‘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.

Sportsmanship is irrelevant in today’s society. Discuss.

JC General Paper

Question type: Simple Polarity

Focus word: irrelevant

Topic word: Sportsmanship – playing fair, following the rules of the game, respecting the judgment of authority (referees and officials), treating opponents with respect – can refer to more than sports

Context: Today’s society (Scope can extend beyond sports.)

P: Sportsmanship breeds healthy competition, builds and promotes bonds in an increasingly competitive and divisive society. Sportsmanship heals losers’ wounds and spurs one do their best, everyone enjoys the game. As the players engage in fair play, a progressive and collaborative society is nurtured. Real winners are those who know how to persevere and to behave with dignity — whether they win or lose a game. Hilter was desperate for the 1936 Olympics to be a show of strength from the Aryan race only to be upstaged by black American Jesse Owens. His win was aided by the German athlete Lutz Long who gave him advice. Long was first to congratulate Owens and the two walked around the track arm-in-arm to an ecstatic crowd.

P: Treating opponents with respect is a form of civilised behaviour which should be present in all humans. Sportsmanship concentrates on improving self-control, skill and reaction which develop one’s good manners. To move towards a gracious society, citizens need to develop ethics like respect, possess moral conduct like dignity and sportsmanship is an avenue to do so, especially for the young generation. An instance could be stopping to help injured competitors as seen in marathons and soccer matches- 1981 London Marathon where the some runners helped the injured ones. The top 2 runners even crossed the finishing line together hand-in-hand. FIFA Fair Play Award winners like Paulo di Canio who ended a goal-scoring opportunity when the opposition’s goal keeper was hurt. Robbie Fowler who waived off a penalty that was wrongfully awarded to him.

P: Treating opponents with respect is unnecessary as showing sportsmanship may be deemed as a sign of weakness. Sportsmanship is not as desirable as victory. People only remember winners. Therefore, some players will rather be remembered as controversial winners instead of being labelled as losers. An instance would be Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ that clinched Argentina’s win in 1986 quarter-final World Cup match against England. Furthermore, diverting attention from own weaknesses by blaming others for their problems is easier than taking responsibility and accountability as pride is hard to swallow.

P: Following rules of the game may prove to be a career handicap in this dog-eat-dog world. In this conflict-prone world, rules usually are broken or breached to achieve success or attain change at the expense of sportsmanship. Michael Schumacher who drove dangerously or even caused intentional collisions to win has the most championship titles in F1 history.

‘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.


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).


History matters in shaping the future of a country. To what extent is this true?

JC General Paper

History matters in shaping the future of a country because it allows counties to understand changes and developments that had taken place to create the present society. In this highly globalized world we live in today, there is a need for developed countries to maintain the fast pace lifestyle while developing counties play catch up. Every country can be said to be struggling to progress and develop in one way or another. One way that countries often develop and better themselves is by learning more about their history and the successes and failures, even the ones other countries experience, that have served them. Lessons from the past can serve as a useful reminder of what not to do in the present, assuming that the contexts are similar for the lessons to be applicable. For instance, in the past, Myanmar was the biggest rice exporter and earns astronomical amounts of revenue from trade. Unfortunately, today it has become one of the poorest countries in SEA. After witnessing how her neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia grew from third-world to first-world countries, Myanmar has now decided to open up politically and economically after realizing how far behind they have sunk in under traditional military rule. Therefore, history plays an important part in shaping the future of a country as it acts as a platform for comparison, learning and understanding between countries and differing economies, highlighting areas of improvements.

