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Is reflective practice compatible with Malay-Islamic values? Some thoughts on teacher education in Brunei Darussalam.

This paper critically examines the compatibility of Brunei culture values with the assumptions of reflective practice. Cultural, political and educational institutions in Brunei are thoroughly embedded Inserted into. See embedded system.  within a fusion of Malay-Islamic values. In an attempt to examine the issue of teacher effectiveness, reflective practice and allied concepts, such as action research, have been introduced into the teacher education curriculum at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam University of Brunei Darussalam (Abbreviation: UBD; Malay: Universiti Brunei Darussalam; Jawi: يونيبرسيتي بروني . Based on a juxtaposition juxtaposition /jux·ta·po·si·tion/ (-pah-zish´un) apposition.

The state of being placed or situated side by side.
 of Brunei values/culture with the assumptions underlying reflection, the paper discusses why the cultural distinctiveness of Brunei poses serious obstacles to the implementation of reflective strategies in teacher education. The paper also underlines the need for teacher educators in non-western cultures to take cognisance COGNISANCE, pleading. Where the defendant in an action of replevin (not being entitled to the distress or goods which are the subject of the replevin) acknowledges the taking of the distress, and insists that such taking was legal, not because he himself had a right to distrain on his own  of contextual factors when importing educational ideas and concepts from the `west'.


The purpose of this paper is to compare key assumptions of reflective practice with the major cultural values of Brunei Darussalam--a small but affluent Malay-Islamic Sultanate located on the northwest coast of Borneo. Culturally and politically, Brunei represents a fusion of Malay-Islamic values which makes it somewhat unique in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, region of Asia (1990 est. pop. 442,500,000), c.1,740,000 sq mi (4,506,600 sq km), bounded roughly by the Indian subcontinent on the west, China on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the east. . The Sultan and his government have established a national ideology, Melayu Islam Beraja Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy, MIB) is the adopted national philosophy of Negara Brunei Darussalam. MIB was officially proclaimed as the national philosophy of Brunei on the day of its independence on January 1 1984 by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. , referred to locally as Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB (1) (Management Information Base) The hierarchical database used by the simple network management protocol (SNMP) to describe the particular device being monitored. MIB objects are identified using ASN.1 syntax. See SNMP, RMON, OID and ASN.1. ). This ideology justifies preserving the absolute monarchy absolute monarchy: see monarchy.  and invokes Brunei's history and Islamic values in support of the Sultanate. Thus an indivisible INDIVISIBLE. That which cannot be separated.
     2. It is important to ascertain when a consideration or a contract, is or is not indivisible. When a consideration is entire and indivisible, and it is against law, the contract is void in toto. 11 Verm. 592; 2 W.
 nexus has been built between Malay ethnic identity, Islam and the Sultanate. As the dominant ideology The dominant ideology, in Marxist or marxian theory, is the set of common values and beliefs shared by most people in a given society, framing how the majority think about a range of topics, The dominant ideology is understood by Marxism to reflect, or serve, the interests of the , MIB permeates the small state of Brunei and governs institutional norms and behaviour.

Recently, reflective practice along with action research has gained impetus as key components of teacher education degree and sub-degree programs taught by the Institute of Education at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, the major teacher training agency in the country (Sim, 1996, 1997). In an attempt to improve teaching effectiveness and develop a sense of professionalism among preservice teachers, high priority has been placed on action research and reflective practice as a means for teachers to improve practice. Tire locally perceived need to improve teacher effectiveness is not unrelated to similar trends in the west. Crossley and Vulliamy (1996, p. 144) argue that such emphasis is due to the popularity and widespread influence of the constructivist con·struc·tiv·ism  
A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects.
 paradigm--and in particular, its use on professional development award-bearing courses at the postgraduate level in Australia and Great Britain Great Britain, officially United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 60,441,000), 94,226 sq mi (244,044 sq km), on the British Isles, off W Europe. The country is often referred to simply as Britain. .

To some extent, Crossley and Vulliamy's observations ring true in Brunei. Many teacher educators are western educated and are committed to a constructivist epistemology Constructivism is a perspective in philosophy that views all of our knowledge as "constructed", under the assumption that it does not necessarily reflect any external "transcendent" realities; it is contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience. , that is, one in which `knowledge is personally empowering and fulfilling and, through individual enlightenment, society is enriched' (Grundy & Hatton, 1995, p. 217). Within the constructivist paradigm, reality is perceived to be multiple and conflicting. These social realities in turn are constantly modified as individuals or groups become more informed. Despite the lack of academic discussion on the topic in Brunei, reflection and its offshoots appear to be taken for granted Adj. 1. taken for granted - evident without proof or argument; "an axiomatic truth"; "we hold these truths to be self-evident"
axiomatic, self-evident

obvious - easily perceived by the senses or grasped by the mind; "obvious errors"
 by teacher educators as an essential dimension of teacher education. Recently, however, many analysts have pointed to the pitfalls involved when western educational innovations and concepts are uncritically transferred to foreign cultures (Crossley & Vulliamy, 1997; Leach, 1994; O'Donoghue, 1994; Thomas, 1997; Walker, 1993).

