Speech by Mr Raymond H C Wong, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education
Opening Ceremony of 8th Annual Conference of
Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association (PECERA)
on July 5th 2007
Dr Spodek, Dr Chan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to officiate the Opening Ceremony of PECERA’s 8th Annual Conference. I feel particularly honoured since this is the first time for PECERA ( Hong Kong ) to host this important international event. I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all renowned educators and early childhood education practitioners.
PECERA is set up with a mission to disseminate and support research in early childhood education within the Pacific area. Since its foundation, PECERA has held seven annual conferences and has successfully built up networks among professionals dedicated to quality early childhood education. The launch of PECERA (Hong Kong) in February 2005 signified an important step for early childhood education workers here in Hong Kong to assume a more active role in the international education arena.
The theme of this year’s Conference is ‘Re-Thinking Early Childhood Education’. It highlights the need to stock-take where we are, to reflect on what we have been practicing and chart the way forward. To do this well we need to consider new knowledge generated by researches into children development, aspects of human intelligence and learning theories, as well as rapid changes in the social, cultural and economic environment.
The Conference this year is also a timely one for Hong Kong . The HKSAR government promulgated in October last year a series of new initiatives to strengthen the development of pre-primary education. This package of improvement measures has three major dimensions :
The new scheme will be up and running in September this year, with an additional investment of up to two billion Hong Kong dollars per annum upon full implementation. We are committed to providing quality education and services for our next generation. Our vision is for all children of the relevant age to receive affordable and quality pre-primary education.
Pre-primary education is an important stage which lays the foundation for life-long learning and whole person development. There is a consensus world-wide on the profound importance of quality pre-primary education which provides broader childhood learning experiences. The investment at this early stage is shown to result in high yields later as our young children are better prepared to take advantage of schooling and this advantage continues right through life.
Our newly issued “Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum” for implementation in the new school year places emphasis on two basic principles, namely “children’s development” and “children’s learning”. Pre-primary education practitioners are given sufficient room to bring professional knowledge into full play, and to design the curriculum according to children’s needs within an open and flexible curriculum framework.
We all believe that children are active learners. They learn naturally through their daily experiences, learn actively through interesting encounters and learn effectively through play activities. The challenges ahead for us in early childhood education are to provide an open and enabling environment to facilitate children to take an active role in learning, to enjoy the freedom of exploring and the fun of sharing, and thus laying the foundation to learn how to learn.
I am sure the Conference this year will provide an invaluable platform for colleagues with dedication to the educational well-being of our children to bring early childhood education to a new height. “Re-thinking Early Childhood Education” is a process which calls for inquisitive and joint intelligence. I am sure that the professional discourse and sharing this afternoon and in the next two days will further our knowledge and understanding of the latest development in the field. Hong Kong is privileged to host this important conference and I am confident that we can learn a lot to help our journey over the next few years in early childhood education. I wish the Conference every success .
For colleagues from overseas, once again my warmest welcome to you all. Do enjoy your stay in Hong Kong . I trust that beside the professional dialogue which is your main focus, the organisers will have found time for you to enjoy our wonderful city.