Responsibility of Protecting the Environment

Responsibility of Protecting the Environment

JC General Paper

Environment is a common and easy essay question that could potentially come out for the exams… Students should always analyze their essays from a stakeholder’s perspective to give a more holistic evaluation.

Developed countries

Governments in developed countries have the necessary skills, influence and resources to aid the protection of the environment. They would have the financial means to invest in necessary science and technology which could improve the environment. At the same time, they would also possess political clout to enact policies to force companies to comply with their environmental standards. Education and campaigning to change the mindset of the people towards the environment would be within their means as people are generally more educated and aware.

Businesses could practise corporate social responsibility, and stand to gain since green consumers are more likely to purchase their products. Consumers are more concerned with the origins of their products they buy today. As such, MNCs could influence these green consumers to raise awareness about environmental issues using their products.

Individuals could make a difference by starting with themselves first. A small step could go a long way such as supporting Earth Hour or even car pooling.

NGOs no doubt would have more political clout than individuals, and do not have the same restrictions that are placed upon government agencies. They do not have to balance certain commitments such as the living standards in the country. This would result in them having greater flexibility when it comes to their operations and should be able to achieve more. \

Developing countries

Governments have the sole responsibility for the enactment and enforcement of policies to protect the environment. Unfortunately, their main priority is to ensure economic growth rather than the protection of the environment. Developing countries are more likely to have unstable government and corruption is usually rampant making it difficult to care for the environment. E.g Shell engaged in dodgy/shady dealings with the government officials in Nigeria in order to gain a foothold in the country.

Businesses are usually in the primary and secondary sector which focus on the harvesting of raw materials and manufacturing. These are highly damaging to the environment as the mining process results in large amounts of pollutants and waste. Many of their factories are owned by MNCs, and they would have little say in the production methods used.

Individuals concern would be to earn sufficient money to stay alive, they would not mind harnessing the earth for the raw materials or resorting to more efficient methods of clearing the land if they could help to save some money for them.

Considering the situation in both developed and developing countries, who do you think should be responsible for the environment?

Should business be ethical at the expense of company profits and staff welfare?

Should business be ethical at the expense of company profits and staff welfare?

JC General Paper

Question analysis:

At the expense: at the cost of something, the opportunity cost. Please note that you have to address this criteria throughout the whole essay.

Ethical: Relating to moral principles. Pls note that ethics are subjective and every individual has different moral codes. What is considered ethical to an individual may not be to another.

Yes business should be ethical: 

Businesses especially large multi-national corporations (MNCs) today are the bedrock of many capitalistic societies, hence they should be ethical in their practices in order to set the moral tone of how business is done in the corporate world, and to a larger extent, the societal values. Businesses will suffer from a lack of trust and reputation especially if they have flouted some ethical considerations. E.g. H&M have been facing lawsuits in Europe for their sweatshops conditions and exploitation of child labour to manufacture their cheap and affordable clothing. It is highly likely that businesses will suffer from fines and increased regulations if they are seen to be unethical in their business practices. This could affect the company profits drastically and potential sales, which will impact on the eventual staff welfare and salaries that they draw. A case in point would be Volkswagen which was found to have cheated on their diesel emission, and being fined $14.7 billion for it.

It is unlikely for an unethical business to be a champion of staff welfare. Ethics is what make up an organization and if the corporate culture is one that is unethical, it is highly unlikely that bosses will appreciate and care for the staff that makes the business possible in the first way. It is possibly very results-orientated and a cut throat corporate culture where competition is valued first. During difficult times, companies are likely to fire and retrench staff, withhold their benefits without any consideration to protect these staff’s families. After all, the company and the need to stay afloat comes first. E.g. SPH recently pledges to retrench 10% of their staff in order to keep company profits afloat, rather than thinking of how to generate more revenue through other arms of operations and keeping these staff.

Business should be unethical: 

There is a need to find the most cost efficient method of production in order to stay afloat in this cut throat business world. Businesses in this case, are not unethical by choice, rather it is by the push of society and the consumers to be unethical, especially when consumers refuse to pay more for the products. Fast fashion industry is very competitive and companies have to resort to overseas factories and even child labour to manufacture clothes as cheaply as possible to cater to a larger group of consumers. It is not practical for all businesses to venture into serving the luxury group, since there is only that many number of consumers who can afford to pay. Sometimes being unethical comes at the expense of the company’s ability to protect their own staff who have slogged hard for them and to return their loyalty. Employees’ livelihood should be considered before ethics and perhaps ethics should be decided and regulated more often by the authorities on what constitutes proper business practices.

