International Conference for the 50th Anniversary of the
Faculty of Education, Chinese University of Hong Kong
on Saturday, 31 January 2015
Data Speaks: Lessons from Large-scale Educational Data Surveys for Educational Policy Reform and School Improvement
Welcoming Speech by Mrs Marion LAI Chan Chi-kuen, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education
Good afternoon, Mr Heng, Ms Ono, Dr Cho, Dr Chan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As someone who has just joined the Education Bureau of Hong Kong as the Permanent Secretary for Education, I consider it not only a privilege, but also a precious learning opportunity, to be among you all in the International Conference today on the theme – Data Speaks.
2. To make informed decisions, we need data – high quality data as an outcome of carefully designed and implemented processes of assessment, collection and analysis. We need the kind of data that helps inform us about what is taking place, what works and what doesn’t. However, data may not be able to speak for or by itself unless we, the users, make sense and make good use of it, reflect on the application and generate useful information, knowledge and wisdom, as advised by knowledge management expats.
3. Capitalising on the large-scale educational data surveys discussed in this Conference, there are very good lessons to learn from and reflect on. The experience to be shared is particularly important at a time when we are making important decisions on our education policies, when we are reviewing and refining our reform initiatives and school improvement measures to enable our students to thrive in the 21st century, an era which, as we know, is full of uncertainty, challenges and opportunities.
4. In education, curriculum and assessment are close partners – the former about what is worth learning and the latter about what has been learnt. From the international assessments the Conference focuses on today, we are learning much about the role of data in supporting and informing the making of education policy. With these international assessments which are conducted on a three-year to a five-year cycle, our students’ achievement levels and patterns are identified and reported. Information on how student characteristics are changing is also collected and analysed. All these enable policy makers like us to examine the local status quo against the backdrop of global change and development. Indeed the past decade has seen how these international assessments and the resulting data have impacted on the global education scene, especially the development of 21st century skills and the curriculum and pedagogy to foster such skills.
5. In the article ‘A Rich Seam – How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning’ co-authored by Professor Fullan and Professor Langworthy in 2014, a vision for education is shared, and I quote: “The next decade could be the most transformative of any since the creation of factory-model schools 150 years ago. Imagine a future where students and teachers can’t wait to get to the learning – where indeed school never leaves them because they are always learning.” I believe this strikes a deep chord with a lot of us here.
6. In Hong Kong, building on what has been achieved since the launch of our holistic curriculum reform in 2001, we have entered a new phase, Learning to Learn 2.0, where our emphasis is on continued curriculum renewal and empowerment of teachers and students. In Learning to Learn 2.0, our school curriculum plays a crucial role in bringing about the transformation that the above two scholars envisage. It remains student-centred. It emphasises whole-person development. It aims to develop students to be self-directed life-long learners. It is about learning experiences inside and outside the classroom that promote holistic thinking, with an emphasis on the development of students’ positive values and attitudes, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as humanistic literacy and entrepreneurship. In Learning to Learn 2.0, we continue to promote bi-literacy and tri-lingualism so that our students can be effective communicators. We remain committed to providing varied life-wide learning opportunities to support our students’ all-round development.
7. To build a future ‘where students and teachers can’t wait to get to the learning’ and where ‘school never leaves them because they are always learning’, we have developed policy and support measures to make learning opportunities readily available to both our students and teachers. Apart from refining our curriculum, pedagogy and assessment practices and building a constructive alignment among them, we commit ourselves to the continued improvement of our education infrastructure whereby we tap into the power of technology to unleash the power of learning.
8. To meet the ever-rising societal expectations of the teaching profession, we have reconstituted the former Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications as the Committee on Professional Development of Teachers and Principals, with “A Learning Profession of Vibrancy, A Teaching Profession of Excellence” as our vision. To realise this vision, several focus areas of work have been identified and priority is accorded to the following three initiatives – developing a unified set of standards for the teaching profession, establishing a dataset to inform policy formulation, and setting up a one-stop portal for sharing of information and resources. Again rich meaningful data plays a key role in building our professional capacity to realise our reform goals.
9. In our discourse on 21st century education, innovation is a central theme. In this year’s Policy Address presented on 14 January, our Chief Executive, Mr Leung, underlined the importance of innovation, science and technology and showed his support by saying, and I quote, “The Education Bureau will renew and enrich the curricula and learning activities of Science, Technology and Mathematics, and enhance the training of teachers, thereby allowing primary and secondary students to fully unleash their potential in innovation.” In Learning to Learn 2.0, such a policy focus will be duly reflected in our promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This curriculum focus, coupled with other strategies set out in the Policy Address, such as the proposed setting up of an Innovation and Technology Bureau to provide leadership and the injection of $5 billion into the Innovation and Technology Fund to encourage research and entrepreneurship, will help to promote innovation, diversify the economy and enhance our competitiveness in the global world.
10. The success of Learning to Learn 2.0, as we see it, depends to a large extent on how successfully we can develop a culture of learning for both our students and teachers, and, in more specific terms, how successfully we can develop learning communities among our teachers and build partnerships extensively so that our students can have more opportunities to acquire varied learning experiences, work with and learn from different types of learners, and use different community resources to support their learning and broaden their horizons.
11. In the Conference today, we are learning from each other and at the same time forging partnerships. I have confidence that these partnerships being built today will bear fruit. And I will definitely join hands with our schools, teachers, professional and education organisations, and my colleagues in the Education Bureau to make these partnerships meaningful and fruitful. I thank you for being our learning partners and I wish you all a successful conference.