An ITE student called me up and was in tears sharing with me how he is anxious for his results and afraid he couldnt go to Poly because of his GPA to further his education. He mentioned that he is worried that his parents will shun him if he doesn’t go to Poly and afraid that he will suffer intense pressure by being compared to his sister that is studying in NTU. He also is afraid being labelled by his peers as a loser hence why he thinks that going to Poly is his only absolute step to further his education and to be accepted by his environment.
It seems to me that the Singapore education system is systemized in a way that the only step forward from ITE is Poly and if not, ‘Its The End’ for an ITE student who didn’t do well yet has the intention and determination to further their education. I suffered from this situation before. When i got my ITE results, it was not a good GPA to further myself in Poly yet i still hope to join them because of the same reason as this student:
1) Because getting into Poly means you are one level ahead and higher than ITE.
2) Because my parents and members of my family sees Poly as a step to a bright future.
3) I was brainwashed that Poly graduates will earn MORE than private Degree/Diploma education.
4) I will be compared with my cousins and family members that “he/she makes his/her family proud by going to a local ‘G’ endorsed education institution but You dont!”
5) Because joining a private education institution cost a lot of money.
I went to Poly to apply/appeal for the course i wanted to pursue but the administration quickly rejected my interest saying my GPA is low and if i want i can only appeal for the course ‘IBT’ – Intelligent Building Technology. What i wanted was ICT – Infocomm Technology but couldnt. So based on the reasons above, i appealed for IBT although thats not the course i wanted or will enjoy (despite seeing the wonderful and colorful orientation). My thinking was only – to make my family proud to be a Polytechnic student and my interest second. So i appealed……
But believe it or not, NS (although i did not enjoy it) saved my life. When the letter of acceptance to Polytechnic was received, i was happy BUT i had to serve the country first, so i made arrangements with the Poly to ‘reserve’ my seat in the course. For two years, i was doing my education soul searching and 3 months before ORD, i told myself “NO! This is not what i want. The future is my future not the ones im trying to impress!” So i decided to cancel the Polytechnic reserve seat and decide to think what i want to do with my life…and during that time, i found a passion in Computers and Hacking! (thanks to the classic movie Wargames and Operation Takedown) and although im interested in hacking, i couldnt tell the difference between a motherboard and a hard disk! lol!! seriously! I dont! So i went to part time courses learning the fundamentals of computers, taking Hardware, Network and Security (and its not easy for me to pay earning less than 350 a month during my NS and being a child born not with a silver spoon, stayed in a Children’s Home and also a breadwinner for my family after i ‘discharged’ from the Children’s home, I never once asked a single cent from my mom- life is tough but that’s another story)
So its time to find a Diploma course, and its not cheap. Its a private instituition majoring mainly in the IT Security Faculty and its $10 000!!! Believe it or not!! I had to borrow from a Bank and my ex boss when i used to work Part time as a salesman. (plus, i got so many rejection from both banks and some so called organizations to help the needy) But i have no choice. In order for me to study i had to have money and at that time, i was working (after NS) in HP as a Media ‘specialists’ operator earning $1200 at 12 hour shift work. Its tough, sometimes i had to go to class exactly after work and continue to work exactly after class. It was a torment for me but my spirits were high and determined too.
Once i finished my Diploma after 1 and a half year i was so happy BUT life was not easy. During that time i was working for NCS and for 3 years i couldnt land an IT Security position. It was a dilemma for me, a pressure to do something i want so much but faced many discriminations. Once a Job agent called me up and shared with me how ‘a ‘G’ agency was looking for ONLY Chinese personnel for the IT Team’. It didnt end there, i sent out resumes to more than 50 ‘job vacancies’ and only one or two will call asking for more details and then silent. It wasn’t fair. I was upset, disappointed and seeing how my classmate got great position after graduating doing IT Security and im stuck for 3 years doing first level computer support.
So i thought to myself and positively told myself that maybe i need to have a Degree since most of the IT Security requirements need a Degree. So once again i had to find another iinstitutionto further pursue my education just to get the career that i want which is IT Security. When i saw that there were two advertisements on The New Paper that two local Polytechnics Nanyang and Temasek poly carried IT Security specialist courses, i was determined to join, and looking at the course modules, i am very confident that i will do well especially with my undying determination. BUT i was solely and sorely disappointed that BOTH Poly REJECTED my application for 4 times in a row stating that one of the requirements is to have a local Diploma or Degree! I was furious! Sad! Disappointed! Upset! Singapore Education System reject Singaporean students who want nothing more than to study! 4 times in 2 years!! I tried appealing but was rejected, i tried to go to the MP and my MP simply said ‘this is not something i can help you with because its up to the school’. Can you imagine how painful i was being rejected countless times just to study??? Being discriminated against?? And the saddest part was when i was informed by someone who managed to take the specialist course that there were foreigners in the class and do not look like local students! I know by then that the system failed me and from there i wonder whether Singapore really care about their citizens ESPECIALLY poor and average citizens like me.
To cut my life story short, i managed to get a Private Degree institution called SMA Institute of Higher Learning and still studying in it, taking my time to focus on both work and getting good grades (hoping to finish by this year). Not to mention the loan amount i am still paying it…but thats life..nothing is free unless you are a Minister’s son. 😛 And thank God, (although losing my determination in landing an IT Security job position) a friend of mine from my current company recommended me to join. I was delighted and after the first interview, i received a call saying that i got the job in the company as an Associate Security Engineer/Consultant…i was overjoyed, words couldnt express how i felt that after searching for 4 years, i managed to do what i wanted most! And so far, almost two years in this great company, everyone is viewed the same. Unlike the ‘G’ Ministry office structure where even where you seat depends on your education level. In this company, from an Associate to the Director. We all seat at the same type of chairs, desks and in an open office where every heads can be seen when you stick your head up. (well, this is diverting the main topic but i just want to say Kudos to the company)
(Ok back to the main topic)
So despite me being rejected by local institutions, getting bad grades during my studies in Secondary and ITE, i was called by my class mates and lecturers a Distinction student in my current Uni and was recommended by my lecturer to have me to promote the school… Everyone has dreams but not everyone want to wake up and work on it…
My advice to the students who think its the end of the world for not going to Poly….here i am to prove you that its NOT! Dont expect help from our ‘G’, because our ‘G’ helps the rich and God help those who help themselves… Remember that the future is not just a single path…its many and you have to choose and survive by your own in the path you chose because eventually the future is yours and so are your choices….. Be a fighter..Be strong!
Source: Hang Lima Jebat who received accolades for his work as listed below:
1) Won Symantec Hacking Competition in 2013
2) Wrote and Published security articles in International security magazines
3) Spoken in hackers conferences in India, US and Europe.
4) First ever Singaporean to speak at a Hackers conference in Vegas, USA.