Arguably ar·gu·a·ble  
1. Open to argument: an arguable question, still unresolved.

2. That can be argued plausibly; defensible in argument: three arguable points of law.
, teaching methods and assumptions about learning must be filtered through the local culture if they are to be successfully adapted. This point is underscored in O'Donoghue's (1994) critique of the manner in which the concept of reflective practitioner was unsuccessfully transferred to the teacher education programs in Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (păp`ə, –y . In a recent paper, Thomas (1997) argues that a `culture-sensitive' pedagogy for developing countries is needed wherein the day-to-day behaviour patterns at home and in the school are integrated with curricula and teaching methods to develop a pedagogy that is culturally grounded and therefore more relevant to students' understanding.

Against this background, the first task of the paper is to provide a brief overview of various conceptions and assumptions underlying reflection; second, to examine the educational system in Brunei, focusing on dominant ideologies that guide educational policy and practice; third, core Brunei values derived from theoretical and empirical work in the social sciences are juxtaposed jux·ta·pose  
tr.v. jux·ta·posed, jux·ta·pos·ing, jux·ta·pos·es
To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
 with the multiple meanings of reflection. The paper concludes that reflection as conceived and implemented in the west has a limited yet potentially positive role to play in teacher education in Brunei.

Towards an understanding of reflective practice

The purpose of this section is to demonstrate that reflection is not only an ambiguous concept but also a highly complex one. Space does not permit an exhaustive review of the literature. However, our search reveals that there are diverse meanings and purposes attributed to reflection, making it impossible to arrive at a universally accepted definition (Calderhead & Gates, 1993; LaBoskey, 1993). Moreover, the literature is replete re·plete  
1. Abundantly supplied; abounding: a stream replete with trout; an apartment replete with Empire furniture.

2. Filled to satiation; gorged.

 with programmatic pro·gram·mat·ic  
1. Of, relating to, or having a program.

2. Following an overall plan or schedule: a step-by-step, programmatic approach to problem solving.

 guidelines and models designed to assist in the implementation process (e.g. Boud, Keough, & Walker, 1985; Calderhead & Gates, 1993; Copeland, Birmingham, de la Cruz de la Cruz is a common surname in the Spanish language meaning 'of The Cross.'
  • Carlos de la Cruz
  • José de la Cruz
  • Juana de la Cruz
  • Oswaldo de la Cruz
  • Ramón de la Cruz
  • Tommy de la Cruz
  • Ulises de la Cruz
  • Matthew de la Cruz
  • Cross de la Cruz
, & Lewin, 1993; Fletcher, 1997).

As a construct embedded within the Deweyian tradition, Grimmett (1988) opines Opines are low molecular weight compounds found in plant crown gall tumors produced by the parasitic bacterium Agrobacterium. Opine biosynthesis is catalyzed by specific enzymes encoded by genes contained in a small segment of DNA (known as the T-DNA, for 'transfer DNA')  that reflection is a `specialized form of thinking that is stimulated by surprises and puzzles' (p. 6). Zeichner and Tabachnick (1991) state that `reflection would seem to be an example of a contested concept whose meaning shifts to accommodate the interests and interpretations of those using the term and is therefore merely a piece of common rhetoric' (p. 1). Others define reflection as a set of stages in a complex cognitive process that `propels people along the journey from novice to expert' (Butler, 1996, p. 279). In another piece, Butler (1992) defines reflection as `an evaluative dialogue that enriches the self and enhances professional practice'. Calderhead (cited in Gilroy, 1993, p. 126) alludes to the wide intellectual appeal of reflection and provides a summary of three interpretations. The first is Dewey's conception which stresses the consciously rational search for solutions to problems. The second is Schon's contribution, emphasising the notion of reflection-in-action, and the third is a more political approach represented by the work of Giroux and McLaren (1987). In their review of the concept, Calderhead and Gates (1993) conclude somewhat caustically that various perspectives:
   treat the process, content and preconditions and product of reflection
   differently ... those who use them are likely to hold a range of beliefs
   about teaching and teacher education into which they have incorporated
   their own particular notions of reflection. (p. 126)

A widely quoted definition of reflection is that of Zeichner and Liston (1987). They write, `Reflection seeks to help student teachers become more aware of themselves and their environment in a way that changes their perception of what is possible'(p. 25). Taking such a broad perspective allows the authors to link the act of reflecting with critical thinking, professionalism, and political action. Recognising the instant appeal that the image of a reflective practitioner has for teacher educators, and noting the lack of clarity that accompanies its discussion, Copeland et al. (1993) emphasise the need to foster a particular stance towards reflection. They envision reflection as a teacher's tendency to `engage in a conscious process of identifying problematic issues in their practice and pursuing solutions that bring about valued effects on student learning'(p. 358).

