Kwek Jian Qiang’s Apology

Kwek Jian Qiang emailed me an apology note for publication. I like his willingness to accept criticisms and learn from his mistakes:

“Hi guys, I’ve read through your comments and what I’ll like to say here is that: you’re right. I was indeed too naive, biased and too consumed by materialism.

However, what I’ll like to say was that this article was never meant to be a personal attack against ITE students, in fact, a few of my most inspiring friends and mentors hailed from ITE and up till today, I still cheirsh them for who they are. In fact, it was a teacher who came from ITE who motivated me to keep on improving and never give up on myself.

It was due to my jealousy and materialism that in my mind, I only saw the shiny buildings and all I could do is moan of why I cannot get to enjoy studying in such facilities, I was wrong.

To give an introduction about myself, I’m not a foreigner. In fact, I come from a low middle income bordering on poor. Everyday, I only have sufficient money to buy food, my notes as well as pay for my transport, and I never had the chance to own a lot of material goods that others get to enjoy. Hence, in me bred a sense of injustice, why do people have things I didn’t have, hence leading to this incident today.

Moreover, I was also brought up in an environment where grades are everything. Since young, people around me have been telling me that only good results will get me through in life, and that ITEs represent ‘Its The End’.

With such an incorrect mentality unchecked, I had incorrect stereotypes. As such, I’ll like to sincerely apologise for any insult or anger that anyone felt regarding what I have written.

Thank you for helping me to realise my mistake, thank you for helping set my moral compass right, thank you for helping me wake up.

I will repent and not commit to such mentalities again. Please do give me a chance to do so. Lastly, I want to thank everyone who had believed in me and I’ll like to show you that I can change.”


  1. I do understand where he is coming from (his first letter) and I do agree with him on one point that some ITE students do not appreciate what they were given.

    Some years back, the interior of the newly renovated school toilet was vandalized. The spanking new mirror and toilet bowl were deliberately smashed to smithereens with a motorcycle helmet.

    I do not understand why would anyone want to do that? This is such a shame that they do not cherish what they were given.

    This is coming from a ITE student.

  2. Is anyone going to question how could Today allow such an incendiary view be published? Youth are meant to try things out, the adults are supposed to be the check. Surely the editor would be sharp enough to choose less offensive posts. It seems as though the boy is not that culpable.

  3. Let’s be more forgiving. He already realize his mistakes and apologized for it.

    And perhaps this saga is also a reminder to all of us (parents, educators, politicians, employers and general public) not to focus so much on grades. Character of a person is equally important

  4. @gwl Why shouldn’t his letter be published? He has a right to speak his mind, no matter how different his viewpoint might be. I’d rather the writer have a chance to say something, and be called out for it, than to have an ‘editor’ decide on my behalf what I should or should not see.
    Censorship leads to an inability of people to think for themselves, with the result that civil discourse is lost.

  5. Well from mistakes, you learnt. that’s how you grow. Next time do take a step back to think hard before you act it out. Hope you have learnt from your mistake.

    People, everyone deserve a chance. Let’s be more forgiving.

    From a progression student

  6. mistakes and errors who doesn’t make them?! and failures are but the pillar to success…..
    there was once this statement: “when I make a mistake, I am the best lawyer; when others make a mistake, I am the best judge.”

  7. This letter reminds me of the 悔过书 many so-called leftists had to write during the Cultural Revolution. But ya Kwek sounds genuinely contrite, let’s forgive him.

  8. Hey there, i slap u, I give an apology to the public. <– Simple, do u understand? Mistakes are meant to be forgiven but not yours. In the ITEs there are many students who are smart, talented and motivated to move on to higher levels. Tho they are slow in learning, but wait. Whats the rush in learning more? Is there a reward in learning faster than the others? Obviously is a NO. And, I wouldn't allow anyone to look down on my fellow peers. Do u even know how it feels when your're in our shoes and people just look down on u? Do you? You don't. So stop your cyber rubbish.

    A ITE student.

  9. I come from a Junior College and I find him extremely snobbish. However, despite his attitude, I genuinely think that the gist of his arguments is reasonable (specifically the government should upgrade facilities of “run down” JCs).

    The government spends 3x more per head on ITE students than on JC students. It will do good for the government to review why junior colleges like Victoria Junior College have extremely poor facilities. The air-conditioners are faulty, co-curricular activities lack funds to purchase equipment (the Chinese Orchestra had to borrow equipment from other schools, non-Sports CCAs are underfunded, etc!), the toilets stink because of drainage issues (and consider that students have to change in these toilets, with wet floors, before or after physical education lessons!), the protective wax on table tops are flaking off, the canteen is hot and always greasy, lecture theaters smell of urine, lecture theaters have faulty tables etc etc.

