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2014 JC1

Common Test
General Paper
Paper 1 Essay

Question 1
of key words,
s etc.

Is marriage still relevant today?

Marriage: Traditional marriage is a social institution, a legally binding contract and covenant between
a man and a woman who have agreed to commit to one another for life. This traditional definition of
marriage is being contested today.
Relevant: Marriage has some bearing on todays context. It fulfils some purposes and is important
because of the positive impacts that it brings about.
Still, today: Cohabitation has become a more accepted norm than it was before. Different sexual
orientations and preferences have also become more pronounced today as compared to in the past
when such were taboo issues.
Assumptions: Inherent in the question is an assumption that marriage as a social institution has
perhaps lost its relevance in todays world as implied by the world still. This assumption cannot be


Marriage as understood traditionally is a social institution that is the foundation of a stable society as
families are the basic building blocks of society and marriage is the rite of passage to the formation of
families. This definition, however, has been contested with the ubiquity and ease of cohabitation as
well as the pronounced increase in the number of homosexual relationships that undermine the need
for such an institution to exist for two individuals to be in a loving and happy relationship. I am of the
view that marriage is still relevant today despite these contestations as it is not only a lifelong
commitment that should not be regarded lightly and entered into but also that it still continues to fulfil
the functions of procreation, provide social and economic security and the safeguard national


The institution of marriage has been and still is the cornerstone of society as families are the basic
building blocks of society surely its societal importance and continued relevance in todays world
cannot be undermined.
Procreation is the reason why individuals, communities, societies, nations and the global
population exist. Mans calling for marriage is to procreate this has been indisputable from
the time of Adam and Eve and still holds true today.
Couples who are barren usually desire for their own children and turn to adoption or the more
recent developments such as in-vitro fertilisation if they have the financial means to. This is
testament to the significance of procreation and what it means to have a family.
Marriages are also heralded as joyous occasions and are rites of passage from singlehood to
being married they signal a change in ones social status and also legitimize role changes
that come with being married. The roles of a husband, wife, father and mother are crucial as
families form the basic building blocks of society.

in full
Balance to

Furthermore, marriage has been the key to providing social and economic security to both men and
women in the past and this still holds true today.
In the past, marriage was seen as a form of social and economic security. Marriage reaped
economic benefits in agrarian communities as children were seen as farm hands and could
contribute to the family economically. The status of women was also socially cemented by the
institution of marriage as terms and phrases such as spinster and left on the shelf had
negative connotations and it was rare to remain unmarried.
Today, in developed economies, marriage is a source of financial protection. It also brings
with it various financial benefits such as that of tax and insurance incentives, expenditure copayments and even spending accountability. Marriage generates social capital as well the
social bonds created through marriage via the institution of the family yield benefits not just
for the family itself but also to the larger society as it promotes pro-social behaviours that
ultimately benefit society.
Besides, the relevance of marriage cannot be denied in todays context because marriage does not
only affect two individuals and their families, it is also a matter of national concern to many
Especially in advanced economies where birth rates and fertility rates are low, marriage is an
issue of governmental interest and investment. Such interest and investment exists as
marriage invariably yields benefits to the country in terms of increasing fertility rates. The fact

that the South Korean and Singapore governments are investing so much in incentivising
marriages is testament to the importance they have accorded to this institution.
Marriages provide security to children and governments such as that of the United States
have marriage promotion as a political rhetoric to safeguard the interests of the socially
vulnerable, especially those of single mothers and their children as it is the best weapon
against child poverty a significant proportion of impoverished children reflect an unstable
society which is a huge concern to governments.