Zeichner and Liston (1987) have identified three levels of reflection that have been widely accepted by teacher educators worldwide. The first is that of `technical reflection', which basically confines practitioners to choose among few alternatives to accomplish predetermined pre·de·ter·mine  
v. pre·de·ter·mined, pre·de·ter·min·ing, pre·de·ter·mines
1. To determine, decide, or establish in advance:
 ends (e.g. appropriate for novice teachers). Hill (1997, p. 193) refers to this initial level as `unproblematic technical proficiency'. The second more complex level can be conceived as `situational or contextual reflection' (Hill, 1997, p. 194) wherein the choice of a specific course of action is informed by knowledge of the expected outcomes associated with each alternative course of action (appropriate for experienced, autonomous teachers). At this level, the teacher examines the theoretical and institutional assumptions behind, for example, curriculum and pedagogy, and assesses the effects of teaching actions, goals and structures.

The third level, commonly referred to as `critical reflection', depicts a decision-making situation wherein teachers' choices are informed by knowledge of both the expected outcomes and the ethical/moral consequences (ends) associated with alternatives (means). At this most advanced level, both expected outcomes and alternatives as well as organisational context and more societal, global concerns are taken as problematic (open to discussion).

Butler's (1996) model, on the other hand, is slightly more psychological, linked as it is to the development of self-competence and awareness and ultimately to the attainment of increasingly more sophisticated levels of personal and professional awareness. He suggests that to reflect is `to be aware of and learn from the transformation of the unknown future into the known present and past' (p. 281). Butler identifies five stages which take the form of a continuum: that is, from Novice to Advanced Beginner to being: Competent, Proficient and finally to the highest level of Expert. Butler stresses the importance of the school climate in terms of facilitating teacher reflection, ideally one that places organisational and individual learning at its core. Butler's work combined with the ideas of Zeichner and Liston (1987) provide a useful framework for developing curricula structured to ensure that teachers at different levels of expertise and experience are appropriately dealt with. Clearly, the promotion of reflection needs to be directed at experienced teachers as well as pre-service novices--but in different ways.

The literature provides some additional valuable insights. The first is that engaging in reflective practice, however defined, is among other things, a process of solving problems and thinking about ways in which solutions can be applied to these problems. Second, reflective practice is more than just the act of solving problems; it is a predisposition predisposition /pre·dis·po·si·tion/ (-dis-po-zish´un) a latent susceptibility to disease that may be activated under certain conditions.

 or frame of mind that values inquiry for its own sake but is also directed towards understanding education in the fullest sense of the word. At this level, reflection can be construed as integral to one's educational philosophy. Third, reflection is seen by many analysts as existing along a continuum wherein individual propensities, abilities and situations will shape the degree to which any one teacher will actually engage in reflection and with what intensity. In this sense, reflection is contingent on Adj. 1. contingent on - determined by conditions or circumstances that follow; "arms sales contingent on the approval of congress"
contingent upon, dependant on, dependant upon, dependent on, dependent upon, depending on, contingent
 personal and social-psychological factors. Fourth, although reflection is usually depicted as a social-psychological construct, it is embedded in the schooling process in which case it is important to acknowledge the bureaucratic bu·reau·crat  
1. An official of a bureaucracy.

2. An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.

, political and cultural influences on teachers' work.

Education, the state and economic development

The literature on reflection as developed in the west assumes that teachers either possess a high degree of autonomy and professional freedom or that they should work towards achieving this end. By and large, teachers in the west are relatively unencumbered Unencumbered

Property that is not subject to any creditor claims or liens.

For example, if a house is owned free and clear (meaning the owner owes no mortgage to anyone), it is unencumbered.
 to criticise the society and the institutions around them whereas such freedom cannot be said to exist in other parts of the world.

Returning to Brunei, educational policy and practice are strongly influenced by cultural and religious ideologies promulgated prom·ul·gate  
tr.v. prom·ul·gat·ed, prom·ul·gat·ing, prom·ul·gates
1. To make known (a decree, for example) by public declaration; announce officially. See Synonyms at announce.

 by an all-powerful state. Economically, along with other oil-rich Middle East countries, Brunei has been identified as a rentier ren·tier  
A person who lives on income from property or investments.

