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Speech by SEM at the International Symposium on Child Development (English Only)


Following is a speech by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Mrs Fanny Law, at the opening ceremony of the Second International Symposium on Child Development "Creativity: A Moment of Aha" today (June 27):

Good morning, Dr Tse, Professor Lau, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to be here today to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the Second International Symposium on Child Development, and I thank the Hong Kong Baptist University for hosting the event.

First of all, let me extend the warmest welcome to participants from overseas and the Mainland. To those who are in Hong Kong for the first time, I hope you will find time to see for yourself the dynamism and beauty of Hong Kong, Asia's World City.

"Children are our future" is a cliche frequently intoned by educators and politicians. The statement is probably more true today than any other time in history. In the new economy, which places a high premium on knowledge and innovation, we need people who can think creatively, adapt readily to change, master new technologies, work with people, and learn throughout life.

Studies on the human brain and developmental psychology have yielded compelling findings that what happens in the first few years of life has major, long-lasting effects on a child's capacity to learn and to cope with change in life. Relationships in the early years are crucial. Care and positive support during childhood can significantly affect the development of emotions, thinking and behaviour. Positive experiences in early childhood help to develop healthy, well-adjusted adults. On the contrary, children who suffer a history of abuse are more likely to develop psychiatric problems and aggressive behaviour.

However, our knowledge of what is possible is not always matched by action to turn it into a reality. All parents want to be good parents, but most parents do not know how their children are growing and developing. To bridge the gap between vision and action, and to combine nature with nurture, will require the concerted efforts of researchers, policy-makers, parents and practitioners, including healthcare workers, educators, and social workers. The challenge is to provide a quality environment that will enable all children to develop fully.

The theme of this Symposium is CREATIVITY, a simple yet intractable notion. You know it is there when you see it. I once asked an architect what is creativity. His answer is "creativity means nothing is impossible". He sees creativity as an attitude, a state of mind and a passion for freedom.

A person who believes "nothing is impossible" is more likely to keep on thinking about possible solutions to a difficult problem. This requires lateral thinking and perseverance that will eventually bear fruit in the form of creative solutions. Creative people are oblivious to constraints and can think outside the box. They enjoy freedom and are not afraid of making mistakes.

Creativity can hardly be taught; it has to be nurtured by providing the right environment. Children are born with the curiosity to explore and learn. However, their curiosity and creativity are eroded over time if they grow up in a highly structured social environment that emphasises strict discipline, and a rigid learning regime. It is not surprising therefore to find that many of the school drop-outs are creative young men and women who are ill-adjusted to an examination-oriented education system which still places a lot of emphasis on rote-learning.

In Hong Kong, we completed a comprehensive review of our education system last October and have embarked on an ambitious programme of reforms to change the academic structure, the curriculum and assessment mechanisms. The aim is to allow more time and freedom for students to explore and discover knowledge, develop in them the attitude and skills for lifelong learning. We want our children to enjoy learning and to equip them with critical thinking, creativity, a positive attitude, and the skills of communication, problem solving, collaboration, self-management, numeracy, and information technology.

We have undertaken a holistic review of the school curriculum to re-define what is worth learning and how to facilitate effective teaching and learning. The guiding principles are to adopt a learner-focused approach, to respect individual differences and to provide opportunities for essential learning experiences and for developing diverse potentials.

We see early childhood education as essential for laying the foundation for lifelong learning and have pledged to ensure that no one is deprived of early childhood education for lack of means. This is a major departure from tradition, which has seen the development of early childhood education mainly as private sector initiatives with limited public funding support. The Government has also undertaken to devote more resources to upgrading the qualification of early childhood workers and to play a more active role in quality assurance.

We also recognise the importance of partnership with parents and the community, and inter-departmental collaboration, in implementing the education reform. We believe, in the light of the findings from brain research, that education should start from birth. Hence, parent education on child development is an important strategy for nurturing creativity in our next generation.

The Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, has said, "Many things we need can wait, the child cannot. To a child we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today". This is the spirit with which we have embarked on the education reform, as we look upon our children as the future of Hong Kong.

I wish the Symposium every success and all participants a very fulfilling experience and a "moment of aha" at the end of the day.

End/Wednesday, June 27, 2001


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