The Ministry of Education defines inclusive education as ‘giving all children and students, including those with special needs, an opportunity to learn alongside their peers under the same teaching and learning conditions’. According to the 1992 Education Policy, an inclusive school provides appropriate instruction for all children based on their abilities.
Special education needs
Students with special needs are learners who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, behavioural, communication or sensory impairments and, for this reason, require appropriate individualized accommodations, while children with special education needs have diverse learning abilities and include those who are failing in school. Students with special education needs include all children and youth with learning difficulties.
According to the 2003 Education Order, education was provided in regular schools, but also in expatriate schools (i.e. schools catering for the needs of children with other nationalities) and in special schools targeted at learners with special needs. Islamic education is delivered in schools to pupils who practise the Islamic religion as a subject of the general education curriculum (Art. 32).
With the adoption of the 1992 National Education Policy and the 1994 Special Education Policy, the education system has endorsed an inclusive education approach. Students with both special needs and special education needs are educated in regular settings through an individualized education provision.
In 2008, the Model Inclusive Schools Project, also known as Centres of Excellent Services for Children, was rolled out in selected primary and secondary schools to provide examples of inclusive education schools, able to cater for the needs of special needs students. So far, nine primary and secondary schools have been involved in the project and equipped with special rooms and the necessary facilities.
Under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MoCYS), training for children and adults with disabilities is also provided by the Department of Community Development through community-based rehabilitation programmes in centres (Pusat Bahagia) located in each district, or through home-based education for children and youth who cannot attend the centres because they live in rural areas. Currently, two centre-based programms are active, namely, the Basic Orientation Training Programme and the Vocational Training Programme.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Under the Ministry of Health, child development centres support the diagnosis, assessment and therapy of children with disabilities. Among their activities, the centres also provide coordination and professional training for practitioners.
Complementing the 2003 Education Order, the main legal document regulating the education system in the country, is the 2007 Compulsory Education Order, which ensures that all children receive at least 9 years of formal education, extended to 12 years by the 1992 National Education Policy. Endorsing an inclusive education approach, the policy sought to provide all children the opportunity to develop their potential by completing at least upper secondary or vocational education. Reaffirming the country’s commitment to Education for All, it has marked a shift in the education provision of the country, overcoming schooling segregation and creating an appropriate learning environment for children with both special needs and special education needs.
In line with the Long Term National Development Plan, also known as Wawasan Vision 2035, the 2009 National Education System for the 21st Century Strategy (SPN-21) reiterated the Ministry of Education’s mission to provide a holistic education for all. Among its objectives, the 2018–22 education strategic plan also aims to provide equal and equitable access to quality education (Strategy 2). To make the system more inclusive and provide universal access to quality learning and educational attainment opportunities, the 2018–22 education strategic plan intends to, among others measures, improve inclusion of disadvantaged and at-risk learners.
Disability and special education needs
The Department of Community Development under the MoCYS is working on a draft Disability Order to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities. With a right-based approach, the Order is expected to cover areas including infrastructure and education.
With the adoption of the 1997 Special Education Policy, also called the Inclusive Education Policy, learners with special needs can be educated in regular schools with the support of special education needs assistance (SENA) teachers. Upon a needs assessment, they are provided with Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) which are tailored to their developmental and learning needs and may include learning support. IEPs are also provided at the secondary education level. In secondary schools, a five-year Pre-Vocational Programme seeks to develop work-related skills.
Students with special education needs may receive education based on IEPs or on Remedial Education Plans (REPs), referring to a structured learning assistance programme that supports learners to gradually acquire the necessary skills to bridge the learning gap and access the regular school curriculum.
Brunei Darussalam ratified the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2006. At the international and regional levels, the country has been involved in different programmes to promote gender empowerment, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Committee on Women, the Non-Aligned Movement Institute for the Empowerment of Women, and the Commonwealth, and it cooperates with UN Women.
