I shall not be too assuming to discuss profound doctrines in front of learned people here today. So I share with you some small stories.
When I was studying in the university, my female classmates often rushed out of the classrooms to cry. It was because they could not understand the full content of discussion between the lecturer and I.
And when I sat for my exams, all my male classmates did one thing, they wore checkered shirts like I did. They thought that was my secret lucky charm to do so well in my Chinese papers. No. It was just because I loved checkered clothes the most at that time.
A professor asked me to help my classmates, especially the juniors in their studies. I said: “Why do you ask me to do something so unpopular?”
The professor said: “Think about it. When you graduate, no one will ask you for your marks. They will only ask you which university you graduated from. If your juniors are outstanding, so will the brand of your certificate, which you have spent so many years to receive.” Thus I spent much time creating study groups in my university life.
Fortune takes a meandering path, I did not continue my career in the academic world. However, I have seen NTU rise in ranking from position 71st in the world in year 2006, to position 11th in the world, and 1st in Asia, this year.
This is the result of the hard work of the teachers and students. As an NTU alumni, I too share the glory. Thank you for sharing with me the glory which I have not worked for.
Albeit, I have never forgotten the words of my professor. I always hope I can do something for the NTU Chinese studies students.
In my opinion, in ancient China, the speed of knowledge spreading was slow, so emphasis of examinations was on the retention of knowledge.
In the modern world, the speed of information sharing is exceedingly swift. There is an overwhelming amount of information everywhere. So the emphasis of tests should be on the discernment of information. Something which we call “critical thinking skill“.
And I think that the best way to develop critical thinking skill is through thesis writing and not examinations. Thus, Lotus on Water Book prizes and Gold Medal Award are to be given to students who have written the best thesis papers, and NOT to students who have scored highest in their examinations.
And...we hope that freshmen will learn from the good models in thesis writing right from the beginning, instead of hurrying through in their last years. This is the reason to why we publish the compilation of the thesis papers that have won the awards, and we launch it today. Hopefully, the thesis papers of our graduate students would improve one year after another.
Whether it is academic studies, enterprises, or living daily lives, “critical thinking skill” is vitally important. The world is filled with too much naysaying that's selfishly emotional.
For example, a popular saying in the social media: “You are not earning enough because you are working for others. When you get back home, you are too tired to do any financial planning for yourself.” If this statement were true, housewives should be the richest people in the world.
Another negative and harmful saying: “Just make enough for yourself, do not be too greedy in your life.” If everybody thinks likewise, who is going to pay enough taxes to build the nation?
These selfish and negative words should never be on the lips of NTU graduates, if not it just reflects the smallness and triviality of our minds and our hearts. And we should not waste away the time and efforts that our teachers, our educational institutions and our nation have invested on us.
I have shared the words of my professor to you, in order to remind you and myself that we as individuals can bring values to the team, and the team can bring values to our individual lives.
The team includes not just our own families, but also our schools, companies, enterprises, nations and the world.
If you win the awards of Lotus on Water Book prizes and Gold Medals, please never say “enough”! Please win greater, grander, prettier awards for yourself and for your team.
If you do not win the Lotus on Water Book prizes and Gold Awards, please never say “it’s alright”. Please win greater, grander and prettier awards for yourself and your team.
-- Master Yun, 11 oct 2019, Chinese Heritage Centre