Temasek JC Student Kwek Jian Qiang: "Our brightest students, who will become Singapore's future leaders, should get the best facilities" - Alvinology

Temasek JC Student Kwek Jian Qiang: “Our brightest students, who will become Singapore’s future leaders, should get the best facilities”

This article published in TODAY newspaper stinks of elitism:

Disparity in tertiary education facilities by Kwek Jian Qiang
04:45 AM Dec 26, 2011

Singapore has often been accorded the honour of having one of the best education systems. Our students rank high in their scores, from mathematics to other subjects. There are, though, significant disparities in the quality of learning environments.

When my grandmother visited Singapore this year, one of her most striking comments was when she saw a sparkling, shiny Institute of Technical Education (ITE) “skyscraper” campus.

Her first impression was that, in such a quality school environment, the students would be the best and brightest in Singapore. It took me a while to convince her otherwise and her look of dismay was apparent.

Indeed, a question should be raised: In a system where people are rewarded according to merit, why are our best and brightest not getting the best learning environments?

I once attended a seminar at ITE College East. The interior was like a plush hotel: Sleek floors, plush lecture theatre chairs, high-quality tables – quality exceeding that found in our polytechnics and junior colleges (JC).

From the exterior, with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a stadium stand, it looked like it was made for the Youth Olympics.

What saddened me, though, was the graffiti on the tables and chairs. Apparently, the students do not cherish what they have. Should any JC or polytechnic student have access to such quality facilities, I have no doubt they would appreciate it better.

There is a need to equalise government spending on school facilities. Campuses such as Anderson JC’s and Victoria JC’s pale in comparison to ITE College East’s.

Our brightest students, who will become Singapore’s future leaders, should get the best facilities in order to excel and grow. We should reward according to merit.

The writer is a JC student.

” Our brightest students, who will become Singapore’s future leaders, should get the best facilities in order to excel and grow. We should reward according to merit.”

Don’t dirty meritocracy with elitism.

This argument is along the same vein of thought that only scholars can hold top Ministerial positions in Cabinet and that our Ministers must be paid the world’s highest political salaries in order to recruit the best.

上梁不正下梁歪 – If the top promotes elitism, the bottom learns too.

This elitist mindset is a social ill and it is spreading to our next generation like our dear Kwek Jian Qiang, an “elite” JC student poised to become one of “Singapore’s future leaders”.

I fear for our future.

There is nothing wrong with Kwek expressing his displeasure on the state of JCs campus facilities versus that of ITE campuses. In fact, I agree with him that MOE could have done more to ensure everyone gets the best study environment, regardless of which institution they are from.

I have an issue with the way Kwek pushed his argument. It betrays his elitist mindset.

Consider the two arguments below:

1. Dad bought a new toy for my brother. I am smarter than my brother, Dad should have bought the new toy for me first.(Elitist)

2. Dad bought a new toy for my brother. Dad should have consider buying new toys for both of us instead of just buying one for my brother. (Egalitarian)

Kwek obviously chose argument 1 over argument 2. Why? Maybe argument 2 never crossed his mind as elitism is so ingrained in many of our academically better performing students.

So what if you did well in school examinations?

Does it guarantee you success in life? Does it make you a better person?

One of Singapore’s most respected politician, Chiam See Tong did not do well for his “O” level examinations. He still became a successful lawyer and Singapore’s longest-serving opposition Member of Parliament.

Kwek Jian Qiang (images via Google Cache)
Kwek Jian Qiang (images via Google Cache)

BTW, Kwek is a JC1 student at Temasek JC as of 2011 and moving on to JC2 in 2012. Well done for bringing shame to your school, Kwek Jian Qiang. You may have deleted your photos on Facebook, but there’s Google cache.

An Update: Kwek Jian Qiang has apologised.


  1. “What saddened me, though, was the graffiti on the tables and chairs. Apparently, the students do not cherish what they have. Should any JC or polytechnic student have access to such quality facilities, I have no doubt they would appreciate it better.”

    What if they had it and the graffiti still appeared lol. A few black sheep =/= the whole community what…

    “Our brightest students, who will become Singapore’s future leaders, should get the best facilities in order to excel and grow.”

    IMO, facilities aren’t that important. Its the quality of the lecturer that counts, not to mention the mindset of the student. Anyway go to school = study, why should the facilities be so much of a concern? :/

  2. I think the kid is misguided, and I’m sure the comments his letter received will serve to wake him up to reality. But there is absolutely no need to put up all his personal information. What do you expect will happen? People to buy him coffee and have a long talk about unequal starting points in life, the different rates of development, and the importance of character and compassion? It’s more likely he will get shamed and ridiculed, no? That is not a desirable outcome. Yes, poor attitudes need to be corrected and character needs to be taught but you show character by your own behaviour. This naming and shaming thing is not going to teach him anything that a reasoned analysis of the systemic biases towards the priveleged in Singapore and their impact on the rest would not do better.

