Pro-Chancellor, Chairman of the Council, Vice-Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of my fellow honorary graduates, I would like to thank the University for conferring on us honorary degrees, the highest honour of a university which has a history close to 100 years. For Dr Yam and me, we are certainly grateful to our alma mater for graduating us again. For Dr Chiang and Professor Mak, they are delighted to become members of the University. It has been forty-four years since I first came to this University as an undergraduate. I have been watching in the past years the University grow, develop and prosper, from less than 2000 students with only a handful of postgraduates during my time to today's 20,000 students of which 45% are postgraduates. The change has not only been in quantity but more importantly in quality. Today, the University is one of the world's top research-intensive universities, experiencing a remarkable transformation under the able leadership of the Court and Council and the Vice-Chancellors.
This Loke Yew Hall brings back to me a lot of unforgettable and fond memories. Many events took place here - the First Union Night at which we staged some funny and naughty performances (sometimes indecent but certainly not obscene), the Second Union Night at which we engaged in the most cultured and artistic singing competition, the solemn examinations at which we wore green gowns, the fellowship and scholastic high table dinners, and the romantic barn dances with straw on the floor, and many other events, demonstrating the resourcefulness of the students, and the diversity of campus life in conjunction with our serious academic studies. While it is my greatest honour to stand here today to receive an honorary degree, it is also nostalgic for me.
In 1970, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore, received his honorary degree from this University and his address on behalf of the graduates was entitled "A Tale of Two Cities - Hong Kong and Singapore". My address today could be entitled "A Tale of Two Universities - HKU and Lingnan". Both universities have a long and glorious history. As a medical college, HKU dates back to 1887; as the first Christian college in China, Lingnan dates back to 1888. In the earlier days, HKU was already the leading university in Southeast Asia, attracting many Southeast Asian students to pursue their studies here. Lingnan was a top university in China, enjoying a reputation as high as Yen-Ching. Indeed, during the war times, the two universities were strategic partners with Lingnan students using the HKU campus in the evening. At HKU, I was for twenty-five years a passionate teacher and a policy-minded researcher. At Lingnan, I was for twelve years a zealous promoter of liberal arts education for the nurturing of whole persons. My research and teaching on development theory focus on people; my mission and vision of liberal arts education of course also centre on people. My fellow graduates here have also great achievements in relation to people and education. Dr Yam's work is to build a stable macro-economy for the people and also to educate the people with financial knowledge; Dr Chiang has given so much of his heart, money and time to support education; and Professor Mak has done so much in medical education and in saving the very sick. Better educating the young is the best way to improve human well-being and should be our top priority.
When it comes to education, everyone usually claims to be an expert. In this latter part of my speech, I would like to share with you a few of my thoughts on education. In this modern, new economy, the applications of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are so pervasive, the changes of technology are so rapid and continuous, and the world is so borderless as a result of globalisation that the only predictable happening is change, change at high speed to. The importance of economies of scale (the automobile Ford Model) has to give way to economies of scope (the General Electric Model). People do not only change employers from time to time but also change careers a few times in their working life. People have not only to worker harder and harder but also smarter and smarter. We therefore need people who are not only equipped with specialised professional and technical knowledge, but who are also multi-skilled and cross-cultural and above all possess wisdom and insights. While postgraduate education should continue to be specialised, we must look at education at undergraduate level and below in a different perspective. Given that education in today's world should aim at producing not only professionals and technicians but more importantly all-round persons and eventually leaders and entrepreneurs who have the ability to adapt, think and create, the conventional concepts of education should be modified.
First, education should be an experience more than training. We should give students, in addition to the conventional classroom teaching, a rich campus life and maximum exposure to and interactions with our community, the region and the world. For example, residency on campus is not just for saving traveling time, but more importantly a part of the education. Voluntary work is not just community service but a part of the curricula.
Second, education should emphasise processes in addition to contents which can become outdated in no time. Today, the greatest challenge to educators is not what to teach or curriculum design, but how to teach for generating the maximum non-time bound impacts on the students. Wisdom and insights cannot be taught but can only be nurtured via appropriate processes. It is the processes which ensure the desired outcomes, not so much the contents.
Third, education should not be single-disciplinary or simply multi-disciplinary requiring the study of a wider range of subjects. Education should be inter-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary to enable us to solve problems by crisscrossing disciplines. Premature specialisation is most damaging to creativity and diversity which are paramount for success in this modern world. Paradoxically, a modern man or woman should be a renaissance man or woman like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo in the Middle Ages.
I am glad that the two universities in my tale have made significant contributions to educating the young along all these lines.
Mr Pro-Chancellor, once again many thanks to the University for the highest honour bestowed on us. We will make every effort to participate in the development of this great University.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.