Out of a sample of five simple word problems, 52 per cent of Year One students failed to answer any of the questions correctly.
Most of the errors were attributed to students being unable to read the question.
The change in medium of instruction was made under Brunei's 21st Century National Education System (SPN21).
Nor Asnawati Hj Md Yassin, deputy headmaster at Pehin Dato Jamil Primary School told The Brunei Times that by the time children enter Year One at the age of five or six, they do not have a firm grasp on the English language yet.
"At this stage, children have only been schooling for one or two years and although they are exposed to English at the very start in schools, they do not speak it at home and is still very much a secondary language," she said at a knowledge-sharing session for primary school headmasters yesterday.
Hjh Azrina Hj Yusof, deputy headmaster of Datu Ahmad Primary School, said: "For some students, English may even be their third or fourth language after their native tongue."
She was referring to pupils who speak a variety of local dialects such as Belait, Tutong, Iban or Dusun, depending on which part of Brunei they come from.
Prior to the implementation of SPN21, Malay was the language medium for most subjects, including Maths, up till Year Four when they would switch to English.
The new education system aims to expose children to English at the earliest opportunity, and all subjects, with the exception of Malay language, Religious Studies and Art, are taught in English.
Over 200 headmasters and deputy headmasters from across the country attended the knowledge sharing session at Rimba II Primary School yesterday.
In their presentation Dilemma Among Year One Pupils in Mathematics Word Problems Involving Addition in Brunei I Primary Schools, Hjh Azrina and Nor Asnawati identified two ways to tackle the problem — the use of "diagramming" and role play.
Data collected from over 400 pupils in 13 Brunei primary schools showed that these two methods helped students solve word problems and enhance their reading ability.
After implementing the use of 'diagramming' and role play in Maths classes, the percentage of students failing to answer a single question correctly dropped from 52 per cent to seven per cent. In addition, the number of students who could answer all questions correctly rose from 16 per cent to 50 per cent.
The study conducted by the MoE also stated that the new learning methods were found to be more enjoyable and created less pressure for both students and teachers.
The objectives of the research were to minimise students' weaknesses in solving word problems, strengthen their addition skills and boost students' self-esteem by learning how to solve word problems in a variety of ways.
The Brunei Times