Speech by Mrs Fanny Law, GBS, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower
at the Celebration and Sharing Session for Winners of the
Inviting School Award
on Monday, 10 July 2006
Dr William Purkey, Principal Lam, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here with you at the Celebration and Sharing Session of the 2006 Inviting School Award. To the winning schools, I congratulate you on attaining this international recognition of your contribution and commitment to education. It is an exceptional honour not only for the schools concerned, but also for Hong Kong – as you have put Hong Kong at the top in Asia for having the largest number of Inviting School Awards.
Education in Hong Kong is going through major changes to better prepare our young people in meeting new demands arising from globalization and the knowledge economy. Thanks to the hard work of our teachers, we have seen encouraging results and a positive impact on students. Last Saturday, we honoured 42 Mathematics and Science teachers for excellence in teaching, and heard first-hand from some of their students how much they enjoy learning from their teachers who make learning motivating and relevant to everyday life.
Teachers can and do make a difference; school culture also plays a significant part in making the difference. Later on, we shall hear from Dr William Purkey, the founder of Invitational Education, his views on how human potential can be realized by creating and maintaining places, policies, processes and programs specifically designed to invite development, and involving people who are inviting with themselves and others, personally and professionally. I am sure we will all benefit from his insight.
To complement the “5 P’s” of invitational education, I would like to use “ 5 C ’s” to summarise the critical success factors in implementing the education reform in school.
First and foremost, we must focus on the “core” objective of the reform, that is, to nurture self-directed lifelong learners. To be self-directing, students must enjoy learning and be motivated to learn. To be lifelong learners, they must take responsibility for their own learning and master the skills of self-learning. Whatever we do, whatever change we introduce, they must contribute to this goal, directly or indirectly. There is never enough time to do everything; prioritise according to students’ needs and impact on the learning outcome.
The second “C” is effective “communication”. Everyone in the education community, including school managers, the principal, teachers, parents and, not the least, students must fully understand the objectives of the reform, as well as their respective roles and responsibilities, and must act in unison towards the common goal. Effective communication is more than exchange of information and ideas, it has to be underscored by trust, respect, and a cooperative spirit. There cannot be over-communication. Indeed, much more communication is needed both within school and in the community to explain the rationale of various changes, to dispel misconception, to quash rumours, to establish trust, and to build partnership.
The third “C” is “connection”. Every teacher in the school must understand clearly how each lesson, co-curricular activity or initiative connects to the overall learning goal, and how each can be leveraged upon another to create a synergistic effect and the best result. Too often we see change in form but not substance, and programmes being implemented as separate and discrete activities, creating additional work but with little or no impact on student learning.
The fourth “C” is “commitment”. Teaching is a profession where passion and commitment are the pre-condition for excellence. Teaching is hard as it is both an art and a science. Teaching is hard because every student is different. Teaching is hard because work due is compressed to within 190 days in a school year. Those who take teaching merely as a job are unlikely to find satisfaction, especially when
they are faced with new demands from the education reform. On the contrary, those who are committed to education and find teaching a meaningful occupation are likely to be more innovative and proactive, and undeterred by workload and difficulty.
The fifth “C” is “continuing improvement”. Education reform is a journey rather than an event. For sustainable development, schools must own the change and aim for continuing improvement. Hence, we encourage schools to conduct self-evaluation and validate the findings through an external review. The process turns teachers into reflective practitioners who can see their own strengths and weaknesses, and are keen to upgrade themselves through continuing professional development. When schools become a learning community, there is momentum for sustainable development and continuing improvement.
Notwithstanding a relatively late start in launching the education reform, we have achieved a lot over the past five years through the concerted efforts of teachers, principals, school sponsors and the Government. Our curriculum framework is recognized internationally as professional and progressive. Our students have fared well in international assessments and competitions. Our principals and teachers are responsive, hardworking, dedicated and innovative. We have seen significant upgrading in the professional qualification of principals and teachers. We have seen an upsurge of professional sharing and peer learning activities. We have seen more student-centred learning activities both inside and outside of the classroom. We have every reason to look back with pride on what we have achieved. There is always room for further improvement, but the prospects are good. The Hong Kong spirit which has served us well in the past holds promises for the future. I am more than ever confident that education in Hong Kong will move from strength to strength, and will support the Chief Executive’s vision to develop Hong Kong into a regional education hub.
I thank you all for your contribution in the process, and once again congratulate the winners of the 2006 Inviting School Award. As the school year is nearing the end, I wish you a relaxing summer holiday to re-charge and prepare for another fruitful school year.