Van Hasselt Award – Summer 2020

2020 Summer Winner – Jaiden Matharu (Year 12, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi)

‘How will the COVID 19 Pandemic Change the World?’

The Van Hasselt Award is presented each term by the Politics Department at Cranleigh UK, to the student who writes the most engaging and thought provoking blog article on a salient topic. After collaboration between the Heads of Politics at Cranleigh UK and Cranleigh Abu Dhabi (Mr. Verdon and Mr. Hay) the field was opened to both schools for the first time, leading to a glut of excellent submissions, as well as a little good old-fashioned friendly rivalry.

Whilst there were no prizes for guessing what the current topic choice might be, the range of approaches and exceptional writing talent of the competition entrants, made judging almost impossible. From the impact on daily routines and the environment to observations about international collaboration and the future of education, it was fascinating to see how this world crisis is being perceived and how creative minds will always look for the lessons that can be gained from adversity.

In the end Cranleigh UK took the honours in the junior section, with Tom Waddell, Archie Pearman and Bea Emrich receiving the plaudits. Meanwhile Philip Dackiw’s essay on the wide-ranging consequences of the virus, Ashleigh Kirby’s study of increased understanding of mental health issues and Jaiden Matharu’s ability to encapsulate the future of the world economy on a personal level won the accolades in the senior section.

Congratulations to all who submitted fantastic articles and thanks to Mr. Verdon at Cranleigh UK for championing such an engaging project. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate in the future and to express our unity during these challenging times.

Marc van Hasselt was Headmaster of Cranleigh UK from 1970 to 1984. He was a man of vision, boundless energy, immense determination and courage. He was awarded the Legion d’ Honneur by the French Government for his contribution to the liberation of France at the end of World War 2. He passed away in June 2017 at the age of 93.


Jaiden Matharu

“Brave New World”: how will the COVID-19 pandemic change the world that we know for the better or, the worse?
I lie awake at night wondering what the future holds for my friends and family. I wonder what will happen to my parents’ jobs, my education, but more importantly, the livelihood of millions of people across the globe. What will the world’s economy look like as the pandemic comes to an end? How will governments and businesses recover economies and replenish global trade? For many  people around the world, the magnitude of the Coronavirus pandemic has called to mind tragic events such as 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis – events that have reshaped society in lasting ways. A bold virus that has contained us within our homes for months is already reorienting our relationship to the outside world. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous weak spots in how the government, businesses and citizens prepare for and respond to such events. But these weak spots are opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate solutions, and many are working to address the problems that we are facing right now and to ensure we are better prepared for the future.

Despite my vast concerns on how the world will reshape itself, I am equally encouraged by the fact that necessary change is coming. I am excited about the prospects of new innovators to disrupt the market for the better.

My name is Jaiden Matharu, a 17-Year-old student studying my A-Levels at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, with the help of my two brilliant Economic teachers – Mr Timothy McConnell-Wood & Ms Elizabeth Kelleher. No one knows precisely what will come of this pandemic, but this my interpretation of the unknown ways that society—government, healthcare, the economy, our lifestyles and more—will change for the better or, the worse.

In the short run, the economy is likely to focus on how quickly lockdown measures are eased, however with such a significant market disrupter; the implications are likely to be long-lasting. Through market analysis, my interpretation of the post-crisis world will be more indebted, more digital and less global. Firstly, it is unlikely that the pandemic will materially change the long-term outlook for sustainable economic growth. However, the economy will have to adapt to contend with higher taxation, financial repression, and moderately higher inflation, along with populism and protectionism, while navigating the transitions from global to local supply chains, and from physical to digital.

Lockdown measure has forced many consumers and businesses to fundamentally change the way they buy and sell goods and services. As well as this, there has been an extensive introduction to the concept of ‘remote learning’ as well as the push for ‘working-at-home’.  While I estimate that most individuals and businesses will mostly return to previous ways of working as lockdown measures begin to ease, there will be some lasting changes. Firstly, working from home exponentially decreases businesses fixed cost; this is due to companies being forced to use remote working and video conferencing during the lockdown and seeing this as a long-term opportunity to reduce revenue spent on travelling and office space. A detailed Financial Times article highlighted recent commentary from chief executives around the usage of office space in a post-corona world. “The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past” Jes Staley of Barclays is quoted as saying; It quotes Tom Stringer, head of accounting firm BDO’s US site selection team, as saying, “In six weeks we’ve taken almost the entirety of the back offices of corporate America and moved them to kitchens and living rooms, and it’s been pretty seamless.” It also quotes Sir Martin Sorrell as saying he expected it to herald a “permanent change” to his working practices. “I spend around £35 million on a property in a year,” he said, “I’d much rather invest that in people than expensive offices.

An area likely to come into crucial focus is how technology can support improved and more efficient healthcare provision, particularly given that governments are expected to come under pressure to ensure that healthcare services are sufficient while also facing elevated debt levels. This could drive an increased focus on Health Tech, in particular boosting demand in areas such as health care IT, cutting-edge innovations like telemedicine and population health software, as well as developments in treatment, in areas including genetic therapies and oncology. Furthermore, beneficiaries of this long-term trend include companies exposed to Automation and Robotics, Digital Transformation, Fintech and E-Commerce.

Also, one of the most potent trends over recent decades has been the emergence of the sharing economy. With a significant oligopolistic nature, companies such as Uber, Airbnb and WeWork have built, and industry upon assets or services shared between private individuals. However, it remains unclear how quickly consumers and regulators will regain confidence in the safety of the sharing economy, mainly if social distancing measures leave a permanent mark on society. 

To conclude, it is still uncertain in which the direction of the future will follow as a result of this crisis. However, I hope that this will have an outcome of a more robust, united world that mobilises resources to build a more reliable health system, prioritises protecting the vulnerable from the misfortune of the economy, responding while also enabling residents to form mutual aid communities rather than working meaningless jobs. COVID-19 will likely leave perpetual fear, it, however, an optimistic view of this outcome is that we build a more humane system, forcing us to adapt and become more resilient in the face of not only future pandemics but other imminent crises such as climate change.

Society is being stress-tested, but the learnings we can take forward will help us shape to be a more resilient and purposeful community that will allow us to adapt to any hardship that comes before us.

But how soon will people feel comfortable sitting within just a few feet of a dozen fellow flyers while dining from a tray table which has not been thoroughly cleaned since the last passenger used it?