[French, from rente, yearly income, from Old French; see rent1.
 capitalist state (Beblawi, 1987; Gunn, 1993). The purpose of education in such states is manifestly different from that found in developed countries. In rentier economies, revenues accrue directly to the state from oil and gas `rents'. Hence there is little or no connection between production and income distribution. Oil rents are then distributed to the population in the form of highly subsidised Adj. 1. subsidised - having partial financial support from public funds; "lived in subsidized public housing"

supported - sustained or maintained by aid (as distinct from physical support); "a club entirely supported by membership dues";
 imports, secure government jobs, subsidised housing and free medical services (Devlin & Jewson, 1995).

Up to now, the achievement of economic growth in Brunei has not been directly related to the development and allocation of its human resources The fancy word for "people." The human resources department within an organization, years ago known as the "personnel department," manages the administrative aspects of the employees. . Because of the steady flow of oil rents driven by the relentless global demand for oil and gas, there has been little need for Brunei to compete in the global economy. This lack of regional and global competition, the dominance of the state sector, guaranteed employment in the public sector, and the ability to afford a large expatriate labour force have shaped an economy virtually disconnected from education and training.

Recently, however, the state has declared its intention to diversify the economy by expanding manufacturing, industry and tourism. Through official documents and media pronouncements, the need for greater economic efficiency among public sector institutions has been stressed. The Brunei state already enjoys a high degree of autonomy from the interests of any one class or faction, which leaves it unhindered unhindered

not prevented or obstructed: unhindered access


without being prevented or obstructed: he was able to go about his work unhindered 
 to achieve its economic objectives. Towards this end, all members of the society are obliged o·blige  
v. o·bliged, o·blig·ing, o·blig·es
1. To constrain by physical, legal, social, or moral means.

 to assist the state in implementing its policy agenda and, if necessary, to sacrifice personal interests for the achievement of collective goals. In the educational realm, efforts are now being made to expand and modernise the technical-vocational education sector, a development that unequivocally signals the state's commitment to achieving a closer correspondence between the workplace and the education and training system (Government of Brunei, 1996). Hence efficiency in education, social development, and economic growth are inextricably in·ex·tri·ca·ble  
a. So intricate or entangled as to make escape impossible: an inextricable maze; an inextricable web of deceit.

 linked in public policy, reflecting a commitment to skill formation and human resource development.

Further, the state has taken the lead to ensure that all adhere to adhere to
verb 1. follow, keep, maintain, respect, observe, be true, fulfil, obey, heed, keep to, abide by, be loyal, mind, be constant, be faithful

 its particular vision of education. The need for long-term political and economic survival provides justification for the state The justification of the state is a term that refers to the source of legitimate authority for the state or government. Typically, a justification of the state explains why the state should exist, and what a legitimate state should or should not be able to do.  to impose important institutional mechanisms which co-ordinate government agencies to ensure that its policy objectives are achieved. Within this framework, the education and training system has become automatically integrated within the wider economic system, not unlike the experience of South Korea and Singapore (Ashton & Sung, 1994). Thus if the Brunei state is to meet its economic objectives, it is imperative that educational policy and practice are highly co-ordinated and synchronised Adj. 1. synchronised - operating in unison; "the synchronized flapping of a bird's wings"

synchronal, synchronic, synchronous - occurring or existing at the same time or having the same period or phase; "recovery was synchronous with therapy"-
. Indeed the legitimacy of the state would be seriously undermined if the schools were to deviate in any way from the role they are expected to play in the steady provision of skilled manpower.

It is not difficult to envision how the state's economic policy reinforces a technical-rational view of human resource development. Under the pressure to meet its economic targets, the state has imposed on schools an examination-driven system that is highly stratified stratified /strat·i·fied/ (strat´i-fid) formed or arranged in layers.

Arranged in the form of layers or strata.
 with selection points (exams) structured along the way. The upward expansion of enrolments in this hierarchy over time has increased societal literacy levels and made room for an increasing number of women in formal education. It has also provided access to higher levels of education at which individuals can be distinguished from the rest of the population. As a result, individuals increasingly view education not in intrinsic terms, collective terms, but as a commodity to be exchanged for jobs and social status.

If allowed to dominate education, the pursuit of educational credentials may further contribute to the decline in educational quality by trivialising teaching and promoting school and teacher `effectiveness' instead. The problem for Brunei teachers is that they are already confronted with students with finely tuned `consumer mentalities' for whom the credential is more important than learning. These conditions set up expectations which may cause students (and teachers) to resist pedagogical ped·a·gog·ic   also ped·a·gog·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.