However, many contend that marriage is no longer relevant today because cohabitation has become
an accepted norm in many cultures and is even reinforced by the media.
Many do not see the need to be legally bound in a contractual relationship, cohabitation
provides the same kind of emotional support as marriage does for them.
As at 2012, cohabitation in the US has increased by more than 1500 percent in the past 50
years. Across the European continent, cohabitation is also a norm and is not socially frowned
upon unlike in the more distant past when people were more conservative.
Cohabitation and sexual promiscuity before marriage are also common portrayals in the
media not just of those in Western cultures, but also increasingly in Asian countries. Many
movies have casual sex scenes and for some dramas, one-night stands and cohabitation are
common premises. I Need Romance is one such Korean cable drama that had solid ratings.
In fact, two more series were produced due to the popularity of the first.
In addition, marriage might no longer be relevant today as different sexual orientations and
preferences have become more pronounced today than in the past. Marriages are not a norm for
such non-heterosexual relationships.
More people are more openly gay and unabashed about their sexual orientations. Wellknown celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John have come out of the closet and
have campaigned for their rights, contributing to this pronouncement.
However, same-sex marriages are gaining ground as more and more states are legalizing
gay marriages. Countries such as Brazil, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and
several sub-national jurisdictions in the United States and Mexico have legalized same-sex
marriages. The fact that such a fight for the right to marry exists is proof that marriage is still
relevant today and legal recognition for such a union is desired.
In my opinion, however, the meaning of marriage as we have known it traditionally has been altered
and undermined. Many conservative Christians and those who belong to conservative cultures hold
an opposite view regarding cohabitation and homosexuality as the union between man and woman in
marriage is regarded as sacred and the biblical mandate is that this should not be violated before
entering into a covenant of marriage. Homosexual relationships also go against the laws of nature
and how the human body is made as homosexual couples will never be able to procreate. After all,
Adam married Eve, not Steve.


Even though the definition of marriage has been contested by homosexuals and undermined by
current societal trends, I hold to the conviction that marriage in its traditional sense is still relevant
today in view of the positive impacts it brings. Moreover, it is a covenant of commitment that cannot
be lightly entered into and such unions have profound implications on how a society will develop and
change. If the traditional notion of marriage continues to undermined, the basic structure of our
societies will also be greatly altered, possibly not so in a manner that is desirable or familiar to us at

The word still might be overlooked and the past and present aspect of the question
might not be addressed.
Current social trends should be discussed and evaluated taking into consideration of the
context of the question students might have missed that
Students might not distinguish between different stakeholder perspectives (government,
women, children, religious groups etc.) pertaining to the value of marriage as a social

Question 2
of key words,


Discussion in
sentences in
Balance to
be captured

Too much emphasis is being placed on animal rights. Comment.

