BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Addressing learning loss has been identified as a top priority in the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Speaking at the Legislative Council on Saturday, Education Minister Datin Hjh Romaizah Hj Md Salleh said a large number of students have been affected by disrupted learning when schools were forced to close for 185 days during the worst of COVID-19.

“The implementation of the Learning Recovery Programme for primary and secondary education in literacy, numeracy, and science, is one of the main initiatives to address the issue of learning loss,” she said during her budget readout.

The ministry tabled a budget of $797.8 million for the 2023/24 fiscal year, a 36.7% increase from last year’s allocation.

From that figure, 69% or $547.5 million will go towards staff salaries; $226.6 million (28%) is set aside for recurring expenses, and the remaining $23.6 million (3%) has been allocated for development projects.

Holistic framework for education

Datin Hjh Romaizah said the government aims to provide a more “holistic” education framework, devoting more funds towards non-academic skills such as digital and financial literacy, while also improving education access for students with disabilities.

Below are some of budget items highlighted by the minister, although she did not provide the allocation value:

• Construction of new schools, as well as upgrading and expanding existing facilities.

• Development of the Special Education Curriculum Framework and accompanying textbooks. Centres of Excellence will be established to provide additional support to students with special needs.

• Introduction of the Financial Literacy Competency Framework for School Children and Adults, and the Digital Citizenship: Framework and Guideline for Schools.

• Introduction of the Higher Education Quality Assurance Framework aimed at strengthening the quality of public and private higher education.

• Introduction of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Scheme, a collaboration between MoE and the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC). The scheme aims to help school leavers continue their studies in TVET fields.

• Amending the Brunei National Occupational Skills Standard to add the hospitality and tourism sectors that meet the needs of the local and international industry and market.

• Preparing the first stage of the Higher Education Act, which will be used to set guidelines and policies for the higher education sector.

• Strengthening curricula in line with international standards in subjects such as Malay, English, mathematics, science, and digital literacy.