Speaking at a get-together ceremony and thanksgiving prayers for this year's scholarship students last Saturday, Minister of Education Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Lela Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Dato Setia Hj Mohamed Taib said the move is part of the Ministry's strategy to get candidates who are successful in both academic and co-curricular fields, in order to produce students who are competitive and have high endurance to face the increasing number of challenges in higher education. This means that the Ministry will be more selective in granting scholarships because of rising number of eligible candidates, and this indicates a positive sign: tighter competition among qualified students.
Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman said that another requirement has been added to the scholarship scheme under the Human Resource Fund founded by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) — the evaluation of candidates on their involvement in co-curricular activities.
Realising the importance of the co-curricular activities for students, the Minister said in another occasion, "We must realise the need to have a mature mindset in providing quality education. We cannot just educate students with knowledge based on the academic curriculum syllabus." He said the world today is not the same as it was 25 years ago. "Many things have changed, including the needs and forms of the working world."
The Ministry's move deserves support from all stakeholders, including the private sectors. Co-curricular activities are essential in providing quality education to better prepare students for their transition into the working environment and in facing future challenges in this rapid changing world.
Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) co-curricular activities are nothing new to our students, from the secondary to the university level. Our students were used to these activities, such as sports, musical activities, debate, community service, religious study groups, charitable fundraising, young enterprise projects, drama, science clubs, and hobbies. We are not left behind in this kind of out-of-the-class educational activities.
Co-curricular activities — what colleges used to call extra-curricular activities — develop leadership, time management, teamwork, interpersonal communication, and other skills the employers may value when making hiring choices. These experiences and activities outside of the classroom are directly related to their career development in the future. In essence, the co-curricular programming promotes students participation in activities that supplement developmental goals through issue-oriented and educational programmes, and skill-building opportunities. In these settings, the students can learn a wide range of professional, leadership, and life skills.
After making participation in co-curricular activities a requirement for awarding government scholarships, maybe we need to take another leap in our efforts to provide the best possible quality education for our students. In cooperation with the private sectors, for example, we can give the students the opportunities to take on-the-job trainings both in the government institutions and private companies, either in the country or overseas.
But what is most important for us to do is how to make the students, who have participated in co-curricular programmes, not just ready to enter the working environment but also to make them a workforce who has a higher sense of dedication and responsibility. We must be able to instill a professional work ethos in them. It doesn't matter whether they would work in the government or private sectors, but they must be able to gradually play a role as a catalyst of change for the mindset of our workforce. In the private companies, they must be able to work hard with a higher sense of discipline; and in the government offices, they must be able to improve the quality of public services and help create an efficient and effective bureaucracy. InsyaAllah