“In your society, do the arts merit the vast sums of money spent on it?”

“In your society, do the arts merit the vast sums of money spent on it?”

JC General Paper

Between the 1960s and 1990s, there has been a strong perception that the arts were an abstract waste of time. More focus was invested on STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to boost the value of each worker and compensate for our geographical disadvantage. Recently, the Singapore government revealed that $210 million fund will be allocated to the arts under its Community Engagement Masterplan. With the arts, people will be able to connect with one another on a deeper level, promoting understanding. There will be preservation of culture and heritage that fosters a sense of identity. The arts are able to reap various tangible and intangible benefits proving that is does merit the vast sums of money spent on it.

Being a country, lacking natural resources, people may argue that Singapore should pay more attention and energy to pragmatic aspects such as education, trade and science. These fields are guaranteed to yield tangible economic benefits. The Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Economic Survey of Singapore has shown that the main indicators of the Singapore economy include finance and insurance, manufacturing, construction, and information and communications. The arts are regarded as mere entertainment and not worth the money spent on it.

However, according to statistics from the National Arts Council, the arts in Singapore have developed tremendously over the last 10 years. Artistic creativity is closely tied to business entrepreneurship and technological innovation. The trail-blazers in this new economy are expected to be creative and imaginative. The creative sector is increasingly embraced in Singapore. In order for a business to be successful, entrepreneurs have to come up with differentiated ideas to ensure that their products will be unique in the competitive market. This debunks the argument that the arts will not reap economic benefits. Through innovation, companies can earn a higher revenue, with their larger and widespread clientele. The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts released statistics that the total nominal-value added of the arts and cultural sector has increased steadily from $822 million in 2003 to $1.28 billion in 2010. The arts have been playing a larger role in the building the Singapore economy, justifying the money spent to promote the arts among the younger generation.

The arts play a vital role in encouraging Singaporeans to have a sense of belonging and pride towards their homeland. Sir Julian Huxley once said that art is “the effective organization of experience into integrated forms which are emotionally significant and aesthetically satisfying”. Art can be used to document human progress. The number of museums in Singapore has increased from 28 in 2004 to 58 in 2015, including the newly inaugurated National Art Gallery. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) stated that more Singaporeans are embracing the arts as visitor ship to national museums and heritage institutions reached 3.2 million in 2013. Museum and heritage centers hold great value in our society. They are visual evidence of the developments Singapore has undergone through the years. The fact that more people are willing to visit these heritage centers correlates to the improvement of national identity. People will be better equipped with knowledge about the hardships their pioneers had to go through. They will be given the opportunity to learn from the past mistakes and experiences. The amount of money spent to preserve the history of Singapore is justifiable, as the future generations will be allowed to learn about their homeland’s humble beginnings.

Using the arts, Singapore is able to build and maintain its reputation in the world affairs. The diversity and scale of arts-related events and exhibitions in Singapore demonstrate the vibrancy of the arts scene and, in particular, how Singapore is a place for cultural exchange and collaboration for the global arts community. The National Arts Council initiated Art Week in 2013, to ride on the momentum of the growing visual arts scene. They include the growth of Art Stage and the launch of the art gallery cluster and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art. Singapore is drawing attention from all around the world, and many are willing to take part in this international fair. Countries will be able to gather in Singapore and establish long-term relationships between their art sectors and communities, on a larger scale. Singapore presents itself as an arts hub platform. Other countries will begin to notice the potential of the tiny red dot, known as Singapore. They will be willing to be our allies and possibly, involve in our trade and economy. Being as arts hub introduces many opportunities for Singapore to improve regional and international ties, as well as, boost its economy. This benefit proves that the arts warrant the large amount of money spent to support international fairs.

