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Find out more about life in Brunei as an English Language Teacher.
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Primary Teacher

Millie Marriner

As a non-muslim I feel safe, comfortable and accepted wholly by my colleagues and neighbours. You can make a good living, save well and be financially comfortable.

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Secondary Teacher

Anna Van Schalwyk

I would recommend Brunei to any teachers who would like to live and work in a country that is safe, peaceful and quiet.

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Primary Literacy Coach

Cathy Hadfield

We have been living this wonderful life for 7+ years and we still enjoy it. It’s a beautiful safe country and a great place to base yourself for travel and savings.

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Primary Teacher

Alex Theuma

Students are well behaved and my school is very well resourced. On the whole, it is a much easier environment to work in.

MILLIE MARRINER

A single mother who has taught Early Year and Primary level education in rural Victoria, Australia.

Age: 49

Nationality: Australian

Home: Melbourne, Australia

Has been in Brunei for 3 years.

What do you like most about Brunei?

Brunei is a quiet and safe place to live but you can see beautiful things and enjoy many activities outdoors if you choose to. You might get hot but you can enjoy the jungle or beach and spend time with friends without going too far. People are friendly and I like that you can interact with locals through sport etc. You’re not living in an enclosed, gated community. You’re living in Brunei.

Please describe where you live.

I live 300 metres from the beach in Tutong district, in Kampong Sengkarai. I live in a flat now after moving from my first house ‘in town’.  There are other CfBT teachers around to socialise with, or I can walk along the beach road myself. The flat/apartment that I chose has alI that I need. It’s comfortable, cool and is close to shops, a cinema, the beach and other walking/cycling areas.  I drive half an hour to school through a rural area with no traffic. Sometimes I think closer to work would be better but I love living where I do. And fuel is so cheap here

Please describe a typical working day.

Most days I arrive at school at 6.45am, sign in and make a coffee! I teach three year levels in lower primary and so I see each of these classes for an hour every day. All are quite different. I have time to do planning, make or copy worksheets, etc between classes. When the students leave at 12.30pm, my next few hours vary day to day. There are regular staff meetings on Mondays, or Professional Development sessions on Wednesdays. I might have to travel to a school or the CfBT offices for meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan district, or occasionally present a workshop of my own.

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

For me teaching in Brunei means a new focus of teaching English as second Language. I’m one of the lucky ones who have my own classroom so I can set up the space as it suits me and my programme. Compared to my experience in Victorian schools in Australia, I find the overall pressures on my time much less, but we can be called at short notice to attend a meeting or complete tasks like data entry. Luckily we usually have time inside normal working hours to get it done. It is expected that we have up-to-date lesson plans, assessments and other records but as professionals I think that’s all quite reasonable. I’ve found over my three years here that my lessons run more to suit the level my students are working at, rather than meticulously following the programme. Of course, general course outlines are followed, but flexibility and making the programme engaging for the students is really important.

Another big difference is that in Brunei primary schools there’s generally only one foreign teacher per school. All your colleagues will be locals. I actually like this system and really feel part of the Brunei team as opposed to being part of an expat team in a Brunei school.  It’s not always easy, and can have it’s frustrations, but I find if you show a willingness to be part of a team, the local staff will appreciate your efforts.

What do you do in your free time?

I can choose to have a lazy day on the couch, or I can join friends to going walking and exploring. There’s many places nearby that are good for a picnic, a short hike or cycle. Meeting friends for a sunset get- together on the beach is a favourite way to relax on a weekend. I’m not a big shopper but there’s plenty of places to explore, and certainly many great cafes and restaurants. Not so many in Tutong, but Bandar Seri Begawan is not far away. And of course, a quick trip over the border to Miri, Malaysia is good for some of the things missing in Brunei.

What do you do in your holidays?

I love travel so it’s usually straight to the airport for me! Having not travelled in Asia before moving here, I have many places to cross off my list. As a single woman here I can save money each term to enjoy a trip nearby or return home to see family and friends.

Another big difference is that in Brunei primary schools there’s generally only one foreign teacher per school. All your colleagues will be locals. I actually like this system and really feel part of the Brunei team as opposed to being part of an expat team in a Brunei school.  It’s not always easy, and can have it’s frustrations, but I find if you show a willingness to be part of a team, the local staff will appreciate your efforts.

What would you say to a teacher thinking about Brunei?

Don’t listen to all the bad press! I know in Australia the media can beat up a story. As a non-Muslim here I feel safe, comfortable and accepted wholly by my colleagues and neighbours. You can make a good living, save well and be financially comfortable. You can enjoy the surroundings of Borneo but you do need to make an effort to get out and do things. And yes, it’s hot, all the time, so it can put you off being outside. Brunei’s a place for people who love nature and hiking, sailing or cycling. There’s sports groups and gyms to join. You can make your own fun with a BBQ for friends at home.

This is my first foray into international teaching and I’m very happy I made the decision to come.

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.

CATHY HADFIELD

An International Literacy Coach who has been in Brunei for more than 7 years and has experienced teaching primary level education in Whanarei, New Zealand.

Age: Early 40’s

Nationality: New Zealander

Home: Kaitaia, New Zealand

Has been in Brunei for 7+ years.

What do you like most about Brunei?

So many things to choose from, Brunei is fantastic; however, I think number 1 would have to be, having a live-in maid. Most families have domestic help, so when you finish work, you don’t have to then turn around and do all the house work. We have the freedom as parents to still have a social life with a trusted ‘Aunty’ to look after the kids and my husband and I do not argue about who’s doing the ironing.  Secondly would have to be the sunsets, every night is amazing!

