“I hope to see that our students equip themselves with 21st century skills to prepare themselves for their future careers and have more opportunities in life.” – Tan Been Tiem, Brunei

Speaking a foreign language has long been recognized as a vital skill. For young people, new languages not only broaden their world view, they open doors. But for Tan Been Tiem’s Chinese-speaking students, learning the Malay language isn’t just a nice-to-have benefit. As the official language of their country, Brunei Darussalam, it’s a requirement. Tan has been a teacher of Malay language at Chung Hwa Middle School in Brunei for 22 years, helping countless students master the language and qualify for higher education.  Thanks to technology, and the project-based learning it enables, she’s been able to transform both her teaching style and the outcomes of her students. Tan’s project, for which she was named a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, is designed to get students to read and communicate in Malay – something they don’t typically do outside of their brief classroom time.The project encourages students to read extra Malay written materials, share their experiences through the Malay language, increase their technological know-how and develop their learning capabilities. “The students had to write their own scripts and broadcast the news in the Malay language, which is a challenge for Chinese students,” Tan tells us. The students’ projects were presented in their own class, and those with the best project from each class were asked to present again – to all four classes — in the school’s lecture hall. In the process of working on their projects, students were able to utilize a host of tools, from AutoCollage, to Bing™ Translator, to OneNote and Skype.  In doing so, they picked up not only technical skills, but the critical 21st century skills they’ll need for both school and career. Here’s Tan’s Daily Edventure

What inspired you to become an educator?

It was an innate feeling, and it was strengthened when I started to go to school. I was inspired by my first grade teacher because he was very caring. He gave all his effort to teach us regardless of the limited resources we had at that time. He gave us a series of reading materials, one at a time, and we were asked to practice reading and mastering it. If we could not do it, we could not move to the next series. It was a challenge to us to help ourselves read and understand the books. We were encouraged to learn to read as every one of us was keen to know the next episode. He was very passionate and extended his time to help us. He had ways to make every lesson full of challenges but enjoyable and fun. I realized that education was the right field for me when I found that my students enjoy my teaching, when I see improvements in their work, in their General Certificate of Education (GCE) ‘O’ level results and even in their views in life. I also find that I am enjoying what I am doing. It provides me more opportunities to discover ways to help my students. It is a very challenging career and it makes me better. 

What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

I feel proudest whenever my students bring out the best in themselves and develop their potential. I am proud and happy and I want to do more innovative activities that would develop the talents and skills of the students. I also felt proud when I received the Best Teacher Award from the Rotary Club in 2006, the PIKB Award an Excellence Award from His Majesty in 2011, second runner-up, Innovative Teacher in 2012 and first runner-up Innovative Teacher in 2013, the Excellent Teacher Award in 2013 and the Loyalty Award in 2014. With the recognition I received, I was more motivated to do better and inspire teachers to do better and encourage them so that they can be like me. The impact to the students is that their General Certificate of Education (GCE) ‘O’ Level results have improved. I am also asked to share and present my projects to other teachers, both in my own school and to other schools.

Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?

The students are more engaged and their learning becomes more interesting while developing various 21st century skills. This year, they did news broadcasting, creating videos to broadcast their news. They used the Internet to collect information about the news as well as different Microsoft programs to produce videos and present their work. This project-based learning required the students to work in groups of three to five. There were four classes involved in this project with two teachers. Each group produced a video to showcase the events that happened in the school, within the country or even overseas. This project required them to be more engaged to practice 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, knowledge building and critical thinking, global awareness, using ICT, problem solving and innovation.

Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?

The challenge I face within my school is the time to cover the syllabus that is expected for the students to finish at the end of every term.  Our project entails a lot of time for researching, putting the work on video, editing the work and presenting the work. As I am a GCE ‘O’ level invigilator (proctor) and grader, I find that time is very limited for me. Besides that, I also have other commitments and assignments aside from teaching that require my attention and time.

In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?

I hope to see that our students equip themselves with 21st century skills to prepare themselves for their future careers and have more opportunities in life. And as a teacher, in order to cater to the students effectively and efficiently without neglecting the quality of the 21st century skills, I also need to upgrade myself with the current trends.

About Tan Been Tiem

Malay Language Teacher and Department Head, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert

Chung Hwa Middle School


  • Birthplace: Malaysia
  • Educational background: Degree with honors in economics
  • Website I check every day: Microsoft Educators Network
  • Favorite childhood memory: Cycling to school.
  • Favorite book: Alaf 21, a Malay novel.
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: PowerPoint
  • What is the best advice you have ever received?  “Take every comment as a gift.”
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9 Responses to “I hope to see that our students equip themselves with 21st century skills to prepare themselves for their future careers and have more opportunities in life.” – Tan Been Tiem, Brunei

  1. Kalpana says:

    Simply beautiful Mdm. Tan. I take a moment to say with pride that i am her colleague and we both are MIE Experts 2014. Such a lovely lady, down to earth and i learnt a lot from her. I am proud of you Cikgu Tan.

  2. Walid Misli says:

    Well done Mdm Tan! 🙂

  3. Gladys Valdez Concepcion says:

    Congratulations Madam Tan for having another breakthrough in your career.

    All glory and honour to our Dear Creator and may He grant you more blessings!


  4. Thank you very much Madam Gladys for being my translator and proof reader. I appreciate it very much for being at my side always when ever I need help.

    • Gladys Valdez Concepcion says:

      You are very much welcome Madam Tan, it is indeed a great honour to help and share the learning that God has bestowed upon me.

      It’s always my pleasure madam.

  5. Matthew Wong says:

    Cikgu Tan,

    Excellent job, we are proud of you.
    All the best..

  6. Mark Sandel says:

    Thanks, looks really interesting

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