Annual Speech Day
Organised by Sir Ellis Kadoorie Secondary School (West Kowloon)
Mrs Yeung, fellow guests, teachers, parents and students,
Good morning. Thank you for inviting me here today. Before I start, I would like to express my deepest sorrow and condolences to the victims of the fire two weeks ago, their families and loved ones. May the deceased rest in peace, and the injured have a speedy recovery.
Today is an important occasion for all of you. You have worked hard and got remarkable results in the last school year. You have made your family and teachers proud, each in your own way. That is a tremendous achievement, and I congratulate you on your well-deserved awards. But today isn’t only about getting a prize or a scholarship; it is also a perfect opportunity for you to start asking yourselves what kind of future you want to create with your knowledge and skills; and what difference you wish to make to the world with your talents and abilities.
Now, it is a pity that I don’t get to meet you in person because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, so much seems to be out of our hands these days, doesn’t it? Who would have thought a year ago that the world would soon be gripped by a crisis of such an unprecedented scale, that even our daily life – down to the very way we learn, eat and speak – would be changed beyond recognition?
This brings me to the question I would like to explore with you today: When the present seems to be full of challenges, and the future steeped in uncertainty, how do we remain hopeful? How can we build on our past accomplishments to create the change we wish to see, and make the difference we believe the world or our lives so desperately need?
Before we jump to an answer, let me share a piece of news about something all of you probably have on your cell phones: Instagram. I am sure many of you use the photo-sharing platform, but do you know that Adam MOSSERI, the Head of Instagram, is considering hiding the number of “likes” on a post?
You didn’t hear me wrong. Instagram actually has been testing this out on a limited number of accounts in seven countries since 2018. The users under this experiment are still able to see how many likes they get for their own photos, but those numbers are hidden from the view of their followers.
Why would Instagram do that? Well, Adam MOSSERI seems to believe that the focus on “likes” is creating an environment that is way too stressful for some users. Think about a chubby girl coming across the profile of a supermodel or even just a popular girl in class. Think about someone who lives hand-to-mouth looking at picture after picture of friends on luxurious trips overseas or “staycations”, as we now call them. It makes sense to Mr Mosseri, then, that the app should start paying more attention to the mental well-being of vulnerable communities, rather than encouraging an unhealthy popularity contest.
Unfortunately, he has been heavily criticised. You see, there are numerous businesses, artists and KOLs who have been able to make loads of money on Instagram only because advertisers know how many likes they get for their posts. Given their backlash, it is hard to tell when and how far Mr Mosseri can accomplish his goal.
So how does all this relate to my earlier question about change, about creating the future we dream of? To me, there are at least two lessons we can draw from this. First, the future is never decided by one person alone. There is no single individual, group or authority who can determine or foresee the course the world will take. All of you here can and will play some part in shaping the future.
Second, even the most noble or well-meaning motivation can be met with competing opinions and conflicting interests. In other words, the right thing to do isn’t always the easiest thing to do. In fact, it can be the most unpopular or costly choice on the menu.
Needless to say, it takes willpower to stand by what you believe in, to hold on to your vision even when the future is uncertain. But more importantly, it takes patience and humility to respect differences and be inspired by them. And this is only possible when everyone is given a fair chance to be heard and understood; to nurture their hopes and dreams for the future; and, crucially, to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to realise their ambitions.
This, essentially, is the idea of equality and inclusion, and it begins with education. At the Equal Opportunities Commission, we have been doing a lot of work to identify not just the barriers that are preventing ethnic minority students and those with special educational needs from developing their potential, but also ways to knock these hurdles down.
Our research has gathered definitive evidence, for instance, of policy gaps that are causing major difficulties for students from ethnic minority backgrounds to learn the Chinese language effectively. The language barrier is hurting not only their higher education options, but also their career prospects.
Based on feedback from educators, parents, and of course students themselves, we have come up with a series of recommendations, including the development of a complete curriculum designed specifically for non-Chinese speaking students to learn Chinese as a second language; more robust and standardised training for teachers; and the consolidation of alternative qualifications like GCE and GCSE into a ladder where different grades would be converted more accurately into DSE points recognised by all tertiary institutions. We have been meeting with the Education Bureau to discuss our proposals, and we do hope the Government will give them due consideration.
Behind all these efforts is our simple yet unwavering belief that the future of our society belongs to all of you; that no matter where you were born, what your first language is, and how you prefer to study, you should get your chance to learn about your true passion and define what tomorrow looks like for you.
Put more vividly, if fulfilling your vision of a better life and a better world comes down to a battle against the status quo, then each and every one of you should have the tools that suit you the most, and the opportunity to hone those tools and use them at their very best.
With that analogy, may I once again congratulate all of you on your outstanding accomplishments. The future is yours to shape, and I wish you every success in pursuing your hopes and dreams. Thank you very much.