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Speech by Ms Michelle Li, JP, Permanent Secretary for Education at Yew Chung International School – Secondary Graduation Ceremony 2023

Ms Michelle Li, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education 
Speech by Ms Michelle Li, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education
Yew Chung International School – Secondary
Graduation Ceremony 2023
21 June 2023 (Wednesday)
 
Turning crises into opportunities – A lesson learnt from Epidemic

 

Dr CHAN (school supervisor and principal), members of the School Management Committee, distinguished guests, teachers, parents, graduates and students,

   Good morning.  It is my great honour to join you all here today at the Graduation Ceremony of Yew Chung International School – Secondary.  On this joyous occasion, may I extend my warmest congratulations to all graduates on your achievement of a significant milestone in your learning journey.  May I also express my sincere gratitude to the school, teachers and parents for your dedication and hard work in nurturing high quality graduates.

2.  This academic year also marks the 90th anniversary of Yew Chung Yew Wah Education Network Limited, or Yew Chung in short. With a vision to educate young people and contribute to the betterment of our Motherland, Ms Tsang Chor-hang established the first Yew Chung school in Hong Kong in 1932.  Later, over the years, Dr CHAN and her team sustain their drive in leading Yew Chung to scale new heights in terms of quantity and quality.  Today, Yew Chung schools have visible presence in more than 10 regions, including Hong Kong, five cities in the Mainland, Silicon Valley in the US and Somerset in the UK, and are offering students with an international, multicultural and bilingual curriculum for preparing them to meet the challenges in the ever-changing world.

3.  Yew Chung has always been a pioneer with clear vision and strong passion, constantly responding to the education needs of the community. A notable example is the establishment of a first-of-its-kind Mainland curriculum school in Hong Kong to meet the emerging education needs of dependent children of Mainland and overseas talents coming to Hong Kong due to the vibrant development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, or GBA in short.  Upon completion, it will also benefit children of local families whose parents plan to bring their families to Mainland for further development.  Taking this opportunity, may I wish Yew Chung every success in this important endeavor.  The Education Bureau will also work closely with you to make it a resounding success.

4.  Dear graduates, today is a day of celebration for you as this marks a significant milestone in your life journey. This is indeed a commendable achievement amidst the lingering pandemic.  After three years of fighting against the virus, the World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19 epidemic situation no longer constituted a public health emergency of international concern.  The world, including Hong Kong, is on the track of resumption of normalcy.  At the same time, we should not miss the golden opportunity to pause and reflect on the lessons learned from COVID-19 epidemic.  Dear graduates, I encourage you to shift your attention from “Grades” in your public examinations to another three words that begin with “G

5.  The first G is “Gratitude”. The unprecedented COVID-19 epidemic is a vivid reminder that we can never take things for granted.  We have brought nothing to this world and we must be grateful for all the big and small things we now enjoy – our health, our family, our classmates, our friends, our school, our society, etc.  Indeed, your graduation is a culmination of not only your own hard work but also the contribution of many unsung heroes who display remarkable agility, flexibility and dedication.  I can imagine many teachers, school staff and parents have spent hours burning the midnight oil in helping you continue your studies during the epidemic by switching between face-to-face and online learning modes, as well as making all precautionary arrangements to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.  I am pleased to note that Yew Chung and many other schools have successfully embraced a blended mode of learning and teaching, in order to ensure “suspending classes without suspending learning”.  As we celebrate students’ achievements, special thanks also go to the principals, teachers and parents for their unending love, continuous guidance and everlasting support.  Indeed, gratitude is an important recipe for happiness.  As the saying goes, happiness starts with a grateful heart.  Research shows that grateful people are happier and healthier, less prone to depression and illness.  Gratitude is also a social glue that binds people together in harmony.  Let’s always count our blessings.

