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THE SHIELD > Sandglass
  Our Principal's Address
By Norman So

Professor and Mrs. Kwok, Honourable Guests, Reverend Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, Parents, Teachers, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and welcome. Today we are immensely honoured by the presence of Professor Kwok Siu Tong and Mrs. Kwok. The Professor and his wife are very important and busy persons. It is indeed our privilege to have them share our joy.

Professor Kwok is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has taught in the Chinese University since 1977, and he is an adviser of many universities in China, including Tsinghua University, Beijing University and Fudan University. He specializes in Modern German History and Modern Intellectual History. Besides being an active scholar, Professor Kwok offers his service to the community. He is a member of the Civic Education Advisory Committee, a member of the Governing Board of Shatin Hospital, and a member of the Committee of Community Support for the Rehabilitated of the Correctional Services Department.

Our students might be interested to know that Professor Kwok graduated from Wah Yan College, Kowloon in 1965. He was the Head Prefect of the school and the founder and First President of the Students' Association. At that time, football was the most popular sport in Wah Yan and all of us remember him dearly as the captain of the A Grade Football Team. I consider it an honour to have been a classmate of Professor Kwok, and a teammate of his in the Athletic Squad. He has remained a close friend of mine and a keen supporter of the school. Professor Kwok grew up in the neighbourhood of the school, just as many of you did, under no easy circumstances. He has a special attachment to the Yaumatei district, which urged him to lead our students to research into its history. I can tell you one little secret: the professor is an expert in Chinese Kung Fu, a Wing Tsun master.

I am telling our students all these things to show them how much a man can achieve. Professor Kwok's success is an excellent example of the struggle for human excellence. Tonight, he will share his wisdom with us.

Speech day is the time for acknowledgements. I wish to express my deep gratitude to all those who have contributed to the development of the school. To give the audience a glimpse of what was done in the past year and the reason behind our actions, I am going to highlight a few points already recorded on the sheet that came with the programme booklet.

Of utmost importance is the religious dimension of the school. The primary aim of our school is to preach the Gospel of Christ to a world that places undue emphasis on fame, power, conceit and consumerism. In trying to achieve this aim the school must be ready to face criticism of being idealistic and impractical. I am glad to say that our teachers share this ideal which has been written in the mission statement of the school. On the one hand we held activities for the believers to help them deepen their faith and protect them from corruption by prevailing values. On the other hand we planned educational and recreational programmes for those who have not yet embraced the faith to help them understand the teachings of Christ and grow into believers or useful members of society who live by a set of sound moral principles. We hope that our graduates will be men who respect the rights and beliefs of their fellow men, and who are ready to bring justice to an unjust world.

Next come studies. I believe our students enjoyed school life and learning in Wah Yan. They had not been subjected to too much pressure and there was no bad competition among them. Every student was allowed sufficient freedom to study at his own pace and there was little fear of failing an internal examination or placement in a stigmatized class. I am not certain whether this was a "good" or "effective" way of educating our young, but at least there was enjoyment and cooperation, and we did not try to frighten our students from learning. In the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination, 88 students scored 38 distinctions and 134 credits, with 70 students gaining admission to local universities. The number entering local universities could have been higher if our students had been more judicious and realistic in their choices of courses. In the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, 202 students obtained 160 distinctions and 685 credits, with 96.5% passing five subjects or more, and 93.5% qualifying for Form Six. I am sure that if some of our students had been less confident of themselves, the passing and the Form Six qualifying percentages could have been higher.

Another important area is service. We claim to be a school that prepares men for and with others. We encourage our students to participate in some kind of service work. Working closely with the Social Welfare Department and charitable organizations, our students served the poor, the sick, the disabled, the handicapped and the elderly. I have noticed a growing number of students joining external social service organizations in recent years, which I think, is a sign of their generosity. Our emphasis on service is fully reflected in our award system. A large proportion (over 80%) of the awards given away on Speech Day every year is service-oriented.

