Let’s talk about terrorism!

JC General Paper

Terrorism has been an ongoing threat in many parts of the world. Once in a while, we could hear of lone wolf attacks that are occurring overseas. Just yesterday Brussels was hit by an attempted terrorist attack, and recently there was a London Bridge attack as well. Gun shooting cases are also heard of once in a while in the US. Such occurrence goes to show how terrorism is more prevalent than what it seems!

With these in mind, this brings me to the question of whether it is possible to eradicate terrorism in our society… I would like to argue that it is pretty difficult to do so as these terrorists are often faceless/nameless and it would be difficult for the authorities to track them down. Second thing it would be difficult to predict the nature of these terrorist attacks given how terrorism has changed across time with the facilitation of technology. Attacks could possibly operate with greater stealth and on a faster rate than before. Finally, terrorism is often a symptom of a larger problem on hand such as discrimination that is evident in society or even poverty etc. It is merely an outlet for them to express their frustrations and gain attention to resolve the issue on hand. It is unlikely for them to resort to this mean if other means have already worked.

However, we should not be too pessimistic with regards to reducing or minimising terrorism in our society. Education could be an effective platform to dispel these issues and to disseminate information that terrorism is not the right method for one to fight for what they want. Second, terrorism in the form of radicalism and all would not bode well for those seeking peace and prosperity, hence it would be unlikely for one to support this method in the long run.

What do you guys think? Would it be possible for society to eradicate terrorism?

 

Let’s talk about money!!! (arts funding)

JC General Paper

We all know that arts is a common topic that comes out year after year for the A levels. Should you choose to specialize in this topic, you would need to understand the issues and complexity that come along with state funding of the arts. Of course, funding does come with tangible and intangible benefits and let’s have a look at some of these.

Monetary benefits of funding: the arts put people to work; it attracts tourism revenue; creates a distinctive brand identity; it helps to develop rural development and infrastructure by allowing small businesses to be created through small handicraft sales; ability to attract the much needed foreign direct investment (FDI) into the state to improve the arts sector; link up with the overseas arts production houses for a collaboration.

Educational and work benefits of funding: arts students are apparently more critical and analytical; have better social and interpersonal skills that is needed for the new workforce, the arts industry also helps to address a shortage of creative workers; the arts help to keep students in schools by giving them a platform to express themselves etc.

Civic benefits of funding: the arts foster civic participation and a strong democracy; brings public spaces to life; contribute to community vitality etc.

As we can see there are various benefits that could be reaped through state funding of the arts. Next, this would beg the question of whether one would be overly dependent on state funding that it cripples the flourishing of the whole industry? Should states fund the arts when they are not doing well economically? Well to put things into perspective, most state funding for the arts take up around 2.8% of the total revenue of the state. So that is really up to you to decide right? ūüôā

If you have any queries or comments that you would like to raise, let us know regarding this topic. We would be happy to engage.

 

Let’s talk about our future! (the youths specifically)

JC General Paper

Once in a while, A level questions would like to test something hypothetical, about the future and whether prospects are going to be more optimistic or pessimistic. Of course, most of the focus would be on the youths since they are the future. It would be advisable to attempt questions that are more general, as it allows you to have greater scope and breadth in the essay.

Well the future would be more optimistic: Poverty rates in the developing nations have been dropping; medical technology has been improving to eradicate diseases through vaccinations; creation of more jobs and opportunities through technology developments, lower start up cost for businesses with technology as a leveller; the world being more open to peace, negotiation and diplomacy;

The future could be more pessimistic: greater uncertainty and disruption due to technological advancement(artificial intelligence in displacing workers); job security would be a thing of the past, rising youth unemployment in the developed countries; fiscal imprudence and debt crisis in Europe and USA; rising income inequality; a more volatile and risky geopolitical world that is open to nuclear warfare and terrorist attacks

Thus from what we see, there remains a lot of potential for the world moving forward, but these potential can always be thwarted with these threats as well. How we are moving ahead would definitely depend on the youths to decide already and the type of government that they are electing to mitigate these crises!