6.  The second “G” is “Grit”. Grit is the personality traits behind perseverance, resilience, hard work and goal-setting.  It involves the resilience to overcome setbacks, see failures and crises as opportunities, work hard, and finish things rather than give up.  The key is our strong passion, particularly having clear direction, as well as the ability to adhere to a goal over the long term and sustain the interest and drive.  I encourage you to read the insightful book or watch TED talks by psychologist, Dr Angela Duckworth, on “Grit”.  Her research on many successful people shows that grit rather than innate ability and talent is the key to success.  The prolonged COVID-19 epidemic again reminds us that “Tough time never lasts but tough people do.”  As we experienced the multiple waves of epidemic, it was not unsurprising for some of us to lose hope as we could not see the end of the tunnel.  With resilience, hope and love, we can emerge from crisis stronger and together, if we keep our cool, constantly reflecting, learning, adapting and acting in concert.  With grit, we can turn crisis into opportunity.  For instance, all of us have learned to leverage innovation and technology in order to survive and thrive during the epidemic.  Nowadays, blended learning mode has become the norm rather than exception, even in post-pandemic era.  Crisis always brings us challenges.  However, challenges do not necessarily mean desperation.  Dear graduates, you have successfully overcome the difficulties brought by COVID-19 epidemic and smoothly completed your secondary education.  Let’s continue to develop “Grit” in the years to come.

7.  The third “G” is “Generosity”. Sometimes, misfortune will bring the best and worst out of human beings.  During the pandemic, we see many selfless individuals who have generously shared their time and resources such as masks, RAT kits, daily necessities, etc to help those in need.  These are shining examples and heartening role models.  In fact, everyone can practice generosity.  As Mother Teresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.”; “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”; “Give your hands to serve and your heart to love.”  Research also shows that generous people are happier people too, partly because they are full of love.  So, let’s start with some simple actions such as speaking kind words to your classmates and family.  Be sensitive to the needs of people around you and lend them your helping hands.  Be ready to share.

8.  Dear graduates, apart from identifying the lessons learned from the above three “G’s”, let’s also forge ahead to seize the opportunities before you with another three “G’s”. First, focus on “Growth”.  Start with a “Growth mindset”.  Always believe that nothing and nobody are fixed and cast in stone.  Research shows the plasticity of our brain, which can change in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections.  With a growth mindset, always believe that you can develop your skills and talents through hard work, the right strategies, and guidance from others.  I encourage you to focus more on your personal growth – physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.  You can also contribute to the growth of others – your friends, classmates and family members by giving them the support and nutrients for growth.  On a more macro scale, you can unleash your potential and help propel the growth of Hong Kong and our homeland.

9.  Secondly, seize the opportunities arising from the rapid development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area or GBA in short. We are privileged to be in Hong Kong which attaches great importance to education.  One out of five dollars of Government spending goes to education.  Hong Kong has world-class education system with five of our universities among the top 100 in the world, making Hong Kong an international city with the one of the highest concentration of world-class universities.  Hong Kong is pressing full steam ahead to develop into the eight centres under the 14th National Five-Year Plan, notably as an international innovation and technology centre.  We are making efforts in equipping our young generation with 21st century competencies, in particular, by stepping up the promotion of STEAM education “for all”, “for fun” and “for diversity” in primary and secondary education whilst enhancing students’ information literacy.  Hong Kong is a key player in the development of GBA, which is the fastest growing area in the world.  With a total population of over 70 million, opportunities abound in GPA, in innovation and technology and many other fields.

10.  Thirdly, we should be Global citizens. The world has entered an intricate stage where there are opposite forces of globalisation and de-globalisation.  The fact remains that the world is inter-connected and inter-dependent.  Whilst we should consolidate our cultural heritage and identity as an anchor, we should also broaden our horizon to develop global visions and outlook at a young age.  Focus on commonalities.  Understand other cultures.  Respect differences.  Embrace diversity.  Be global citizens who recognise that every person is a citizen of the world, irrespective of their race, gender, etc.  Explore how we can work together to build a harmonious and sustainable world. 

11.  Dear graduates, you are fortunate to have built a solid foundation in YCIS, thanks to the visionary founders, passionate and competent teachers, and supportive parents. The shared vision of HKSAR Government and Yew Chung is to nurture our new generation of young people to be committed to contributing to our city, our nation and our world, with a love for our nation and for Hong Kong and with global perspectives.  As you embark on a new chapter of your lives, I hope the above six Gs will be of some guidance to you --- Gratitude, Grit, Generosity, Growth mindset, the development of GBA, and Global citizenship.  I trust that the solid skills, the values and the attitudes you have built in Yew Chung will enable you to overcome any hurdles and help you reach the goal of your life.

12.  In closing, I wish to express my congratulations to all graduates again on your achievement. May I also wish Yew Chung, all teachers and students the very best in your future endeavours, and everyone here and their families good health and happiness.  Thank you.