The International Research Centre for Youth Futures celebrates the experiences of educators across the globe. We welcome contributions from others. Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Time in Brunei by Dr Brendan Haynes
At the end of 2012, my wife Kylie and I had the opportunity to live and work in Brunei for an initial two year period. After this period if we were deemed suitable and wished to continue, contracts were offered every one or two years. We had discussed this with our daughters and decided to take the positions offered.
The Sultanate of Brunei or Brunei Darussalam –The ‘Abode of Peace’ as it is known, is situated on the island of Borneo on its western side. It is an increasingly conservative Islamic country but one that is very welcoming to westerners. Brunei sits in between two Malaysian territories, Sarawak to its south and Sabah to its north. Geographically, Brunei is tiny. From one end of the country to the other is a journey of about 120 kilometres along the coastal highway. It also has the anomaly of having being split – Temburong, the jungle heart of Brunei has been split from its other main districts due to historical incursion. So, to travel from the main district of Brunei – Muara to Temburong by road, one has to enter and leave Malaysian territory.Brunei is a small place with a population of around 400, 000 people. About a quarter of the population is made up of expats - there is a large Chinese business community who own many of the larger retail stores. Many expats work in education and education services or in the production and exportation of oil and gas. These are predominantly Westerners – British, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians. There is also a large workforce of Filipinos who work as amahs (maids) in predominantly expat households, as well as in service industry jobs. Large numbers of Indians and Indonesians work in these same fields and also as labourers.
Working in Education in Brunei
Kylie and I both worked in the local government system; Kylie in primary education and myself in the secondary system. As part of our contract arrangements with the Educational trust company we worked for, our daughters attended the International School Brunei (ISB). Our stated roles were to explicitly teach English.
After being given an orientation and coming to the realisation we had actually committed to working in Brunei, both of us were appointed to schools. I was posted to Sekolah Menegah Berakas and my wife to Sekolah Rendah Limau Manis.
Kylie had two classes – kindergarten or ‘Pra’ and a Year 1 class. This was a prescriptive English intensive program of 3 hours a day. A phonetically based program was taught to a rigid format. Unlike secondary colleagues, primary teachers were the only expat teachers in their school. Limau Manis was a 5 minute trip to the immigration post at Kuala Lurah - a favoured recreation spot for expats - Malaysia has no bans on drinking alcohol! The perceived distance travelled to work had many of our Bruneian colleagues wondering (and sympathising) aloud about how far Kylie had to go to work - half an hour from the centre of town! Distance is relative and we often stated this to Bruneians giving examples of distances and travel in Australia.
Initially I was given four year 7 classes, known as the lower secondary stream. Classes were streamed from an entrance exam given to students in Year 6. Classes went from ‘A’ the ‘top’ class, to ‘K’ the bottom. Streaming was done on Math and Science but English was an important consideration – the vast majority of students speak very good English.
Bruneian students begin school between 7 and 7:30 in the morning and finish at 12:35. For students up to 14 years of age, attendance at Ugama School (Islamic Religious education) is compulsory. This runs from p.m to 5p.m; a very long day for students.
Face to face teaching times for the week were 7 periods for each class with each period being 25 minutes long plus a double period for sport. All classes were structured into 3 double periods and a single period. The single period usually meant that class members went into the library or reading room. The English reading room, stocked with purchases ordered by the ex pat teaching component of the English staff, was much more eclectic and larger in range than the library. Restrictions and censorship apply to reading materials Bruneians can access. This often resulted in limited choice and older books heavy on prescriptive English text being the stock standard choice for students. Many students preferred to read the local paper – The Brunei Times, which was provided to the school. All classrooms had copies of the Koran for use in the subject Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) and for the general reading of Muslims. Non-Muslims were requested not to touch the Koran.
Curriculum at a secondary level was based on the English system from Year 9 to Year 11. Most average schools only went to Year 11; sixth form colleges existed independently and only took the top students from the top performing schools. (Schools were ranked on performance for O level attainment. Schools had to nominate how many O levels they thought they would achieve). Lower secondary worked towards the Special Provision Exam (SPE) at the end of Year 8. Students, up to this point, did six Brunei Common Assessment Tasks (BCAT’s – which comprised 30% of their total mark). Students were then streamed for Year 9. The streams were basically for O Level, IGCSE and SAP (Special Applied Programs).
Daily life in the classroom
The days were long and hot - nearly every day was in the low thirties and humidity was always around 80-90%. This took a toll on us but also the students. There was a marked change in student performance and attitude between classes before and after break - which occurred at 10am for half an hour.
