Case Teaching and Learning
In addition to case development, our Program also experimented case teaching and learning in the classes of public policy and social science, which received positive and enthusiastic feedback from faculty and students.
In Spring 2019, with the sponsorship of the Teaching Development Grant (Project Number: 099H), the Program hosted the inaugural HKUST Inter-University Public Policy Case Competition. The Competition attracted some 150 students from 7 higher education institutions in Hong Kong to recommend solutions for environmental, innovation and education policies. The Semi-final and Final Rounds on 13 April 2019 were also supported by 18 public policy scholars and government officials who served as adjudicators.
In Spring 2020, the Program hosted the first PPOL-IPP Public Policy Case Writing Competition for all postgraduate students in the Division of Public Policy at HKUST.
The Division of Public Policy (PPOL) and Institute for Public Policy (IPP) organized for the first time the “Public Policy Case Writing Competition 2019-20”. PPOL and IPP launched the competition in November 2019 and announced the winning teams in May 2020. The competition’s organizing committee encouraged the students to participate in the competition which aimed at providing an opportunity to the PPOL’s taught and research postgraduate students to enhance their writing skills and strengthen ability in case writing. The organizing committee formed a panel of 4 judges consisting of faculty and staff of PPOL and IPP and including an external judge who is a public policy scholar from another local university. By the submission’s deadline date, the organizers received 7 entries from 7 different teams with a total of 27 participants. Based on competition rules, a team can have a maximum of 5 team members. The judges evaluated the public policy case submissions based on content, organization, style, and overall writing. The organizers awarded cash prizes worth HK$5,000, 3,000, and 2,000 to the champion, 1st runner-up, and 2nd runner-up, respectively. Perhaps more importantly, the winning cases have a chance of being included in a planned open access online database of public policy case studies.
The first prize went to ‘2019 RPGs Unite’ whose team members were Veronica Qin Ting LI (a university graduate of HKUST), Gleb PAPYSHEV from Russia (studied in Tsinghua University), and Christian Joy CRUZ (studied in the University of the Philippines). They entitled their case “Beyond Dongjiang: Hong Kong’s Journey Toward Water Security”. Veronica and her teammates observed the access to freshwater is generally taken for granted in Hong Kong, despite the fact that the city imports most of its freshwater from a single source (Dongjiang, a river in Guangdong) at a high price. Veronica remarked, “We wanted to bring attention to this issue and highlight the fact that Hong Kong needs to diversify its freshwater sources in order to be a resilient and sustainable city.” Warning against overreliance on Dongjiang River, the writers challenged readers to think about alternative approaches for securing a stable and sustainable fresh water supply for Hong Kong. A faculty commented that apart from being well-written and having smooth logical connections among ideas, the case was able to bring out the tensions that could be caused by potential future problems from the continued use of Dongjiang waters. Veronica remarked that she and her teammates come from varied backgrounds and expertise and they learned a lot from each other. The team said that the constructive criticisms that the judges gave them were very useful and helped them to learn more about case writing.
The 1st runner-up prize went to the ‘Watermelon Porters’ whose team members are Bowen ZHANG and Ruichen WANG (both graduated from Wuhan University), Kuan ZHANG (graduated from Shenzhen University), and Yuqin GUO (from Fudan University). They wrote about the “Policy of Reducing School Workload in China”. Bowen said that the team’s decision to write on this problem was partly due to having heard many of their relatives complained about their children’s heavy school load causing a lot of anxiety on their kids and themselves. They drew lessons from the case particularly about the importance of communicating the objectives of the policy clearly and understanding the perspectives of the stakeholders to enhance the success of the policy’s implementation. A faculty who has read the case commented that the “case is rich in content and the writers made efforts in collecting evidence and information from multiple sources”.
The 2nd runner-up went to a team who took the name ‘Stay Strong, Wuhan’, in solidarity with the Wuhan residents at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in China. The team members of ‘Stay Strong, Wuhan’ were Yitong CHENG (a graduate of the University of International Relations), Yan CAO (studied in Northwest University, Xi’an), Kejun CHEN (from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies), Mengyi LIU (graduated from Beijing Union University), and Lingyu WU (studied in Loughborough University, London). The team wrote a case on “The Price of Blue Sky: ‘Coal-to-Gas’ Program in North China”. The experiences of Yitong and Mengyi during their studies in Beijing motivated them to convince the team to write about the ‘Coal-to-Gas’ Program. The Central government introduced the program in 2013 to improve air quality in the region, especially in Beijing. While they observed air quality improvements in recent years, they also noted the numerous complaints by local residents on social networks about heating being cut off especially in freezing winter. They were curious to know about what actually happened and more importantly what lessons can be learned in implementing policy. Yitong remarked that while writing on the issue was challenging since the team had to organize a huge amount of information to tell a story, it was rewarding not only because they, especially he and Mengyi, were passionate about the issue, but also they were able to apply what they have learned from their Master of Public Policy courses to analyze a real-world issue. A faculty commented, “The rich and quality empirical content of the case has shown the high ability of the case writers in collecting and selecting relevant information.”
Overall, the public policy case writing competition was a very positive experience for the students. We look forward to future competitions and to adding the winning cases to our soon-to-be launched repository of case studies which aims at facilitating class discussions and interactive learning in policy classes in different places.