Finally, ethical standards differ throughout the world. Every individual has different expectations with regards to their working hours, treatment and pay scheme. What is deemed unethical to a person in a developed place (e.g. working for less than $5/hr here could be seen as a blessing to someone in the developing countries). Resorting to unethical means is only a short term measure for businesses, as once reputation is tarnished, it takes forever to build it back up again.

P.s Pls note that this is just a sample outline for a business and money essay question. Further points will be elaborated in our lessons.

How to study for Gp?

How to study for Gp?

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

Now that the A levels GP paper is drawing nearer and nearer, many students have asked about their revision strategies…

Given the limited time left, I would advise students to :

  1. Consolidate their niche chosen topics for the exam- in terms of the arguments, content, evaluation and examples.
  2. Make a list of the past mistakes that you have committed in your GP exams- it could range from very simple problems of hijacking the question, to overgeneralization. Commit it to memory and not repeat it again. Revise and take note of your weaknesses.
  3. Take note of some of the exemplar essays that your school or tutor has given you. What are the features of these exemplar essays? Remember to include them in your essay.
  4. The rest would lie on you and your question choice on that day of the exams. I have always told my students that the question choice is the most important, followed by the topics that they have prepared. There is no point doing a question even if u know the content but do not know how to tweak it to the question requirement. You will never see a quality grade.

That’s all for now, and good luck everyone!

‘The young lack drive.’ Do you agree?

‘The young lack drive.’ Do you agree?

JC General Paper

Question Type: Simple Polarity (no conditional words present in the question)
Key Words: The young; drive
Minimum Requirements: Students will need to unpack the key words and explore the reasons why one can argue that the young lack drive. Similarly, they must be able to also highlight why some may disagree with this claim. Better scripts will look to evaluate the arguments based on the changes that have occurred in today’s world and provide a broad and varied range of examples, not just limited to Singapore.

P: The young of today are soft, pampered and dependent because comfortable lives they enjoy today do not provide any impetus to strive.
E: The young live in a world have enjoyed the peace, prosperity, affluence, tranquillity and comfort brought by the 80s and the 90s. With greater affluence and smaller families, they are unlike earlier generations who are forced by dire circumstances to work very hard to feed their families or for survival. This lack of urgency or hunger driven by need allows them to take things easy.
Eg: In many societies worldwide, across both western and eastern cultures, in both First World countries like the USA, the EU and Japan as well as the newly developed economies of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, young people normally come from one-child or two-child families where the young is being molly-coddled and spoiled. Over-indulgent parents pamper these children so much that they have no initiative and cannot do simple things like washing their own cups after drinking or carrying their own schoolbag while in Primary School.L: These young people will necessarily grow up to have no initiative and sense of urgency as everything has been done for them. With their parents carrying the full financial burden of the family, they see no need to be very independent and give up easily when things go wrong.

P: With greater affluence and family support, young people can afford to pursue their passions and try new things
E: Coming from smaller and more affluent families, young people are no longer pressed by necessity to submit to mundane jobs right after graduation and have the option to pursue their passions. While some may be hindered by fear of failure, there is now a choice to pursue something driven by desire rather than necessity for others.E: This is evident in young people who give up stable jobs to pursue their dreams such as setting up their own businesses.

P: They are risk-averse and are not willing to step out of their comfort zones.
E: In today’s competitive world, failure is a very expensive proposition. As such, in many societies, there is a fear of risk-taking and failing. Unsurprisingly, this has also affected the young who grow up in an education system that is consistently ranking and assessing them against benchmarks and model answers. Therefore, they lack the drive to venture out of their comfort zones and try new things in life, preferring to ‘play it safe’. As a result, many find themselves lacking the energy to get out of mundane jobs, leading routine lives.
Eg: For example, one common trait in Singapore is the lack of young Singaporeans who are willing to become entrepreneurs. Many are content to get themselves an education and work for others.

