Salbrina Sharbawi and Zayani Zainal Abidin


Brunei upholds Melayu Islam Beraja philosophy as part of our identity, where the Malay language is highly prioritised. However, the use of the English language nowadays is prevalent in this country, especially among the new generation. The known cause of these changes is that Brunei’s education system has gone through a system shift over the years. This paper investigated the relationship between language and identity, looking specifically into the Malay Muslims in Brunei. The authors conducted research surveys on the language use and preference of 830 people of various ages. To see the link between education policy and preferred language, they grouped the respondents into three different systems of education – Pre-Bilingual Education System (the earliest education system), Bilingual Education System (BES), which used a combination of both Malay and English language, and the current education system which is the Sistem Pendidikan Negara Abad Ke-21 (SPN21) which emphasise the usage of English. There was a proven link between the education system and the language used. While all claimed Malay as their first language, most preferred to converse in both languages. English as the preferred colloquial language and as the first language has also increased, especially among the young generation. The prevalent use of English raised questions on its effects on Brunei’s identity.  

Keywords: Language, Identity, Education, Brunei Education System 



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