When doing background research for an interview with the former CEO of Keppel Corporation Mr Choo Chiau Beng, one is struck by the very long list of accolades and achievements in his resume. To name a few: he is Chairman of the Board of Governors at Raffles Institution and sits on several other boards.
By his own admission, this is a successful Singaporean who has reaped the rewards of meritocracy and he has not forgotten that he started out like many post-war children – in very humble beginnings.
“In my time, Singapore was very poor. So many of us come from poor families but we did not feel many barriers because at that time, tuition was very rare. Students compete and there was no kindergarten or childhood education at that time, so it was quite easy for kids from all backgrounds to study.”
Now, however, he sees a completely different world, one which requires students to work and study, when money comes into the equation.
“For youths from financially challenged families, the challenge is earning enough or having enough to paying the fees and expenses and sometimes helping their family, I think many of the students both ITE and Poly, they work part time.“
This juggling of work and school can however be overwhelming for some.
“If they work too many hours part time, sacrifice their sleep and their studies, in the end if they do not do well the three years could be wasted. So I think that it is important to see that they are not so financially challenged that they have to put too much effort into work and not much effort into studies.”
In an effort to help students caught in this situation, the former RI student was in Republic Polytechnic recently, to present a cheque to students from the School of Engineering (SEG) and School of Technology Arts (STA) under the Mr and Mrs Choo Chiau Beng Endowment fund.
Having previously donated $62,500 to STA previously in 2010, Mr Choo has increased his donation amount this year to a staggering $100,000. When asked as to why he decided to increase his donation amount after four years he said, “I was convinced that this is a good course, so I wanted to make a more lasting contribution.”
When asked about his most favourite time of his life, Mr Choo picks his time as a student. “The best time of your life is always when you are a student. When you are a student, you don’t have too much care other than passing your exams and doing visibly well, so you have many choices of how you spend your time and with whom.’’