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

5 Golden Rules for your Application Question (AQ)

5 Golden Rules for your Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

How do you handle the application question (AQ) effectively? Here’s 5 golden nuggets for you to remember.

  1. Work on your timing! Always complete your AQ under timed conditions! You should allocate a maximum of 30 minutes to complete it. The biggest trap to avoid is messing your timing and spending too much time on the low-mark questions, leaving you short of time on the questions that carry much higher marks.
  2. Highlight key arguments that you wish to pick up and argue upon. Where can you find these arguments? As a general rule of thumb, arguments can be found in either the first or the last sentence of each paragraph! Of course, there will be arguments embedded in the middle of the paragraph or even within examples themselves. You should know how to seive these arguments out by now!!!
  3. Build up your responses. Analysis is clearly expected. An argument can be sufficiently developed through the use of connectives, such as: ‘this leads to’; ‘which could then result in’; ‘which may then cause this’; ‘which would then mean’. These connectives show that you are building up a developed chain, which is exactly what the examiners are looking for.
  4. Link to the question. Your argument has to be in context. Generic lines of argument that could relate to anything are not going to reach the level for ‘good’ analysis. Your argument must focus on the precise question type and be relevant to the question.
  5. Evaluate effectively. Examiners are looking for a clear and supported final jugement that answers the question. Therefore, get off the fence and make sure you actually answer the question. The weighing of arguments for and against should have formed part of your analysis, but the key aspect is that you go one way and support it. Look to use words and phrases such as: ‘in my opinion, I believe’; ‘clearly the best option would be’. These show the decisiveness that examiners are looking for in the final paragragh and judgement.

Still clueless on how to write AQ? Wondering how we teach AQ in our classes? We are offering a paid lesson (at 50% off our regular lessons) for just the first 10 students. Give us a call today to find out more if you are still struggling.


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).

Is aging population a necessarily bad thing?

JC General Paper

Topics on ageism have been coming out recently in many schools prelim papers. Perhaps its worth taking a look at this topic on aging population.

Who are we referring to in an aging population? Usually it refers to elderly aged 65 years and above.

Aging population has been the concern of many developed nations since they are seen to be a strain on government’s expenditure. In dealing with an aging population, the government needs to provide for social security and medical care. This would result in less funds for the other sectors of the economy.

Is an aging population necessary a bad thing? Perhaps we can change our perspective in how we look at these elders. For instance, these elder people offer a wealth of knowledge and experience in the workplace. They could be seen as effective mentors for the youth. Their knowledge and experience can go a long way in helping the youth to be successful faster and to shorten their learning curve. Also, it is not necessary true that they are a financial burden. These elder individuals have more disposable income due to them working all their lives, hence this could be a viable economic sector for government to target. They would definitely need to consume healthcare related items and perhaps even greater expenditure on leisure activities since they have already retired. (This is of course assuming that these elder individuals have sufficient in their saving accounts to spend for developed nations). With advancement of medical care, I’m sure our aging population would be relatively healthier compared to previous generations. If that’s the case, they may not be seen to be financial burdens. Singapore treats the elderly population as an avenue of economic growth, given how they are more well off compared to other age groups.

Also, we can always train our aging population to lead a simple and relaxing retirement. That way, it would cost lesser for society to support the aging population. Also, the society can take an active stance in promoting good health and exercise lifestyle for these people. In this way, it would cost less for society if everyone is healthier. The problems that the elderly are facing could be easily rectified by society as long as preventive measures are put in place early.

Could AI be used to support these elderlies so that there is less burden and stress for the youths to take care of them? Perhaps this is something to consider especially in the area of therapy and companionship. Then again this begs the question of whether the elderly will be open to such technology.



The role of artificial intelligence in our lives

JC General Paper

There seems to be increasingly interest in artificial intelligence in the area of science and technology today. As such, I have decided to create a post to address this just in case it comes out for the A levels.

