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Speech at St Paul's Convent School Speech Day

Speech by Mrs Fanny Law, JP Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower at St Paul's Convent School Speech Day

Sister Margaret, Distinguished Guests, Teachers, Parents and Graduates,

Thank you for inviting me to join you on this auspicious occasion. The Speech Day is a time for celebration, a time for thanksgiving, and a time to ponder on the future.

2. Today we celebrate success, we celebrate excellence, and we celebrate friendships that will last a lifetime.

3. Today, we thank parents who have provided you, graduates, with unfailing support. We thank the principal and teachers who have worked very hard over the years to prepare you for this day. We thank members of the School Management Committee for their vision and leadership in making St Paul's Convent such a distinguished school.

4. Not too long ago, a consultant who used to teach at an international school said to me hilariously, "I have found an aided school with international standards". I am sure you will guess which school he was referring to, and I agree with him whole-heartedly.

5. St Paul's Convent School provides a holistic education that engages not just the mind, but also develops the body, and nurtures the spirit. Over its 148 years of existence, the school has produced generations of well-rounded and civic-minded young leaders. Education at St Paul's Convent School means more than textbook knowledge. Learning extends beyond the confines of the classroom and reaches out of Hong Kong.

6. The School exemplifies the lofty goals of the education reform and demonstrates the "can do" spirit which underpins Hong Kong's past successes. Hong Kong is proud to have St Paul's Convent School and I see the potential for the School to scale new heights by joining the Direct Subsidy Scheme. Building on existing strengths, the School can take advantage of the additional flexibility which the Scheme offers in terms of the curriculum, student admission, staffing and finance, including fee policy, to provide even better quality of education. Futhermore, by joining the DSS, St Paul's Convent School will be able to form a "through train" with the private St Paul's Primary School to provide more individualised and seamless education from the age of 6 to 19.

7. Graduating Paulinians, you have had the privilege of learning from challenging and stimulating teachers who have instilled in you the lifelong love for learning and a set of values that will enrich your life. You have had ample opportunities of exercising critical thinking and liberating your creativity through the rich and diversified school life. You are indeed the lucky ones.

8. Today, as we pray in thanksgiving for the past; we also pray with anticipation for the future. Graduation is called the Commencement in United States, meaning it is not the end but the beginning; the beginning of unlimited possibilities that lay ahead; the beginning of a long journey to realise one's dream.

9. Graduation is a milestone of accomplishment, a rite of passage. You are now on the threshold of a whole new world, and a whole new life. You will face new challenges as Hong Kong is going through a period of transformation that requires an adjustment to our mindset, our life-style and our beliefs.

10. Being ethnic Chinese, we must get to know the Chinese culture, history and heritage. We must embrace our motherland and identify Hong Kong's interests with those of the Mainland as we are part of the same country. At the same time, we should maintain the values and systems that underscore Hong Kong's competitive advantage -- namely, the rule of law, level playing field, free flow of information, and a clean government. This is the spirit of "one country, two systems".

11. We have to liberate ourselves from the colonial past and set our sight beyond the Shenzhen River. We have to accept our motherland with its strengths and weaknesses, and work together for continuous joint improvement. We have to be modest and empathetic in exploring win-win development but, at the same time, have faith and confidence in our own advantages.

12. It is a reality that Hong Kong's fate is tied inextricably with that of the Mainland, in particular the Pearl River Delta region. Since China opened its door to the outside world in 1979, Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region have developed in a symbiotic fashion. The economic interaction and integration will evolve more rapidly with China's entry into the World Trade Organisation, as we have to compete with overseas investors, eager to take a share in the world's largest market. We have to move fast if we are not to be left behind.

13. To fulfil our obligation as a Chinese national following Hong Kong's reversion to the sovereign state, and to capitalise on the vast opportunities on the Mainland, our young people must possess the knowledge, skills and attitude for interacting with our fellow Chinese in the Mainland. Indeed, social, cultural and academic exchanges and business connections have increased significantly since 1997, and the trend will continue. Young people:

* must get to know the social, economic, legal and political systems in the Mainland, the business environment, values, culture and customs;

* must master the skills of communication, using Chinese, Putonghua and English, and develop social and negotiation skills; but

* most important of all, must be objective and positive about the Mainland, learn to appreciate its strengths and future prospects, appraise its achievements in a historical perspective, and accommodate any differences with Hong Kong.

14. If you have not been to the Mainland, go and see for yourselves the amazing developments that have taken place over the last decade. If you have been to the Mainland, go again from time to time to see the difference. Open your eyes wide, interact with students and the men in the street, read about things that are happening, discuss with your parents and then form your own judgement. You have had ample experience in project learning at St Paul's Convent to be able to find out the truth and exercise your critical and independent thinking.

15. Schools, being the cradle of education, have the responsibility to promote "national education", and to cultivate in students their national identity and the passion for and the pride of being Chinese. There are many entry points for promoting national education such as

* infiltrating through subjects like Chinese studies, including language, history, music, arts and culture; and extra-curricular activities, such as Chinese calligraphy, painting and folk dance so as to develop students' appreciation of Chinese culture;

* holding relevant activities/programmes on significant historical dates to enhance students' understanding of various aspects of Chinese history and culture;

* raising the national flag and playing the national anthem on important historical dates and school events, which are effective ways of arousing national feeling that every school should and can easily do; and

* organising project learning, visits/study tour to the Mainland and setting up a China Corner to disseminate information and enhance students' awareness of developments in the Mainland.

16. Hong Kong is going through difficult times, but there is no reason to be overly pessimistic as we used to surpass many in the past. Analyse critically the strengths and weaknesses of Hong Kong and you will come round to the view that Hong Kong will benefit further from the opening up of the Mainland when we seize the opportunity. This requires that:

* we must uphold the "can do" spirit on which Hong Kong's success was founded;

* we must ask ourselves "what we can do for Hong Kong" and not "what Hong Kong can do for us";

* we must act in unison for the common good of Hong Kong and put aside ideological and political differences; and

* we must nurture a new generation of young people who are proactive lifelong learners with a global perspective, who can speak fluent English and Putonghua, and who has the interests of Hong Kong and the Mainland at heart.

17. It gives me distinct pleasure to see sparkling young faces today; faces that spell hope; faces that lift the spirit. In you, graduating Paulinians, I see great promises for Hong Kong. In you, I see renewed vigor and prosperity for Hong Kong. In you, I see success in our education reform. I thank you most heartily for having me today and allowing me to be part of your memory of this happy occasion.

18. My warmest congratulations to all the graduates and prize winners; I wish you every happiness and success in all your further endeavours. You have worked very hard to deserve this special honour. Today is your day but I'd like to invite you, graduates, to stand now and applaud your families, the principal and teachers for, without them, you will not achieve as much.

May God bless you and be with you always.

Last revision date: 21 November 2002
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