Too much = excessive. When something happens excessively or when there is too much of
something, the implication is that its not desirable because there will either be something negative
happening as a result or there will be obstructions to positive things happening as a result.
Is being = happening right now. These words draw our attention on the need to focus on the present
The whole statement just means that currently, there is way too much emphasis on animal rights. The
current emphasis on animal rights is supposedly excessive, such that this situation is not ideal. In a
very general sense, as a result of this situation, good things are not happening to their fullest
potential or bad things are happening as a result.
The command word comment requires us to take a stand, rather than literally pass comments with
the aim of eventually remaining neutral. We thus need to decide if this statement is true or not,
whether we agree with it or not.
PETAs (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) latest advertising campaign involves the use of
emojis to convince millennial to take a firmer stance against the consumption of animals, the practice
of animal testing as well as the use of animals in the entertainment and fashion industry. Its previous
campaigns were edgier, less conventional and often shocking and were geared towards ensuring that
PETA would get the media attention it sought. The ship-ramming, acid-throwing antics of the Sea
Shepard Conservation Society have likewise resulted in extensive media coverage. As such, the
issue of animal rights has found its way in recent decades into mainstream consciousness. Some
might feel that currently, way too much emphasis is being placed on animal rights but I beg to differ
with this view. Currently, for the majority of us, our ability to lead our daily lives are not being crippled
or obstructed by any consideration of animal rights. I would instead argue that the contrary applies;
too little emphasis is being placed right now on animal rights and people who treat animals cruelly
and violate their basic rights are getting away with ludicrously light penalties. I thus feel strongly that it
is not true at all to argue that right now, too much emphasis is being placed on animal rights.
Body Paragraph 1 (Supporting Argument): Something can be considered excessive if it results in a
less than ideal situation. Were the argument that too much emphasis is currently being placed on
animal rights to hold true, we would often see protesters forming human barricades in supermarkets,
blocking our access to non-vegetarian food products. We would see frequent attempts being made to
prevent or even sabotage the practice of animal testing in the development of pharmaceutical and
consumer products. Our daily lives would be disrupted; the medical and consumer products we use
might not be that efficacious anymore due to restrictions on animal testing. Essentially, our lives
would have taken a turn for the worse. However, this is not at all happening in reality, nor does this
situation seem likely to happen anytime soon.
Every year, more than 3 million animals are used in experiments in Canada, more than 4
million in the UK. In the United States, more than 100 million animals are experimented on
(including mice and rats). Our ability to enjoy consumer products and medicine that work has
not been compromised by the animal rights movement. It would thus be inaccurate to argue
that too much emphasis is being placed on animal rights.
According to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development, global meat consumption has quadrupled over the last 50
years. Its evident that for many around the world, a consideration of animal rights does not
factor into decision making when it comes to dinner. Thus, it would hardly be accurate to
argue that too much emphasis is being placed on animal rights.
Body Paragraph 2 (Supporting Argument): It is very difficult to agree with the idea that too much
emphasis is being placed on animal rights when we take into account the legal penalties animal
abusers receive as well as the ease with which animals are put down without the need for much
formal inquiry. In fact, it is really more accurate to describe the present situation as one where too
little emphasis is being placed on animal rights.
In January earlier this year, an SAF lieutenant-colonel tied up a stray dog in a military
bathroom with a taut white rope around its neck to prevent it from moving or lying down. He
then hit the dog in the presence of others to demonstrate what needed to be done to ensure
that stray dogs would not dare to approach the army camp in the future. His punishment
was counselling. Were he to have tied up a junior officer in the same manner and then hit
him, I am entirely sure that his punishment would have been way more severe. There seems
in fact to be a lack of emphasis placed on animal rights and it is definitely not accurate to
argue that too much emphasis is being placed on animal rights now.
Copenhagen Zoo put down a healthy male giraffe earlier this year. There was extensive
press coverage because a zoo, a supposed champion of endangered species and public
education about animals, had killed a giraffe for no apparent reason. In the United States,
contraception is used to prevent the birth of surplus animals but in Europe this practice has

not been adopted and this situation seems unlikely to change. Since zoos cannot be
expanded, surplus animals are put down:
5 giraffes have been put down in Denmark since 2012
22 healthy zebras were put down between 2000 and 2012
3 tiger cubs were culled in Germanys Magdeburg Zoo
There are obvious double standards. Societies do not deliberately kill people to alleviate
problems of over-population or over-crowding. Doing so would be considered unlawful and a
gross violation of our right to life. It is thus very difficult for me to agree with the idea that too
much emphasis is being placed on animal rights as the converse seems to be true instead.
Body Paragraph 3 (Balance paragraph taking the form of an OA and Rebuttal)
Opposing Argument: However, the presence of high-profile animal activist groups who engage in
unconventional deeds in the name of animal rights might lead some to believe that too much
emphasis is currently being placed on animal rights.
An example of excessive emphasis on animal rights would be Sea Shepard vessels taking
the law into their own hands and engaging in vigilante action by ramming Japanese whaling
vessels and throwing acid at the fishermen. When individuals or organizations go overboard
and ignore the law as well as the rights and safety of their fellowmen, it might seem accurate
to assume that too much emphasis is indeed being placed on animal rights.
Rebuttal: However, I think it is important to get the big picture before jumping to conclusions here.
Japanese whaling vessels make no distinction between the minke, fin and humpback whales they
catch. While the first species is not endangered, the other two are. The humpback and fin whale were
almost hunted to extinction in the mid-20 Century. While stocks are recovering, that only applies to
certain regions. Extinction is irreversible and there are times, I would argue, when drastic situations
call for drastic measures. In light of Japans recalcitrant and dishonest insistence that the whales it
catches are for research purposes, I can fully understand where animal activist groups like the Sea
Shepard Conservation Society are coming from. As such, on my part, I find it difficult to agree with
the idea that there is too much emphasis being placed on animal rights.
Body Paragraph 4 (Supporting Argument): As a matter of fact, what is considered excessive is really
subjective. Its nigh impossible for mankind to come to a consensus as to what too much emphasis on
animal rights means in the first place.
If I could express my personal opinion, I would like my chickens to be well-fed, free-roaming
and happy creatures while they are alive and I would like for them to be humanely
slaughtered in as painless a manner as possible. That, to me, would be an adequate means
of addressing the issue of animal rights. However, to a vegan, the very idea of slaughtering
an animal would be abhorrent. Likewise, to many others, animals are just sources of food
and as long as they are not blatantly abused or tortured, cooping them up in tiny cages and
then consuming them for sustenance seems perfectly alright.
I thus believe that it is impossible to insist that it is true indeed that too much emphasis is being
placed on animal rights, for whose standard and definition of rights ought we to adopt?