What is artificial intelligence? Artificial intelligence is the combination of computer science, physiology and philosophy. In the long run, AI is believed to be able to think and feel like human beings, and are capable of making decisions once thought that only mankind could.

What are the fields in which AI could be utilized? AI could be utilized in the medical field to make accurate and more timely diagnosis of patients; could be also used in therapy for depressed patients; robots as company for lonely and old people; in the F&B industry to save costs; AI as a form of military weapons and soldiers. In recent news, AI could also be used as sex robots to reduce the rates of prostitution in places like Amsterdam. In fact, it is believed that these sex robots would be more sterile, hence safer, reducing the rates of STDs. AI could also be utilized in fields to fulfill man’s curiosity. For instance, they could be sent to the “Bermuda Triangle” to find out what exactly happens there or even to space.

What are some consequences of using AI? Massive unemployment if robots can replace our work so easily. As such, who is going to take care of these unemployed individuals? Also, if robots can do exactly what humans can do, will this diminish the essence and value of being human then? As for now, mankind still has a lot of reservation with regards to using AI, especially since the technology is so new. Also, one should always be wary if AI could be over-utilized to the point that mankind becomes too reliant on it for its daily activities.

Are certain types of writing superior to others?

JC General Paper

Define writing- information rich articles in newspapers; formal writing in contracts; aesthetic and expressive forms such as poetry, music composing and narratives.

All types of writing specialize in their own genre and niche and would definitely not be as effective or applicable in other categories. It would be too simplistic to base a writing’s significance or superiority relative to the others based on a set criteria as all of them are unique in their functions. Therefore, I am more inclined to believe that all types of writing are of equal standing although it is understandable that some of them are more applicable today where information is key, whereas the creative and imaginative aspect of writing are not appreciated as much.

The effectiveness of a writing form is dependent on the type of genre they are applied to and it would be extremely unfair to judge which form is more superior based on any common set of criteria. The various writing forms are engineered to cater to different purposes and fulfill unique objectives. It is illogical to subjugate a type of writing to other forms based on the appeal to different target audiences as well as their distinctive roles in society. In news, the primary objective of the journalistic form of writing would be to provide a clear and direct source of information that can be easily digested, perfect for those who can scan through information and read for the sake of obtaining knowledge about current events. This form of writing is very applicable today where large amount of information and data are concise into mere pages, taking into consideration the limited reading time one has. The aforementioned news style of writing would not fit into poetry or music composing which primarily acts as a platform for expression and entertainment. It is fallacious for both types of writing to compete in the first place as both of them are specifically made to specialize in their own sphere.

Also, the determination of the effectiveness of a writing form is dependent on the skill of the writer rather than the type of writing as the former plays an integral part in the quality of the piece of writing. Regardless of any type of writing, its effectiveness of achieving its intended effect would be downplayed so long as the author lacks the capacity to express his thoughts in written form due to his inadequate mastery of the language.

Those who believe in the superiority of certain writing types may argue that the journalistic and persuasive style of writing are more applicable today in a globalized world while poems and novels are considered to be less relevant. The former is omnipresent and is used in both traditional and new media. Big businesses rely on them to gleam valuable insights from current events and how certain action plans and decisions would have to be tweaked to accommodate changes around the world. Earlier this year, the news regarding the unprecedented fall of oil prices had to be explicitly and clearly conveyed with short succinct sentences without flowery language that will distract data analysts and cause certain misinterpretation by those that are unable to appreciate complex linguistic styles. Yet, the practicality of journalistic and persuasive writing is more suited to the political and business arena. However, that does not justify that the artistic form of writing should be neglected. There is currently a global shift towards the emphasis of knowledge and information. However, it would be extremely parochial to assume that it would remain that way and that the arts would always be subjugated and play the lesser role in our lives. Singapore hosts an annual national poetry festival at the Laselle College of the Arts which promotes literary excellence in a multicultural and multilingual setting for poetry lovers. Therefore, while we focus primarily on refining our ability to write in a way that deals with objectivity, it would also be wise not to neglect the type of writing that explores the beauty of the language.