Teaching was prescriptive and of the ‘chalk and talk’ variety. Students were taught to pass exams and to write compositions -usually letter writing, procedures and narratives, though the Ministry of Education was attempting to change this approach when we left. Teachers – who hadn’t a pay rise in a decade (or longer), were paid on length of service. HR was an abstract concept and could be piecemeal in its approach, with promotions and staff movement happening at arbitrary times regardless of the circumstances individuals were moving from or to.
Organisation was not a strong point; though some meetings and times for meetings were arranged in advance it was also quite common for meetings to be ‘sprung’ on people at the last moment. This could happen at any time and be random. The same could apply to travel for events – buses may or may not arrive, sometimes more than needed, sometimes less. Reasons for these actions were often not forthcoming, The locals seemed to accept this reality.
One other reality we found difficult as westerners was the split weekend. The weekend in Brunei was Friday and Sunday – Saturday was a work day, though people left as soon as able on a Saturday.
Religious aspects to schooling were entwined with all aspects of its delivery. Assemblies, observation of Eid, Ramadan, Hari Raya and other special occasions were observed with prayer sessions. Meetings were in a combination of Malay and English. Holidays – of which there were many one off days, were sometimes changed with minimal notice.
Schools often were involved in interschool sports days, debating, public speaking and initiatives like school cleaning campaigns. International Teachers’ Day was an example of a big event where prizes of up to $10000 were bestowed on recipients. Schools chose the staff who would attend; no refusal allowed. Prizes were awarded on behalf of his Majesty, the Sultan, who is revered by Bruneians.
Whilst we found aspects of teaching confronting in terms of organization, curriculum and pedagogical approach it would be unfair to compare teaching and associate expectations with home. The people of Brunei are kind, shy, very welcoming and proud of their country. The cost of living is very low and life can be quite comfortable. The heat you adapt to though it is sapping and showers are frequent!
As ex pats we enjoyed our experience, even when it was hard - as it can be for ex pats, it was always interesting. We have made many great friends and know that the experience has changed us and enriched us for the better.
Map source: http://edugeography.com/content/brunei.html
Teaching and living in Korea by Dr Joanne Yoo
Looking back I realise a few things about teaching in Korea. Not only was it a time where I discovered a lot about myself, but it was also the time I wrote endlessly about new possibilities and challenges. I worked in the English language and literacy centre at a Korean university with my colleagues who were all from North America. A fraction of the staff had a Korean heritage background like me.
I left for Korea in my early twenties and taught there for seven years. My first teaching placement was at a university in a regional district in the south-east peninsula; it was a five hour drive from the capital city, Seoul. I was young and foolish and had gone to a place with no family and friends. My mind was alive with thoughts of adventure and escape and I longed to be free of my life in Australia. My journey ended up being a compromise; my father agreed to let me work abroad only if I return to my country of birth. Happily untethered, my life in Korea resounded deeply with lyrics of a song that a Korean student had shared.
Maybe my foolishness has passed
and maybe not at last,
for through dreams,
I see how real things can be . . .
How was university life different from Australia?
Immediately I was set to work teaching morning, daytime and evening university students. My life revolved around twelve hour work days, sometimes fourteen. I would teach from ten to twelve noon English language classes. This was followed by an English communication class for day time university students. Finally I would take on an evening adult class that went from seven to ten at night. The evening classes were my favourite as they were made up of students ranging from their mid twenties to sixties, who could only now afford university as they were working full time. They lived a hard life. All of them worked during the day and most would skip dinner to rush to class. They would finish studying close to 11pm at night and would go home buzzing with excitement but saturated with exhaustion. Some of these students commuted long distances. I remember two gentlemen with red faces who drove four hours to get to class. They looked intoxicated due to their tiredness. But why would they go to such lengths to go to university? Many of them did not need their degree as they had already established their careers.
South Korea’s heart and soul is education. A 2013 article in The Economist documented that approximately 82% of high school graduates go on to university, which is the highest rate in the OECD. This has been a huge leap from the adult literacy rate of just 22% in 1945. From post war times, education has been conceived as the impetus for a successful life. It was no surprise that my evening students, who had no tertiary degree, seemed to carry a deep sense of shame and inferiority over their “inadequacy.” As a fresh-faced teacher I had attempted to prove my worth by working equally as hard as my students. I would often stay in my office till midnight, burning a single candle as I prepared English language activities that would make my students laugh. My life was marked by extremity and passion; it was a similar to my students’ lives.
