Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


In view of the recent announcement to phase out streaming in secondary schools and replacing it with subject-based banding, NUS Economics Lecturer Dr Kelvin Seah wrote a commentary in The Straits Times on 7 March highlighting that parents’ behaviour in response to the new subject-based banding can determine the success of the new scheme. He said that parents of better-performing children may avoid schools that take steps to reorganise classes and mix students of varying abilities together, and seek entry into single-stream schools instead. Such behaviour may then create an unintended situation where better-performing children and poorer-performing ones end up clustering in separate schools, increasing polarisation and reducing diversity. In order for the new scheme to achieve its intended effects of encouraging social mixing, Dr Seah encouraged policymakers to anticipate these behaviours and to pre-emptively address them before the policy takes effect in 2024.

In another commentary published on 7 March in The Business Times, NUS Law Associate Professor Simon Tay and Dr Wu Hui Juan, Assistant Director (Sustainability) at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, analysed the growing interest in sustainability by companies in Singapore. With the Singapore government taking a significant step forward in combating climate change by introducing carbon tax and committing to future investments in greening efforts, more Singapore companies are also repositioning themselves to make sustainability and climate change integral to their business operations and future growth strategies, they wrote. Citing examples such as City Developments Limited which developed many energy-efficient buildings and issued Singapore’s first green bond in 2017, and Temasek Holdings which created a Sustainability and Stewardship division within the organisation in 2016, the duo said that commitment to sustainability by large companies can create a positive ripple effect. They added that sustainability is now key to business competitiveness, and companies need to find the sweet spot between making business sense and innovations that are sustainable.

On 8 March, NUS Business Associate Professor Nitin Pangarkar evaluated the factors that led to the eventual fall of local company, Hyflux in a Channel NewsAsia commentary. He pointed out three key problems the company faced — its emphasis on Operations and Maintenance, its diversification into power generation as a result of the Tuaspring project, and its erratic revenue over a prolonged period. According to Assoc Prof Pangarkar, lessons that companies can draw from Hyflux are to assess risks carefully before diversifying, to take into account small changes in the environment that may cumulatively have a huge impact on the company’s viability, and to prepare for the worst-case scenario, especially when large, capital-intensive strategic projects are financed with debt.

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