Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Teachers' Professional Sharing Month
Mr Tai, Dr Wong, Prof Zhang, Prof Tymms, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since the education reform was launched just over two years ago, schools and teachers have accumulated a wealth of experience and good practices. Today, it is most encouraging to see this assembly of educators to share teaching experiences and reflect on the practical aspects of the education reform. Over one hundred projects will be presented during the Teachers' Professional Sharing Month. They represent the outcome of the hard work of dedicated teachers. These projects bring confidence to all who have participated in the education reform and send a clear message to the community that, notwithstanding the difficulties on the way, teachers in Hong Kong are moving steadily towards the goals of the education reform.
As we all know, the further advancement of Hong Kong will depend on the nurturing of people with high quality and a diverse range of talents. To this end, we must have high quality education which in turn depends on teachers of a high caliber and professionalism. If teachers are not keen to learn and to excel, there will be furtherance of human civilization and creation of knowledge through education, and the society will not have a bright future.
The tragedy that happened to the US space shuttle on its return to earth last month once again reminded us of the many unforeseeable challenges in scaling the heights of science. Over the years, among those who had joined the expedition into space, there was a teacher called Christa McAuliff. In 1985, she was chosen to be the first civilian to venture into space. Why? Because, the then President Reagan wanted the best teacher in the country to be the first civilian on board the space shuttle for teachers have the most direct impact on our next generation. Teachers are also observant and articulate. They can relate what they see in space to their students and fellow workers, kindling the passion for space exploration among young people. Unfortunately, on 28 January 1986, the Challenger exploded only 17 seconds after taking off. Nevertheless, the memory of Christa McAuliff remained forever with her passion for exploration and vision for extending the frontiers of human knowledge.
When McAuliff was under training, this brilliant teacher was asked why she participated in the space programme. She responded quickly and confidently, "Don't you understand? I am a teacher. Everyday, through my students, I TOUCH THE FUTURE." The illuminating remarks of Christa McAuliff clearly highlights the eternal influence of education on the future, and the source of this influence is the teacher.
Launching the education reform is similar to firing a space shuttle. There are bound to be strong vibrations and heavy smoke. Once the shuttle is in the orbit, it will glide smoothly. Similarly, there are bound to be unease, anxieties and complaints in the initial stages of the education reform. As the reform produces results, more teachers will be willing to join in, building on successful experiences. As success breeds success, the impact will snowball.
Based on the Education Commission's recommendations, the Chief Executive mapped out a blueprint of education for the 21st century in his 2000 Policy Address. The Curriculum Development Council then published the "Learning to Learn - the Way Forward in Curriculum Development" in 2001, followed by the Basic Education Curriculum Guide in 2002. These three important documents set out a clear direction for the development of education in Hong Kong. All educators should read them carefully and work out how to translate the educational goals into classroom practice so that their students will "enjoy learning and learn how to learn" as well as realize individual potentials to the full.
The Teachers' Professional Experience Sharing Month is founded on two beliefs. First, we believe that, to produce results, education reform must make its way into the classroom and the key to success is to help teachers translate theories into practice. Second, we believe that professional dialogue and experience sharing are the most effective means to promote the professional development of teachers. There are many talented, hardworking and proactive teachers in Hong Kong. Just like Christa McAuliff, they dare to explore and experiment. Their drive and commitment will chart the way for the further development of education in Hong Kong.
I must pay tribute to teachers who offer to be pioneers in the education reform. I also wish the Teachers' Professional Experience Sharing Month every success and to all participants a rewarding experience. Finally, I wish you all good health and happiness.