The arts are a form of universal language and expression. Singapore has a rapidly ageing population and is well known to be the home for multiple races and religions. The arts can be used to bring people of different backgrounds and walks of life together, and motivate them to share their experiences and cultures with each other. In July 2015, there was a special concert put together by creative director of New Creation Church KC Gan, titled “Harmony In Diversity”. This concert brings together Singapore’s 10 major religions and 4 main races. The medium of a concert, with colorful songs and dances, was used to promote racial harmony, as it is likely to be enjoyable and have a wider reach to the public. Moreover, since the arts do not require physical fitness, the elderly can also be involved to encourage inter generational bonding. Similar to the workshop “Sounds Like Fun!” organized by Year 2 students of the Arts Management Program in Laselle College of the Arts in 2013, there can be activities prepared to bond senior citizens and the younger generation. In order for the mentality of social cohesion to be ingrained in all Singaporeans, the arts can be used as a platform. Social cohesion is one of the main principles for Singapore to be a pleasant country to live in. Hence, it is justifiable to spend money on the arts to promote this social cohesion.

The arts are a core contributor to building Singapore’s national identity, boosting its reputation as an arts hub and fostering social cohesion between Singaporeans. Although some may argue that money should be invested in more pragmatic issues, the future of Singapore is more likely to be successful if they are creative and innovative, similar to other countries in the world. Hence, the vast amount of money spent on the arts is driving towards this end goal, and is justified.

P.S: This essay is taken from one of my current student who got 32/50 for a school exam. What do you think of this essay? Leave your comments below and we can take up a discussion from there.

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.

Advice for JC1 students

Advice for JC1 students

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

Dear JC1 students,

This post is reaching out to all of you to encourage you to study well and to prepare for your upcoming promotional examinations. I’m sure by now most of you would have received your mid year results back, and should have a clearer picture on whether you are going to get promoted or are you at the brink of being retained.

The A levels is a very challenging and demanding examination, in fact it could easily be the most stressful examination that you will take in your life. I’m sure you are aware of how competitive the university admissions are. Prestigious courses across all 3 universities such as medicine, law, business administration require nearly straight As to enter. In fact, if you do not even manage a straight Bs, I’m not even sure what kind of courses will be left for you to enter. As such, reality better hits now and you are preparing not just for your promotional examinations but A levels too. A good foundation for year 1 will go a long way in helping you for your second year.

Seek help early from your school teachers or your tutors! Please do not wait till the last minute to book consultations. Nobody owes you a living and if you are so last minute, do not expect your teachers or tutors to accede to your requests!

How to get an A for General Paper

How to get an A for General Paper

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

Many students have always wondered how to score an A for General Paper especially leading up to their examinations.  Besides knowing your basic content for the essay question that you are attempting, it is also critical for students to have some basic examination skills. The aim of this post is to highlight some important examination and revision skills that you should have to prepare you for the A levels.

Some tips to take note of:

  1. Practice past year papers under exam conditions. You should always strive to complete the papers under timed conditions like how you would face in the exam hall. Not completing them on time would have lulled you into a false sense of security and made you think that your practice grades were better than they were. At this point in time, you shouldn’t be facing time management issues such as not being able to complete your AQ on time.
  2. It is also vital that you plan effectively before writing a response. Planning enables you to organize your arguments and the key arguments that you need to bring into your answers. This also means that you have a clear directon for your answers.
  3. Remember that “less is more”. By looking at examiner reports, I found that a common mistake that students make is to try and bring in a whole range of issues and only mention them superficially. Examiners expect “Good” students to take a smaller number of issues and develop these into a sustained line of argument. Far better to have 3 arguments developed well than 5 or 6 arguments that are only touched on.
  4. Finally, the skill of evaluation is key to getting an A. Examiner reports say that you need to make a clear and distinct judgement that is justified in relation to the exact question set. Consistently focusing on the question and using it as the central aspect of planning would mean that you did not drift away and lose focus. This will enable you to make “Good” judgements rather than “reasonable” ones. The ability to qualify and justify your views is an extremely useful skill in the university as well.

