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Speech at St Paul's Convent School Annual Speech Day

Speech by Professor Arthur K C Li
Secretary for Education and Manpower

St Paul ’s Convent School Annual Speech Day
25 November 2004


Rev. Mother Jacqueline Ho, Sr. Margaret Wong, distinguished guests, parents, teachers and students,

          It is always nice to be with young people.  Apart from making me feel younger myself, it also allows me to share the joy, energy and spirit that are commonly associated with youth. 

           I am particularly pleased and honoured to officiate at the 150th anniversary of St Paul ’s Convent School and the graduation ceremony of your Secondary 5 and 7 students.  It offers me a chance to commemorate your success in pursuing excellence in education and to witness the remarkable achievements of this school.  Gather here today are promising young girls who have reached a milestone in life and are earnestly looking forward to new challenges ahead.  We also have parents who always support their children with unfailing and selfless love; and educators who are passionate and tireless in leading and nurturing their students.

           Being one of the oldest schools in Hong Kong and having established such a good reputation and very fine traditions, it might seem tempting for one to just sit back and relax.  However, just now when I was walking around the campus with Sister Margaret, I found that the school is still spirited and energetic as a young person, full of bright and innovative ideas, willing to embrace challenges and courageous in undertaking reforms in pursuit of excellence.

           I am very happy to know that the education reform has been very well received by the school.  Under the excellent leadership of the Principal, Sr. Margaret and with the whole-hearted support of a team of committed and professional teachers, a lot of initiatives have been introduced and successfully implemented in the school.  Very often you even move ahead of the others and take the lead in trying new and innovative ideas. 

           Being an enthusiastic and devoted educationalist and a supporter of our education reforms, Sr. Margaret is persistent in expanding school capacity for development.  She has made unrelenting efforts in equipping the students to meet the changing needs of the society, exploring the professional potential of the teachers and cultivating a happy and motivating environment in school.  In terms of curriculum design, she has given flexibility and freedom to the teachers to try out new initiatives and to develop the multiple-intelligence of students.

           To equip the students with the skills of decision-making, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity, the teachers of St Paul ’s Convent School have changed their perspectives and mind-set.  Rather than simply asking students to memorize and recite facts, the teachers have provided opportunities for students to learn independently; to retrieve information from different sources; to analyze it critically and to use it effectively through project learning and other multi-disciplinary learning activities.

            The efforts of the school have already borne fruit and are duly recognized.  A group of English teachers of your school have won the Chief Executive’s Award for Teaching Excellence this year.  This award is a testimony to their contribution in designing and implementing the new curriculum of “Integrated Humanities” which aims to enhance students’ creativity, analytical power and high-order thinking skills.  The school also excels in both academic and non-academic achievements as reflected in the outstanding results in public exams and numerous prizes won in open competitions. 

           As educators, we all share the same mission – nurturing our young people and bringing out the best in them.  We need to cater for all students, so that students with different aptitudes, abilities and interests will be able to exploit their potentials to the full.  We should also equip our youths with the necessary knowledge and skills so that they can meet the demands of a fast changing world and become lifelong learners. 

           Against this background, our education system has undergone wide-ranging reforms and our vision is to nurture a generation of young people who are self-motivated, who have creative thinking, good communication skills, a strong sense of commitment and a solid foundation for lifelong learning.

           Since the implementation of the education reform four years ago, and with the conscientious efforts of all dedicated educators including those who are present today, we are delighted to see positive changes in our education system.  A majority of the primary school principals and over 50% of the secondary school principals reported that the communication skills, thinking skills, learning motivation, creativity and sense of responsibility of their students have improved.  Over 50% of the principals found important changes and marked improvement in the relationship between school, teachers, parents and students, as well as in staff morale and involvement.  Over 70% of primary school students now feel happier to learn, too.

           To further upgrade our education system, we need to go one step further.  That is why we propose to introduce a new academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education. 

           Under the new academic structure, all students will have the opportunity to complete a 3-year senior secondary programme that will prepare them better for work or further learning, with enhanced language and mathematical abilities and a broadened knowledge base.  The new senior secondary curriculum will offer greater diversity and choices to meet the different needs, interests and abilities of individual students.  The new academic system will also provide multiple pathways to higher academic or vocational qualifications so that every student can experience success.  In addition, the four-year undergraduate degree programmes will be better able to provide students with balanced and all round development.  The “3+3+4” academic structure can also articulate better with the mainstream international academic systems.

           The restructuring of the senior secondary and tertiary education entails wide-ranging changes and will make a landmark in our education history.  The successful implementation requires a number of pre-conditions including the development of a new curriculum, a new public examination and assessment mechanism, interface with university programmes, articulation with different pathways for life-long learning and teachers’ professional development.  But most important of all, it depends on everyone’s commitment and the concerted efforts of the government, the education sector and the wider community in bringing the expected benefits to our younger generation.  As all of you are dedicated and hardworking teachers and school administrators, I have every confidence that you will be able to cope with the challenges.

           “Pursuit of excellence by scaling new heights.”  I find this theme very meaningful and encouraging.  We must never be complacent.  Instead, we should always strive to do better and expand our capacity in pursuit of excellence.  St. Paul ’s Convent School has been a role model in this regard, and I am sure her graduates will continue to be guided by this motto after leaving school.

           To mark the 150th anniversary, the school has taken another big step forward.  The school joined the Direct Subsidy Scheme and formed through-train with its primary school in this memorable year.  Under the new financial mode, the school is given more flexibility and autonomy to run the school according to her vision and mission.  The formation of through-train enables greater continuity and coherence in the learning process in primary and secondary education.  I can envisage that St Paul ’s Convent School will continue to prosper and excel in her new era.

           Dear Graduates, life is like a large piece of marble and you are the sculptor.  The mind, will and skill of a sculptor decide the shape of this marble.  Likewise, your mind, will and skill will help shape your life.  Do not allow circumstances to restrict your dreams!  Learning does not end when one leaves school.  We must all strive to improve and excel, no matter which pathway we are going to take.  With the advantage of having your education at this school, coupled with hard work, positive attitude and knowledge, your dreams will take you as far as you can imagine.  Do look for the opportunities that hide behind adversities, as there is always another way of looking at the world.

           In closing, I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all graduates upon their success in their studies and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.  I would also like to share with you what Michelangelo, the famous sculptor, painter, architect and poet said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  

           Thank you!

Last revision date: 25 November 2004
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