Speech: The importance of embracing lifelong learning

(NOTE: This was a speech that I gave during an assembly when I was attending high school. As the Head Librarian of my school, I introduced fellow students to the idea of lifelong learning. Below is a transcript of my remarks.)

Principal, teachers and fellow Wahyanites:

I am Eric Cheung, the Head Librarian. Today, I’ll try to share some experiences and ideas with you on one seemingly important topic – lifelong learning.

Over the years, lifelong learning has become an increasingly popular topic. People of different ages have continued to pursuit knowledge through books, the Internet and other means, even after their graduation. This is phenomenal in Hong Kong as it is gradually transforming itself into a knowledge-based society, and many people have embraced lifelong learning by attending seminars, reading books and even enrolling in continuing education programmes. The call for lifelong learning doesn’t just happen here in Hong Kong – it extends throughout the entire world. In fact, lifelong learning means the continuous, self-directed and active learning beyond textbooks. Now, let me make it clear, lifelong learning is not confined to learning things academically. It also includes understanding and improving oneself, acquiring different skills, etc. But they all have one common essence, and that is the fact that you have the motivation and willingness to learn something new.

Now you may ask, why is lifelong learning important? Well, it all comes down to one word, “fulfillment”. In fact, learning is a journey that continues throughout our lives. It should not stop after we graduate and leave school. That is because in this ever-changing world, the school cannot offer you with all the things that you need to learn for your life. In order to master your skills in different aspects and increase your competitiveness, we have to be thirsty for knowledge and dedicated to learning something new every day in a life-long manner. We need to embrace knowledge, not just for examinations, but also for us to succeed – not in terms of money, but in terms of fulfillment, about how you can live a fruitful life.

In fact, Jesuit Education requires every Jesuit student at graduation to possess five features, one of them is “Open to Life-long Growth”. It states that, students should be open to accept himself, be able to take self-responsibility, be open to different perspectives, be willing to reflect on his experiences, be an open-minded learner and know his values in life. True as it is, you have to develop these profiles in order to possess the two attitudes necessary for lifelong learning.

The first attitude that you have to equip is that you have to be positive and open to learning new things. Never think learning is boring and is only for examinations – it is fun and you can earn a sense of satisfaction when you understand more skills or knowledge that you wished to know. Never say “I can’t” or anything negative – because if you think you can’t or don’t want to learn new things, then you will definitely fail. Being open to different perspectives, and being open-minded, is fundamental as you will have the motivation to listen to new ideas and understand new perspectives. In this way, you can sustain your learning cycle and build up your knowledge.

The second attitude to be equipped is curiosity. Here, I do not mean gossiping. Rather, it is the curiosity of understanding something new. Why can some people be so successful? What are their common characteristics? If we are curious about getting new information that can ultimately help us and improve ourselves, then we are able to learn. Never think that you have learnt enough for your life because knowledge is being produced at a rapid rate and the more that your learn, the more you learn how little you know. So stay curious and be open to new knowledge.

Lifelong learning can start as early as you are in secondary schools – it depends on whether or not you have the motivation to voluntarily and actively learn new things. You may wonder, what should I do? Now, let me introduce you with five principles that can help you, as a student, to learn beyond textbooks and classrooms.

One, listen to others. As mentioned before, lifelong learning isn’t just about learning academically, it is more about understanding and improving oneself. Now, in order to understand yourself, you will have to respect others’ comments and open to different perspectives. Only by listening to what others say can you have more ideas about yourself, and do reflections. So the principle here is to listen.

Two, read books. Because when you read, you also think at the same time. Reading gives you ideas all the way. By reading regularly you can acquire knowledge beyond textbooks and also learn the way of thinking. It doesn’t matter what types of books you read – it all depends on your own interests. From fiction to biography to politics, it’s up to you. Because lifelong learning is about self-motivation and you have the right and power to choose what you want to learn. The important thing is that you have the determination and willingness to accept new ideas and be exposed to them. In the process you can also enhance your language skill which is also an important skill for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough pocket money to buy new books, you can always borrow a large variety of books in the Students’ Library, or in public libraries. These are very good resources to help you with your studies.

Three, read the news on a daily basis. Reading the news can not only keep you updated of the social issues, but also let you understand how the world is evolving. We need to be aware of all the things happening around us. In this ever-changing world, where information is being produced at a rapid rate, we need to keep ourselves constantly updated of the latest so as not to be left behind.

Four, utilize the Internet. Information technology has brought us proximity to getting new information and learning. Wikipedia, Youtube… all these are online learning tools that are available free of charge. The only thing that you have to do is to connect to the Internet. It is always a good practice to click on different articles or pages on the Internet when you have time. You can then accumulate your knowledge bit by bit, and ultimately you can be more competitive than the others. So by utilizing the Internet to learn different things to help yourself is easy and effective. It is a very convenient tool for you to help with your learning process.

Five, spend 30 minutes a day learning something new. Now, you may say that you are stressed by the current curriculum, and 30 minutes per day is just too much. Fine, then make it 1 hour per week. If you persist to learning something new 1 hour a week, then you will have an extra 52 hours of self-motivated learning time per year. Imagine how many extra things you will have learnt beyond textbooks. Also, practice everything that you’ve learnt as soon as you learn it. If you learn any new ideas, strategies or skills, do apply them. And by stepping up this learning cycle you will be able to gradually become a person that is competitive, self-motivated and ultimately successful.

For starters, you may not know the way to keep yourself motivated to self-directed learning. In view of this, the Students’ Library will be initiating a book campaign on the topic “Secrets behind Successful Persons”, regarding biographies. We will issue a book-reading list next week, composing of different books on some well-renowned figures. Different events, such as a short speech competition and a talk, will be organized in April and also during the post-examination period. Details will be issued to you shortly. You are strongly encouraged to join us, unlock these secrets, and get the fun of motivated learning.

I’m sure that, by holding this idea in your mind, you can have a fruitful life ahead. Thank you very much.

The remarks were made during the April 2013 assembly of Wah Yan College, Hong Kong on April 3, 2013.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Cheung. All rights reserved.


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