Let’s talk about poverty

JC General Paper

As we all know, essay questions on poverty are usually popular among students. It is an easy topic that usually asks about the reasons for poverty, whether this issue can be resolved, and whether people are poor due to their own personal failings.

With that, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why ppl are poor… Of course, one has to understand that world developments are not even, and that there is a need to discuss both relative and absolute poverty, and to differentiate reasons for poverty in the first and the third world.

First world context: Poverty can always happen due to the inability to keep up with the high cost of living, personal failings such as being lazy, engaging in vices such as gambling or being addicted to alcoholism, external and unfortunate circumstances such as racial discrimination, being afflicted with a terminal illness or even being born with disabilities that cut one off opportunities

Third world context: Poverty in this sense would be in absolute terms, define to be living less than USD1.25 a day. Reasons could be due to corruption of government, presence of incompetent government that could not harness the resources of the place efficiently, cultural stereotypes such as the caste system that entraps people’s minds, natural disasters and even the presence of war.

As we could see, the reasons for why an individual is poor are aplenty.  Could we possibly say that one is poor due to their own failings? Poverty is a very complex and entrenched problem that we see in our world today, it is systemic and could possibly take generations to eradicate it. At times, an individual could also be powerless to deal with the situations that they are born into. Thus, to what extent is really poverty the fault of an individual?

For societies that follow a fair and meritocratic system, should we take on a more compassionate and humane approach towards people who are poor?

Let me know what your thoughts are on this issue! I would love to hear from you ūüôā

 

What distinguishes a truly great work of art from a merely average one?

What distinguishes a truly great work of art from a merely average one?

JC General Paper

A truly great work of art: ability to attract the attention of its audience, invoking passion and strong emotion in them while at the same time, allowing for artists to disseminate their message clearly through their work. It may not necessarily be in terms of pricing. An expensive piece of art may not be truly great if it does not fulfil these conditions.

First and foremost, an artwork must have the basic quality of being aesthetically pleasing in order to make a strong impression on its viewers. Form, colour, composition and the like are a testament to an artist’s mastery over his craft. It is such qualities which invite viewers to analyze the artwork at a closer level. FX Harsono’s installation of butterflies arranged as fine dining food was only so successful because of the artist’s tasteful arrangement of the dead insects in a tidy fashion, emulating the arrangement of food in a restaurant. ¬†Without this, the work would have been considered a hideous desecration of nature, abusing carcasses of life forms for the sake of art. Even in the modern art world where installations are the most prevalent medium, artists still respect the very basic needs of composition and form in the creation of their artworks.

Indeed, strong and powerful symbolic elements are required to be present in an artwork should it even desire to be considered a great work in the first place. American artist Joseph Beuys often made use of felt and fat in his performance pieces to symbolize warmth and a sense of claustrophobia; the use of these materials eventually became a symbolic trademark of all his famous artworks such as ” I like America and America Likes me”. The symbolic value of aesthetics enables an artist to use his artwork to relate with the audience, even with those who are not practitioners of art.

A controversial side to assessing the greatness of art lies in the name of the artist affecting the value of his works. The public and even members of the artistic community are sometimes guilty of the over-glorification of works done by famous artists. For instance many of Andy Warhol’s artworks gained much attention and acclaim despite their being variations of his past works. His prints of celebrities are mere variations of his Campbell soup prints along with his various Mao Tse Tung colour renditions. Critiques and viewers often overanalyze Warhol’s works and those of other artists, such as Damien Hirst’s display of dead animals in tanks. The name of the artist does in fact affect our opinion of their artworks, giving them far more credit than they are worth.

Therefore, an artist’s skill, concept and even the era he was born in would determine the very success of his works while those who fail to meet these requirements would eventually become nameless and unrecognized…

Ps: note that this is just a snapshot of some of the pointers for this essay… it has been contributed by an ex student whose essay was published in his school handbook.

