7 July 2008 (Monday)
Primary Six Graduation Ceremony of
Maryknoll Convent School (Primary Section)
Speech by Mr Michael M Y Suen, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Mrs Huang, Mrs Lo, Distinguished Guests, Parents, Teachers and Students,
I am delighted to join you today.
First and foremost, congratulations to the students on your graduation from Primary Six. This is an important time in your school lives and a proud moment for all your parents and teachers. I am honoured to be here to share it with you.
Some of you may be relieved to know that my talk today will not focus on intense subjects such as mathematics, physics or chemistry.
Instead, I am going to talk about “Heritage Conservation and Moral and Civic Education”. Although there are no exams for these topics, they will be important influences throughout your lives.
Some of you here today will have been born in 1997, others a little earlier. Being born around the time of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China means you are part of Hong Kong ’s reunification generation. I am confident we can look forward to enormous opportunities as an integral player within our nation.
Of course, there will also be some pretty tough challenges ahead but we can, and will, face up to them with confidence and determination. It is also important that we all take pride in our city and strive to be positive, creative and caring members of our community.
One way to achieve this is through Heritage Conservation, which is the first topic of my talk.
Maryknoll has a distinct advantage in this area. Just two months ago, the school building was declared a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. You are, quite literally, surrounded by history.
What makes the building so special?
Firstly, the high quality of the architecture reflects different styles such as Art Deco, Romanesque, Neo-Georgian and Gothic Revival. These historic influences blend in with the school environment.
With its granite staircase and pointed arches, the school has a unique flair that has made a strong impression on many people who have passed through the doors of the building.
Historic buildings are often iconic and symbols of our own cultural identity. We can learn a great deal about Hong Kong ’s history and culture by appreciating our historic buildings. As your lives unfold, I encourage you to continue to cherish Hong Kong ’s history and protect it for future generations.
Maryknoll has set a good example by taking seriously its responsibility to preserve the school building in very good condition. Parts of the building have changed little since construction in 1937.
The result is a historic building that is unique, valuable to the community and receives the very best care and attention.
Our students are also unique and valuable members of our community. Of course, a strong team of educators at Maryknoll who care for your whole-person development also surrounds you.
This brings me to the second topic of my talk. That topic is Moral and Civic Education. It is broadly known as character building.
Moral and Civic Education is regarded as one of the five essential learning experiences, alongside Intellectual Development, Community Service, Physical and Aesthetic Development and Career-related Experiences.
Moral and Civic Education is important because it helps to develop students’ personalities and build positive values and attitudes.
It covers a range of issues, including ethics, healthy living and sustainable development, as well as identification with our country and our community. Education in these areas can help us make good decisions and handle adversity.
Maryknoll has set a good example as a socially responsible owner and manager of the school. The school is a role model for students in becoming responsible members of society, serving the community and caring for others.
There is also a fine history of students returning to serve the school. Some alumni devote time assisting the English Language Support Programme. Others come back to help their alma mater organise big events. I am sure that all you graduates will continue this fine tradition.
When you return to school after the summer break as secondary one students, there will be more subjects to study and a greater range of extra-curricular activities.
Making the right choices – with the help of your parents and teachers – will be important.
Given these new challenges, it is not only a matter of what to learn, but how to learn.
This requires effective study habits, prioritising your time and setting clear and achievable goals.
Allow me to share with you some wise words from two wise men. They are both Nobel Prize Winners in Literature. The first is Bertrand Russell. He said, and I quote: “The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge”.
The other quote comes from William Faulkner. He said: “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”
I selected these comments because they echo the spirit of your school motto “Sola Nobilitas Virtus”; Virtue is the only nobility. We should all strive to be individuals with moral, ethical and religious values, intellectually competent, compassionate in serving others and capable of continuing self-development to meet the challenges in life and contribute to society.
It may sound like a tall order, but if you continue to embrace the Maryknoll spirit and work hard with a positive and caring attitude, you can and will succeed.
I wish you all an enjoyable summer break. I hope you will take the unique opportunity to savour the Olympic spirit as Hong Kong stages the Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian Events of the Beijing Games. It is another chance to be part of Hong Kong ’s history.
I congratulate Maryknoll Convent School on consistently producing excellent students and future leaders of our community. And I wish the primary six graduates every success in their future endeavours.