    The Internet should be a place to foster debate, and air your views (and get them corrected) when necessary. If we don’t want top-down rule, then we should show at every opportunity that we are capable of being honourable, reasoned and responsible. This kind of thing does not get Netizens suggestions and requests listened to.

  3. I Don’t get why you need to post his photos. It’s as if your promoting people to hunt him and give him trouble. If you really are the bigger man don’t do that type of thing.

  4. Jian Qiang emailed me personally. I like his frankness and willingness to admit his mistake. Am waiting to see if he wants me to post up an apology note on his behalf here.

    Regarding the photos, I already censored his face. The photos were public till he deleted them from Facebook when shit hits the fan. If not, I won’t be able to grab them via Google cache.

    Are you telling me that when Jian Qiang wrote in to a national newspaper to get his views published with his REAL NAME printed by it, he did not anticipate some level of public fame at the very least?

  5. Your arguments are valid, don’t get me wrong. But is there really a need to publicise the school he’s attending currently and publish his photos here? What’s the purpose in doing so? You can be angry by his insensitivity, but you’re going too far this time, ain’t it?

  6. About “only scholars can hold top Ministerial positions in Cabinet “……

    I’ve been living in a European country for 2 years now. Do you know why Asia has recovered from the 2008 crisis a long time ago , but many European countries are bankrupt, billions of dollars in debt?


    How does one decide how to manage the country’s economy if you don’t even know the simplest economic terms & theories? You just have to go by guessing & hoping for the best. But the thing is all these are only learnt in school.

    SIngaporeans really do not know how lucky they are. EVerywhere I go, I see iPads & iPhones. in this European country, 80% of people use the old Nokia phones from about 10 years ago that doesnt even have a camera at the back. Most of the Blackberry & iphone users I know are also foriegn ASians like me. The Christmas lights in the town centre are so shabby that even small suburban complexes like Tampines Mart win them. There is only 1 measly Christmas tree in the entire town centre. I am serious. Whereas along Orchard Road theres are dozens and dozens of them, huge and little. When I went to the bank with many 500euro notes to deposit into my account with, the bank staff were so shocked as they couldn’t even afford to let their customers withdraw more than 500 euros – everyone who needed to withdraw more than that had to call a special number to inform the bank at least 3 days in advance. This is how bankrupt this National Bank is (because their government is bankrupt). They then proceeded to scan each and every notes (to test for their authencity) I brought. My local friends cant even find a job. Because even shops are closing down one after the other. Now the country is blaming their leaders for favouritism & for selecting leaders based on their ‘image’ & promises without caring about their qualifications. They are recognizing their lack of ability after picking them for their high EQ. Note, some of them only have secondary school, poly or similar qualifications.

    If companies need a desk-bound offce worker with a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, COUNTRIES should need even better qualified people than that. If tiny workers of a company require a Degree, what more the leaders & decision-makers of the country? They are like the CEOS of a huge organisation.

    I hope SIngaporeans won’t be foolish and get under-qualified people to lead our country, because it could just be the start of our downfall. I don’t want Singapore to be like this backward European country I have to live in. 🙁

  7. Come on. Attack the idea, not the person. Hate his way of thinking? Criticize it. Personal attacks are not a good idea, ever.

  8. You want to publish his photo, publish his photo. You don’t want to publish his photo, then don’t publish his photo. You publish this kinda censored pics and pretend to be considerate… Your actions just motivate ppl to dig up his pics if they had not thought of doing so.

  9. Hi Alvin,

    I agree that you should not have posted the picture of the boy who wrote the letter. Regardless of your opinion of him, as responsible journalist, you should not use his information to attack him. There is no argument to support your actions. I hope you will apologise to him and take down his photos, especially since he has shown sincerity in his apology and sought forgiveness from everyone who is offended.

    Raymond, a friend.

  10. Raymond: I am not a journalist, just a blogger. I am not writing for national interest and I do not pretend to abide by any grandiose journalistic code of conduct. Opinions are my own, others need not have to agree. Thanks for the reply though, I am in contact with Jian Qiang, which is why I have published his apology note. The boy is fine and requested the photos to remain published (cos he knows he has to face the world sooner or later). I am trying to help him to cope as he seems really sincere.

    I find it strange that when pictures of other teens like Adelyn Hosehbo (14) and Aaron Tan (18) gets published and spoofed all over the web, that seems okay to others, but not in Jian Qiang (17)’s case. Is it because the latter is academically better performing and hence deserves better?

    I am going to repeat this one last time – Jian Qiang’s pictures were all PUBLIC (else they won’t be available on Google cache) till shit hits the fan and he decided to delete them from Facebook to go into hiding. When he wrote a strongly opinionated letter to a widely-read newspaper, did he not expect some level of publicity at the very minimal? In any case, I merely reproduced his idenity via his schoolmate’s blog –

    Any dim-wit who knows how to use Google or any search engine would have been able to find these information. I just pieced them together. Shoot the messenger?

    You can choose to disagree with me, but I am not going to clarify on this topic anymore.

    I am no saint and I won’t pretend to be one.

