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Speech at the Yew Chung International School Graduation Ceremony

Speech by Mrs Fanny Law Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower at the Yew Chung International School Graduation Ceremony

Dr Chan, principal guests, parents, teachers and graduates,

I am honored to share with you this special day. Today is also the first graduation of the International Baccalaureate class of Yew Chung International School. The international education at Yew Chung aims to develop students to become critical and compassionate thinkers, lifelong learners, and global citizens. I congratulate today's graduates for having successfully completed this demanding and holistic educational programme. The very impressive list of universities where some of you will be going to clearly shows the immense rewards for your efforts. Thanks also to the guidance and support of Dr Chan and the dedicated and caring teaching staff at Yew Chung.

2. Graduation is a memorable and happy occasion. I still remember the day when I was where you are now. I remember receiving my high school diploma from the then Deputy Director of Education who officiated on that occasion. I remember how good it felt to hug my friends at the end of the ceremony, and how glad we were that we had made it together. But what I honestly do not remember about my graduation is the graduation speech.

3. I have attended many graduation ceremonies since I became the Director of Education in November 1998 and have given many speeches. I wonder how many graduates actually listened and could remember what I had said. When I received today's graduation ceremony programme, I was really impressed to see that one of you will respond to my address afterwards. What a great idea to get you focused and give me the comfort that at least one student will be listening.

4. As a biochemistry student at university, the message I have for you today is to be an enzyme, the catalyst that facilitates biochemical reactions. Enzymes increase the rate of a reaction but are not consumed in the process. Enzymes are therefore Nature's activists. Life cannot go on without enzymes; just like civil rights movement could not have flourished without Martin Luther King or world peace without the moral courage of Jody Williams.

5. Everyone can be an enzyme, a catalyst for change, in a big or small way. The world would be a better place to live if everyone makes an effort to build a sense of community, citizenship and service into all aspects of life - at school, among friends, within the family and in the community. Start early, be an enzyme at every stage of life so that the commitment to service has every opportunity to grow and gather momentum to create a world of change.

6. In the classroom, you can make a difference through enquiry. When I did my MPA at Harvard, I asked the lecturer who has been teaching the course "Governing in a Democracy" for ten years whether he was bored. His answer was a firm "no" because every student brought to the class different backgrounds and views, and every cohort of students was different. Every lesson was therefore unique in terms of the quality, emphasis and vigor of the class interaction. True learning comes with the learner's active participation, and construction of knowledge by integrating new information with past experience. In a lifelong learning society, the aim of education is to learn how to learn. This is one of the basic tenets of the education reform that is taking place in local schools, which is consistent with the underpinning principle of the education at Yew Chung.

7. The first IB graduating class has made history for Yew Chung International School. Students in lower forms look up to you as role model, and your achievements set the benchmark for their aspirations. As you graduate, you bring to the community the values that you have developed over the years - recognition of universal human values, development of citizenship, care and personal responsibility through service to others, accommodation of diversity and respect for differences.

8. For Hong Kong to be Asia's world city, its citizens must embrace these values. Today, Hong Kong faces unprecedented challenges. Economically, we are caught in a painful process of re-structuring. Socially, ideological differences and income disparities have created rifts among the people. An adaptive and harmonious community must embody five beliefs:

 *  We believe people are basically good;
 *  We believe everyone has something to contribute;
 *  We believe that an honest, open environment can bring out the best in people;
 *  We recognise and respect everyone as a unique individual; and
 *  We treat others the way we want to be treated.

9. The challenge for Hong Kong today is whether we can create the proper balance between private pursuits and public service; whether we can build bridges and a spirit of citizenship that can coalesce isolated individuals into a community, and encourage each individual to think from self to society to service. That's the challenge for everyone of us.

10. No civilisation can exist without community at its core. British historian Edward Gibbon marked the end of Athenian democracy with these words, "When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them. When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility. When Athens ceased to be free." What was true for Athens will be true for every nation, and for Hong Kong.

11. So, young men and women, be an enzyme in catalyzing change. Do what you love, and love what you do. Love is the energy that makes the enzyme work, the passion that provides purpose, that gives every citizen in society, a function to perform and a role to play.

12. Just as the learning community at Yew Chung International School has served you well, so go and serve the community that you call home. Give the less fortunate in our society your helping hand; make a difference by example and leadership.

13. To all the proud parents, family members and friends, and to the stars of today - the Class of 2002 - congratulations. Celebrate this day and share your achievements with those who helped make it happen.

14. I thank you again for sharing this happy and memorable occasion with me, and I wish Yew Chung International School will scale new heights in the years to come.

15. God bless you all!

Last revision date: 05 July 2002
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