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Singapore: The college principal who would clean tables for his students

Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang has an incredible reputation as a caring, enthusiastic and passionate principal.
EdChron Desk on August 19, 2014 - 4:33 pm in Asia, MAIN, Opinions, The Good Stuff, World


WORLD / Singapore – A tweet by a student in Singapore about his school principal on August 15 has gone viral.

The principal of Nanyang Junior College, Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang, was photographed cleaning the common tables students of the college frequently use after a rainy day. The tweet by a student said:

A leader, mentor, motivator, teacher and principal

Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang has an incredible reputation as a caring, enthusiastic and passionate principal. He was the first principal of Pioneer Junior College for 5 years from 2000 till 2005. In Pioneer Junior College, he was said to constantly interact with students in school, gaining his students’ trust and confidence. A strict disciplinarian when the situation requires him to be, his caring personality always shines through. Mr Kwek was also said to have personally coached students weak in various subjects such as Mathematics to ensure they passed or even aced their A’ levels examinations.

He was also seen walking around the hall approaching every former student who attended the college’s anniversary celebration and shook the hands of every alumni who was present.

Mr Kwek is also remembered by students fondly for his humour and quotable quotes.

(Editor’s note: In Singapore, junior colleges are pre-university institutions students go to after high school at the age of 16. The programme offered is typically 2 years, according to the country’s Ministry of Education.)

A leader well-loved by his colleagues

Not only was he looked up to by students, the teachers under his leadership were also fond of him. One such teacher is Teo Wah Liang, who wrote an open letter to the principal on his blog in June 2013.

An excerpt of Tan’s letter on his blog is seen below:

“Let me highlight how you have been such a role model to me with some episodes and examples below.

The first is your action orientation. I still remember a time at Pioneer JC, during an exam I was invigilating. The afternoon sun was shining onto the backs and desks of some students. Without hesitation, you quickly assessed the situation and started to help shift the entire row of students  away from the sunlight, personally carrying the tables for many of them. I was certainly surprised and impressed (how many Ps would do that?). It clearly indicated to me that here was someone who was always ready to roll up his sleeves to help his students, and that no job that had to be done was beneath him.

The second example is related to the first. You were always innovating, decisive, and never afraid to fail. In Pioneer, one thing you said has stuck with me all these years, and that was how you would prefer your people to try 10 new things, even if 7 or 8 of them failed. To this day, it is clear that you stand by that principle  e.g. Nanyang JC’s unique timetable structure, and our JC experience for potential students/parents testify to this. In my own journey ahead, I intend to fully live by this principle too.”

The 59-year old principal’s belief on leadership is simple. He was quoted to have said “leadership is not about luxury or fame, but about responsibility for others.”

(Image credit: Clarrence)

Teachers or students, if Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang has positively impacted your school or work experience, share with us in the comments below.


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  • August 19, 2014

    I remember him, he is always in the canteen talking to students, I was studying in the canteen once and he came along and encouraged me to do my best! Mr Kwek we all love you!

  • August 19, 2014

    I remember his quotes! makes me smile thinking back to JC days…

  • August 20, 2014

    A selfless leader who isn’t above cleaning tables for this students. He leads by example. Kudos!

    James Louhe
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