    Granted, some complaints are whiny and are “materialistic” (e.g. dirty toilets, air-con, canteen etc). Still, having a learning environment like that (for any student) is pathetic. The government has to answer if institutions are sufficiently funded, and if so, are the funds put to proper use. If not, is it because of regulations that prohibit schools from channeling funds for other things they would find /more/ useful? For instance, I do know that some funds have specific purposes (e.g. purchase of window binds) – not using the allocated fund for this purpose means you forfeit whatever amount you do not use. Is such a directive necessary? Will it encourage frivolous spending in things the school do not need? Could the money put to better use?

  10. It is childish and ignorant to have that kind of mindset and to look down on ITE students. Given the fact that this boy is still young and probably still immature, we can give him time to become a more understanding young man (hopefully he will).

    From an ITE teaching staff 🙂

  11. Apologies accepted,but this is the sort of myopic perspective that is set to damage Singapore’s social stability in the future.I think it is a good idea that the government spend more on ITE students compared to Poly or JC equivalent.Firstly,most ITE students are from the lower socio-economic status in society.Whether people accept it or not,there are people who have family lines who are poor,especially,a generation ago,which is so recent,that their parents or grand-parents are uneducated.They’ve managed to pass off during the 70s,80s and even 90s,but eventually the requirement of education certificates to apply for jobs caught on to these parents and they were in a catch-22 situation-They are jobless,yet they are too old to retrain.The effects trickle down on their children whom are most likely to be in ITE(and i’m one of them).

    With these additional resources,it helped a lot of students like myself to experience ideas,thoughts and concepts that what my secondary school did not(cos that hellhole GENERALIZED all NT students to a typical stereotype,not all schools,but several).For example,what is the likelihood to see an ITE student play a piano compared to a JC or Poly student?You and I know how much money is required for these lessons,tuition and transport bills -How can a lower-socioeconomic class group afford all this?Which one is at highest priority?What’s the opportunity cost by looking at these variables?Can poor students go for piano lessons by forgoing classes?

    How do all this affect my original statement?People must accept that people are poor not because they are lazy – but because society caught up faster than they can adapt.ITE help to prevent this cycle of poverty by giving opportunity for students to experiences outside of the academic curriculum.This requires more government spending obviously,but look at America for example,although its claims that people can be whoever they want to be through hard work,it is not the fact.Actually,the middle(working) class is shrinking,and that the rich is holding the majority of wealth,which is all know,is very few in numbers.Deny-but the slogan for their ‘occupy wall street’ protest is “We are the 99%”.Do we want this in our society with that kind of thinking?

    Finally,exceptional individuals are those who can perform under any environment,as long they have food,water and shelter(which almost everyone have here in S’pore).More importantly is that we have various avenues which aids different styles of individuals,nurturing them to their maximum potential – given the effort that they put in.As an ITE alumni,I see ITE as an alternative perspective to education,rather than a inferior stereotype that others see it to.

  12. i think that since he has come to realize his mistakes, there is no need for us to make such a fuss anymore. different people come from different environment and we cannot blame him for the mindset he had before. the fact that he already realize he can look at life from a different point of view, isn’t that good enough?

  13. @ The Thankful Poor

    That’s full of ridiculous assumptions. If one chooses to fail himself in the early stages of his education life, that’s no reason to “fund him more” because “he is poor”. In fact, there are countless of examples of “poor” people excelling in their studies and moving on to Junior Colleges, the author being one of them. I am also one of them. As much as you are against generalization, you too stereotype.

    I do not think that we should compare funding between institutions (i.e. Funding ITE students /more/ is better, or funding JC students /more/ is better). Rather, the question is: is sufficient fund being allocated to each educational institution so that they are able to, in your words, “nurture them to their maximum potential”. The author made valid points when he questioned the state of facilities in some Junior Colleges, “Anderson and Victoria Junior College”, vis-a-vis the sparkling ‘skyscraper’-like ITE compound. Victoria Junior College has been built 25 years ago, yet it has no major renovations. Consider broken down lecture theaters with urine smell, faulty air-conditioning and faulty tables, consider urinals which, when you urinate into it, flow out directly unto the floor, consider CCAs insufficiently funded and that equipment has to be borrowed.

  14. Aww… the JC student is jealous and doesn’t realize the A level cert is useless.

    FYI, the A level cert has equal value to O level and PSLE. Our education system has evidently lulled this sorry soul into a false sense of security, thinking whatever he’s studying at the A level standard has some actual use in the world. Sorry to break it to you kid, but between an A level student vs an ITE graduate, the ITE will get the job hands-down, unless you want to go into teaching. I’ve worked with both. I can attest to that. One can think on his own and get the job done, and the other constantly refers to a textbook guideline afraid to take risks and get things wrong and thinks everything is his god-given right. No points for guessing who takes the cake.