2. Characterized by pedantic formality: a haughty, pedagogic manner.
 innovations. Teachers might find it difficult, for example, to reconcile the rationale underlying reflective practice with the more pressing need to conform to Verb 1. conform to - satisfy a condition or restriction; "Does this paper meet the requirements for the degree?"
fit, meet

coordinate - be co-ordinated; "These activities coordinate well"
 the curriculum and to prepare students for examinations. The danger is that, within such a state-led, social reproduction model of education, the effect of the economic efficiency ideology on educational practice is to emphasise form over content and rote learning rote learning
Learning or memorization by repetition, often without an understanding of the reasoning or relationships involved in the material that is learned.
 over deep learning. In this scenario, students are rewarded for formal compliance with modest performance standards rather than for demonstrating operational mastery of skills deemed economically or socially useful.

Brunei values shared with Southeast Asia

Since Brunei shares similar values with other Southeast Asian countries, it is necessary to distinguish between values thought universal to the region and those unique to Brunei. The assumption here is that, although there is no single pan-Southeast Asian set of values, no uniform ideology and no single cultural system, there are still a number of shared values. One such value that crosses borders and religions is the idea of equilibrium, or moderation, similar to the ancient Greek Noun 1. Ancient Greek - the Greek language prior to the Roman Empire
Greek, Hellenic, Hellenic language - the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European family of languages
 concept of the `Golden Mean'. Muzaffar calls this `one of the most cherished ideals in almost every Asian philosophy' (cited in Mauzy, 1997, p. 215). Traditionally in Southeast Asia, emphasis was placed on one's duties and responsibilities within the family and larger community, the concept of rights being imported from the west. Today, Southeast Asian states stress a balance between rights and duties, although some analysts argue that the balance remains skewed skewed

curve of a usually unimodal distribution with one tail drawn out more than the other and the median will lie above or below the mean.

skewed Epidemiology adjective Referring to an asymmetrical distribution of a population or of data
 towards duties (Vatikiotis, 1996).

Yet another widely shared value, not just in Confucian East Asia East Asia

A region of Asia coextensive with the Far East.

East Asian adj. & n.
 and Singapore, but also in Islamic Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei--and also in Buddhist Thailand--is the emphasis on communitarianism communitarianism

Political and social philosophy that emphasizes the importance of community in the functioning of political life, in the analysis and evaluation of political institutions, and in understanding human identity and well-being.
. This is the view that responsibilities to the family and community have priority over the rights of the individual, an idea that Etzioni (1992,) has attempted to rejuvenate re·ju·ve·nate  
tr.v. re·ju·ve·nat·ed, re·ju·ve·nat·ing, re·ju·ve·nates
1. To restore to youthful vigor or appearance; make young again.

 in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Muzaffar (1996), `none of the major Asian philosophies regards the individual as the ultimate measure of all things' (p. 4). Other shared values include the preference for consultation, consensus and indecision Indecision

ass unable to decide between two haystacks, he would starve to death. [Fr. Philos.: Brewer Dictionary, 154]

Cooke, Ebenezer

his irresolution usually leads to catatonia. [Am. Lit.
 over contention, debate and litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.

When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation.
. Also prevalent is the tendency to defer to authority and support strong forms of punishment as a deterrent to and retribution for crimes. In short, these values combine to give Southeast Asia a common outlook and to some extent provide legitimation for regional political and economic cooperation.

Values unique to Brunei

In Brunei, the definition of the cultural category `Malay' is complex. Locally the term `malayu' has at least five different polysemous senses of meaning, which depend on particular combinations of religious, linguistic, ethnic and legal criteria (Maxwell, 1996). There are two native Malay-speaking demographic components of the ethnic category `Malay'-- the Kadayan and the Barunay. According to Maxwell (1996, p. 182), both groups are historically `symbiotic symbiotic /sym·bi·ot·ic/ (sim?bi-ot´ik) associated in symbiosis; living together.

Of, resembling, or relating to symbiosis.
 participants in a common economy and co-participants in a common system of social values, general orientation and personal goals'. The Chinese, who number between 60 000 and 70 000, have considerable economic influence and expertise but play a negligible role in governing the country. Indigenous groups tend to remain on the margins of Brunei society unless individuals convert to Islam and/or intermarry in·ter·mar·ry  
intr.v. in·ter·mar·ried, in·ter·mar·ry·ing, in·ter·mar·ries
1. To marry a member of another group.

2. To be bound together by the marriages of members.

 with Malays. Only qualified Malays and a handful of ethnic Chinese are allowed into the Universiti. Hence virtually all pre-service and active teachers are of Malay origin.

