How Would SCIE “Economists” Solve Social Problems?


Is it possible for high school students to become politicians and economists, analysing various economic issues and providing constructive advice to governments? The answer is positive! In October, economics students of SCIE participated in an interesting academic competition that has provoked much thought.

What are the connections between deforestation in Brazil, environmental pollution in the United States, obesity and drug abuse problems in the UK, and shortage of vaccines in Europe? In the eyes of economists, these problems are typical “market failures.” When producers and consumers only care about their own interests and ignore the negative effects on third parties and the external environment, these problems are likely to occur.

After nearly a month of preparations, surrounding the topic of “market failure”, more than 300 A1 economics students in SCIE participated in the event. Nine participating teams outperformed and entered the Grand Final. They were invited to present to the whole A1 economics cohort in the Halo Theater. Economics students in G2 were also among the audience, coming to show their support to peers.

“Market failures” exist in every economic system. They are the focus of politicians and economists, and have a profound impact on people’s lives. Economists have developed theories to form our understanding of what is going on, which not only provides guidance for governments to formulate policies, but also serves as a tool for policy reflection.

The SCIE Commerce Department organised the event with an aim of encouraging students to apply theories learnt and to critically analyze the market problems in different economies, as well as the effectiveness of government intervention.

At the start of the Final, Richard Driscoll, the Head of Faculty, congratulated the finalists and extent his appreciation to students’ hard work and dedication. He also introduced the various online learning opportunities provided by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), encouraging SCIE students to be involved in online events organized by LSE after the epidemic, which aim to discuss economic development issues in the post-epidemic era.

With years of development, Economics has become one of the most popular subjects among students in SCIE. Richard mentioned a book recommended by an alumni Alice, which is Economics: The User’s Guide. The book introduces the evolvement of economic theories and is a simple and easy-to-understand introductory book.

The teams took turns to present their reports and findings, with 5 economics teachers from SCIE Commerce Department gave their gradings and comments independently, and the result surprisingly turned out to be double champions, namely the groups of Aaron/Michael/Steve/William and Kaye/Leslie/Cathy/Kay.

Aaron/Michael/Steve/William’s research is about the obesity problem in the UK. It is reported that more than 50% of adults in the UK are obese. The core to the problem lies in the missing information of healthy diet. The food industry has also made people prone to buy high-calorie foods. Common policies used include taxation, education, and restrictions on junk food advertising. However judging from the results, the UK government still has a long way to go to achieve their aims.

As the presentations continued, the lights in the theater suddenly went out, leaving the whole theater in pitch darkness. 5 seconds later, lights went back on. This is an experiment conducted by Kay/Lesley/Kathy/Kay. In South Africa, thousands of people still live in the dark every day, the core reason coming down to monopoly supply. Most electricity is supplied by the state-owned company Eskom. Through research, the group found that, since 1987, the electricity price in South Africa went up by 356%, 4 times the local inflation. Although the government has adopted measures such as privatization and the situation has improved, the negative impacts will still linger for a longer period of time.

The problems presented by the other groups are causes of concerns too. These will require more multi-lateral cooperation between countries.

In terms of the natural environment, the group of Harvey/Eva/Yolanda/Carissa showed us that the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, known as “lung of the earth”, has suffer from deforestation in recent years and things are deteriorating very fast. Global warming caused by carbon emissions has been affecting the world. Especially now that China has surpassed the United States to become the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the country would play an important role in terms of tackling the issue. 

The group of Bollar/Christina/Tom/Yuki discussed a series of policies implemented in China. Taking Shenzhen as an example, the Shenzhen government replaced the city’s taxis with electric vehicles. And government subsidy is the driving force for the rapid development of green energy in China; similar environmental problems include the degradation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (Wade/ John/Benjamin/Juno/Steven), and the acid rain problem in the United States (Thomas/Jackson/Serena/Oscar).

In terms of the over-consumption and over-production of goods and services, drug abuse in the United Kingdom has a negative impact on young people (Clark/ Francis Luo/Mick/Ryan), and excessive agricultural subsidies in the United States have resulted in low prices and food waste (Bella/ Alyssa/ Agnes/ Bob). Also the consequences caused by the vaccine shortage in Europe (Andie/Eric/Jerry/Nick) are also social issues that countries need to pay attention to.

At the end of the competition, Chloe Tan, Head of A-level Economics, congratulated the winning teams and said she hoped that A1 economics students have benefited from participation and have improved their academic skills through the process.