Looking back now, I felt that my challenges were different to those experienced by my Caucasian colleagues, who were able to separate themselves from their students through their western appearance. But my Korean heritage made me both an insider and an outsider. I looked similar but my language and cultural mannerisms were different. Embedded in a society that I was somewhat accustomed to, I felt both a sense of belonging and privilege. My privilege lay in a capability I possessed that had incredible value in Korea. I was fluent in English.
How valued is English in Korea?
An article published in the Korea Herald in 2013 stated that most of the 18 billion US dollars spent on private education was mostly in English education. Another survey conducted by the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education in 2011 indicated that 90% of respondents began their child’s English education between the ages of 3 and 5. This fixation on English was apparent as some students could speak perfectly fluent English despite never having left Korea. On the other end of the spectrum, there were those who would ask me complex grammar questions but could barely construct a sentence. I felt overwhelmed at the value placed on the English language, considering that it was not their national language. Did all Koreans need to be fluent English speakers? Would these Korean students even use English in authentic contexts? Why did they give it so much power over their lives?
I persevered with helping students manipulate their stubborn tongues; it was a disheartening process. I remember asking a colleague to guest lecture one session as he had gone to the United States as an adult and had left as a native English speaker. Standing in front of the class his first words were, “Just because I speak English well, it doesn’t mean that I believe Korean to be inferior.” He talked about the English language as a vehicle for communication that did not detract from the essence of his Korean identity. He had addressed the unspoken tension in my class, which was that being able to speak English did not make him less of a Korean.
From someone who is also of Korean heritage, his lecture pulled at my heart strings. In Australia I had long since dismissed my Korean identity as I could not see its benefit. In Korea I had also “hidden” my “Korean-ness” as I thought students would question my legitimacy as their English teacher. But in my heart were my parents, who thought, spoke and lived as Koreans in Australia. In my heart was myself as a child, who had once struggled with her cultural identity until she buried it under the “too difficult” pile. He had opened a wound that had never properly healed, revealing my Korean-ness, which was as raw and vibrant as ever, bound by different colours and ribbons of “otherness,” fragile and uncertain about its worth.
At that moment I felt the pain and confusion of my students, at having to learn a language they may never use. I understood their feelings of deep inadequacy of not being “uneducated” and illiterate in a language of the “elite.” As I saw them struggling to make sense of it all, I saw myself. I was also someone who had stood on the fringes and had questioned my identity and worth. Here amongst my evening students who were rich, complex and passionate about learning, my fears about not being ‘Korean enough’ didn’t matter. All I knew is that I belonged.
Class group of adult students with teacher in Korea
Bringing the narrative process to life with shadow puppets by Sarah Loch, Nicola Sinclair and Tahlea Taylor
Bringing the narrative process to life with shadow puppets
Young children are fascinated by light and shadows and the effect of moving objects in front of a light source. The curiosity engendered by shadow play is not lost on upper primary students who can use the medium to play with the magic and mystery of storytelling as they create and tell their own stories using shadow puppets. In this unit, students perform their plays for younger students.
Ways to assist the classroom teacher
Shadow puppetry allows students to tell their own stories through hands-on involvement in the entire process of playbuilding. This is a versatile and accessible task for all age groups and ability levels. It offers scope for gifted and talented learners to research the traditions of shadow puppetry as they develop scripts which explore cultural and contemporary themes. Students working on the foundations of English engage in developing ideas, interacting with others and creating texts. The added dimension of understanding how to manipulate the shadows against the screen encourages students to play with the medium to achieve the desired results. Keeping in mind the needs and interests of their audience, students develop short plots with action, interesting characters, moral lessons and eye catching visual elements.
By taking responsibility for the entire process, students recognise the importance of following the narrative structure. How will Kindy know who the baddie is? Will they know what this or that word means? Have we explained why the prince is hiding behind the wall? Can we narrate and use a puppet at the same time? Do we need different accents? How will the audience know when to clap?
Filming and playing back the performances provides opportunities to reflect on the effectiveness of the narrative. Students also gain performance skills as they present and speak to Kindergarten about how they made the puppets and wrote the script. Shy and reluctant students find the anonymity of the screen helpful in developing their confidence in speaking aloud and playing different roles.
Suggestions for implementation
The puppet theatre - use a white sheet and a stand. A portable clothes rack is ideal and a moveable whiteboard on a stand also offers a frame over which a sheet can be draped. Set up a desk lamp on a box behind the screen. Darken the room.