Various researchers (Blunt, 1988; Maxwell, 1996; Mulder, 1996) depict Malay culture as highly collectivist col·lec·tiv·ism  
The principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government.
 in orientation, hierarchical, with a strong family orientation. In Blunt's study (1998), Brunei Malays were found to demonstrate high power distance, strong uncertainty avoidance, low individualism and medium masculinity. Specifically, high power distance reflects a willingness to accept an unequal distribution of power without question and to regard it as normal (Blunt, 1988, p. 236). In the workplace, power distance refers to the distance between a supervisor and a subordinate. Uncertainty avoidance is the extent to which people are made nervous or tense by situations that they perceive as unstructured, unclear or unpredictable. Within the workplace, uncertainty avoidance relates to issues involving how secure one feels in terms of knowing what to do or when to do it. In this category, Blunt found that Brunei workers exhibited the following traits: (a) emotional resistance to change, (b) aversion to risk-taking, (c) preference for clear organisational goals and structure, (d) preference for clearly stated rules and regulations that should not be broken, (e) aversion to conflict, and (f) mistrust of foreigners as managers.

Individuals placing collective goals ahead of personal goals characterise low individualism. Throughout Southeast Asia, individuals typically subordinate personal aspirations for the good of the collective. Blunt (1998) found that Bruneians tend to score low on the masculinity scale. Masculine cultures tend to emphasise traditionally masculine traits such as assertiveness, advancement, and success. In contrast, cultures on the low end of the masculinity scale tend to stress nurturance, human relations human relations nplrelaciones fpl humanas  and the quality of life. In Brunei, men are expected to be assertive and dominant over women in social relations and demonstrative of Adj. 1. demonstrative of - serving to prove or demonstrate; "the oath of office is...demonstrative of the legislative opinion on this subject"- John Marshall  ambitious and competitive behaviour (Maxwell, 1996). Ethnographic eth·nog·ra·phy  
The branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures.

 accounts suggest that the symbolic value of men and women appears to be starkly differentiated, the male standing for status and the known world surrounding the home, the female for morality and the home itself (Mulder, 1996). This is not to imply that men and women are confined to the domains they symbolise or that these are mutually exclusive Adj. 1. mutually exclusive - unable to be both true at the same time

incompatible - not compatible; "incompatible personalities"; "incompatible colors"
 preserves. Islamic values notwithstanding, Brunei women have substantial freedom in `border crossing' and are relatively free to pursue education, career and social mobility within established limits.

Blunt's results find strong theoretical support in the scholarly work of Benedict (1967) and Lowenthal (1987). Focusing on the unique traits of small states and societies in Southeast Asia, Benedict (1967) describes social relationships as `multiplex' in that most relationships serve many interests. Standards of judgement in small states depend on who people are rather than on what they do or how well they do it, whereas in larger states, social roles are more likely to be universalistic and based on fixed standards and criteria. According to Lowenthal (1987), human interaction in small states tends to be characterised by a kind of `managed intimacy'. People are socialised Adj. 1. socialised - under group or government control; "socialized ownership"; "socialized medicine"

liberal - tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition
 to get along with one another and are expected to subordinate personal ambition to the common good. The emphasis on finding equilibrium, harmony and balance is paramount.

Mulder (1996) suggests that peoples of Southeast Asia are given to generating a `smoothness in interaction, not giving cause, holding conflict in abeyance A lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom title is vested. In the law of estates, the condition of a freehold when there is no person in whom it is vested. In such cases the freehold has been said to be in nubibus (in the clouds), in pendenti , at least amongst those with whom transactions are frequent' (p. 52). Owing to owing to
Because of; on account of: I couldn't attend, owing to illness.

owing to prepdebido a, por causa de 
 the hierarchical nature of society and the importance of status, Mulder contends that `knowing one's place' is a prerequisite to social order.


To the extent that the above values and behaviour patterns are a reasonably valid depiction of Brunei culture, there is a need for teacher educators to find ways to reconcile these values with the notion of reflection in a manner which does justice to both. Rather than treat Brunei cultural characteristics as impediments IMPEDIMENTS, contracts. Legal objections to the making of a contract. Impediments which relate to the person are those of minority, want of reason, coverture, and the like; they are sometimes called disabilities. Vide Incapacity.
, they could constitute the foundation of a conceptual and programmatic framework that attempts to establish the limits and possibilities of reflection.

To achieve this end, we must first be clear about Brunei cultural traits. Although it is possible to make certain tentative deductions from the foregoing analysis, they are not to be construed as definitive, but rather, as indicators or guidelines for further deliberation and planning. As in other authoritarian states, a culture of social science research, scholarship and inquiry has yet to develop fully in Brunei; hence the difficulty in reaching firm conclusions about how or in what direction the society is changing. Having said this, it is not unreasonable to infer from the research to date that the unit of society in Brunei is not the individual, but the family and the group where an individual has no significant meaning without his or her pattern of relationships. These relationships are personal and particularistic par·tic·u·lar·ism  
1. Exclusive adherence to, dedication to, or interest in one's own group, party, sect, or nation.

