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Truth and life: the nature of education

New term, new beginnings. The start of the new school year has seen a spate of education related news: the conducting of water tests and the installation of filters amid a lead-tainted water scare at schools; teachers charged for illegally releasing confidential primary school interview questions; school crisis management procedures to be reviewed following a bungled response to a student suicide; and Hong Kong University’s recruitment process for the vacant pro vice-chancellor’s post coming under fire for alleged political interference by the pro-Beijing camp. 

While our government and our schools have tried to take remedial measures, these have tended to be superficial. These issues are should prompt a re-think the nature of school education. 

Human beings differ from other creatures in that we have a spiritual nature and will seek the truth. At school, students should acquire knowledge and understanding of real-life, real-world attitudes, knowledge and skills that will equip them for their own lives going forward. 

Therefore, the aim of education is to explore the ultimate purpose of life. Since we are all engaged in this pursuit, the words and deeds of teachers, professors, school management and the Education Bureau should be exemplary. If students do not see the entire truth in these people’s lives, they will keep asking questions.

Inquiring and seeking after the truth are students’ privileges. The German theologian, Jesuit Father Karl Rahner, pointed out, “Human beings necessarily question. When human beings ask what this is or why, this is actually an extension to an infinite, absolute horizon. And questioning itself enables a human being to become a spiritual being in the world…” Therefore, when students keep questioning, they are performing their inherent duty to explore the truth.

Given the social system, school education will still exist in the foreseeable future. However, it already goes beyond the four walls of a classroom. The words and deeds of teachers are the learning domains for students. Their continued efforts to enhance their skills is an education in autonomous learning; their love for a terminally-ill spouse is an education of marriage ethics; their response towards social injustice is civic and national education. Teachers are examples by which students can learn to be more positive, independent and responsible; to become people of moral integrity and ability, and leaders and in society. 

Students’ attitudes are nurtured by family, teachers, private tutors, school principals and supervisors, social media, government officials, performing artists and their peers. How a teacher explores the truth and life is how a student explores the truth and life.

We hope that our educationalists do not confine themselves to classroom education. Instead, by following Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, may they utilise their lives, develop their potential, set good examples, make efforts to explore the truth and lead abundant lives so as to be a positive influence.

May our students continue to seek the truth, lead richer lives, be an example to others and build a society of love and justice. SE