The shadow puppets – source traditional and contemporary templates from the internet by searching for images of shadow puppets. Print out and stick templates to black cardboard, cut out (the finer the better) and attach a thin stick such as a bamboo skewer. Moveable parts (arms, legs, dragon bodies, jaws etc) can be joined with split pins. You need black cardboard, templates, glue, scissors, skewers, split pins and sticky tape.
Rehearsing – Students can practice using the sun on a wall or hand torches to experiment with moving the puppets in front of the light source.
Performance – Create a magical space by arranging fairy lights and playing music.
Year 6 student comment: “Shadow puppetry allows us to let our imagination run wild while we are creating, rehearsing and performing in front of our peers and younger students”.
Access Asia Education Foundation has many ‘wayang kulit’ (shadow puppet) resources and lesson ideas: http://www.asiaeducation.edu.au/curriculum_resources/arts_cr/years_3-4_wayang_kulit/wayang_shadow_puppet_theatre.html
‘What a wonderful world’, Raymond Crowe hand puppet artist
Sharing Creative Cultures is one of a suite of activities originally designed by Professor Rosemary Johnston, Director of the International Research Centre for Youth Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. Sharing Creative Cultures was funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program in 2013-14. Working with primary schools in south-western Sydney, the program aims to enhance students’ engagement to learning through drama and literacy activities with a multicultural focus. The program outlined below has been developed by drama specialist Dr Nicola Sinclair and educator Dr Sarah Loch.
Teaching drama with iPads by Sarah Loch, Nicola Sinclair and Tahlea Taylor
By Dr Sarah Loch and Dr Nicola Sinclair (International Research Centre for Youth Futures, University of Technology, Sydney) and Tahlea Taylor (NSW Department of Education)
Using iPads to stimulate creativity in the Drama classroom
Mobile devices are increasingly more integral in the teaching and learning environment of the primary classroom but areas encompassing the arts, especially drama, might not immediately spring to mind as potential sites for the effective use of hand-held technology.
Drawing from experiences of the Sharing Creative Cultures program, this article focuses on ways iPads or similar devices can be used assist in the process of collaborative playbuilding. The teaching tips outlined below originate from a class of Year 5/6 students at a south-western Sydney primary school for whom improving literacy is a strong focus. However, amongst these students, drama is largely unfamiliar territory. The program’s goals include assisting students to work collaboratively as they think more creatively about narrative and construct characters and settings in relation to their own experiences.
Ways to assist classroom teachers
The physicality of Drama is important and gives students and teachers an excellent opportunity to get up and move. However, mobile technology offers exciting opportunities as students develop their own scripts and utilise the many creative capacities afforded by integrating ICT into narrative and performance. The following ideas stem from ways we noticed students using iPads as they worked.
Suggestions for implementation
- Students work in small groups to storyboard a 6-frame story. Use the iPad to photograph and record the paper-based storyboard as it develops. This allows students to capture ideas which may be later discarded, promoting deeper learning through highlighting decision making about narrative. The photographs also leave an evidence trail to provoke reflection as students later review their story creation process.
- Students read their story aloud in ‘rehearsal mode’, recording their voice on the iPad. They experiment with character voices, reading from frame to frame (developing a script as they go), playing it back and playing around with voice.
- Using the voice recording as a guide, students replay it and write a script using correct conventions (e.g. NARRATOR:….)
- Scripts are collaboratively written and shared by saving the product in a common space
- Students take photos or search for images to assist with costume design, makeup, characterisation, sets etc.
- Photos or images compiled in PowerPoint can be used as backdrops to scenes
- Music and sound effects
Integrating the use of iPads into the teaching of Drama provides exciting, engaging and valuable learning experiences for students, allowing them to improve, extend, refine and reflect upon their performance skills. Combining technology with creativity is the perfect foundation for catering for 21st Century learners in our classrooms today.
For free sound effects, try a site like http://www.grsites.com/archive/sounds/
Teacher blog (iPad tips): http://reflectionsofeducator.wordpress.com/tag/ipad-tips-for-teachers/
Sharing Creative Cultures is one of a suite of activities originally conceptualised and designed by Professor Rosemary Johnston, Director of the International Research Centre for Youth Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. Sharing Creative Cultures initially received funding from the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program. Working with primary schools in south-western Sydney, the program aims to enhance students’ engagement to learning through drama and literacy activities with a multicultural focus. The program outlined below has been developed by drama specialist Dr Nicola Sinclair and educator Dr Sarah Loch.