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Brunei Darussalam, Students in UK, Students in USA

Scholar Mindset Should Change

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pic courtesy of buba.ac.uk

If there is any advise that you’ll receive upon completing your studies it is this: Work for the government.

I have no prejudice on government jobs but since no one is allowed to voice out this matter anyway, let me state the case that it is okay to be an expat and work outside Brunei even though the contract states you’re ‘bonded’.

Because if Brunei intends to build up a knowledge-based economy, everyone, particularly the decision makers have to realise that the ‘training’ students will receive in government sector would not be adequate.

In fact being ‘stuck’ in the government may take away their self-reliance and independence. Without these qualities there would be no individualists. And without individualists who is it that is going to set up companies and build up the private sector?

This policy, particularly the five-year bond scheme, can be a massive source of discontent that if not studied and adjusted upon could inhibit every bright and ambitious Bruneian into working for the government sector, forever.

Not surprising since they will then be paying a certain debt level, having families to take care off, and the 10% TAP pension plan. By then it will be harder for a majority of the educated class to be self-reliant and strike their own paths.

Because really, the very first path towards having a knowledge based economy is building up a community of independent free-thinking men. The best example would be Abdul Razak’s family of Abdul Razak Holdings.

Arguably they are already rich. But it is more than that. It is because of them valuing their ‘independence’ and having their own personal property that they are able to do whatever they want without having to get ‘validation’ from their sponsors.

But the main thing is that they think and act for themselves.

As a result, Gadong properties, The Mall among many others were created. And this has forever changed the course of Brunei real estate history, a reflection of how individualism could contribute to the economy.

Contrast that to those hooked on welfare programmes, and you’ll get the idea.

So how could we apply this to the Brunei scholarship scheme? How can we build up an individualistic community? The best way is to ‘let them go’ a’la utilising a Laissez-faire approach.

By letting them free-reign to work for foreign counterparts and utilising their free-out-off university energy straight into polishing whatever skills that is required for them to attain a high-income job or enterprise. It is by then that the people would be developed.

It is at this stage that they are in line to achieve their 10,000 hours that once met could greatly improve the society around them. It is vital that students themselves realise what their ambition is. Otherwise the policy is not going to do much anyway but lead to unemployment.

But on the brighter side, this will save energy and time for the government (like the govt. human resource department is doing much anyway) and focus in what it does best: serving the existing unemployed problems. In Brunei Times article, the deputy minister reported that over 18,000 is in that stage.

As for the current policy, don’t get me wrong. That ‘five-year’ bond will still be applied. However the government can utilize them in another time span. Say when the oil and gas running low at year 2035, with the Laissez-faire policy in place, the citizens would already be international bankers, chartered accountants, or partners of large manufacturing firms.

It is at this stage that their help could really help the country out.

Two questions I’d like to pose to you now 1) is the system we put in place enable the creation of highly individualistic Bruneians in a pro-market economy or meek conformists in a welfare state? 2) and provided you discard all the good or pure intentions people say, which system would greatly benefit the nation by the end of the day?

I sense that we are creating a welfare state. That is why it could be hard to innovate from within and around the government and private sector. It is about time that we change in how we perceive our young people and the systems they should be put on.

We want to create individualists. More of Abdul Razak, More of Pehin Ah Kuk, More of Dato Tim Ong.

This is the chance that the government can do that. “An opportunity lost can never be recovered again”.

I long dream to hear decision makers converse like this:

“Datin Adin: What if we train them and they leave?
Pehin Abu: What if we don’t and they stay?”

Just hope it is not too late by then.

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6 thoughts on “Scholar Mindset Should Change

  1. One statement and one question here.

    Statement (opinion really), I have always thought about changing that 5 year bond from straight after the graduation to anytime before the retirement. For example, a government scholar should be bonded to come back and serve the nation for 5 years at anytime during his productive working life. if he/she doesn’t, he shouldn’t be entitled to his old age pension fund, housing, medical, whatever other benefits there is for a Bruneian. This way it will be far more effective cause every human being would love to spend their senior years in their homeland. and as you’ve said, by then, he will be far more knowledgeable thus useful for the country compared to a fresh graduate.

    Question though, unemployment at 18,000? Are you sure with your figures? Last time I went through the stats was at less than 7K and it wasn’t long ago. hehehe


    Posted by Kay | January 21, 2014, 6:21 am
  2. Reality check: there are other scholarships that are being offered in Brunei besides the usual government scholarships. Shell for example does fare well with their scholars– I must say their career progression would enable them to proceed further locally.