, morally and ethically bounded by Islamic-Malay values. Acceptance of this principal, therefore, sets upper limits on the extent to which teachers can be expected to engage in a process of self-reflection without violating norms of group solidarity, cohesion, balance and harmony.

Second, there is a vertical dimension, of inferiority and superiority, of power distance or inequality implicit in Adj. 1. implicit in - in the nature of something though not readily apparent; "shortcomings inherent in our approach"; "an underlying meaning"
underlying, inherent
 the Brunei social stratification Noun 1. social stratification - the condition of being arranged in social strata or classes within a group

condition - a mode of being or form of existence of a person or thing; "the human condition"
 system. We deduce de·duce  
tr.v. de·duced, de·duc·ing, de·duc·es
1. To reach (a conclusion) by reasoning.

2. To infer from a general principle; reason deductively:
 from this that the ability to pose and solve problems and possibly take risks in the process may be incongruent in·con·gru·ent  
1. Not congruent.

2. Incongruous.

in·congru·ence n.
 with what society expects from its members. Moreover, to conceive of Verb 1. conceive of - form a mental image of something that is not present or that is not the case; "Can you conceive of him as the president?"
envisage, ideate, imagine
 the self as an `active maker of meaning', implicit in much of the constructivist discourse (see Butler, 1992, 1996; Hendry, 1996) is incompatible with both Islamic teaching and the economic efficiency ideology espoused by the state. It would therefore be unreasonable if not counterproductive coun·ter·pro·duc·tive  
Tending to hinder rather than serve one's purpose: "Violation of the court order would be counterproductive" Philip H. Lee.
 to expect teachers to reach the `proficient' or `expert' level as described in Butler's (1996, p. 279) model. The proficient performer `whose ability to grasp the situation is brought out into the open and questioned', and the expert, who is able to `grasp each situation and focus on the central core of the problem without wasteful consideration of unfruitful alternatives' reflect a level of individual initiative and competence that could pose a threat to the hierarchy of authority. Similarly the view put forth by Beyer and Zeichner (1987) that `the aim of reflection is to promote a situation where future teachers can deal critically with what exists in order to improve it' (p. 311) is clearly unachievable given that Brunei schools are expected to transmit Malay-Islamic values.

Third, high power distance implies an unwillingness to confront issues openly. This points to the difficulty advocates of reflection would encounter when trying to induce Brunei teachers to get beyond Zeichner and Liston's (1987) basic level of reflection, that is, the level where the teacher is restricted to solving technical problems among a relatively narrow range. The high power distance and low individualism found in Brunei means that not only are those in authority never publicly criticised, but neither are their ideas. Thus there may be no other option for Brunei teachers but to link problem solving problem solving

Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error.
 with reflection. Teachers in Brunei, like teachers everywhere, spend considerable time solving one problem or another. They are also heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. Confining reflection to effective problem solving, then, whether in the teaching, administrative or some other domain, could be a productive way to start teachers thinking about reflection. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that it will be difficult to convince teachers to commit themselves to a process of interrogating their values and examining any discrepancy between these values and practice as called for by advocates of reflective practice.

Further, the values and behaviours of Brunei teachers do not seem to be particularly compatible with the notions of school and teacher reform which assume a strong linkage between teacher empowerment, school reform and professionalisation Noun 1. professionalisation - the social process whereby people come to engage in an activity for pay or as a means of livelihood; "the professionalization of American sports"; "the professionalization of warfare"
. The notion of teacher as `change agent', for instance, would appear to be an inappropriate role for Brunei teachers (Cannella & Reiff, 1994). In contrast, in Brunei it is important to acknowledge that teachers place much more emphasis on finding their rightful place in the school in a way that not only conforms to their place in the larger society, but brings with it respect, status and a sense of oneness with society.

Fourth, although there are varied definitions of reflection, and as many orientations towards reflective practice (i.e. technical, practical, and critical) the underlying theme is that reflection is an intra-personal process through which personal and professional knowing occurs (Knowles, 1993). But in Brunei, within the context of the economic efficiency ideology, the pre-service teacher is treated as a technician-in-training and an agent: of a predetermined curriculum, and not as a developing professional. Support for this contention is found in Yong's (1995) study of preservice teachers. He found that his subjects lacked intrinsic motivation and a sense of professionalism. Yong attributed this to the affluence of Brunei society, inferring that it contributes to a consumer mentality and an indifferent attitude towards education.