I thus believe that it is very difficult for me to agree with the idea that too much emphasis is being
placed on animal rights.
Merely listing examples of animal abuse or conservation. Doing so would show the presence or
absence of emphasis. However, the focus should be on the idea of too much.

Question 3
of key words,
s etc.


Modern technology is the solution to our problems. Is this a fair comment?

Modern Technology: The making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines,
techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem,
improve a pre-existing solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output
relation or perform a specific function
Solution: a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.
Assumptions: Implied assumption that modern technology is the primary or only solution

Science is a double-edged sword. It does have its multitude of benefits, and yet it can wreak
havoc on any population, if used for nefarious purposes. From the benefits of penicillin to
the destruction resulted from the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is clear that no
matter how it is used, scientific technology does have tremendous power, the power to
make our lives better or worse, depending on how we use it. Today's world is increasingly
getting more globalized every single day, and we're witnessing an exponential growth in
terms of scientific advancement and research. But at the same time, there are several
problems that continue to haunt us as if forever, and need to be tackled in real time. Many
of these problems are virtually the result of our own idiocies, or those of our ancestors. But
there obviously are certain examples which are independent of the human activities, and
will happen no matter what we do. The best we can do against such adversities like
cyclones, tornadoes and Tsunamis is to stay actively alerted and prepared, to meet and
face them as boldly as we can. The problems of the first sort are primarily the result of a
partial Malthusian catastrophe, thanks to tremendous growth in human population and
comparatively lesser growth in terms of resources crucial for our survival. As per the
simplified form of Malthus's Iron Law, resources grow arithmetically, while population grows
geometrically. This causes crises such as food shortages, famine and riots, ultimately
leading to partial or even total collapse of the said observation domain. But the reason such
a crisis has been averted at the global level is that, we've discovered and invented many
different types of resources previously unavailable, inaccessible or even unknown to us
such as geothermal energy, solar energy and the variety of genetically modified crops we're
growing. The second category of problems pertaining to natural disasters are somewhat
more threatening, because virtually no level of preparation can actually avert them in real
time, at least with our current level of technological prowess. Nonetheless, I do firmly
believe that modern technology is the solution to a majority of our problems.
Given below are some of the major problems bugging us since the beginning of 21st
century, and how science and technology can solve them in the near future. However, since
it is nearly impossible to discuss every sort of such problems, I've limited the scope to just a
few but important cases.
1. Burning of fossil fuels and the impending energy crisis
Since the beginning of modern civilization, man has always searched for new sources
of energy. The energy requirement of the modern world is far greater than what we
needed previously. Ranging from running data-centres to powering space probes and
orbiter missions to other planets, from providing electricity to an ever-increasing count
of homes to coping up with increasing computational and processing needs of evermore-powerful computers, we need energy. Energy is thus, in a way, the currency of
the modern world.
Fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum have served us much, by acting as the primary
sources of energy used to fuel our thermal power plants, generating electricity that is
then transferred easily and conveniently across long distances. However, it is no secret
that the global reserves of coal and petroleum are getting used up too soon, and there's
too little of them left anyway. And even then, certain countries have greater access to
them because of their geography and geology, and this creates international tensions
and disparity, turning a handful of countries just way too rich, and all other countries a

