Speech by Mrs Fanny Law, GBS, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower
at the Opening Ceremony of Summer Science Institute 2004
of the University of Hong Kong
on Tuesday, 27 July 2004
Professor Tsui, Dr Chan, Young Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to see so many students who are keen to spend their summer vacation meaningfully to acquire learning experiences outside of their formal school curriculum. I must also thank Dr Chan and his colleagues and students for taking the time during the summer vacation to nurture young scientists. This is a welcome initiative to smoothen and strengthen the university-school interface.
As a former science student of the University of Hong Kong , I have fond memories of umpteen hours spent in the laboratories, St John’s hall and the excellent library. I am grateful to my alma mater for the subtle influence that has made me who I am today. Although I did not pursue a career in science, I never regret having taken science. The rigor of the scientific method, and the exploratory approach to learning are conducive to the development of an inquisitive mind and analytical thinking skills that have served me well throughout my civil service career.
Science education requires students to explore, to challenge the status quo, to hypothesize and to prove with facts. These are the essential skills for learning to learn, which is crucial for keeping up with change in the globalised economy of the 21st century where knowledge is generated at a rapid pace, and competition is keen. To stay ahead and to remain relevant, one has to be alert at all times, to anticipate events, and most of all, to keep up to date and to pursue lifelong learning.
For those of you who are contemplating a science education, the Summer Science Institute will give you a taste of what the undergraduate programme would be like and expose you to the world-class facilities and highly accomplished faculties at the University of Hong Kong . In recent years, the University has intensified links with overseas and Mainland universities so as to offer students more exposure to different cultures, through student exchange programmes and short-term attachment. The University of Hong Kong has an established reputation, an international outlook and a diverse student body, true to the character of Hong Kong , as Asia ’s world city. The quality of education offered at the University is next to none in Hong Kong , and is clearly better than many in other parts of the world.
There are many talents in Hong Kong and good professors can help them shine. Last week, the Hong Kong team won one Gold, one Silver, one Bronze and one Honourable Mention in the International Physics Olympiad 2004, putting Hong Kong as the 4th among Asian countries, after China , Thailand and Taiwan . Hong Kong students also fared well in the prestigious Intel Science and Engineering Fair in the US and the China Youth Science Technology Invention Contest (全國青少年科技創新大賽).
These results bear testimony to the strengths of our education system. Clearly, we can always do better but let us not under-estimate our achievements. I firmly believe that the best students of today are much better than their predecessors and are highly competitive. To our young friends, I urge you to understand yourselves, to have confidence in yourselves, to set your goals in life and to work arduously at them.
In recent years, the Government has invested more in meeting the needs of gifted students. With the help of tertiary institutions, we organize special programmes to provide learning opportunities outside the formal curriculum for students with special talents, including science talents. We also run various competitions to inspire and stretch the potential of students, e.g. the Science Enhancement Programme, Hong Kong Student Science Project Competition, Mathematics Olympiad, Physics Olympiad and Chemistry Olympiad, all of which are attracting increasing number of student participants each year.
The Summer Science Institute is a distinctive event to nurture students’ interest in science learning. Throughout this 5-day on-campus summer programme, I am sure our young friends will find that learning without the pressure of examination can be just as fun-filled and inspiring as play. Be an active participant and make the most of the opportunities available to tap the great minds that are around you.
The 1965 Physics Nobel Laureate, Dr Richard P. Feynman, proclaimed his passion for science with these words, “The world looks so different after learning science.....There are beautiful things, and the content of science is wonderfully full of them. They are very inspiring, and they can be used to inspire others.” I wish you all an enjoyable learning experience at the Summer Science Institute.