History matters in shaping the future of a country as it provides the advantage of learning from other people’s experiences and stories without having to go through the experiences personally. We can learn from and about the great men and women of history and how they emerged successful despite moral dilemmas and how these people displayed courage, diligence, determination and perseverance. History lessons are invaluable because they are a way for people to share what they have gained and learned of life and the many social rules and regulations and how these have affected people. These historical narratives serve as inspiration for countries and learn to look to the future and motivate people to make sure that their dreams become a reality. For example, one iconic historical figure that many countries learn from is Mahatma Gandhi from whom they have learnt that it is possible to eradicate injustices in the world through non-violent means. Countries learnt from Gandhi that justice can be sought by not simply sitting idle and accepting injustices but by exposing and making known to others of the problems that are happening so that action can be taken. History, hence, provides us the opportunities to learn from mistakes whenever a past event is revisited.

National identity is unavoidably linked to history because it provides the social narrative- a story reflecting how a country has grown into what it is today- for citizens to relate to. We live in a global community where there is a diversity of cultures and unique identities coming from all over the world. It is important for countries to preserve and glorify their distinctiveness because in this highly globalized and interconnected world that is bombarded with so much influence, the different historical narratives help people to stay rooted and united as a nation. Singapore is a very good example because this country’s porous borders

How important is it for people in your society to retain a sense of tradition?

JC General Paper

Traditions are important because it provides people with a way to govern themselves in a world where moral standards are now often being compromised. Most traditions have moral and ethical messages embedded within them, and these serve as guidelines as to how people should govern themselves and, therefore, gain a degree of control over their lives. Before the invention of today’s modern laws, people used traditions as their guiding principles and while some traditions were abandoned, most of them are recycled and reused as the basis or foundations for some of the existing laws today. At times, traditions could have such a powerful and pervading influence, so much so that they become unspoken laws, laws of logic that the masses hold to. Examples of traditions that we hold dear would be the Chinese New Year festival, where it teaches the value of sharing and family unity and importance.

Traditions are also important to keep us rooted in our own self identity especially in this globalized world where the spread of Americanization serves to dilute our own culture and values. The unique practices that people still and continually adhere to, serve as a reminder of our origins and give us a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. It is only through undergoing the activities that our ancestors have undergone, that we are able to understand our personal histories and be aware of the cultural identities that we each possess, particularly, in Singapore where it also serves as a binding force for a heterogeneous society, where a plethora of different cultures and traditions abound.

However, retaining a sense of tradition may not be important as it may lead to segregation and divide people especially in a multi-racial and multi-religious country such as Singapore. While having a sense of tradition unites people together, it only applies to people who belong to a particular group who share the same traditions. This inadvertently creates an “us” versus “them” kind of mind set within the different parties and it would serve to heighten the sense of suspicion and fear. Also, given that Singapore is increasingly globalized and greater influx of people are coming to this city to work and travel, it does not make sense to retain traditions. Traditions in this case no longer serve any purpose and they should be re-adapted to fit the contexts of the present day.

Finally, traditions may not even hold any role in today’s world where people’s lives are getting more and more fast-paced- simply because people do not have the time to uphold these traditions. For example, it has been observed that the annual Chinese Qing Ming festival is in the danger of being virtually extinct. The number of families that turn up on the day of Qing Ming has been decreasing most likely because of tight and busy working schedules which incidentally, has been cited as one of the common reasons by Singaporean Chinese. In a world where stress is placed on individuals to succeed and to attain a degree of sustainable income to support themselves, such traditions serve to hinder their progress and may make them lose out on the race, therefore, traditions may not always be important.



Can nuclear research be justified?

JC General Paper

Nuclear research, despite its usefulness in benefitting the populace, can also be used as a form of weaponry to destroy, with catastrophic results. Nuclear technology is extremely harmful in its natural form, even if stored within a power plant. Its destructive potential, when fully unleashed, makes it an excellent choice as a missile or a bomb. These nuclear weapons can be used to cause extreme devastation, obliterating entire cities, leaving behind millions of scars and gargantuan mushroom clouds in its wake, as can be testified by victims and survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing by the US, which left a decades-long curse on the physical health of the people and their descendants, as well as the land and air conditions in the area.  In fact, during the cold war, the world was very close to a nuclear meltdown best seen in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nuclear technology has already been misused and abused for decades, which goes to show that the world is not mature enough to handle nuclear research. If left in the wrong hands, it can yield highly disastrous and cataclysmic results, even if it is for a “just cause”.