slave to their demands. Since energy is required for virtually any activity, we need to
depend on too scarce, too little sources of energy. And we can hardly choose to ignore
what the burning of these exhaustible fuels is causing, from global warming to
increasing carbon-dioxide emissions.
Modern technology can be used as a tool to combat these problems. Already, we have
an arsenal of various other green, inexhaustible sources of energy, such as hydraulic
energy, solar energy, wind energy and more, which can be harnessed to decrease our
dependence on fossil fuels. However, it is difficult for us to completely switch to them,
because such a transition would require greater technological flexibility on the part of
developing countries, as well as cost-effective ways of actually using them. For this, we
need global cooperation. In my opinion, the best way is to develop proper infrastructure
at different places, tailored to suit their energy needs, and making use of whichever
source of energy is available. For example, cold countries can make use of geothermal
energy, harnessing power from the heat difference between earth's surface and the
hotter layers beneath. A country like India can make use of solar energy and wind
power. Being partly a tropic nation, India receives a gigantic amount of power from the
sun. What has scorched India's surfaces for eons; the same source of energy can now
be used constructively. Vast plateaus of South India can be used as collection hubs for
generating power from the sun. Since the sun will most certainly last for another
5000000000 years or so, we can really make use of its energy that is otherwise wasted
heating earth's surface. This run-off energy can save us millions, while simultaneously
benefiting the global climate.
Coastal plains of India and the Rann of Kach can use wind energy. Already the western
state of Gujarat has made huge strides in this regard, and is already exporting electricity
to other power-deficient states in its neighbourhood. Last year, when almost entire
North-Indian power grid came down, Gujarat continued to 'glow brightly', thanks to its
self-reliance in terms of energy.
2. Population explosion: a real concern
No matter how efficiently and judiciously we make use of our resources, population
growth, if allowed to continue unchallenged and unchecked, can actually do some
severe damage to the existing and future setups of the modern civilization. Instead of
looking at it as an isolated problem, we all need to consider it a global threat, which it
most certainly is. Give enough resources to the people of any developing nation, help
them live today, and they'll multiply tomorrow. Often, such 'multiplication' is unchecked,
leading to increasing levels of dependence on our natural and technological resources.
How exactly can we tackle this problem through science?
The answers are many. We can obviously use education and literacy as powerful tools,
educating the masses and making them understand how to plan their families, and how
small families can benefit them directly and indirectly. But there are several more direct,
quantitative ways of checking population growth. And no, I'm not advocating genocide
or mass-murders here. Some of the ways in which technology can help us check
population growth are:

Using Internet and global data repository, we can identify areas which are more
prone to population explosion. Such areas, including rural India and China, can then
be divided into zones, where teams can be deployed by national governments and
international authorities alike, to popularize birth-control, family-planning and

Quick urbanization in developing countries helps check population growth. It is clear

that in developing countries, rural people come first when it comes to populationgrowth. Urbanization leads to development, and this indirectly helps control
population-growth. With greater levels of employment and educational
opportunities, people can actually live better, brighter and healthier than before.

Sophisticated birth-control procedures can help directly control population growth.

From anti-fertilization agents to techniques like tubectomy and vasectomy, we have
many different ways. But in my opinion, we can always build them better and
simpler. By making these technologies more painless and easier than before, we
can directly prevent regional Malthusian catastrophes.

