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 Rev Father Alfred Joseph DEIGNAN




Rev Father Alfred Joseph DEIGNAN

Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

Mr Pro-Chancellor, Mr Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Members of the University, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Today I feel honoured to speak on behalf of my fellow honorary graduates and myself, to express our sincere gratitude to the University for the great honour that has been conferred on us, admitting us to the distinguished rank of honorary graduates of the University.

Unfortunately, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, due to illness, is not with us this evening. I am sure he is with us in spirit and joins us in our expression of gratitude to the University.

Hong Kong University has established itself, over the years, as a tertiary institute of renown, providing the highest quality of education. We witnessed the great joy of meeting so many distinguished graduates at the celebrations of the 90th Anniversary. Their loyalty and pride in the University was clearly demonstrated. Like any educational institute its success was not achieved in a day or a year. It gradually grew through the vision and patient efforts of a succession of dedicated and distinguished Vice-Chancellors. May it continue to grow today under the leadership and vision of our present Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tsui, and his team of assistants.

I have had the good fortune to have been associated with the University especially during my eight years as Warden of Ricci Hall, Chaplain to the University and Member of the University Court. The Riccians kept me young by their enthusiasm in trying to win the Malayan Cup, but they challenged me too with questions about life's meaning and values.

I am aware that in the company of my fellow honorary graduates who have achieved so much distinction and experience in their various fields, mine is very limited. Nevertheless my experience particularly in education has its value. I must admit that I have learned much, over the years, from all the wonderful people I met and worked with, who were experts in education; from teachers and students.

Influenced by our Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius, and his Spiritual Exercises, we Jesuits have been trained to pay attention to our experience. Ignatius saw that each person has unique experiences. Experience makes us very valuable and it is something which we can easily share with others. This experience is the total experience of mind and heart, reason and emotion of the human person. Experience is a great educator. We live out of our experience and enrich other people when we share it with them.

However he also taught us that it is when this experience is reflected on, we discover deeper meaning and value which helps us to grow as mature human persons in our relationships with this material world, our environment, with others and with God. The principle given us was 'There is no real human growth without reflection'.

Looking at it from a purely business point of view it makes good sense when a company's executives sit together each year to review the experience of the year just passed, to reflect on the performance of the company - what went well and should be continued; what did not go so well and why; what new initiatives should be planned?

Applying many of the principles to education, derived from the experiences of St. Ignatius, the Jesuits published in 1986 a booklet called 'The Characteristics of Jesuit Education' and this was followed in 1993 by 'Ignatian Pedagogy' or as we call it here 'Reflective Pedagogy' which was an effort to give a very practical methodology which took modern research on teaching and learning into consideration to be used in our Jesuit schools. This was the beginning of the reform in education which we have tried to share with other schools. There is an emphasis on personal care for each student and the integration of reflection on experience in the school. Education is not the experience of accumulating knowledge transmitted from teacher to student but an active participation of the student in his own learning through experience, reflection and action.

Just one simple example: A class is an experience for both the student and the teacher. If at the end of the class the teacher gives about 10 minutes to the students to reflect and helps them by asking them 'What did you learn that was new? What did you find difficult to understand? How does this effect our lives? How did you feel about that? How would you have acted? Do you think this was right or fair?' The teacher learns as well as the student through the shared feedback.

There is another aspect to education about which I am quite concerned. It is the question of values which are shown in our attitudes and behaviour, in the way we treat others. I think it is Socrates who said, 'An unreflected life is not worth living,' but the saying which appeals to me most is by Theodore Roosevelt: 'To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.'

We have very educated terrorists, clever thieves, clever deceivers in the world. Education which does not include morals or good values is not truly human. In recent years there has been research done on the attitudes and behaviour of young people and there seems to be a noticeable decline in their understanding for the need to respect others, to be responsible, to be compassionate, kind, honest, to be self disciplined etc. Due to the environment in which they live, they are influenced by media values - money, material things and pleasure.

There are basic human values which everyone agrees with, which are necessary if we are to live together in peace and harmony. Without them we lose trust in each other. We become afraid of each other. We become selfish and uncaring.

There are good values found in every culture and in every religion. These are summed up in the Golden Rule which is expressed in different ways; one way of expressing it is 'Do unto others as you would wish them to do to you.'

Confucius said 'In the home, the young should behave with filial piety, and out in the world, with brotherly love. They should be prudent and trustworthy. They should love all people and be close to the benevolent. Having done so, their remaining strength should be used to learn literature.'

子曰:「弟子入則孝,出則弟,謹而信, 汎愛眾,而親仁。行有餘力,則以學文。」

But children are not born with these values. They need to learn, to be taught them by parents and teachers. They need to read stories about them. They need the example of adults living them. In the school using reflective pedagogy students will grow and mature in their values. They will discover the joy of being loved and being cared for, listened to, respected, valued. That will give them confidence that they have something valuable to share and in sharing they discover the happiness of making others happy.

Reform of education is always challenging but is well worth the effort and trouble. I am glad to see education in Hong Kong gradually changing for the better.

In his book 'Educating for Character' Thomas Lickona tells a story about a teacher who was honoured by her community as the 'Teacher of the Year'. The day after she received this award, on the way home from school, she saw two boys writing in the wet cement which had been laid down in front of her house. As she drew closer, she saw that they were writing very uncomplimentary words about her. She was very angry with the boys and really beat them up. The next morning a shocked Principal summoned her to his office. 'Mrs Smith,' he said, 'I hardly know where to begin, I can't believe it. You a teacher of the year, a person to whom we all look as a model; someone who loves children. You have just gone and beaten up two of them.' Mrs Smith looked down in shame, paused and said, 'Well I love them in the abstract, but not in the concrete.' Obviously Mrs Smith forgot to do her reflection on her first experience of the boys before she took action. Good education is easier to agree with in the abstract than to provide in the concrete. May we persevere in our efforts to reform our educational system in Hong Kong.

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