Professor Arthur K C Li
Secretary for Education and Manpower
Address at Opening Ceremony for International Council on
Education for Teaching (ICET) World Assembly 2004
13 July 2004
Prof Tsui, Prof Townsend, Dr Kwo, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is both my honour and pleasure to address such a distinguished international audience today. It is gratifying to meet a host of renowned scholars and educators from more than twenty countries and regions spanning the continents of Asia , Africa , America , Australia and Europe on this auspicious occasion. I would like to thank the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Teachers’ Centre for their collaboration with the Education and Manpower Bureau in successfully bringing this prestigious world conference to Hong Kong . Thank you, ICET, for consenting to stage your 2004 World Assembly here. On behalf of the Government of Hong Kong, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you all.
For our visitors, I hope you will find yourselves at home in Hong Kong . Apart from attending this conference, I hope you will also make use of this opportunity to feel the vibrancy of our city, enjoy our fabulous cuisines, and probably do some shopping to help our economy as well. In this cosmopolitan city we take pride in our imagination and vitality, our unique blend of eastern and western cultures and our international outlook. These have underpinned our success in the last century, and will continue to support our development in future. In an era of increasing globalization, success is often achieved through continued international dialogue and collaboration. We must maintain ourselves effectively networked with the rest of the world.
Education holds the key to the future of any society. How we nurture our next generation determines our future. As Secretary for Education and Manpower, I firmly believe in the value and strength of our human capital. We have the important task of preparing our young people to be lifelong learners who are alert to change, ever-ready to embrace change and can manage change. We must never be complacent with current achievements, and be always alert to the changing needs of the local and global communities. We must also continue to ask ourselves the pivotal role of schools, what students should learn, and how to make teaching more relevant and effective. Professor Linda Darling-Hammond once said that, “Teaching is a “learning profession”. Indeed, besides the primary concern of teachers to organize learning for their students, all teachers must be active learners themselves to move with the times.
With a competent and dedicated teaching force, education in Hong Kong has been fortunate in achieving some success. Here, I am proud to report the encouraging performance of our students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The study was conducted in 2000-2002 to measure how well 15-year-old students were performing as they approached the end of their compulsory education. Among some 40 participating countries and regions, Hong Kong ranked first in mathematics, third in science and sixth in reading. Such results undoubtedly reaffirmed the quality of our education system. But these had not distracted us from our continual strive for excellence. There will always be new frontiers to explore and new challenges to take on.
It has been more than three years since we officially launched the education reform in Hong Kong . The reform has two over-arching objectives, i.e. "to motivate students to learn" and help them "learn how to learn". To date, we have achieved some very positive results. Anecdotal evidence aside, perception studies conducted by local universities indicate that over 70% of our primary school principals consider their students to be learning more enjoyably in schools. Over 70% of primary and 50% of secondary school principals observe improvements in students’ creativity, motivation to learn, independent thinking and communication skills. Over 50% of our principals in both our primary and secondary schools report significant improvements in developing their schools into learning communities, as well as in raising teacher morale and team spirit. Professional learning groups among teachers have emerged to facilitate the sharing of good practices and the knowledge generated through action learning and research.
The delivery of quality education essentially hinges on a high calibre teaching force and professionalism. Success can never come without a dedicated and hardworking teaching force. It is primarily from teachers that a love of learning is acquired. The intellectual energy underpinning a society begins in the classroom where teachers develop the talents and capabilities of their students. In partnership with parents, teachers have an important role in shaping the values and attitudes of young people. These include core values like love for learning, respect for others’ rights, compassion for those who are less fortunate and a commitment to liberty and equality. Our teachers have indeed been at the forefront teaching and modeling these important values. I take this opportunity to thank our principals and teachers for their efforts and contributions in shaping values and promoting a love for learning in our young people.
With the growing importance of education, the community at large understandably has more expectations of its teachers. Society and teachers themselves need to be sure that the work of teachers is of the highest possible quality. We must be confident that our system of teacher education equips teachers with knowledge, skills and language proficiency relevant to the needs of young people in preparation for their participation in an ever-changing world. These are critical issues, and teachers have a vital role in addressing them, not just by themselves but in partnership with tertiary institutions and the community at large. Such a challenge is by no means unique to Hong Kong . That is why I find the theme of this year’s ICET Assembly: Teachers as Learners – Building Communities for Professional Development most relevant, not only to educators in Hong Kong , but also to our counterparts from all over the world.
As waves of education reform swept across nations in the latter part of the 20th century, social, economic and technological changes on a global scale have been challenging the traditional forms of knowledge and educational practice. Standards of professional practice are being developed to explicate what teachers should know and be able to do. Teacher educators and education administrators worldwide are forging new roles, identities and relationships.
Universities have long been the breeding grounds and power-houses of knowledge. They have also been the training grounds for our future teachers. Where school education is concerned, university academics are increasingly engaging in partnership with governments and schools in matters like action research, curriculum development, teacher induction and professional growth. Scholars have now taken on the new roles of advisors, mentors, problem-solvers, reviewers, evaluators and knowledge builders. Models of collaboration are being created to facilitate community building. Through collaborations, the co-construction and refinement of knowledge on the education front take on new meaning and manifestation, where theories and practice mix and reinforce each other.
In Hong Kong , there has always been a close partnership between schools, universities and the Government. The Government provides leadership and support by creating the policy environment in which teacher qualification and continuing development requirements are stipulated and enforced. Universities are best-placed to offer initial training and continuing development programmes in the most innovative and effective modes. Schools are the operation ground for our education reform. They provide both the field data and feedback on the relevance and appropriateness of our teacher preparation and continuing development programmes.
Since 2001, our government has been working alongside the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications to improve the professional quality of teachers. Our deliberations fall into three broad categories: initial teacher education, the professional development of beginning teachers and the continuing professional development of practicing teachers. In November 2003, we put in place a teacher competencies framework to facilitate teachers in reviewing and planning for their own professional development. We have also worked to raise the entry qualifications of teachers effective from October 2004. We will continue to look into such key issues as the effectiveness of current initial teacher preparation, support for beginning teachers, workplace learning via internships, professional requirements on beginning teachers and structures necessary to safeguard quality in teacher preparation and continuing education. In the 2003/04 school year, we have also introduced a school development and accountability framework embracing both schools’ self evaluation and external school reviews. This provides a clear agenda for schools’ continuous improvement with support from outside professionals.
Faced with the curriculum reform and learning diversity brought about by the introduction of Inclusive Education, we will continue to enhance school-based professional support to assist schools by drawing from tertiary and community partners both within and outside of Hong Kong . In this regard, we have reserved an additional HK$550 million. We plan to set up a support network of accomplished principals, effective teachers and overseas experts in providing site-based support to principals or schools in the areas of school development, curriculum planning, learning and teaching, as identified by the schools themselves. We will also expand the scope for engaging the universities as partners in providing quality support tailored to the identified needs of schools. In short, we hope to capitalize on a strengthened partnership between the school, university and government sectors.
At this conference, we look forward to share with you some of our recent endeavours in enhancing teacher and principal professional development, mentoring support, school accountability and action research. Your advice and valuable insights in these very same issues will be most welcome. Let us engage in critical review of our own learning in different contexts and make this conference a rewarding experience for all participants.
Before closing, may I invite our guests and visitors to join us in celebrating the double happiness of the 20th anniversary of the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong as well as the 15th anniversary of the Hong Kong Teachers’ Centre. Both of them have served as our longstanding partners in providing support for teacher development and a platform for professional exchanges among the education practitioners.
May I wish the ICET World Assembly 2004 every success. Thank you.