Population problems eventually solve themselves-government meddling only makes things worse. Discuss

Population problems eventually solve themselves-government meddling only makes things worse. Discuss

JC General Paper

Government intervention solves population problems such as population decline, which will be left unresolved if left to the masses. With a preference for smaller families and a general unwillingness to start a family in today’s modern society, negative or zero population growth often ensues. These have detrimental impact on affected countries, such as a fall in tax revenues, a smaller workforce and a high dependence of an ageing population on the working population. As these socioeconomic perspectives are entrenched in the minds of young urban professionals, these population problems are incapable of eventually solving themselves. In this case, government intervention is beneficial. In developed countries like Italy and Spain, where fertility rates stand at a meagre 1.25, new generations are unable to replace past generations thus leading to population decline. The implementation of pro-natal policies could possibly help to increase the incentive for couples to procreate and boost total population numbers. Implemented measures include longer maternity and paternity leave in Switzerland, as well as cash incentives in Singapore. Another method of boosting population growth is through the relaxation of immigration policies, which allows for an influx of permanent residents.

Population problems such as the rampant spread of diseases are also combated more efficiently and effectively through government intervention. If left to solve by itself, this results in a higher death toll and increased spread of illnesses. The successful results of government intervention is exemplified through the World Health Organization and governments’ collaboration to wipe out smallpox, which was deadly enough to kill one in every four infected persons. With public health measures to increase hygiene standards and mandatory vaccinations, smallpox was eradicated worldwide in the 1800s.

Despite the effectiveness of government intervention in solving population problems, some policies and measures undoubtedly create new problems for countries. Firstly, policies to reduce overpopulation are often successful to the extent that they eventually lead to population decline. This is evident in Singapore, which, due to the overwhelming success of the “stop at two” policy, currently faces a replacement rate of 1.25. This has led to national concerns of unsustainable population growth and the possibility of a population decline in the near future. Furthermore, ¬†the policy of migration to solve population problems has led to social segregation in some countries.

Should increased automation be embraced by our society?

Should increased automation be embraced by our society?

JC General Paper

In this latest May day’s speech by PM Lee, a lot of focus has been given to the future of jobs and the changing economy of Singapore. For a summary of the speech, you could refer to this link¬†<a href=”http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/jobs-jobs-jobs-8-highlights-from-pm-lee-hsien-loongs-may-day-rally”>http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/jobs-jobs-jobs-8-highlights-from-pm-lee-hsien-loongs-may-day-rally</a>

This has got me thinking about the current trajectory of the economy and what the future could possibly bring. The future holds a promising outlook, yet very uncertain and challenging at the same time. Why has it been so? This could be due to increasing automation that we see in our society! According to World Economic Forum, the rise of technology will lead to more than 5 million jobs being eliminated. Redundancies would be widespread and companies would have to restructure in order to meet with this new challenge. We are already starting to see the rise of disruptive technologies, and a move towards the sharing economy through businesses like Uber, Grab, Airbnb, Deliveroo etc. In the process, many middleman are cut out and many taxi drivers worldwide have protested against their dwindling earnings. Retail industry growth has been sluggish, and many retail giants are struggling to keep afloat in an environment where consumers are increasingly looking at online spaces for shopping. Automation, disruptive technologies, and artificial intelligence are bound to eliminate even more jobs and spread to other industries such as healthcare, education etc.

This begs the question of whether society should embrace automation? We are going to see increasingly number of Singaporeans unemployed, unable to adapt and change according to the world economy and increased strain on government budget to sustain these people. The ones that are going to benefit from the future economy would be businesses that took advantage of these changes, and individuals who have the specialized skills and knowledge to adapt. What then is going to happen to the rest of the society? How then should we mitigate against such changes? Here’s something for you to consider about robot tax that is proposed by Bill Gates to mitigate against robots taking away human jobs:<a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-robot-tax-brighter-future-2017-3?IR=T&amp;r=US&amp;IR=T”>¬†http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-robot-tax-brighter-future-2017-3?IR=T&amp;r=US&amp;IR=T</a>

A more comprehensive discussion would be done during class this week for my students ūüėõ See ya!

