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Home / Blog / 2015 : Everyday counts: Ensuring children attend school

The demography map shows schools that are still working towards achieving at least 95 per cent student attendance (red) and schools attaining at least 95 per cent attendance (green)

KNOWLEDGE plays an important role in one’s life. We make sound judgement, create, innovate and survive on knowledge. The revelation of the Holy Al-Quran itself was for the purpose of educating mankind.

As many know, the first Surah sent to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was Surah Al-Alaq, which began with the word ‘Read’, emphasising education or the quest for knowledge.

The need for one to seek knowledge or acquire education is further supported in a hadith which means “Attainment of knowledge is a must for every Muslim”.

For children, parents hold a great task to carry out the main responsibility of providing them with education. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Take care! Each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked concerning his flock; a leader is a shepherd of his people, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a man is a shepherd of the people of his house, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a woman is a shepherd of the house of her husband and over their children, and she shall be asked concerning them,” (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim).

Children look on to their parents for examples. Parents have a responsibility to instil noble values and create healthy awareness and understanding of the importance of education. One cannot subscribe to the thinking that once a child is in school, they are relieved of the duties as parents.

There is a need to understand that education is a process by which children are nurtured to grow and flourish. It is important and only right for parents to keep abreast with their children’s learning in school and provide as much support and guidance to them.

As the second leg of the school term commences next week, it is important for parents to recap their roles as responsible adults in helping children, directly or otherwise.

Bruneians are fortunate that the education sector receives attention from the highest authority in the Sultanate which has set a clear target for educationists and their stakeholders to endeavour towards.

At the start of 2015, His Majesty’s titah in conjunction with the New Year provided a clear goal particularly in primary education in which a target was set for at least 90 per cent of the Primary School Assessment (PSR) students should achieve grades ‘A’ to ‘C’ in 2017.

His Majesty’s aspiration in education has made way for a sharper focus on initiatives in excelling achievements in primary schools – one of the essential fundamentals to realising the Brunei Vision 2035.

In the continuous efforts to raise the quality and performance in education, it is imperative to understand that the building blocks for great education begins with students coming to school regularly.

However, if students are often absent from school, they miss out on learning the skills necessary for better achievements in the later years of school.

Studies conducted by Rothman in 2001 found that school attendance is an important factor in school success.

Dekalb (1999) through his study on attendance saw direct correlation between good attendance and student achievement.

The issue of attendance has also caught His Majesty’s attention when the monarch highlighted this matter in the titah during Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s 26th Convocation in September 2014.

The monarch underlined the need for parents to give due attention to their children’s school attendance which underscores the importance of education and attending school.

This concern is also amongst the five key focus areas given emphasis in the Ministry of Education (MoE) initiatives towards raising performance in the primary level.

In addressing the concern over attendance in school, the MoE (since late January 2015) has adopted a more efficient mechanism of monitoring attendance through iNEIS (Integrated National Education Information System), an information system that, among others, tracks individual attendance and student progress.

Along with a set target of at least 95 per cent attendance in government primary schools, iNEIS has allowed the ministry to better monitor attendance and identify red flags.

With the daily monitoring of attendance during the first school term, the MoE has identified trends of non-attendance during days in which a school day is sandwiched by public holidays.

Cikgu Noor, a primary school teacher in the Brunei-Muara District, shared her concerns over the need to raise awareness and understanding that being in the first quarter of the year, lessons in school go on as usual up to the last few days before the term holiday.

“It is sad when a few parents decide to take ‘an early holiday’ because the holiday mode is already on. We must consider how much lessons can be missed during that valuable time,” she added.

In a number of schools in certain mukims or districts, attendance has yet to attain the minimum 95 per cent level.

A demographic map of primary school attendance shared by the MoE indicates that there is a higher concentration of such schools in the Brunei-Muara and Belait districts which calls for greater collaboration between the school and parents as well as community leaders to tackle this matter.

Eyeing on a minimum of 95 per cent attendance, rates below 85 per cent will be considered a heavy alarm that may significantly hinder a child’s effective learning.

As the authority strives to also strengthen the quality of teaching and learning in schools, the importance of having children in school cannot be understated.

Cikgu Metusin bin Haji Jais, one of the Heads of Cluster at the MoE who manages a number of secondary and primary schools, shared his view on the importance of attendance, “Quality interaction time between students and teachers is very crucial.”

He believes that schools need stakeholders’ support and help, particularly parents, to ensure students attend school to allow them the opportunity for a brighter future. The Standard Operating Procedure in schools to handle absenteeism and legal provisions through the Compulsory Education Act have put in place mechanisms to help ensure children attend school allowing them opportunities for a brighter future.

With a significant number of schools yet to improve their student attendance, it is imperative that we all work together to support our children’s learning by ensuring they attend school daily.

Initiatives run by only a major ministry/agency/organisation cannot be as affective without the support and involvement of various stakeholders.

As a dynamic area that provides the foundation to the quality of our human resource, the education sector needs concerted efforts that are not only limited to education professionals and decision makers. With the tick of the clock, every day matters particularly in schools.

Various levels – policymakers, educationists, parents, community leaders and responsible citizens of the country – need to work hand in hand to support teaching and learning that will raise achievements of our children, our young, and ultimately our nation. – Text by Ministry of Education

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