P.S Drop us a comment if you think you have other tips for students going for the General Paper exams! Alternatively, if you are interested to find out more about how we teach evaluation and analytical skills during our lessons, please drop us a call. Our numbers are on our profile page and we promise we won’t bite!

Advice for J2 students who are still failing at this stage

Advice for J2 students who are still failing at this stage

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

Dear J2 students,

This coming week should be when your examination results are being released to you. After a month of intensive studying in June, how do you think you will fare?

Based on my years of tutoring, I can safely say that if you are aspiring for straight As for the A levels, you should be getting an average of C for your school papers. (this is across all schools, based on the assumption that you should be making a modest 1 grade jump for every exam).

But what if you are nowhere near this Cs? Or even worst, you are currently failing everything? If that is the case, its really time for you to wake up, unless you intend to repeat your A levels again or take it private. You are just a short 4 months away from the A levels!!! What can you do in these short 4 months considering you have one more chance at an internal examination before being sent to the actual As?

  1. Find out what when wrong in your papers? Was it due to insufficient practice? Insufficient revision? Weak in your concepts? Time management?
  2. Well, the good news is that if you are weak in your concepts, you can always approach your friendly tutors in school to help you. Seek consultations from your teacher or tutor early. Please do not sit around and wait any longer. Failing 4 months before the A levels is an emergency! If you have time management issues, then maybe you should go for paid timed practices (there are some places offering such services with stimulated exam conditions and students).
  3. You should start to plan your time wisely and divide how much time you would need to study for your subjects. As a rule of thumb, you should study 8-10hrs each on weekends to catch up with your peers. When I say study, it means revising your concepts and committing your content to memory, and practicing questions on your own. This does not include the time for doing your own school homework.
  4. The most effective study method is to rotate among your subjects equally (3h2+ 1h1+GP). You should touch base with all 5 subjects everyday so that you do not FORGET your content so easily. If you are tight for time, it could just be a simple 30-45 mins everyday to read on GP examples/ articles on theculture or even your own reading package. Of course, it could also just mean a simple recap for your other topics. Studying should always be done is small blocks of 2hrs each so that you have maximum absorption before going for a short break.

Be careful not to get burn out as well, you do not wish to have peak performance during your prelims and then later not perform for your A levels. Take a break when you need to 🙂 If you do need further advice on how to prep for the A levels, don’t hesitate to give me a call (I can be contacted on my personal number on my profile page) or to drop me a comment. I promise I won’t bite 🙂

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.

GP Fun Fact Poverty #2

JC General Paper

Here is a continuation of our post on poverty. Take a look at these figures and think about the glaring divide between the haves and the haves-not. What are some of your feelings and thoughts?

#1: US families living in extreme poverty, living with less than USD$2 a day has doubled to 1.6 million since 1995.

#2: The riches 1% of the world population owns 48% of the world’s wealth.

#3: 64% of the world’s extreme poor live in just 5 countries: India, China, Nigeria, Congo and Bangladesh.

#4: More than 1/3 of Africa lacks clean water. That is nearly the total population of US and Canada combined.

#5: Less than 1% of the US budget goes towards fighting extreme poverty.

#6: 3 million children die from malnutrition every year.

Fun Facts #1: Poverty

JC General Paper

This is going to be a very somber post about poverty around the world today… While considering the posts and the stats, please also consider some issues like income inequality; why is poverty concentrated only in some particular regions; Are richer nations obligated to help the poorer nations? Could this issue on poverty be resolved? If possible, how are we to resolve it?

#1: 20,000 children die worldwide everyday due to poverty.

#2: Nearly 1 billion people will go to bed hungry tonight.

#3: 80% of humanity lives on less than USD$10 a day.

#4: If you earn more than USD$21,000 a year, you are part of the top 4% richest in the world.

#5: According to Bill Gates, by 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.

#6: 53% of all Americans earn less than USD$30,000 a year.