  11. Alvin’s right. I don’t see why he need to apologize for posting the photos. Why not all the righteous heroes who cry foul here apologize to Alvin instead for posting pretentious remarks? If KJQ had the balls to write to TODAY to KPKB he should have the guts to face the music for what he write. Was he expecting only confetti and accolades? Did KJQ not sign the article with real name? Like that okay but post his ugly mug cannot? I think should remove the black box and let whole world see his real face.

  12. Kwek jian qiang deserving to have his photos expose. He is no different from adelyn hoseibo n aaron tan. Prease hor, JC then very ey sai ah? Just because he can write chim chim English to newspaper don’t make him any better. he is just as bad as those ah lian ah beng just he got better language skill.

    A ITE college east student

  13. I am a ITE student who made good later in life. I now own my own business with over 40 employees, some of them university graduates “JC” elites like Kwek Jian Qiang. I usually do not post comments online but this incident is peculiar enough and close to my heart for me to write something in response. It is strange to see so many people jumping to Jian Qiang’s defense compared to when I read about incidents like Adelyn and Aaron Tan. Is an elitist mindset lesser evil? It is exactly because Jian Qiang is better educated that he should be chastised more severely. He should have known better or perhaps he is one of those “beautiful vase in the living room” who never been through the hard knocks of life. Jian Qiang point out in his apology he come from a poor background- so what? Poor people can’t be elitist? Whether you are rich or poor has nothing to do with behaving elitist. I am rich now but I dare say I am the same humble guy I was when I was ITE student and so poor I have to drop out of school to help support my family at young age. Yes Jian Qiang apologize and should be forgiven but let’s not overdo it and expect him to be spared the rod or taught a lesson. When you commit crime you go to jail simple.

  14. I have to agree with Kevin (27 Dec). Kwek had an opinion you found distasteful, but what do you hope to achieve by posting his photos?

    1. @Li: How about world peace? Why not you go ask Reuters, Ney York Times, AFP, Straits Times, TODAY, Apple Daily, Yahoo! News; in fact all the major news media in the world: “What do you hope to achieve when you publish the photos of newsmakers?”

  15. What’s with this big brouhaha over Kwek Jian Qiang photos? Goodness gracious the blog author even CENSORED it. I won’t even be bothered if it was me. I am no IT expert but just type in the his name in Google and less than a second later, VOILA!

    Don’t think anyone here need a tutorial on how to use google? These are UNCENSORED photos of Kwek Jian Qiang easily searchable to any one with a computer and a keyboard –

    Why not write to google to complain as well? We live in a digital era.The boy compromised his own privacy. Are you guys hermit crabs who just emerged from the deep ocean yesterday? I enjoy reading this blog because of its unpretentious content and a wicked sense of humor. Although some time it is less than politically correct, it is nevertheless entertaining and real. If you want to read about Mickey Mouse living in Disneyland go watch Disney or Nickelodeon channel instead. Pricks like you make the world a very uninteresting place. You have high integrity and moral standards? Good for you but for others like me – I don’t give a damn about your high highfalutin bullshit.

  16. Well.. Reward according to merit? I think ITE is actually way better than JC. In a sense that ITE has more hands on training for the people who will work in order to provide to the economy. You don’t see EVERY JC student end up a minister. So you’re in JC. You have an elitist mindset. But when you come out to work in the real world, You don’t have as much experience as those who are in ITE. The ones who has the actual HANDS ON experience. JC. You can study. I give you that. But most JC Students who Study WAYYYY hard, are the ones who don’t really have any hands on experience. Have you heard of basketball? Or were you so caught up with books and math? Or were you caught up with how ITE has better facilities that Life never actually occurred to you? So you know what’s in an atom. So you know what’s in a neutrino. Knowledge is power. SURE.. But you have no idea how to get down to the real thing. The irony eh?

  17. I think he deserves to have his photos posted up.. Don’t he want to be the hero who fights for the *ahem* better facilities? This is so obvious that JC students like him are in fact… Eating sour grapes. Perhaps if he thinks it in another angle.. ITE students ARE in fact slowly overtaking these JC students in terms of importance to the country’s economy. In fact, what many of my family and peers think is that, JC students study until brain dead already. Or, JC students, only can study, real thing do already, also need a ITE graduate to teach.

  18. Perhaps instead of complaining, what JC students should do if they feel that they have lesser monetary attention from the government is to prove through actions. Studying is one thing. But how many of you are seriously going to use that, “C6H12O6+6O2+36HPO4(2-)+36ADP(3-)+36H+ -> 6CO2+42H2O+36ATP(4-)” in real life? Seriously, Stop dreaming your ass off. After Singapore Government invest in JCs, and Polytechnics, Many of them will end up Flying overseas and migrating to other countries. Naive.

  19. @alvin: Come on… Did you really have to respond that way? I didn’t and don’t really want to escalate this into anything unfriendly. Apologies if I annoyed you with my unsolicited advice. Peace.

    @”mother” (29 Dec): Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Additionally, some advice for you: The world is no Disneyland, but I think we can all afford some manners.

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