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

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

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 🙂

 

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.

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?

Common Errors for Application Question(AQ)

Common Errors for Application Question(AQ)

JC General Paper

My previous posts have touched on the points that you would need to excel in your AQ. It is also important for you to understand what are some pitfalls so that you will not make these mistakes.

  • 1. Rehash of the author’s argument/ summary of the author’s argument- did not go on to elaborate or to even offer personal insight
  • 2. Lack of evaluation- paragraphs tend to be descriptive
  • 3.Poor selection of examples- they could be inaccurate or they are isolated case studies that are not representative of the whole society
  • 4.No examples given
  • 5.Evaluation lacks depth or it is done very superficially
  • 6.No link back to the requirements of the question
  • 7. No introduction or conclusion (of course this is a very obvious time management issue)

Alright, there you have it, the 7 deadly sins/pitfalls for your AQ.

Evaluation for Application Question (AQ)

Evaluation for Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper

Have you ever wonder what teachers mean by evaluation? Many students have asked me this during my classes.

Well to put it simply, evaluation for the AQ is not just simply stating whether you agree or disagree. You would need to provide a reason to support your point. So how exactly should you evaluate? Well you can consider commenting on the limitations or applicability of the author’s point or even how persuasive/convincing the author is in bringing across his point of view.

Here are some tricks that you could possibly use to help you in your evaluation to make it SUPER:

S– Span (whether the argument applies only to the past and not the present day context and vice versa)

U– Underlying assumption of the author

P– Perfect world vs Reality (does the argument exist only in theory/ in a perfect world, but not applicable in reality?)

E– Effectiveness of the argument

R– Reach (what are the different demographic groups which this argument applies to? surely it can’t apply to all?)

Using this framework, I’m sure you would be able to impress your tutors with your AQ from now on!

Characteristics of Singapore’s society (Application Question)

Characteristics of Singapore’s society (Application Question)

JC General Paper

This list is non-exhaustive and serves as a guide for you to expand on Singapore’s characteristics…  Pls take a look at my previous post on Singapore’s characteristics, so that you would have a better overview.

  1. Highly globalized and connected city, with heavy focus on technological developments
  2. Highly educated
  3. High cost of living
  4. Pragmatic, concerns usually surround economic issues and survivals
  5. Low birth rate
  6. Greying population
  7. Highly affluent- high levels of disposable income
  8. Migrant society with identity in constant flux
  9. Long working hours (one of the highest in the world) rat-race pace of life
  10. Religious/ racial harmony
  11. Apathetic
  12. Capital and knowledge-intensive economy
  13. High levels of censorship by the government
  14. Conservative

When writing your AQ, you should always try to input these into your paragraphs to demonstrate an awareness of Singapore’s society and to show the relevance of the argument to Singapore.

Do’s and Don’ts For Application Question (AQ)

Do’s and Don’ts For Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper

Are you interested to know what are the requirements of a good Application Question (AQ)?

Well according to the examiner’s report, the best AQ responses are/demonstrate:

“eloquent”, “mature”, “lively”, “well-informed personal voice”, “energetic”, “well-organized”, “fresh insights”, “evaluative”, ” written with clarity, confidence and conviction”

On the other hand, mediocre marks are awarded to individuals who:

“mere description”, “mechanical”, “mere reproduction of ideas from the texts with little or no discussion or expansion of them”, “lack of focus on own lives or wider social context”, “little more than a summary of author’s arguments”, “abrupt ending” and “haphazard or disjointed paragraphing”.

*note that reference to your ‘own lives’ does not mean that you blather on with lengthy and trivial details about your personal life. Taking into account that these are the requirements and pitfalls of AQ, I’m sure you would be able to make some adjustments in order to score on the marking band.