Nuclear technology, if not being deliberately used for genocide purposes, can also be potentially dangerous to the environment at large on its own. Unlike most sources of energy, where usage is not unstable and does not yield pernicious after-effects, nuclear energy falls, unfortunately, into the ‘extremely unstable’ category. Simply building and maintaining a nuclear plant requires extreme precautions as any wrong move can potentially kill millions around the vicinity and, more severely, contaminate its surroundings, leaving millennial-long radiation effects in the area of explosion, as was with the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine in 1986.

Nuclear technology is also exceedingly costly, especially after taking maintenance and waste disposal costs into account. Considering that nuclear technology brings with it a lot of risks, this begs the questions whether spending on this sector is even worth it. The millions of money spent on this sector could be used to develop other aspects of society, like crucial healthcare or education policies. Therefore, it would not be advisable to continue pursuing nuclear research in this aspect.

However, one should also take note of the merits of nuclear technology. It is able to provide endless amounts of energy in the long run. It is proven that a single uranium rock- the source of nuclear energy- can be converted to electrical energy to provide for at least a hundred households at any one time. This fact is often exploited to build nuclear reactors in strategic locations in the country in order to provide the most amount of energy to the local populace. This could greatly benefit countries such as Russia where the widely scattered distribution of population makes distributing energy very difficult and in some cases, insufficient.

P.s these are some arguments that students have come out with during class time. If you have any other arguments, pls comment and engage us in a fruitful discussion.

Is the elimination of global poverty a realistic aim?

JC General Paper

Poverty as defined by the UN is “the denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity”. What this essentially means is that a person suffering from poverty lacks the ability to participate actively in society; having no capability to feed and clothe a family. It also means that this individual is insecure and powerless. Considering how most of the world is still mired in poverty, is reducing poverty such a painstaking and strenuous task?

Poverty is nearly impossible to alleviate due to the many players involved, especially since it is caused by greed, corruption and violence which are acts of powerful individuals on the powerless and vulnerable. No doubt there are organizations that work diligently to reduce global poverty, but the task seems difficult because there are always powerful individuals in corrupt governments who refuse to help as they make great profit from those that suffer in hunger and poverty. Examples of corrupt leaders are plenty nearby. We have Najib in the recent IMDB scandal, President Marcos and Sukarno as well. It is very unrealistic to say that global poverty can be eliminated considering how the people in power are the ones that is perpetuating this cycle of poverty.

However, critics may argue that reducing poverty appears to be realistic considering the more educated the world becomes, it is made aware of the true hardships faced by those who suffer from poverty. An important first step is to create awareness of the situation, hoping that more individuals who are financially secure can step forward to help. For example, we have organizations like Millennium Villages dedicated to improving all the conditions that cause poverty such as water, food, education, sanitation and they have proven that by helping they have successfully managed, in one aspect, to provide the schools that they run to expand and strengthen their GSM network coverage.

Having said that, at times, the environment does not allow for poverty to be resolved, with nature catching us off guard at times. The environment constantly changes and humans usually fall short when responding to the aftermath caused by nature’s fury. Often. when Mother Nature strikes, human lives are affected drastically as structures collapse and so do economies, putting those nations with the ability to help, in crisis as well. For example, when Tsunami struck Japan, thousands of people were left hungry and homeless and it made the world focus more on the crisis at hand, than the crisis in Africa where food shortages affect over 260 million people.

In addition, the rapid economic progress in developed countries makes it difficult for poorer countries whose economies are driven by farming and agriculture, to catch up. This widens the gap between the rich and those in absolute poverty. Developed nations have the required skills to progress forward and they are usually more technologically advanced. Wages tend to be suppressed in the developing nations since there is a large pool of labour available for blue-collared labour work. Developed nations also outsource production to developing nations to generate higher profit margins, squeezing them dry just to produce for the MNCs. Examples of such sweatshops include Apple and H&M. Considering how the world is moving forward, will the elimination of poverty even be a realistic aim?