    Your mistake is thinking you are the best. Take on the ITE grads in their field of study and you’ll get the biggest shock of your life. You have some serious ego issues. Grow up kid. Until you get a degree, you’re pretty much at the bottom of the barrel.

  15. In a system where people are rewarded according to merit, why are our best and brightest not getting the best learning environments?”

    Apparently, you don’t understand where you stand on the merit table.

    PSLE/O/A level < Nitec < Higher Nitec< Diploma < Degrees/Bechelors/Masters/PhD/blahblahblah

    In this case, 'meritocracy' is working the way you believe it does. So… yes, the system is merit-based. But you're completely confused on the issue of where you stand. Everything should be given to you~~ hohoho.

  16. now u are very famous around Singapore

    Kwek Jian Qiang
    all your news around singapore

    even you Apology also no use . you also say out the comment no point to Apology and take all your words back to you

  17. @Valerial

    Ridiculous assumptions it may be – but these assumptions are made facts that,

    1.For an individual to go any institution(ITE,Poly or JC),there is always a quota.That means in our society,some graduates are guaranteed to end up in ITE.Agreeing that the intake for JC is the smallest from all 3 compared,what number can you give to your ‘countless people’ example to what is guaranteed thousands of students who enter ITE every year?Additionally,can everyone agree that those who benefited from ITE go to Poly eventually?If that so,I can even give you the numbers that are in Poly,at least from SP in an electrical engineering course,3+2(for direct 2nd year intake)with about 20 students in each class,that’s about 100 students already,and we’re not talking about other courses yet.Feel free to do your research to rebut mine.

    2.The statement I’ve made is a given fact that no “Two people are the same” in terms of individual development.This holds true in sports,where coaches assess players based on chronological,maturity and biological age,they all vary.Successful people come from different backgrounds,and it is sad to see if a willing individual from the example mentioned in my post is unable to succeed if there is a lack of opportunity to do so.However,without a doubt,I agree with you to those who are poor yet lazy and stubborn should not be entitled to help,then again,when you enter JC,ITE or Poly on your first day,is it easy to pinpoint that THIS person or THAT person will be unsuccessful and vice-versa?

    3.Human lives are relative,not absolute.This means in one individual,he/she might be a Dennis the menace at 10 years old,but 10 years later he/she might be hardworking and studious person.On the other spectrum,there will be those who will be the opposite.Can we say at any point of time of an individual’s life,he/she is condemned and their thinking will never ever change again?

    The need of high funding if we look at “per student” perspective is necessary because there’s a saying in sales and marketing,”If you pay peanuts,prepare to get monkeys”Think of nursing for example.If there is not enough resources required(equipment,lecturers,etc) for these individuals,they won’t be trained adequately- can you think of the consequences to us as patients when they work later?Its more than just technical skills that needs to be taught and CME ain’t enough for this type of job responsibility.

    As for CCAs,we have fairly the same facilities,there’s some give and take as well,like in ITECE we use natural field,unlike Meridian JC,which uses an artificial turf.In terms of equipment purchase and usage,ITE and Polys are government institutions,hence they use tender system to select the lowest cost from suppliers(Kabbana for athletics-who has heard from this brand? and FBT for soccer).This is unlike JCs,which have a bit more of autonomy,and they can probably purchase slightly higher quality items(correct me if I’m wrong).

    By the way,JCs have alumni clubs-why aren’t they helping?I’ve met people who tried to impress me with their JC origins,but if they ain’t helping,these people sound hypocritical from what you’re telling me about the condition your JC’s facilities.

  18. Good he has learn from his mistake. If he really become a minister or MP in future or one of our future leaders, hope he will remember this incident.

  19. @ The Thankful Poor
    I agree with you that it is necessary to provide ITE/NT students with more opportunities so that the they could “experience ideas,thoughts and concepts” and that the underprivileged students could break their poverty cycle. In fact, the technical courses, by their nature, do require more resources and equipments and hence, funding. The question is, however, whether the costly “skyscraper” campuses, hotel-like interior and premium furniture are needed to achieve the aforementioned objectives, if they help at all in the first place. Putting aside the issue of elitism, do ITE students deserve these privileges more than their JC counterparts simply because their parents are poorer, as you assumed?

  20. I was one of those who flamed Jian Qiang for his original letter. This is an impressive and appropriate response that all Singaporeans can learn from in order to promote deeper understanding and empathy in our country. Thank you Jian Qiang, you have gone from a negative to a positive example for all of us.

  21. Folks, this boy is young, still learning and his apology does convince that he had already “kena” from several people regarding this topic enough to be sincerely remorseful about the misdirected and snobbish comments he made earlier. I’m glad for him he realized early not to make any more of such insensitive comments, considering that well-known government officials in Singapore are making similar series of faux pas in recent news. Let’s just move on, forgive him and hope he won’t make news for the wrong reasons again.

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