(Picture Source)

The 2018 PISA ranked Brunei 3rd among ASEAN.

It is a good effort by our students given this is the first time they have participated in the global assessment, so there is more room for growth. On this note, I believe parents play a vital role in pushing Brunei up the PISA ranks in the future. US presidential candidate Andrew Yang said it best, in which he shared how in the US, parental role (and other factors) accounts for two-thirds of a child’s educational outcome, whereas only one third is due to school factors. This thesis is more or less applicable here in Brunei.

In the book “Unequal Childhood” (2011), famed sociologist Annette Lareau mentioned how successful students tend to have parents who practice a parenting style called “Concerted Cultivation.” “Concerted Cultivation” empowers the student to succeed under parents who take a deliberate and active role in fostering activities and opportunities for their child. The parenting style also entails mentoring and coaching the child in areas of leadership, career guidance, etc.

One way these parents can make all the difference to the children is by reading books to them. Sociologist Jessica Logan and her team (2019) have published a remarkable study in what they term as the “million-word gap,” in which young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to. “Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school,” Logan said.

In the book “Nurture Shock,” authors Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson recommend parents to avoid saying, “Wow, you are brilliant!” to the child, but rather to focus on praising a child’s effort and work ethic. This approach can effectively instill a “growth mindset” in the child (only 46% of students have a ‘Growth Mindset’ according to PISA Brunei). One book reviewer shared her experience in Amazon.com. As soon as she finished the book, she told the husband to never “praise him (their child) for being smart … only for effort. Nine years later, her child has  “become self-motivated, a hard worker, and a straight-A student.”

(Figure 1: In the PISA Country Note, 46% of Brunei students have a ‘Growth Mindset’; p7. Source)

As Brunei looks to rise in the OECD PISA rank in the future, parental role is as crucial as ever. Through a Whole-of-Nation approach, Bruneian parents can start by practicing “Concerted Cultivation,” reading books to the child more often and praising the child’s work ethics. In doing so, Bruneians students can attain success in the educational field, and we will come closer to the realization of Brunei Wawasan 2035. Together we succeed.


Borneo Bulletin (2019) Brunei stands third among ASEAN in PISA https://borneobulletin.com.bn/brunei-stands-third-among-asean-pisa/

Bronson, P., & Merryman, A. (2011). NurtureShock. Random House.

Jessica A. R. Logan, Laura M. Justice, Melike Yumuş, Leydi Johana Chaparro-Moreno. When Children Are Not Read to at Home. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000657

Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Univ of California Press.

PISA Country Note Brunei (2019) OECD https://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_BRN.pdf