Brunei to any teachers who would like to live and work in a country that is safe, peaceful and quiet.  People have told me that in Brunei you either get fit or fat, and I think it is true.  Brunei keeps the foodies happy with delicious treats at outdoor markets, cafes and restaurants.  For active individuals and families there are numerous outdoor recreational spaces and activities to enjoy.

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