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Applied Economics & Teaching in Shenzhen

For the first time in the EARCOS network your economics students, wherever they are in the world, are invited to take part in an essay competition entitled “the Applied Economics Award 2021.” This competition is based in the leafy urban setting of Shenzhen in South China’s Guangdong Province - The Silicon Valley of China. The underlying ethos of this competition is for students to understand the importance of the local community around their school; by choosing to compete it offers a unique opportunity to promote learning without walls in a culturally and historically rich part of the world. Wherever you are, be it Bangkok, Seoul, Shanghai or Tokyo, or beyond, your students are invited to take part. Where I work, Shekou International School, the context and surrounding in which we teach is very unique.

During my six years in this very lush, tech-heavy megapolis, I’ve seen economic growth and development occur extremely quickly in a short space of time. Immigration from other provinces and areas of China and technical innovation are often cited as a major determinants of it all, and I’d say that’s fair. The city is full of young professionals, HQs of the Chinese tech-gods, chic public spaces, EVs of all shapes and sizes, skyscrapers adorned with LEDs and plenty of ways to have fun, even on a modest income! Even our school, a private IB World school, has just moved to a new site in Net Valley in an effort to accommodate an ever increasing demand for globally-minded course subscriptions, which have now reached record highs. This award has been running for five years so far, and requires students to think critically and analytically about their local area. References to learning from local institutions are a must - for example, previous winners have included information from Shenzhen Museum, Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Shenzhen Design Museum, and Shenzhen Hi-Tech Park to name a few. In other words, students must include references to the mix of people, cultures and philosophies that drove the economic and social development they shall choose to write about.

Prior to SIS Shenzhen, I worked at another institution in Shenzhen alongside 15 other Accounting, Economics, and Business teachers – an unusually large number! Given the explosion of middle-upper incomes here and the relative scarcity of school places, it’s no surprise that the appetite for a private formal education, supplementary tutoring, and skills-based learning activities are sky high in this part of the world across all year groups, especially so in the Early Years sector as a consequence of China’s 2016 policy reforms related to family planning. Looking at the city-wide situation, demand for school places generally outpaces supply quite substantially; in particular there is a severe shortage for middle and high school places. In fact, demand outpaces supply so much so that in 2018 the local government pledged to build 11 new public secondary schools in 3 years, here’s a really interesting article if you’d like to know more. Chinese high schools aren’t designed to be small…

So look, Shenzhen’s growth has been so fast that we haven’t seen anything like it in human history. A 40-fold increase in population since the early 80s hasn’t come without challenges. It’s a classic economics essay in the making – right? Situated in the Pearl River Delta, its population is expected to increase to 18 million people by 2025 according to official estimates, and not all of these people will have equal opportunities. Wherever you are, opportunities to develop and live a satisfying and rewarding life is what this is all about. Our students, and probably yours too, are quick to realise this. International school students are often in the fortunate position to think critically and academically about their own family’s wealth and implications for how societies should function. They have a natural curiosity, as most young economists do, about money, happiness and opportunity. I’m certain that within international education, this situation is not unique.

So, I’d like to share with you the Applied Economics Award. We’d like to invite international schools to take part in the Applied Economics Award 2021 with the main goal of promoting learning without walls. Rather than yet another pandemic focus, we have chosen the Sharing Economy as this year’s theme.

  • This competition is only open to international schools
  • All submissions should be in PDF format and judging will occur in mid-November. Submission link will be supplied once the competition opens on September 1st 2021.
  • The judging panel to convene online to pick the winners in early June. The panel shall consist of a teacher-representative from each country a finalist is from.
  • The winning essay will be published and downloadable for all EARCOS member schools
  • Open to students of Social Sciences/Humanities years 10 to 13 (grades 9 to 12)
  • Maximum number of submissions from each school is 4 per division
  • Essay must be no more than 1500 words and include references, especially to local institutions and places of learning e.g. museums, libraries, galleries.

For more information please contact ckhatu@sis.org.cn