(picture credits to: dreamstimes.com)
The essence of effective governance is how well an organisation is able to fulfil its role in carrying out its duties and tasks entrusted by higher authorities. Only by then an organisation will be able to progress ahead in enhancing its rank in the changing order of things. Our national educational bodies, as an organisation, is important in this context. With pronouncements by authorities having been made to ensure that our educational system progress in the world’s educational ranking, it requires the educational bodies itself to look and fix the problems that currently exist in order to fulfil such goals.
One problem that needs improvement is the continued and sustained inefficiency in the distribution of allowance money to students on a timely basis in the national territory bodies of Brunei Darussalam. The problem has persisted over the years and has peeved a lot of students, who either have already long graduated or is currently studying. Some took to social media and even the media outlets under anonymous names to publish their concern over delayed allowance distribution. It is high time that relevant authorities study and fix this matter, as such measures would not bode well in achieving its goals to rise up the global ranks of education. Here are some suggestions that can be made in order for us to take that step to make the grade.
First, the relevant authorities should study how the Brunei-UK system works in dispensing allowance. Never once, as a scholar who has studied in the UK for four years, have I ever received my allowance late. The only time is when there is public holidays (which is understandable). Myself and, I am sure, the 2000-plus students commend the past and current UPP team for the effective streamlining of allowance distribution. What is more the authorities who handled the allowance were only a handful of people (numbering less than ten) in charge of two thousand students spread out across the United Kingdom.
Ideas that can be secured here is that would it be possible for the Minister of Education to set up a specific department or agency to handle and dispense all the allowance of all territory students in Brunei who are eligible for the allowance? Not only would it potentially remove layers of bureaucracy – which often is the reason of the delayed payments – but it will make it extremely efficient and cost-effective, as only one agency is responsible that could be referred to whenever problems may arise and would help save cost in terms of auditing, staff salaries, and much more with the limited number of people stationed there.
Secondly, the relevant authorities must recruit and expand the number of qualified accountants, administrators, and managers responsible for managing and dispensing the money. None is more vital however to have more qualified accountants who have their ACCA, CCAs and much more. Yes, they may cost more, but given that they have achieved the progressional qualifications ensure that they are aware of the standards their progressional bodies demand them to fulfil, and that may result in a higher standard of efficiency and effectiveness in distributing the money on a timely basis.
Third, the government or the territory educational system must work with the banks to effectively produce and carry out strategies to dispense allowance like that in the UK. One of the reasons why I believe that my allowance was never late was because of the existence of the right system of Standing Orders from the banks that ensures that effective and efficient measures are taken place. The bank must follow suit in helping to consult the government in managing its own allowance financing, as a way to guiding and improving the system forward.
I would imagine this letter may result in responses saying that students already have privileges and that they “should not ask for more”. To which I reply, that this is not about privilege per se, but rather working ethics and effective governance. If I am tasked to do something, I must do it well and on time. If I do not then I may get into trouble and I should, because all my seniors and juniors are looking at my performance too, and unless I fix myself it will set a very negative precedent on how they should act in the future. So too that the educational bodies must ensure the allowance system gets fixed, as it can set a precedent of the level of quality of how our people (especially among the eyes of students) work and how we get things done.
On an extra note, students must in turn work hard to do well in their studies. The Brunei Government has given our people the basic foundation that would enable every Bruneian students to progress in achieving a Degree, Masters, and PhD. But such rewards do not come easy or automatically. It requires effort from the part of the student, and the only way we can pay back the privilege is to do well in our studies.
To close, I would like to suggest that government to set up an agency responsible for all payments under the management of a number of qualified, professional accountants and managers, and to finally work with the banks to ensure the right system are in place. Doing so would contribute at enhancing the national territory educational system in the educational global ranking, as we need it to be in order that we succeed together as a nation and a people. Together we shall and must work at fulfilling the aims of Vision 2035 in building a better Brunei.