In a small country the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, Brunei is an often forgotten destination for teaching abroad Though small, this country ranks high when it comes to quality of living, not to mention it is full of natural beauty and culture. Those who teach in Brunei will be well-rewarded inside the classroom, with engaged and respectful students, and outside of the classroom, with pre-arranged accommodations, benefits, and high salaries. Though the conservative culture may be a shock to some, Brunei’s extremely low crime rate is a pleasant surprise. If all the latter benefits intrigue you, then teaching jobs in Brunei may be the ideal next step for you.
The layout of Brunei is unlike any other country. The majority of this nation’s land is dense rainforest protected by national law, because of this, most of Brunei’s population resides in or around the capital city or the other metropolitan centers. Brunei is two distinct areas of land, separated by neighboring Malaysia, but only about three percent of the population resides in the mountainous eastern region of the country.
It is likely you will be placed in a school in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (referred to as “BSB” by locals), or in one of the surrounding suburb-like districts of the city. BSB contains 250,000 of Brunei’s total 400,000 residents, and is therefore a populous modern city. Brunei is an Islamic nation, so much of the culture of BSB revolves around Islam, which includes a complete lack of alcohol consumption at social gatherings. Ornate mosques, historical museums, and a collection of waterfront restaurants are the sights to see in this nearly crime-free town. The enormous palace of the Sultan, named Istana Nurul Iman and famed for having 257 bathrooms, is a must-see tourist destination in Bandar Seri Begawan.
On the western end of Brunei about an hour drive from BSB, Kuala Belait is the next most populous city. Originally a fishing town, this city now revolves around oil. Surrounded by the South China Sea and various rivers, this beautiful town has many parks dedicated to these natural waters. Sea dwellers will revel in the close proximity to water during their teaching job in Kuala Belait.
In order to secure a teaching job in Brunei, you must meet strict standards. You must be a native English speaker, with a university degree, and have a teaching license from the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, or Australia. You are also required to have at least one year of teaching experience, and you cannot be older than 52 years of age. Unfortunately, exceptions to these rules are rarely made.
International schools. There are two international schools located in Brunei. The recruitment process to hire teachers at these international schools is quite in-depth, and teaching experience is most definitely necessary to secure a teaching job. Courses at international private schools are taught in English, so native English speakers will have the chance to teach literature, communications, physical education, and even drama courses, as well as English.
Government schools. The most common place for international teachers to teach in Brunei is at government schools. Schools in Brunei are split into two levels: primary schools for younger students and secondary schools for high-school aged students. Government schools often hire TEFL certified instructors to teach English as a second language in Brunei.
Academic Life. Classes run from Monday until Thursday, weekends in Brunei are Fridays and Sundays, and Saturday is a shortened school day. English courses are gaining popularity in Brunei, as much of the business in Brunei is conducted in English, rather than the official language of Malay. Teachers can expect to spend an average of 16 to 20 hours a week in the classroom. Additionally, most teachers are required to supervise 10 hours of after-school activities each week, which may include religious activities.
Teachers who decide to begin teaching in Brunei have been known to stay for several years, because of the high salary, cheap food, and ability to save money through nearly any teaching job. Brunei enjoys one of the highest GDP’s in the world, due to oil and gas production. Additionally, those who teach in Brunei not only enjoy high, competitive salaries, they can also avail a 0% tax rate.
When teaching in Brunei, teachers can expect to earn $3,500 to $5,500 per month; the upper end of salary scales reflects salaries for those with previous teaching experience or teaching jobs that require master’s degrees. The average salary for teaching jobs in Brunei is sizeable, especially considering that housing and medical benefits are almost always included as part of compensation packages. To take compensation even further, many schools will also supply teachers with an interest-free “settling in” loan of around $3,000, which is expected to go toward the cost of a car, as driving is the primary mode of transport in Brunei.
The cost of living in Brunei is relatively low, for a nation with a high propensity for wealth. A meal at an inexpensive, local restaurant costs around $5 per person and a cup of coffee goes for $1. Keep in mind that alcohol is not sold anywhere in Brunei, due to religious beliefs, which can cut the cost of eating out down significantly. Groceries will not be an exorbitant cost for any teacher either. Most teachers who obtain teaching jobs in Brunei usually find that it is easy to save money, even if they partake in travel tours or outdoor activities, like snorkeling or rainforest trekking.
Brunei is often forgotten in lists of the top countries to teach abroad in, because of its small geography and quiet, political nature. But, that is not to say that it is impossible or inconvenient to teach abroad in Brunei. If you teach in Brunei at a government sponsored school, you will be given fully subsidized accommodations, which includes furnished housing that will be comfortable for any westerner.
Though in some nations it is feasible to find a teaching job upon arrival, Brunei prefers that teachers obtain a job before entering the country. Due to this preference, teachers will often be interviewed and vetted online before being offered a teaching job in Brunei. Visa arrangements will, therefore, be made after you have been officially hired. Once you have been offered a teaching job in Brunei, the Ministry of Education will take care of all visa arrangements for you and secure a work visa for you, with little effort on your part aside from signing some documents.
Most teaching contracts are offered in either year-long or two-year long contracts, with optional extensions at the end of each contract period. Many teachers truly enjoy teaching in Brunei once they begin, so the majority of teachers find themselves extending their contracts, and the Brunei Ministry of Education is happy to help teachers extend or renew their work visa.
Cultural Adjustment. The main challenge of teaching in Brunei is no doubt the culture shock that will occur when you arrive. As a conservative, Islamic nation, small things, such as female teachers not being allowed to wear trousers, may shock teachers originating from the Western world. But, once you’ve acclimatized to the culture, you will find Brunei to be a friendly and fascinating place to teach abroad.
Sizeable Salary. Without a doubt, the primary benefit of teaching jobs in Brunei is how well teachers are paid. A high salary combined with a low cost of living, fully comped housing, and health insurance benefits can mean the world to a young teacher just starting their international teaching career.
Island Life. Teaching in Brunei is also a relatively low-stress environment, with polite students who are interested in learning the English language and appreciative school administrators. Teachers rarely work long weeks, and are free to travel and explore the island on their vacations and weekend days.