Please describe where you live.

We live in Kuala Belait, a small expatriate town with many Shell Oil workers and the British Garrison. Kuala Belait is located at the southern end of Brunei, 1.5hours from Bandar Seri Begawan and very close to the border with Malaysia. Visits to the City of Miri in Malaysia for shopping, restaurants and other supplies are easy.  My family lives in a 4-bedroom house, one back from the beach. Our house is double the size of our home in New Zealand.  We have a fully fenced compound down a quiet simpang (street) with a beautiful tropical garden.  We get monkeys, monitor lizards and hornbills daily in our garden.

Please describe a typical working day.

I am now working as an International Literacy Coach so I leave home around 7am to drive to which of my 3 schools I might be rostered on that day.  I start work at 7:30am, if I am not in a classroom immediately I usually meet with the school principal.  Each day I work with 2 Learning Partners and 1 Local Coach, so I usually attend 2-3 classes a day either modelling lessons or co-teaching.  Between classes I have pre-lesson or post-lesson discussions.  I always make time to meet with my Local Coach to see how their coaching is going, even if I don’t have time to attend one of their classes that day. There is a coffee break from 10:10 – 10:30am with no playground duties.  School finishes at 12:30 pm but I often stay back and meet with Learning Partners for planning meetings or T-Grow discussions.  Technically there is a lunch break from 12:30 – 2 pm but rarely do I take this.  Our official working hours in the afternoons are 2 – 4:30 pm and how this is spent changes each day.  I will be delivering Professional Development 1- 2 afternoons per week, 1-2 afternoons attending PD sessions or meetings myself, usually in Bandar Seri Begawan and on the other 1 – 2 afternoon a week there is always a lot of administration, lesson preparation and development of workshops to be created.  Most evenings I get home between 5 – 6pm.

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

Teaching the main difference between here and New Zealand is obviously teaching in a second language.  The Pra children begin the year with NO English and many tears, so classroom management for the first month can be very challenging. But once that is over and the routines are well in place, the teaching is great.  The behaviour of the children in Brunei across all levels of primary is a lot better than I have ever experienced in Western countries. The children really enjoy coming to English they are enthusiastic to learn and excited about English, especially with a CfBT teacher, they pick up the language quickly.

As a teacher I found the teaching hours, administration and workload a lot less than what I had experienced in NZ, Australia or London.   As an International Coach I believe I am working similar hours that I would be, if I was back in a classroom in NZ.

What do you do in your free time?

Most of my free time revolves around our 2 sons and their after-school activities. They do swimming lessons, rugby, tennis, football and cub scouts.  We go kayaking at the beach, walking in the jungle, swimming at the pool and movies or bowling (which are 1/3 of the price in NZ!) My husband plays a lot of tennis and golf. I play touch rugby, go to the gym and enjoy bushwalking.  We spend lots of time with other families and friends having barbecues or bonfires on the beach. There are lots of large well organised expat social events in Kuala Belait, such as shows, performances and even the annual Highland games, which are always lots of fun!

What do you do in your holidays?

TRAVEL!!! There are so many places nearby to visit and explore.  Air Asia makes travel affordable for everyone. Since living in Brunei we have travelled all around Northern Borneo, Labuan and Kuching. We have also been to Kuala Lumpur several times on route to other destinations in like Penang, Langkawi, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali and Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne on our way back to New Zealand.  Our list for the next two years includes the Philippines, Sri Lanka, China and Japan.

What would you say to a teacher thinking about Brunei?

Do it! For singles of all ages, couples and families it’s amazing. We have been living this wonderful life for 7+ years and we still enjoy it.  It’s a beautiful safe country and a great place to base yourself for travel or savings.   My one piece of advice is to single income families is, do not come with the expectation that your non-working spouse will find work if they are not a teacher, because this rarely happens. For us Brunei has been an awesome experience, which we will continue for a few more years yet. The teaching is rewarding, the local colleagues are kind hearted and friendly, the climate is wonderful! Come and experience Brunei for yourself, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

ALEX THEUMA

A teacher who has experience in teaching aboriginal students in remote central Australia.

Age: 44

Nationality: Australian

Home: Bendigo Victoria, Australia

Has been in Brunei for 13 years.

What do you like most about Brunei?

The time I have with my family and the cost of living!!

Please describe where you live.

After spending 10 years in Temburong, (which we absolutely loved) we needed to transfer to Bandar as children needed to start school. We have been in Bandar now for three year.  Our house is lovely and we are living near ISB international school.  There are many expats around this area.  There is no shortage of shopping complexes and places to eat and thus no need to really go into the heart of the city.

Please describe a typical working day.

Go to work at 6.45am, classes start at 7.30am.  I currently have 2 Pra classes and a Year 1.  So, 3 hours of timetabled contact time a day.  I also support the other English teachers in the school.  I am generally home by 2.30pm unless there is some professional development or staff meeting scheduled.

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

Students are well behaved and my school is very well resourced. Administration is a little more involved here as we must write lesson plans for every lesson. But on the whole, it is a much easier environment to work in.

What do you do in your free time?

These days’ free time is spent with my wife and two boys. We do a lot of swimming, riding our bikes, excursions to beaches and chilling at home in the air-condition on those very hot days :).

What do you do in your holidays?

When our holidays match the international school, we go travelling either back to Australia or around Asia. We have done several road trips around Borneo as a family during the shorter holidays.

What would you say to a teacher thinking about Brunei?

DO IT!!!!!!!!! But make sure it is for you! Do this by talking to existing teachers and doing your research.