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SG's speech on "3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on Service-Learning"

3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on Service-Learning
Officiating Guest Speech for Secretary-General, UGC

Professor (Yuk Shee) Chan, Miss (Thelma) Kay, Professor (Dayle) Smith, distinguished guests and friends from all over the world,

Good morning. I am honoured to join the Asia-Pacific Conference on Service-Learning today and am pleased that so many distinguished scholars and guests from all over the world have gathered at Lingnan University for this event. It is a great pleasure to officiate at the opening of the conference today.

2. The primary aim of education is to help students to learn how to learn - not just to acquire knowledge from classes and textbooks, but also to experience the real world through serving our community. To quote John Dewey, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." Service-Learning is important as it exposes students to a spectrum of real-life experiences that will shape their personal growth and instill in them the sets of core values and positive attitudes which are valuable to their work and life. Service-Learning is not a new concept to us, but it is gratifying to see it gain recognition and be accorded increasingly high priority among all tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. With proper guidance from teachers and students' own reflection during the learning process, Service-Learning can instill civic responsibility, encourage lifelong civic engagement and strengthen community giving. All these are important attributes for society and for future leaders to have.

3. The sub-theme of this year's Conference, "Tender Moment, Touched Heart, Inspired Action", reminds us that in order for knowledge to be truly valuable, it must be applied and shared with others. This core tenet of Service-Learning resonates with the UGC's emphasis on knowledge transfer, or knowledge exchange, which encompasses all forms of knowledge including those leading to social improvements. Service-Learning provides a knowledge exchange platform for students and teachers to have meaningful interactions with individuals in the community. Without such a platform, they might never come across each other.

4. These interactions also give real meaning to the, perhaps, abstract theories that students learn in class and inspire them to make a difference in the world. To cite some examples - Service-Learning allows social sciences students to understand the reality of life and apply what they have learned from class to examine a social phenomenon or resolve a problem; similarly, business students can grasp the opportunity to devise practical strategies for sustainable growth taking into account the real-life situations which they encounter when performing community services.

5. Building in Service-Learning as part of the academic curriculum in the higher education sector is still at an early stage. We are thus pleased to have Lingnan as the pioneer in Hong Kong in developing Service-Learning and making it a compulsory graduation requirement under the new four-year undergraduate curriculum. Lingnan's dedication and enthusiasm in pursuing Service-Learning has spread across the higher education sector in Hong Kong - this is very much reflected by the setting up of the Joint-U Forum on Service-Learning by 10 local institutions to facilitate information exchange and experience sharing. The successful development of Service-Learning has also brought a positive impact to our sister institutions in the Mainland. Some Mainland schools and institutions are now putting more emphasis on nurturing civic responsibilities of their students by encouraging them to participate in community service and voluntary work after class. This is a very encouraging development.

6. I look forward to the fruitful discussions in the next few days on further developing Service-Learning, not only in Hong Kong but the entire Asia-Pacific region. And on behalf of the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong, I would like to thank Lingnan University, the Lingnan Foundation and the United Board for hosting and organising this meaningful event. I wish the whole event every success. Thank you.