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Southeast Asian Affairs 2005 BRUNEI DARUSSALAM Towards Reform and Sustainable Progress Azman Ahmad Introduction The year 2004, marking the 20th anniversary of Brunei's independence, signalled unexpected change as the Legislative Council was reinstated after being suspended since 1984. The performance of the economy was lacklustre despite record oil prices. However, the country continued to enjoy peace and stability. The event ofthe year that most occupied public and media attention was the royal wedding of the Crown Prince. Human Development Brunei's quality of life was considered to be on par, if not better, than that attained by some developed countries. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranked Brunei 33rd among 177 nations on its Human Development Index of 2004 (which took into consideration indices of per capita income, literacy and enrolment in educational institutions, and life expectancy), while in ASEAN, Brunei was ranked 2nd after Singapore.1 Education Brunei scored relatively high in enrolment in educational institutions and literacy rates, surpassing levels attained by some developed countries. Significant efforts have been made to increase resources, broaden access to schools and improve gender parity. Brunei's compulsory education between the ages of5 and 16 reflected Azman Ahmad is Dean of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Policy Studies at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. 1 OOAzman Ahmad the benefits ofthe learning opportunities in early childhood that promoted subsequent achievement in school and further lifelong learning. The national schooling structure was in the process ofbeing revamped with the implementation of a pilot scheme of an integrated education system. Since 3 January 2004, a total of 37 government primary schools went for whole day schooling in which pupils in Pre-School, Primaries 1, 2, and 3 were taking either Islamic Education or Extended Civics, andArabic Language. In this scheme, Arabic Language became a compulsory subject, while Islamic Education was compulsory for all Muslim pupils. Non-Muslim pupils would be provided with the option of studying either Islamic Education or Extended Civics. Previously, children had their secular education in single session government and private schools in the morning, and many then went to religious schools in the afternoon for religious education. However, some 20 to 30 per cent of children either did not go to any school or did not go to religious schools in the afternoon. With the new scheme, parents need to send their children only to one school that would provide both secular and religious education or extended civics. Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) successfully produced its first PhD graduate, an international student in mathematics, 19 years after its establishment. During the 16th Convocation, His Majesty the Sultan andYang Di-Pertuan ofBrunei, as UBD's Chancellor, hinted at the establishment of another university for the country, while also expressing his delight in the setting up of the Institute for Policy Studies at UBD. Health Brunei came in 2nd in ASEAN for achieving and maintaining health standards, right after Singapore, while in the West Pacific region, Brunei was placed 4th, and 40th among 191 countries in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).2 The health concerns faced by Brunei authorities were similar to those in developed and affluent societies. Smoking-related diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and emphysema, were listed as the five leading causes of death in the country.3 The State Mufti issued a fatwa or a religious edict that considered cigarettes and smoking as haram or forbidden, based on Islamic and scientific findings and views. Cigarettes and smoking adversely affected one's health and with every puff a smoker inhaled 4,000 different chemicals, most of which were deadly. According to the State Mufti, from the Islamic point of view, consuming food and beverage that was toxic was haram. This received an endorsement Brunei Darussalam: Towards Reform and Sustainable Progress101 from His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Pengiran Muda Mahkota Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah who stated that the issuance of the fatwa on cigarettes and smoking was a step towards achieving a clean and healthy nation free from the adverse effects of smoking. In his opening speech during the National Convention on Health Promotion in July 2004, he further stressed its significance by stating...


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