Junior College education: A path increasingly less traveled?

Junior College education: A path increasingly less traveled?

JC General Paper

Following up from the previous blog post about JC merger, it seems that there are more interesting and candid responses from the public. Here is one example that could interest you:¬†<a href=”http://mothership.sg/2017/04/ex-nmp-calvin-cheng-makes-the-point-about-the-jc-mergers-that-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/”>http://mothership.sg/2017/04/ex-nmp-calvin-cheng-makes-the-point-about-the-jc-mergers-that-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/</a>

This begs the question whether the merger is an attempt to make JC education more exclusive/competitive, considering that 7 out of the 8 JCs involved in the merger “happened” to have the worst cut off points. Also, this attempt is seen as an elitist move to improve¬†the quality of education for this system.

Considering this trend, poly education would be where the majority is heading towards… what then would be the purpose of JC education? We all know that for the more popular courses in poly such as accountancy, business admin and even engineering, some of the best students from the O levels are vying hard to get in. It is not uncommon to hear of 6 pointers who want to go to poly since they find the education there to be more broad-based, ¬†Is it to train the academically inclined ppl to pursue academia in universities? would this system be slowly phased out in the years to come? (Many have criticized the JC¬†education to be too theory-based; does not teach real life skills and applications. With all the technology-disruptions today and the move towards a sharing economy, where does the JC education fit?)

Meritocracy? Junior colleges merger and its implications

Meritocracy? Junior colleges merger and its implications

JC General Paper, JC Mathematics, JC Physics

It’s pretty interesting that shortly after our post on meritocracy, we have news about the junior college (JC) mergers. For more information about the news, you could take a look at this¬†weblink.

This drastic move by MOE has sparked a lot of concerns among the public and has brought up a few issues for us to consider. First, it would be the falling demographics of Singapore. The falling birth rates is cited as the main reason for the merger of schools, so that resources would not be wasted, and there would not be under-utilized staff in the system. With such falling birth rates, what would you think is going to happen to the future of the educational landscape (would teaching/tutoring as a profession still be lucrative? We know that MOE has cut back on the hiring of teachers from 3000 at its peak yearly to about 1000 right now).

Second question to think about would be the larger implications of these schools merger. Why are these schools selected? Some have argued that it is a strategic move by the government to level the playing field by merging these colleges so that academic standards would be streamlined? of course, we cannot merge schools like RI and HCI together as it would only further consolidate their super-elite status in society (besides strong school culture and powerful alumni).

Finally, school culture and history is being destroyed when merger takes place. If that’s the case, what does it say about how the nation values history? It is all about the future and progress right, the past no longer matters if it is holding us back. Pragmatism is the view of the Singapore’s state.

Understanding meritocracy in Singapore

Understanding meritocracy in Singapore

JC General Paper

Before we start off on the topic of meritocracy, let’s examine this particular news article about it.¬†

Based on the author’s argument, it is pretty¬†clear that meritocracy is an esteemed principle of governance in Singapore. It is based on achieving equality of opportunities, rather than equality of outcomes. It is a system to filter candidates and for Singapore to achieve efficiency rather than equality(assuming that the most talented individual would get the job/opportunities). This stark reality of meritocracy could be the very reason why Singapore is having increasing social inequality, as this concept actually serves to widen the difference among us, and not reduce the difference.

However, over the years, meritocracy as a concept has been presented as a “golden ticket” for all, as long as one is willing to work hard and strive, opportunities would be present, and we would all be able to achieve social mobility and get to wherever we want in society.

What do you think about this concept of meritocracy? I’m aware that I’m making a bold statement here that meritocracy serves to widen inequality rather than reduce it and that it is the cause of Singapore’s inequality. Let me know what you think and how should the state change its policy if need be?