Professor Arthur K C Li
Secretary for Education and Manpower Bureau
Opening address for the 12th Annual Conference of the
Hong Kong Institution of Science (HKIS)
30 October 2004
Prof Ng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to address this very special occasion of the Hong Kong Institution of Science Annual Conference and to present the Young Scientist Awards.
Science depends fundamentally on people working together to share their ideas, theories and discoveries. This conference provides a platform for scientists of different disciplines to gather together and discuss issues that have an impoct on the development of science and technology in Hong Kong . It also offers an excellent opportunity to inspire the general public, especially teachers and students, and raise the interest of students in pursing science as their career.
Science and technology have been playing a critical role in the transformation of the Hong Kong economy. To retain our competitiveness and to maintain our continued prosperity, we need to be innovative. We need an abundant supply of well-trained and talented people to invent, innovate and discover new technologies. Hong Kong has been the breeding ground for many distinguished scientists. Obvious examples are the recipients of Fields Medalist Professor YAU Shing-tung (丘成桐), Nobel Laueate Professor Daniel TSUI Chee (崔琦) and the recent Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, Professor KAN Yuet-wai. It is imperative for Hong Kong to cultivate a vibrant and inquisitive culture that promotes scientific discovery and exploration, and encourages the development of talent in scientific research. We must motivate our youngsters to develop a strong sense of curiosity and inquiry for scientific discovery and exploration.
The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to maintaining and enhancing the excellence of our science and technology base. We believe that science is a key towards wealth creation, employment and improving the quality of life. Hong Kong ’s strong fundamental and applied research capability is one of our assets for developing new and innovative technologies. Our universities and research institutions have been pivotal in this regard. Our local scientific talents have contributed significantly in building up our research and development capability. The capabilities will be strengthened if we connect at multiple levels and forge a strong network of knowledge across disciplines, across sectors, and even across generations of accomplished scientists and young aspiring ones. Our local talents have been playing an important role in the enhancement of our science and technology capabilities. They form the vital core of Hong Kong ’s drive to build a knowledge-based economy.
At the school level, we need to cultivate student’s curiosity towards science and develop their scientific thinking. The science education of our schools in Hong Kong has evolved over the years to meet the demands of the new world. The major guiding principles are “nurturing interest in science”, “emphasizing scientific thinking”, “and developing student to become active learners in science ”,“ helping students to make informed judgments based on scientific evidence” and “catering for students with strong interest and talented in science”. In this respect, the school science curricular have been revised and supporting resource materials have been developed and distributed to schools. Various exciting and stimulating science activities and competitions have been launched to inspire and stretch students’ potential towards science. These activities include the Science Enhancement Programme, Hong Kong Student Science Project Competition, Mathematics Olympiad, Science Alive, Physics Olympiad and Chemistry Olympiad. These activities are excellent avenues when students’ involvement in science and technology can be stimulated. They also serve to enhance students’ problem solving skills by encouraging independent learning and creative thinking. These activities are well received by students and schools, and the number of participating teams and schools has been increasing throughout the years.
During this summer, the Hong Kong team won one Gold, one Silver, one Bronze and one Honorable Mention in the International Physics Olympiad 2004 held in Korea . Hong Kong students also did extremely well in the prestigious Inter Science and Engineering Fair in the US and the National Youth Science Technology Invention Contest. Furthermore, the winning teams of Hong Kong Science Project Competition 2004 were awarded a First Prize and a Second Prize in the Youth Science Exhibition of the 3rd APEC Youth Science Festival in Beijing . These astounding results bear testimony to the strengths of science education in Hong Kong .
These science activities are well supported by local academics and scientists. They have been playing a significant and active role in supporting schools to nurture the next generation. Such support and collaboration will continue to contribute to the promotion of an innovative and inquisitive culture that promotes scientific discovery and thinking.
The explosion of knowledge and rapid pace of change in the 21st Century have called for a new way of educating our young people. Instead of focusing on factual mastering of fixed content and early streaming into arts or science, we should build up students’ capacity to learn, broaden their horizon and emphasize on whole person development. The new senior secondary curriculum under the “3+3+4” academic structure seeks to equip students with a broad base of knowledge, high adaptability, independent thinking and an ability to engage in lifelong learning in a rapidly changing world and knowledge-based economy. It also helps our students understand contemporary issues that may impact on their daily life at personal, community, national and global levels; and to become a critical, reflective and independent thinker. Through a more coherent and diversified curriculum building, students of different orientations and interest will be able to explore their potentials and learn effectively out of their secondary education. A 4-year university programme will also give universities more time and space to provide a broader and more diversified curriculum and all round development for students.
Finally, I wish to thank the Hong Kong Institution of Science for its continuing efforts in fostering the advancement of science in Hong Kong and promoting the important of science to our community. The conference today is an excellent occasion to showcase our innovative capabilities and facilitate the sharing of experience and insights among industry players, academia and the community. The award winners we are honoring today are young scientists and engineers who have excelled in their field of study. They are dedicated to the pursuit, creation and exploration of knowledge and are role models for our students. We honor their passion, persistence and their scientific achievements. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to you all for what you have done in all these years for your community by bring our scientific and technological development to new frontiers and the dedication in educating our next generation of distinguished scientists. I wish you many more successes in the future. Thank you.