Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Gender Imbalance in Brunei Tertiary Education Student Populations: Exploring English Language, Self-Efficacy and Coping Mechanisms as Possible Causes

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Gender Imbalance in Brunei Tertiary Education Student Populations: Exploring English Language, Self-Efficacy and Coping Mechanisms as Possible Causes

Article excerpt

Abstract

Brunei has a multilingual society where no citizens (except very young children) are monolinguals. The dominant and official language of the country is Bahasa Melayu. English is widely spoken by many bilinguals and used as the medium of instruction in most schools in addition to being an admission criterion to colleges and universities. Arabic, the language of both Islamic educational institutions and religion, is added to trilinguals who are adherents while each indigenous language is used by most of the multilinguals. In such a complex linguistic environment, the learning and use of spoken or written English is often affected by both retroactive and proactive interferences from other competing languages. In the present survey (N = 287) females scored significantly higher on an English test than their male counterparts. In addition, females significantly used the emotion-oriented coping strategy more than the male peers. No significant differences were obtained on self-efficacy variable by gender and ability in English. Similarly, no significant differences were also obtained on coping strategies by ability in English. However, the task-oriented and avoidance-oriented coping styles were predictors of good and bad achievement in English respectively. Overall, English appeared to be a partial causal factor to the gender gap in Brunei tertiary student populations. Further mixed-methods research was recommended to access more details and possible solutions.

Keywords: gender gap, English, admission criterion, self-efficacy, coping strategies

1. Introduction

Brunei is a multilingual society. Although English is spoken widely in the country, the main and official language is Bahasa Melayu. However, English, in particular, is a subject which challenges Brunei students at all levels of education as it is spoken and used as a second language. It is also the medium of instruction in nearly all educational institutions especially at tertiary level. Thus Brunei students have to study English to pass their school examinations. They also study other foreign languages such as Japanese for a variety of reasons described in detail by Keaney and Mundia (2014). Generally, poor performance in a subject like English might be attributed to many reasons such as unsatisfactory teaching, inadequate or inappropriate learning resources, low interest or motivation in the subject, and ineffective test preparation. The government of Brunei, through the Ministry of Education, has already made substantial efforts at improving the quality of education in the country. For instance, the school curriculum and examinations were recently reformed (Mundia, 2010a). Then in 2009, teacher education was also innovated in order to improve the quality of teaching in all the subjects including English and mathematics (Mundia, 2012). Efforts are also currently being made to prepare teachers who have high self-efficacy in teaching all school subjects within inclusive and special education settings (Bradshaw & Mundia, 2005; Bradshaw & Mundia, 2006; Haq & Mundia, 2012; Tait & Mundia, 2012; Tait & Mundia, 2013). Like other students elsewhere in the world, Brunei students also have both personal and academic problems which affect learning and achievement adversely. Some of these factors, such as depression, anxiety and stress are psychological requiring counselling interventions to address them (Mundia, 2010b; Matzin et al., 2013). Learning styles and study strategies also play a big part in influencing a student's academic achievement in any school subject (Shahrill et al., 2013; Hamid et al., 2013). In addition, differences in career preferences might also lead students to disliking subjects that were not directly related to their future careers (Mundia, 1998). In the process, some students become confused and often do not know how to solve both their academic problems (Law, Shahrill, & Mundia, 2015) and personal problems (Shahrill & Mundia, 2014). …

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