Official Opening of La Salle College
Brother Amir and Brother Cassian Wings
15 December 2006
Speech by Professor Arthur Li
Secretary for Education and Manpower
Rev Brother Patrick (Head of the Sponsoring Body), Rev Brother Thomas (School Supervisor), Mr Wong (School Principal), distinguished guests, old boys, parents, staff and students,
I am very honoured to join you this afternoon to celebrate the official opening of two new wings of the College. I know today also marks the beginning of a series of events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of your school. Let me first congratulate the La Salle community on this happy occasion.
That La Salle has been standing firmly on this ground for 75 years owes much to two remarkable men. One is of course Brother Aimar Sauron who purchased a site in 1928, on which the school was built. The school opened its door to her first cohort of students in December 1931 and came into full operation in 1932 with 540 students. Under the able leadership of Brother Aimar, the number of students had multiplied to over one thousand by 1939.
The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought great disruption to the life at La Salle , but, thanks to Brother Cassian Brigant, the school was quickly restored after the war, even better equipped than before to carry on her mission. You know better than I do how La Salle College moved from strength to strength thereafter, but one will never forget how the first two headmasters had laid a solid foundation for the later developments. Naming the two new wings of the College after them is certainly a good way to thank them and to remember them for their invaluable contributions.
Brother Aimar and Brother Cassian, like all other La Salle Brothers , come from a big community of the "Brothers of the Christian Schools", which was founded by St. John Baptist de La Salle in 1680 in France.
St. John Baptist de La Salle , known as the Patron of Teachers, is adored for his passion for education and regarded by many as a pioneer of modern pedagogy. He once made out a list of 12 virtues of a good teacher. I suppose teachers in La Salle are all familiar with them : patience, zeal, vigilance, etc. What I find most striking, however, is the virtue of "silence". Having spent decades of my previous life talking in lectures halls and conferences, I cannot help but wonder whether I should in fact have kept my mouth shut all that while. Then I find some comfort in Brother Agathon’s interpretation. He said, "silence is a virtue which leads the teacher to avoid talking when he must not speak, and to speak when he should not be silent." So the question is not whether a teacher should talk, but when, and how.
Great men think alike. Socrates, one of the greatest teachers in Western civilization, was also a great master of silence. He never dictated long lectures. He asked many questions, but gave few answers. In fact he even denied knowing the answers to the questions he asked. Nowadays, when teachers ask questions that encourage students to think, they are considered to be using the "Socratic method" of teaching. And students may wish to praise them for not knowing the answers.
Meanwhile, in the far east, we have Confucius who gave us these words of wisdom in the Analects:
Confucius wanted his students to make an effort to learn, and he allowed them room to think. Once Confucius expressed the wish not to speak. His disciples immediately objected, because they expected much talking by their teacher so they could pass on his teachings. Confucius then pointed out to them the silent teachings of Nature. "Does Heaven speak? The four seasons pursue their courses, and all things are continually being produced, but does heaven say anything?
On this one point all wisdoms converge – that teachers don't just teach. They inspire students to think and learn. Teachers are there to guide, to show, and to stimulate. Students, on the other hand, should be ready to inquire, to experiment, and to seek knowledge actively. When teachers speak, they do so to facilitate this learning process. When they do not speak, it is for the same reason.
La Salle College is blessed with a strong team of professional staff who exemplify the 12 virtues of a good teacher, in particular the one on silence. At La Salle , each student is respected as a unique person. He is given all the opportunities to develop, at his own pace, to his full potential. Here, extra-curricula groups are managed by the students themselves; teachers, instead of giving prescriptive instructions, offer advice only when needed. Education at La Salle College means much more than textbook knowledge. It is not by chance that generations of well-rounded leaders in various walks of life should have come from this school. La Salle College has every reason to be proud of her teaching.
La Sallians should also be grateful to their Alma Mater for her nurture. They should be thankful for the hardware, i.e. the abundant school facilities, and the software -- teachers, peers, alumni and parents.
As for me, I should also learn from St. John the Baptist de La Salle. So let me stop talking now, and in my silence pray that God will shower on the school all the best in the years ahead and on everyone here the deepest joy and peace especially at this Christmas season. Thank you.