P: They look for instant rewards and are not willing to work hard long term to achieve their hopes and aspirations.
E: They are impatient because they never had to wait for anything as everything was instantly given, especially in the fast-pace society today where businesses compete with each other to offer the most immediate and convenient solutions to their consumers. With ‘same-day deliveries’ and ‘express results’, young people are used to instant gratification and lack the determination to persevere if things do not yield instant results.E: Young people have a tendency to quit their jobs very quickly because they do not feel fulfilled in them, choosing to find an easier or better option rather than staying and making what they have work.

p.s: this essay is contributed with most of the points from an ex student. Points are taken from his school magazine. This essay serves as a reference point only.

GP 2016 Prelim trends

GP 2016 Prelim trends

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

This post is going out to all students that are taking their A levels GP 2016 this year: the listed topics are just some of the common questions that schools have set in this prelim. You may want to take note of it and prepare for these issues just in case. Being prepared beats being caught off guard right?

  1. S&T with Artificial Intelligence/ robotics
  2. S&T with eco-cities/green cities
  3. Sports (take note it is usually cross-topical). It could be sports with arts; sports with S&T; Sports with gender; Sports with war etc.
  4. Government collaboration especially in areas like war and terrorism; migrant issues and how does government interference infringes on privacy and rights of individuals
  5. Arts and Culture (significance of museums/historical places etc).
  6. Ageism + SG society

P.S Do take note that S&T questions are usually quite narrow; while arts and culture questions tend to be broad-based. Prepare accordingly to the question types and requirements! Good luck to all who are mugging now.

‘Religion divides rather than unites.’ Discuss. (RI 2016 Prelims)

JC General Paper

I realized that I have not done a post about religion, so here is a basic outline for this essay. This question requires students to compare whether religion is more divisive or more unifying in nature.

The world’s major religions preach love, peace, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness and reconciliation. However in reality, religion often divides rather than unites when violent or harmful acts are committed in the name of God against humanity. In the history of the world thus far, we have examples of the Crusaders, as well as today’s religious extremists who have waged war and suicide bomb attacks on innocents, all in the name of religion and their twisted mission to ‘avenge’ or ‘bring glory to God’s name’. Recent examples include the Bali and London suicide bomb attacks by religious extremists. The division comes about in the aftermath of such attacks when people begin to place blame or be overly suspicious or hostile towards a certain religion or race. Again, differences are emphasised and the society is divided into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality, with unfounded prejudices, and immense anger and bitterness.

Religion has been shown to be able to unite rather than divide people during times of crisis, by providing a common denominator through which strangers can reach out and relate to one another. In the aftermath of 9/11, religious places of worship throughout America provided a place of solace, comfort and strength for believers seeking answers and support. Believers gathered together in mosques, temples, churches and synagogues for mass prayer and vigil sessions, which united communities and pulled the nation together as one as all shared in the immense grief and shock following the tragedy.

Religion can also unite rather than divide by playing an important role in society as moral compass as well as peacemaker. In times of societal conflict and tension, religious leaders and institutions are often called upon to help out as they are deemed to be highly respected and influential in the community. In the face of potentially volatile racial and religious tension and discrimination in Singapore following a string of extremist bombings in the region, an inter-faith dialogue was set up to promote better communication, understanding and respect amongst the nation’s major religions. This sought to ensure that the local community would not be vulnerable to false teachings/ prejudices, or liable to instigate violent retaliations against any group. The dialogue also sought to find common ground between the religions, thus uniting rather than dividing the nation’s citizens during an otherwise volatile time.

Ideally, religion should unite people by emphasising the similarities between each other, regardless of race or nationality – that we are all equally fallible and imperfect, and in need of a higher guidance. However in reality, religion can often create division in societies as it creates and emphasises differences in beliefs and opinions between people. This can result in conflict and tension especially when people begin to think and view things using an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality, and start taking sides or criticising others’ way of doing things. For example, the recent AWARE saga generated nation-wide debate and controversy as people were outraged and concerned about Christian values and opinions being promoted in a secular organisation. The debate culminated in a dramatic and at times, bitter showdown between the two sides, where the new ex-co was given a vote of no confidence. Thus, religion can divide rather than unite when it is deemed to be threatening the harmony within a society.


National boundaries make little geographical or economic sense nowadays. Discuss.

