To commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, an Education Colloquium (EC) was held in 2019-2020, which is also a continuation of our quest in a previous colloquium in 2018.

Both colloquia aimed to provide a platform for local and international education experts to discuss the most pressing issues in education today. Against the backdrop of Hong Kong as a society in transition, it is essential that we help our students to develop aspirational values, critical thinking and capacity necessary to face impending challenges and changes. Topics in the colloquia included 'Education For Future', 'Education Reform and Equity', 'Unleashing Youth Potential' and 'Curriculum for the Future'. We hope the Colloquia will lead to discussions of the fundamentals of education such as what it should be, what quality education is, school segregation and integration, academic structure, curriculum development and assessment.

Yet, 2019-2020 is also a school year pitted with unprecedented challenges and numerous uncertainties, which have posed threats and difficulties to us all.

In the year, the normal school life has been seriously disrupted. At the beginning of the school year, finding a course of action that was educational, morally and perhaps politically right and appropriate to meeting stakeholders' various needs was a Herculean task for many principals. Then came COVID-19. Quick decisions have to be made in face of the ever-changing, fluid and turbulent development. After political and social contentions, there came a matter of life and death, public health and social responsibilities.

Will these trials and tribulations render our discussion on educating our students and preparing them for the future an unreachable luxury, neither urgent nor practical?

This question cannot be taken lightly as it is indeed a daunting period, with challenges unprecedented and loads of care heavy. Many principals are wondering if they can still hold onto their passion and core values while a few are disheartened and thinking seriously about quitting.

Written more than 160 years ago, Dickens' famous opening sentence "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." still vividly and paradoxically describes the challenges of the time. While many colleagues are thrust into a soul-searching journey trying to get over perplexity, disillusion, pain, depression and hardship, they also see niches for reflection of core values in life, the worth of living, what is noble and depraved in human nature, moral courage and ignorance, their real passion and the pith of education. Similarly, despite school suspension and cancellation of school activities, many students enjoy the windfall of extra time and space to explore new modes of learning and personal enrichment.

Every cloud has a silver lining. With challenges, it brings new opportunities, enlightenment, regain of strengths and confirmation of vision and mission. John Foster Dulles, the former Secretary of the United States of America, has once said, "A capacity to change is indispensable. Equally indispensable is the capacity to hold fast to that which is good." This old saying still makes good sense for all who have gone through the soul-searching journey: to remain steadfast and hold onto vision and values worthy of our strive.

Switching to an atypical mode to tackle whatever problems that may emerge along the way, educators find new ways to guide and facilitate students' learning and development. This is exactly a 'preview' of the qualities we would like to nurture in our students who will face much more fluid and changing situations in the future.

Yet, we are all the more concerned about how they view the future. After all, it will be for them to take the baton and make the world of tomorrow a better place for mankind. They certainly need a decent society with hope, freedom, compassion, tolerance, and the rule of law. These are in fact what we all aspire and treasure. To that end, much discussion and devotion is needed, not just amongst educators but also with youths themselves, other professionals and the general public. To build up social consensus and shared vision, voices of all, especially the youths, need to be heard and understood. Despite the chaos and confusion, it is always the best of times for those who have the heart, the passion, the stamina and the wisdom to work for the best of our younger generation.

My dear colleagues, no matter what lies ahead or around the corner, always cast anchor on the fundamentals and desiderata of our passion and profession. Let's inspire, encourage and walk with one another. That is the best impetus for the journey ahead.

May all behind us find us faithful.