    Second, have you even considered talking to several higher-ups who, with such an amazing caliber, started out at the bottom but managed to succeed and in fact make tremendous changes? Our Energy Minister being an example.

    Part of the reason why some private firms don’t flourish as well as those other places in our region is by the very fact that we are a small population. High purchasing power, but small market. And even if we do have the skill sets locally, how are we to sell ourselves abroad if we don’t nurture a homegrown credibility?

    I disagree with the need to be exposed to “actual” working life post-graduation– that kind of mindset perpetuates the whole idea that your diploma is a ticket to get your foot at the door of some successful establishment. What about making use of summer holidays for internships/work placement experiences when the opportunity arise instead of waiting it out till one graduates? Of course, it won’t pay as much, and some would be unpaid, I’ve been in that place before. And these opportunities are not common. But if anything it teaches those who do that nothing comes easy, and that hard work does pay off. The tough search would nonetheless be of good use for prospective job seekers that the world out there is not gonna be easy on them.

    Times have changed, and it does appear that most jobs have been tailored to the very specifics (i.e. x years of experience in [insert field here]) and for a specific candidate. That’s how it is in the U.S. too as what I have been made to understand.

    I appreciate your highlighting issues and your possible solutions, but trust me, the United States, with all its might and pride on capitalism still suffers in varying levels.


    Posted by Z | January 22, 2014, 3:23 am
  3. Hi.. i didn’t really agree with what you have said.. if you dont want to be bond with gov, why not you take your own initiative form the beginning? and not depending on the gov scholar. you should know that every penny that gov spend is for us, BRUNEIAN, and we as a person that take the scholar should know that we are being sponsor by gov and obviously gov wants to have some returns! nothing is free.. but, apa masalahnya untuk conribute something kepada negara sendiri? bukan kah kani berhutang budi kepada negara sendiri? its kind funny kadang kadangnya.. bukan kah kani patut bersyukur? atleast after graduate ada sudah keraja menanti.. inda payah susah payah kan mencari lagi… but yet you complain bila jadi penganggur.. 5 years bonded doenst kill you i guess? but count it by yourself how many years gov have paid for your studies since youre in primary school?


    Posted by Y | January 22, 2014, 7:07 am
    • The problem with your statement is that for some graduates there is no “keraja menanti”. At least not jobs that matches with their degrees programme. The notion that the “scholar mindset should change” is a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place if proper planning was had been made with regards to planned (not projected) future growth in relevant industries within the country. The overall strategy for Brunei is far from cohesive and as a result, there are misallocation of resources at every level and sector be it financially or human resource allocation. In a vacuum the scholar should be bersyukur for he/she is granted an opportunity that is not available at a scale of this magnitude in any other country. It is when you realise the mess that is the operational characteristics of some institutions within our country that you realise that we don’t have much to be bersyukur about.


      Posted by A scholar | January 22, 2014, 10:52 am
  4. Just a small thought on why the government is ‘insisting’ that scholars ‘must’ come back to ‘serve’ the country.

    Because (gov decision makers) cannot think of any other way that these people can ‘serve’ the country by not being in the country.

    You suggested scholars to earn skills and invidualism (entreprenurship skills, business management, specialist qualification, charteredship if I may add) to one day bring back and apply in the country. First these are not something these people can measure and we all know about that measurements, figures are all that these people can think and evaluate in. Figurative skillsets are entirely alien to them.
    Second, even for businessmen who worked their entire life from the bottom to the top knowing the trade (and tactics -including underhanded) are abhorrent of the way buiness / tenders / contracts / red tape and so on are in the country, let alone some people with all the skills (but no local experience nor connections) are suddenly thrusted back into a dark (no rules written or followed) environment. Do you think their 20 years experience in a FTSE 500 company is useful? I doubt it.

    The lack of taxation in terms of personal income tax means if we let loose these scholars to work overseas, Brunei is being ‘deprived’ of something. Well, so a form of taxation could be applicable here.

    In fact these expats who worked overseas missed out on TAP and SCP so upon their return or retirement they may very well depend on themselves (or family) on survival (and 60yrs old pension fund and free health care if still available). It’s something they would have to balance out.
    Also, government or rather SPA employment criteria for locals do not take into account experience nor age. You might be joining the lowest rank or pay scale for a division. Who decide how much one’s salary is a mystical chamber of secrets. If a successful CEO with only a BA joined, I wonder which division he may start in and who decide on that.

    But your idea stands, the challenge for the decision makers is how to monetize (for lack of word) these skills and people.

    And sorry for the brackets…hehe.


    Posted by Latteboy | January 25, 2014, 2:43 am

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