Grandfather who left school in 1968 to support family graduates from SUSS

Mr Teo Jwee Chiang (centre) with his wife (left) and son at the SUSS convocation on Oct 7, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Mr Teo Jwee Chiang, 72, left school more than 50 years ago to work to help support his family.

But he nurtured a love for writing and the Chinese language, contributing hundreds of columns to Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao between 2015 and 2018.

On Thursday (Oct 7), he will fulfil a long-held dream, earning a bachelor's degree in Chinese language and literature from the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

Mr Teo is one of about 2,600 people who will graduate from SUSS at convocation ceremonies held at the university from Tuesday (Oct 5) to Oct 12.

This batch includes the first graduands from three programmes: Bachelor of Laws, Enterprise Leadership for Transformation and Master of Management.

The first ceremony on Tuesday saw Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong giving a speech as guest of honour.

President Halimah Yacob - the university's patron - was also in attendance.

Mr Tong, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, spoke on continuing to learn after graduation, growing resilience and doing good.

He said to the graduands: "This may be controversial but I hope you fail at something.

"I think it is important to suffer the gut-wrenching disappointment of failure sometime early in your lives or your career," he added, noting that failure is part of future success.

He also asked the graduands to pay it forward by helping those who have less.

Mr Teo - who is the oldest graduate in this batch - also earned the Habit award from the university, given for showing passion to lifelong learning.

He will receive $3,000 and a plaque. Mr Teo said he intends to use the money to contribute to society, setting up a Chinese tuition website to help the less privileged.

Mr Teo Jwee Chiang receiving his bachelor's degree in Chinese language and literature, and the Habit award from SUSS Provost Professor Robbie Goh at the convocation, on Oct 7, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The grandfather of four is working on two memoirs in Chinese titled: An Ordinary Life: Memoir of Teo Jwee Chiang, and Essays by Jwee Chiang. The second book details his views on family, country, the environment and other issues.

He told The Straits Times: "When I started this degree, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to finish it, because of health or energy, but I told myself - why not just try?

"It's okay if you drop out; to complete it is a bonus," said Mr Teo, who worked in the housing and development sector after he left his Chinese-language medium school when he was a teenager in 1968.

Mr Teo Jwee Chiang pursued the degree not for the certification but as a part of his lifelong interest in the language.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MR TEO JWEE CHIANG

He added that he pursued this degree not for the certification but as a part of his lifelong interest in the language.

While working, he went back to school to earn a graduate diploma from the Singapore Institute of Engineering Technologists and a master's from The International University, both in engineering-related fields.

Yet, despite his achievements, he is still hungry for more.

He said: "Even now, I still feel like my knowledge is not up to scratch."

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