I enrolled on Bristol’s MSc Education, Technology & Society (ETS) in 2009, as a result of my experiences as a relief teacher for the Brunei government – a position which followed on from my Bachelor of Education (General Science) at the University of Brunei Darussalam (2004-08). It was during my time as a relief teacher that I learnt about teaching and learning in classroom settings. I taught Biology, Chemistry and Physics – a job which proved very challenging as most of the local students were not interested in learning science. This could have been for any number of reasons, including language use in learning science, boring textbooks and a lack of motivation owing to high failure rates.
To attract my students’ attention I tried using Microsoft Powerpoint and interactive whiteboard. The slides I prepared using this technology were interactive, meaning that students were given the chance to take part in class activities and tasks. I could see that some of my students began to like and even love learning science – their test results improved and their behaviour in class altered. Those who seldom did any work soon began to hand in their work on time. Because of this, I decided to undertake more research on the use of technologies in educational setting. So began my MSc ETS journey.
I chose Bristol not only because it offered the course in Education, Technology and Society, but because – at the time – it was one of the top 10 universities in the UK. The academic environment at the Graduate School of Education (GSOE) was welcoming and friendly. One of the greatest influences on me was Dr Federica Olivero, who taught me a lot about carrying out research in educational settings. Even now, as a researcher with the Ministry of Education, I remember what Dr Olivero taught me at Bristol.
I learnt how to carry out my own research on the Research Methodologies unit, which proved to be my favourite aspect of the course. It was while studying for this unit that I discovered many types of research methodologies which I had never heard of before. I was also involved in a project, which involved making a short film about the use of technologies in education, where I learnt how to make a video. But the most important lesson I learnt during this project came from interacting with my course mates – learning about their different cultures and how we could co-exist and work together.
My graduation ceremony was one of my most exciting memories, because it reminded me of what I had achieved during my one year in Bristol. I also remember doing volunteer work for Dr Sibel Erduran at the Bristol Plaza, where we explained science processes to secondary school students. This stands out for me because I believe in the importance of contributing something back to society.
After completing my Masters I won a competition with the Learning Study Group at my previous school to carry out research using variation theory in all government schools in the Belait District, Brunei. The Learning Study Group is a collaboration project with the Department of Schools, which was established in 2009 with the aim of improving teaching in the classroom. I was appointed as Facilitator of ‘Cluster Five’ – a group of five government secondary schools in the Kuala Belait area – in Science. Working with six teachers from each school, I helped to prepare a lesson plan, which was to be used during the study. We wrote up a plan on Food Digestion in the Human Body, using Variation Theory to differentiate the digestion of starch, fats and protein in the human body.
My experiences at Bristol have had a great influence on my career so far – as an Education Officer at a secondary school in Brunei. Not only have they given me the confidence to teach, but they have helped me to borrow and merge ideas to discover what works best for Brunei. Studying at Bristol has provided me with plenty of knowledge and experience to share with the locals and I hope I will be able to bring about positive changes in education. My main goal for the future is to carry out further research on the use of technologies in educational settings. I would like to continue my study to PhD level to help educate teachers from Brunei in the use of technologies, because many of them are not confident using technology in their teaching. I also want to educate teachers in the use of simple research methodologies in order to improve their classroom teaching. Hopefully, this will motivate them to build upon and advance their teaching methods.
If I were to offer advice to potential master’s students, I would recommend making use of the resources offered by the University such as the library, department, course mentors and International Office. At Bristol, the GSOE has a vast number of resources. Be pro-active in developing your skills and knowledge and meet new people from all walks of life.