The last item I wish to talk about is culture. We provided training in music, sports, calligraphy, chess, debating, speech and drama. The efforts of teachers and students were richly rewarded. We reaped first, second and third places in almost every area. Our harvests are particularly meaningful because we never force the unwilling talents to enter for competitions or prevent the untalented players from joining the school teams. Winning medals by a chosen few has never been our goal. Our purpose is the joy of participation, cooperation of the team members, appreciation of the skills of other players, respect for established rules and discipline, and the need for rigorous training to bring out the gifts of God.

I wish to express my deepest gratitude to our teachers for shouldering a very heavy responsibility, which is becoming heavier each day, and sharing the ideals of Jesuit education. I thank the general staff for their good work in the office, the library and the school grounds. They have done an admirable job in keeping a dozen acres of grass, water and concrete in a respectable condition. I thank the Society of Jesus, and the Supervisor, Fr. George Zee, for their guidance and leadership.

I thank the parents for entrusting their boys to our school and for their support in every aspect. I must mention that some ex-parents, whose sons graduated long ago, have continued to give financial support anonymously to the school.

I thank the past students, the Alumni Association in particular, for their untiring efforts in helping the school and the students to develop and generously treating the Supervisor, retired teachers and me to a very enjoyable trip to Los Angeles to attend the International Conference.

I thank the Education Department, represented in person by Mrs. Cheng and Miss Lo, for their encouragement and tolerance. The policy-making and money-controlling branch, the Education and Manpower Bureau, has also been extremely helpful. The Bureau has financed a number of costly projects through the Quality Education Fund, which benefited the school and the students a lot.

The Bureau and the Department are joining hands to make changes in the educational system. For the first time in decades, we are really looking at the root of the apparent ineffectiveness of our educational system. We are trying to answer the question of how education should be delivered. I see a lot of good in these attempts. I sincerely hope that we will be changing for the better. Wah Yan has always been among the ranks of the pioneers. One need only notice how we have joined the School Management Initiative when it was first launched, introduced computer graphics to the Art curriculum when it was considered unprofitable, replaced traditional book work with group projects twenty years ago, reviewed the spiral curriculum and made necessary adjustments, established a mentoring system for all students, and so on, to be convinced of our strong belief in the need for change. Nevertheless, I have worries about some of the intended changes.

One of the worries is the hesitation of parents and teachers to adopt a new curriculum and a new examination system. I think a tremendous amount of publicity, research and retraining is needed to convince the reluctant parties to make real changes happen in schools. The local universities will have to renew their admission criteria if they believe that these changes are going to prepare the students better for tertiary education. It is no use acknowledging all seven, eight, or more intelligences, while recognizing only one when it comes to student selection. Indeed, I can hardly call the one recognized so far an intelligence at all, for it depends heavily on a candidate's ability to recall rapidly a great deal of data from their textbooks.

Another worry is the over-emphasis on measurable outcomes and immediate returns for money invested in education. This, coupled with the general indifference to the moral, cultural and spiritual growth of our students, could be very dangerous and might lead us into a side track of education that is built entirely on pragmatism.

A third worry is the haste to build a strong private schools sector. It is true that private schools and schools in the Direct Subsidy Scheme have the freedom to realize the ideals of their sponsoring bodies. They are free to reduce the number of students in each class and to upgrade their facilities. However, in the struggle for financial resources under reduced class sizes and improved facilities, at least two things will happen. Firstly, school fees will be so high that only the rich will have the choice of sending their children to the elite schools. Secondly, in the decision-making processes of the school, market forces will prevail. If the school depends heavily on the collection of school fees for its revenue, which is most likely the case, how will it react to a situation where the majority of parents, the buyers of schooling, desire a change that is contrary to the mission of the school? I guess that the safest way out is to modify the mission of the school, and rationalize the modification afterwards.

Graduates and prize-winners of the year 2000, let me congratulate you once more on your achievements. You have worked hard to get what you have rightly deserved to get. If you have tried your best, you are already a great success. If you have not, you are not a failure, but you are just one step from success. I urge you to muster up your courage to make that step. Very soon, you will be part of a rapidly changing world where you are expected to make some changes, educational, economical, political or social. Remember that justice, apostolic mission and vision, and not value for money, prescribe the criteria for a truly needed change. May God bless you in your future endeavours, and may you always work for justice and act justly.

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