13 December 2010 (Monday)
The 2010 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards Presentation Ceremony
Speech by Mr Michael M Y Suen, GBS, JPS
Secretary for Education
Professor Mirrlees, Professor Yau, Mr Chan, distinguished guests, teachers and students, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you here at the 2010 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards Presentation Ceremony. It is heartening for me to see so many young and talented mathematicians gathered here today. I can literally feel their enthusiasm for this annual event, which they must have worked so hard to be a part of. I am sure that they have all thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from the competition.
Since I was a few years old in kindergarten I had been fascinated by numbers. When every other child was struggling to count from one to ten, I was already venturing into the hundreds and thousands and indeed exploring additions and subtractions. And I have maintained my interest in mathematics ever since. It is a pity that I have not followed a career path that requires some mathematics. However, it does not mean that I have not benefitted from reading some mathematics.
No one can be spared from applying mathematics in our daily lives, be it simple arithmetic or algebra. It is more than just numbers and formulas. It is about logic and reasoning and helps us make useful analysis and inference of patterns and phenomena. At a macro level, not only is mathematics essential to the physical sciences and technology, it is also of growing importance in various areas of the social sciences, economics and finance. The development of mathematical skills is vital to our personal development, as it offers us the opportunity to excel and achieve in many aspects of life. It demands vigorous reasoning and discipline of the mind and enhances problem-solving skills on a step by step basis. There is no short-cut. One little flaw in the process will bring down all the hard work because you have to start all over again.
In the old days, we streamed students into science and arts disciplines and students who had chosen the arts subjects would not have a chance to learn mathematics in matriculation. Recognising the importance of mathematics as one of the core subjects, starting from 2009, all students in Hong Kong will study mathematics up to Secondary Six under the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure. Our main focus is not only to equip students with mathematical knowledge and skills, but to help students foster a culture of inquiry and develop their logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. We believe that this development will help better prepare our students for the challenges of our rapidly changing world, where innovative ideas and critical thinking hold the key to success.
Thanks to the efforts and contributions of different stakeholders in mathematics education, our students have excelled in various important international events. For example, in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007, Hong Kong was the top-performing region at the Primary Four level and ranked fourth at the Secondary Two level. This year, a team of six secondary school students representing Hong Kong obtained outstanding results at the 51st International Mathematical Olympiad, pocketing one gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
No doubt, competitions of this kind have always been a great way to motivate students to learn and open up their minds to new challenges. Similarly, the Hang Lung Mathematics Awards provides an excellent opportunity for students to acquire and explore a topic of their own, to work together for a common goal and to present and explain their project before a panel of judges. Students are not confined to traditional mathematics topics, but are encouraged to explore their own independently chosen field of research under their teachers' guidance. In the process, they exercise their creativity and enhance their information technology, problem-solving, collaboration, self-management and study skills, which are conducive to independent and lifelong learning. The emphasis is not so much on "what we know" as on "how we come to know", which is in line with that of our curriculum reform and the ever-changing needs of our society.
On this occasion, I would like to acknowledge the efforts and contribution of the various committees, the screening panel and others involved in organising the Hang Lung Mathematics Awards. I would also like to thank Mr Ronnie Chan for his support and generous donation to make the awards a major bi-annual event in mathematics education. My special gratitude also goes to Professor Yau Shing-tung for his efforts in stimulating creativity and encouraging intellectual discovery in mathematics and science among secondary students and teachers in Hong Kong.
In closing, I wish to congratulate all winners of the Hang Lung Mathematics Awards. May I also thank all teacher supervisors for their guidance and advice to their students.