Fifth, the consumer mentality exhibited by Brunei teachers and observed by different analysts (Gunn, 1993; Minnis, 1998; Yong, 1995) is strikingly at odds with the image of the reflective practitioner found in the western literature. The ideal-typical reflective practitioner is one who is intellectually curious, assertive and eager to try out new ideas "New Ideas" is the debut single by Scottish New Wave/Indie Rock act The Dykeenies. It was first released as a Double A-side with "Will It Happen Tonight?" on July 17, 2006. The band also recorded a video for the track.  (see Altrichter, Posch & Somekh, 1993; Clift, Houston & Pugach, 1990; Lomax, 1994; Whitehead, 1993). Yet high power distance and low individualism found in Brunei culture suggests that not only are those in authority never publicly criticised, but neither are their ideas. Thus there are limits to which one can question the opinions of those in authority--regardless of one's desire to do so.

Is there any role for reflective practice in the teacher education curriculum? The answer is a cautionary yes. Perhaps the first step to be considered by teacher educators is to decide on whether or not it is possible to legitimise Verb 1. legitimise - make legal; "Marijuana should be legalized"
decriminalise, decriminalize, legalise, legalize, legitimate, legitimatise, legitimatize, legitimize
 reflection within the schools. Without the cooperation and consensus of practising teachers and administrators, there is little chance of promoting the idea further. This involves taking some very practical steps to ensure that reflection is understood by school personnel as a means to achieve tangible goals that are valued by teachers, the community and school authorities. It may be also be sensible to try and `sell' the idea in such a manner that reflection is understood not only as a means to enhance teaching effectiveness but also as a means for teachers to derive more enjoyment from teaching. Despite the time and effort that would be required, consultation with Ministry of Education officials is necessary and must be comprehensive enough to lay the groundwork for future planning involving school officials, teachers and Universiti staff.

After legitimising the idea in the schools and among the relevant stakeholders Stakeholders

All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government.
, the second step is to decide to what extent reflection is equally appropriate at all levels of teacher training. Is it more productive to assume that reflection is best taught to certain kinds of teachers at certain stages in their development? If so, it would be useful to identify those stages at which concerns for engaging in a process of reflection might be introduced, reinforced and or emphasised (Copeland et al., 1993, p. 357). Guidelines could be developed to determine an optimal order of activities that constitute preparation according to a teacher's level of experience and personal desire to learn more about reflection.


This paper has tried to demonstrate that the values and ideologies undergirding Brunei society and education carry with them assumptions about the social world, the nature of reality and about teaching and learning that are not altogether congruent con·gru·ent  
1. Corresponding; congruous.

2. Mathematics
a. Coinciding exactly when superimposed: congruent triangles.

 with the underlying assumptions of reflective practice. Although it is difficult to ascertain the degree to which teachers have internalised these values and acted upon them in the classroom, it is also clear that in a small state like Brunei, cultural values and political ideologies represent powerful constraints on individual behaviour. Therefore it is not unreasonable to suggest that the culturally conservative nature of Brunei society does not readily lend itself to the wholesale transfer of western teacher education concepts and models. Clearly advocates of reflection in Brunei face a considerable challenge and must be prepared to make significant concessions to the culture if reflection is to be anything more than an empty slogan.

For reflection to be meaningful in Brunei, Zeichner and Liston's (1997) initial level of technical reflection can be profitably utilised. At this level, the emphasis is on efficient application of subject matter knowledge to given ends; curriculum goals and objectives should not be scrutinised. Instead teachers could reflect upon the effectiveness of their teaching strategies, assessment procedures and classroom management skills. For many Brunei teachers, this would constitute a considerable challenge. The less threatening the concept is perceived, the more likely it is to be accepted and integrated into practice.

Readers will recognise at once that this view of reflection will only reinforce conservative outcomes and fall short of western conceptions of the term. However it must be kept in mind that even a restricted notion of reflection is better than an overly ambitious one. If Brunei teachers can learn to reflect, even in the most rudimentary sense, they will have begun the process of reconstructing their own self-image. There is no telling where this may lead.


John Minnis wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the reviewers of his article.

cross cultural studies
cultural context
knowledge base for teaching
professional development
reflective teaching
teacher education


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John R. Minnis Universiti Brunei Darussalam

John Minnis is a Senior Lecturer senior lecturer
n. Chiefly British
A university teacher, especially one ranking next below a reader.
 in the Department of Educational Foundations, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Bundar Seri Begawan 2028, Brunei Darussalam.
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Author:Minnis, John R.
Publication:Australian Journal of Education
Geographic Code:9BRUN
Date:Aug 1, 1999
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