P.s. This is a short outline for this question, with some relevant arguments from my ex student who scored A for his GP. If you are interested in how we teach our students to come out with arguments, to craft their essays, pls come for our trial lesson at 50% off (limited to only the first 10 J1 students who call in).

Environmental Conservation is solely the responsibility of the government. Do you agree?

JC General Paper

Environmental Conservation is solely the responsibility of the government. Do you agree?

Environmental questions are possibly the simplest to tackle in the examination given the predictability of the type of questions that come out. This question is asking about who are the actors that should be responsible in the protection and conservation of the environment. Very simply, students can examine it from the local, intra-regional and trans-national level for this essay.

On a local scale, we can safely say that individuals have a part to play in environmental conservation. Individuals have an obligation to safeguard the earth, and to let future generations inherit the earth in the same condition that they have inherited it from their forefathers. Individuals have to take note of their consumption patterns and materialistic tendencies in order to reduce unnecessary consumptions. Our lifestyles and habits go a long way in ensuring a more sustainable earth as well. For instance, individuals can always practice recycling habits and to purchase products that are environmentally friendly (bio-degradable products). However, one should always question the willingness of individuals to change their lifestyle consumption habits and spending just for environmental conservation. Would individuals be more willing to spend on electric cars than normal cars requiring fuel? Would they be willing to spend more on recycled tissue for home use? When we want individuals to make the such consumption changes, we are assuming that they are willing to do so and spend the money.  But are they?

Governments on the local level can also advocate for greater environmental awareness among the citizens and champion environmental movements in order to instill and cultivate a care for the environment. In Singapore, there is the clean and green campaign; energy efficient campaign; Keep Singapore clean movement. To spearhead a change in habits of individuals, governments can always offer subsidies for environmental friendly products such as hybrid cars. Currently, Germany and China are offering subsidies in order to spur consumptions of these hybrid cars. Such initiatives are seen to be more effective if they are coming from the government, a top-down approach could possibly incite more changes in behaviour especially with legislation compared to a bottom-up approach.

Finally, governments can always collaborate and work together to reduce carbon emission rates across countries. This works on the assumption that countries are able to put aside their own self-interests for the larger good of the environment. For instance, we have the environmental summit organized by the UN every year and the Kyoto Protocol in order to reduce emissions rates. However, one should always be critical and wonder if these environmental summits set out to achieve what they have in mind initially and whether the reduction in emissions really lead to an improvement of the larger environmental condition.



Is it ever justifiable to break the law?

JC General Paper

Is it ever justifiable to break the law?

“Ever justifiable”: set a criteria for such a question. Possible criteria that you can set: 1) law implemented is unlawful/ unreasonable e.g. when the punishments outweigh the crime 2) breaking the law suffices as the last hope/action and it actually benefits society as a whole.

Law: A set of rules/legislations that follow a social contract theory.

Assumption: Other peaceful means of handling the problems are not viable, resulting in individuals having to break the law.

Non-Justifiable Arguments

  1. It may be counter productive and may result in the country breaking down into lawlessness.
  2. It may invalidate the people efforts in breaking the law in the long run. The law exists for a reason. It exists to make people feel safe in the face of possibility of lawlessness.
  3. It may subsequently open up a myriad of “valid reasons” for breaking the law, making other laws redundant in a sense.

Justifiable Argument

  1. Provided the cause is a noble one and breaking the law is used as the last resort and this action benefits society as a whole. One should also consider if there is a high chance of success of breaking law in order to preserve the rights of individuals.

P.S These discussion points are raised during class by students themselves. If you have any other additional points or to contest any of these points, just type them in the comment section.