The new BND$30-million campus of International School Brunei (ISB), the first Eco-school in Borneo, is set to open on August 18 when ISB starts its new school year.

A significant development on the landscape of Brunei education, ISB’s new campus is located at Kampong Sungai Hanching, and, at 22 acres, is four times larger than its older campus in Berakas. Members of the media were given a tour of the new campus, the construction of which took 15 months to complete.

It has been designed as a green school, and has qualified for a certification called the `Greenmark’ from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA), with a focus on energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and other green features and innovations.

It features modern classrooms and educational facilities and is also home to hugely improved and impressive sports and arts facilities.

“In staying true to our green philosophy, the new school is the first Eco-school in Borneo, having received the Greenmark from BCA (Singapore),” an ISB press release said.

Notably, at the back of the campus a recycling centre called the ISB CARE (Conservation and Action for Recycling and the Environment) Centre is being built. This centre will function as an environmental programme for community-based renewable energy and environmental protection awareness in Brunei. It will be open to members of the public, so those who wish to recycle will be able to do so there, once it is operational.

In addition, the new campus has three canteen facilities, a football field and grass track, a 25-metre touch pad swimming pool, an arts centre and boarding facilities for up to 200 students.

The Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr. Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, went on a guided tour of the new ISB site on Thursday. He was quoted in the ISB press release as saying, “I hope the new environment will motivate students to learn and enjoy their schooling, will stimulate teachers and staff and encourage parents to develop the potential of every student to achieve the aspiration of Brunei Vision 2035.”

ISB’s Executive Principal, Dr. Steven Geraghty, expressed optimism and excitement for the impending start of the new school year on coming Tuesday. On people being surprised at the new campus getting ready for the new school year, he said, “I think it’s more to do with how rapidly the building has come on.

Originally I don’t think people considered the time span sufficient, but the architects Arkitek Rekajaya and contractor Walltique have been brilliant, and the government – the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Development and the different departments have been fantastic in their support.

“The old campus is about 35 years old. It’s small, only 3.5 acres. Everything was limited… “But now, we’ve got state-of-the-art classrooms. The rooms are flexible, so you can make small classrooms or very, very large ones. We’ve got a film room now, design technology, etc.

“Where I think it’s best developed is the sports, because it was always limited. We’ll have a 25-metre competition touch pad pool with full scoreboard facilities. We’ve got a massive new indoor sports hall, a theatre, music suites and three food outlets.

“Our kids are fantastic and they deserve whatever we can give them that’s as good as them,” he highlighted.

He underlined that ISB’s new campus is the first school in Borneo to have a Greenmark. “The orientation of the school is such that there’s never any direct sunlight through the windows. So it follows, more or less, the path of the sun, and it helps us because direct sunlight would mean more air conditioning. We think, in the mornings, it will be cool enough at least for the first two hours to not use air conditioning.”

A lot of the classroom furniture is made from sustainable materials, particularly that of compressed plywood that’s been recycled.

On the other new facilities, he said, “There’s going to be a sustainable energy/earth sciences centre. We’re also working with the charity, BruWild, and the Department of Wildlife and they’re going to set up a small animal rehabilitation centre up there for non-dangerous animals so the kids are educated more about sustainable energy, looking after the forest and animals.

“On the site itself, in order to get the green mark at least 90 per cent of the plants and fauna have to be indigenous, so we’ve done that. We’ve also kept as much of the secondary forest as we could, and that’s going to be preserved.

“We’re also going to set up an outdoor pursuit centre, where we’ll also have a 190-metre-long zipline. That’ll be almost by the forest. What we’re trying to do is to try and make the kids aware of the ecosystems and infrastructures that we’ve got around here. It’s a fantastic location because we’ve still got about five acres of secondary forest.”

As he explained, the first phase to be completed is teaching and learning, the second phase is sports, and then the third phase is the boarding which is targeted for January.

“ISB has always been a community school. It’s a family, it’s a nice family place, and we don’t want to lose that. Although its bigger – we’ve grown nearly 40 per cent in the last three years – but I don’t want to lose what we had, so we’ve kept the buildings pretty close together so that we can keep that feel.”

He also shared that ISB is setting up a “community club” by around October so that the community can use the facilities. Night classes are also planned.

As to whether tuition fees will be increased because of the new campus, he assured that there are “no plans to actually increase fees to pay for the facilities.”

The new campus has cost approximately BND$30 million, he shared. “It sounds a lot, but my last school in Britain was nearly BND$80 million, and the one in the Cayman Islands was nearly BND$130 million. So, for a school with these kind of facilities, BND$30 million is really good value.”