At the national level, however, gender equality in education is not mentioned in any legislative documents. The 2007–17 Outline of Strategy and Policy for Development, among its 50 policy directions, intended to promote equal opportunities for women as part of its economic strategy.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Malay is the official language of Brunei Darussalam (Art. 82.1 of the Constitution). The 2003 Education Order establishes that Malay and English are the media of instruction; Arabic may be used in Arabic schools, although exceptions may be accepted in appropriate cases (Art. 19).
Bilingual education has been implemented since 1985 with the Bilingual Education Policy, which allowed Malay- and English-taught school systems to merge.
The state is committed to supporting pupils with scholarships, bursaries, loans or other financial assistance, and to providing accommodation, transport and books (Art. 33 of the 2003 Education Order). A school feeding scheme has been introduced to improve the standard of nutrition for all students in public schools and in school hostels, providing learners from low-income households with breakfasts and lunches.
In 2011, the Ministry of Education introduced the Keys to Success (Miftaahun Najaah) scheme to support socio-economically disadvantaged primary and secondary students. In 2012, another assistance scheme provided hostel accommodation for students from poor households.
In 1994, a Special Education Unit (SEU) was set up under the Ministry of Education. The SEU is responsible for supervising and evaluating services for students with special needs and special education needs in regular classrooms, and for data collection. The service provision is managed with the support of the school-based team, which gathers, among others, SENA or home room teachers, regular classroom teachers, special educators, psychologists and other professionals.
The MoCYS also plays an important role in providing support services for special needs. Through the Department of Community Development, it manages welfare homes, training and guidance centres and rehabilitation centres. The MoCYS also has its own national database on individuals with special needs. On the other hand, the Ministry of Health is involved in early need identification and medical referral through the child development centres.
The Ministry of Education collaborates with both of these ministries via the Inter-Agencies Student Progress Meetings, which include interested non-government organizations, child development centres and the Department of Community Development.
In 2008, the Special Committee on Women and Family Institutions was established to coordinate national activities for the promotion and protection of women’s rights. It is chaired by the MoCYS, under the National Council on Social Issues, whose members includes the Ministry of Education.
Enhancing the curriculum and providing adequate education infrastructure and ICT services have been identified as key strategic initiatives to strengthen the delivery of primary and secondary education (Strategy 2 of the 2018–22 education strategic plan).
Infrastructure and services
Mobility and accessibility for students with special needs and special education needs is managed by the Department of Planning and Estate Management, which adopted a strategy to ensure accessibility and better facilities in new buildings. The Building Improvement of School and Infrastructure (BISAI) project was aimed at modernizing public schools and improving accessibility for students with special education needs.
School curricula have been continuously reviewed to ensure relevance. Since the adoption of the SPN-21 in 2009, the national curriculum has been taught in English, except for the subjects of Bahasa Melayu, Islamic Religious Knowledge and Melayu Islam Beraj.
Since 1995, the SEU and University of Brunei Darussalam have jointly conducted annual in-service training in special education programmes to train regular teachers to become SENA teachers. SENA teachers support regular classroom teachers, set up special education programmes and deliver support services. All education personnel receive training on inclusive education awareness, definitions, and the role and function of the School-Based Team (SBT). Trainings are also opportunities to enhance collaboration among professionals and members of the SBT.
Consisting of school heads or principals, class teachers, SENA teachers or home room teachers, resource teachers, teacher aides or relief teachers and parents, SBTs are taskforces implemented to roll out education programmes for students with special needs and special education needs. The SBT meets regularly to monitor IEPs and REPs.
To meet the SPN-21 objectives, the SEU has also invested in advanced continuing professional development to equip professional with skills to work with students with special needs and special education needs. The Brunei Darussalam Teacher Academy is responsible for the provision of continuous professional development to enhance the collaborative process, classroom-based practices and research.
The Ministry of Education stores data through the iNEIS database.
The SEU collects data on learners with special education needs in the school system, private and public, and includes information on students’ needs, medical diagnosis, age and gender. In the 2018–22 education strategic plan, the Ministry of Education reaffirmed the importance of data collection and analysis to inform education planning and evidence-based decision making. The sector is expected to develop an integrated and real-time educational data system.