National boundaries make little geographical or economic sense nowadays. Discuss.

JC General Paper

This question assumes that as the world gets more and more globalized, there is greater freedom of movement of ideas, trades and people, so much so that our lives are intertwined.  The increasing globalization of the world is also made more astute with the pervasiveness of social media. As such, it makes little sense for us to have physical or economic boundaries anymore. To do well for this question, students need to compare to the past to assess whether recent trends render national boundaries/territories irrelevant.

Why they make little sense nowadays? 

  1. Globalization is a phenomenon that we cannot avoid, to remain economically isolated would be to the peril of the economic health of the nation. Most countries today are open economies that engage in free trade to boost their exports. Being plugged into the world economy also means greater markets to sell their goods to, enabling them to earn more money and attain economic growth to improve the citizens’ standard of living. It is unrealistic and impractical to expect countries to be self sufficient in the manufacturing of most goods and services in the modern age. Examples of closed economies include North Korea and Brazil which point towards low growth and bleak standard of living for their citizens. Comparatively, countries that engage in trade like Singapore and Hong Kong have relatively higher standard of living and growth for their citizens. However, one should note that being engaged in the world economy comes at its costs too. Income inequality is definitely one problem that the government has to tackle. But I guess it is a lesser of the two evils (income inequality and poverty) that governments would rather deal with.

  2. The rise of regional and international organizations to foster international cooperation to resolve cross border problems such as environmental and territorial issues, render national boundaries to have little relevance. Many of the world issues plaguing us today are cross-borders such as terrorism, trade in weapons, haze etc. Examples of regional organizations include ASEAN to resolve cross border issues such as the South China Sea and even the Indonesia haze problem. These issues are brought up to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) where member countries can debate about them and see how best to resolve them. Also, the UN has been pretty proactive in trying to resolve cross border smuggling and trading of weapons, especially in tacking state sponsored terrorism. These issues have wide-scale impact that could not be resolved just by nations, rather it requires the involvement of many parties.

Why they still have relevance? 

  1. National boundaries are important to prevent cross borders problems such as illegal immigrants, smuggling of arms and drugs. It allows governments to monitor these illegal activities in their states properly and to act on them to remove these threats. Thailand and Malaysia have been in conflict for illegal migrants crossing each other territories and affecting the safety and security of the place. Also, Malaysia has been accused of sponsoring insurgencies movements in Thailand for the Thai Muslims and selling arms. With proper boundaries, Thailand would be able to demarcate the zones and nip the problem quickly and deport these illegal migrants and insurgents.

  2. Economic boundaries make sense as a way of insulating the country from too much uncertainties from the outside economic environment. An example could be UK voting out of Brexit recently, due to migrants issue and funding of the EU especially for the less productive countries. In such cases, boundaries do make some sense, especially if countries want to make a clear stand about safeguarding their economy and their citizens and not providing for the economically less productive countries.

Special Post for A levels Students GP

Special Post for A levels Students GP

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

Dear students,

This is a special post going out to all of you. Considering that your A levels are drawing near and you are already in the midst of your prelims, what are some topics that you are still struggling with? What are some essays that you would like to see a post on?

The team will do their best to meet your requests! Just comment on the section below the post 🙂


Getting what one wants in life is what matters. Discuss.

JC General Paper

Getting what one wants in life is what matters. Discuss.

This is a very deep philosophical question that requires students to answer in a mature way on what do they think life is about. What are the things that matter to us? Do they hold any meaning at all at the end? Is it even possible for us to get what we want, if at all?

First, let’s define what are the things that matter to us in life. To most of us, some of the tangible and intangible things that we have been pursuing sure hold some weight: Money, status, power, love, relationships with friends and family, good health, career goal, collecting of a myriad of life experiences etc. Though these things do matter in some way or another, do the attainment of these make us less contented and fulfilled over time? Will the initial satisfaction of attaining these goals be waned off?

What exactly is important in life? Is it the attainment of what matters or the pursuit of these goals that give us a sense of fulfillment, life purpose and satisfaction? For me, I think what I’m after is more of the pursuit and the challenge of attaining the goals, than the goals themselves. The thrill of the chase is definitely what keeps many ambitious and driven individuals going, with a focus and a sight of the goal in mind. The prospect of getting the goal one fine day is what keeps individuals going and giving them a sense of hope. We do not necessarily need to get our goals, it is alright to fall short of them. After all, with a bit of failure that we get to appreciate some of our success. That is the paradox of life itself.

Of course, others will argue and think that there is no point in the continuous chase if the goal is always unattainable. What we want ultimately is the goal in itself. But then, what’s the point of possessing the goal/item since we have to lose them anyways? Nothing in life is permanent and we cannot continuously hold on to them anyway right? 🙂

P.s This post is not meant to be written in the full essay structure outline. Is just meant to get you thinking more about life, and what exactly is meaning to each and every single one of us. Is the attainment and our obsession with goals so important at the end of the day?



Is it necessary for a country to invest in its artists?

JC General Paper

In today’s society where globalization has led to a world that has become heterogeneous, countries can use their artists to not only articulate their own culture but to establish an identity through art. Local artists often would base their artistic efforts on the experience of being a citizen and living in the country, thereby providing original content that is uniquely their own. By investing in the local artists, a country uses the artists and their acute ability to express and manifest a cultural identity through art and share the expression with the community at large. This is vital as the people then have a visual representation of who they are as a people and can use the artwork as an icon or symbol which they can relate to. The citizens of the country will then have a stronger sense of national and cultural identity and this, in turn, creates a deeper sense of belonging to a country. A good example would be Filipino artist, Fedrico Aguilar Alcuaz who was conferred the title of National Artist in Philippines as his work was identified by many Filipinos as iconic to their beloved country. He went on to participate on international grounds and brought glory to his country through his engaging art pieces. Alcuaz has helped Philippines become internationally recognized because of his powerful art.

Art also serves as a platform for many to enjoy and engage in social commentary. By investing in its artists, the country is able to use the works to cultivate a civic-minded community. The arts provide a commonplace where families, friends or colleagues come together and experience an art piece that will stimulate the mind and this allows people to think critically and discuss today’s issues in an accessible and creative manner. This is because the work of the artists act as ‘social mirrors’ that reflect the cultural, historical and socio-political life of the country. This, then, amplifies potential points of discussion that the state and the people can engage intelligently in. Not only does it encourage the development of views, it also creates harmony among people by allowing various groups of people to come together to enjoy the art work. For instance, in most theatre performances today, playwrights incorporate question and answer sections into their plays in order to “break the fourth wall” between stage and audience, allowing the audience to take an active role in the discussion of the issues presented or simply allow the artists to share their experiences in the process of creating the performance and how that is reflective of reality.

Investing in the arts is also important in bringing in tourist receipts for the country and building up the image of the country. Arts and culture is a form of “soft power” where it can project its influence to the other countries. For instance, Paris has a reputation of being an arts hub, a place with rich historic significance which is able to attract tourists to their plays, museums and musicals. Also, by projecting that the country has a reputation in this area it will help to attract creative talents from all the corners of the world to help raise a country’s artistic and creative standards. In doing so, the country will be creating an exciting and vibrant city-state where citizens and foreigners will be able to share and produce entertaining, meaningful and world-class artistic creations that are different from the mainstream media, which is usually dominated by western media. For instance, Japan is known for its Manga, Anime and cos-play. Such is the potential of investing in the arts till a country is recognized based on its achievements.

However, critics would argue that the resources invested in the artists might be better allocated to more important areas such as the Maths and Science sector as these areas help to bring in financial stability and security which eventually lead to the smooth development of a country. With investments in these areas, the country would be more productive and efficient as it caters to real needs in future. For example, improvements in healthcare require a background knowledge of sciences and with greater investment in strengthening a country’s education in Maths and Science, a country can develop more quickly in various areas such as healthcare, medicine, infrastructure and military technology. With such concrete development ensured, countries actually are able to prepare for any disasters and would have the necessary facilities and equipment to face any turbulent times. Singapore clearly believes that she should ensure her people’s welfare through investments in healthcare and national defence as well as in subjects such as Maths and Science. It is a more practical route that yields tangible results in the long run compared to the arts.

P.s this is a short contribution from some of my top students for the arguments. If you are curious how we teach content and essay writing skills in our classes, why not try our trial lesson @ 50% off (limited to the first 10 students who call in).