3. Food shortages: poverty on the rise

From malnutrition to open riots, shortage of this crucial resource can actually do a major
setback to any nation and to the entire world in the long run. To prevent such a
problem, we need to find alternative sources of food. Some of the ways in which
modern science is attempting this problem are as follows:

Cheap superfoods: Superfoods include the variety of nutritional resources which,

besides providing nutrition, also provides other benefits such as improvement in
immunity, recovery from and prevention of certain health conditions and so on.
Marine resources such as Spirulina and other algae have been used to develop
algal food supplements, which can act such as important sources of protein and
other nutrients. Being produced globally and under a variety of conditions, these
sources are cheap since they are produced easily and in vast quantities. They have
the potential, if properly distributed, to cure nutritional deficiencies and resulting
problems in the population of developing and less developed nations.

Genetically modified crops: Using better plantation techniques and genetic

modification, more disease-resistant varieties of crops can be yielded in greater
quantities, thereby benefiting large number of people. India's 'Green revolution' is
an example of what such as initiative can result into.

Easier transportation: Using cleaner, greener and cheaper means of transportation,

food prices can be controlled in emerging markets. Since transportation is an
important tertiary sector in modern economy, it must certainly be improved. Electric
cars in the near future can make this dream of ours a reality.

4. Pollution and global warming

Global warming is a real concern, because not only does it lead to increased frequency of
natural calamities, but additionally it is depleting important resources such as marine algae
in the polar regions.
There are two primary ways of tackling pollution. These are:

Using greener, cleaner energy: Using inexhaustible sources of energy such as solar
energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy, wind energy etc. we can reduce our
dependence on fossil fuels, thus minimizing global CO2 emission rates. This will
automatically make the situation better. Improved technologies will lead to better
machines and systems, capable of collecting run-off energy from various sources.
The more efficient systems we develop, capable of collecting and harnessing
energy from inexhaustible sources, the better and cleaner our world gets.

Reducing energy wastage: Using better wiring and electrical power grid designs, we
can reduce energy wastage. Superconductors have already been developed, but
currently they work at very low temperature levels. In future, superconductors
working at normal temperatures might be developed, which will minimize energy
loss to a tremendous extent. Since electricity is the primary form of energy used in
the modern world, we must strive to use it more judiciously and responsibly. Powerconserving mechanisms such as LED lights and TFT screens can also do a lot of
benefit, by using less energy and providing more benefits. Another brilliant way of
improving our existing setup is to actively advance our computational capabilities.
Every byte of data needs to be processed to be made useful, and this needs
energy. Future technology can make more bytes processable from 1 joule of

energy, thereby minimizing energy wastage.

In addition, environmental science dictates the construction of satellite belts of green plants
around heavy urban centres. Improved modes of plantation, urban planting and even multistored urban farms in future will additionally boost the process of making the planet greener.
This will also help solve the food-shortage problem.
5. Diseases and illness: technology as the solution
In his book 'Physics of the future', Michio Kaku speculates future technologies capable of
making our lives really better, by providing us better healthcare. Smart medicines such as
computerized pills and nanotechnologically enhanced drugs and molecules will actually help
us prevent and cure diseases. In another article of mine, I've already described how
anticipatory systems can help us improve healthcare standards, providing us early
warnings. Here are some ways in which we can make healthcare more efficient in future:

Early detection and warning systems: By checking symptoms more efficiently and
successfully, future technologies will enable us to detect potential health hazards
that might occur in future. Even before the onset of a problem, we'll be able to
tackle it, thereby preventing it altogether. Incubation periods of different diseases
cause us not to notice it before the appearance of its first symptom. But smarter
detection algorithms and mechanisms will actually be able to detect these signals,
and then alert us. This will really and literally save millions of lives.

Nanotechnology: Nanotechnologically enhanced and modified 'smart medicines' will

be a reality in future, eliminating pathogens and cancerous cells successfully,
before they result in a casualty.

Better health standards: Laser technology and other sterilization technologies in

future will actually help us make biologically cleaner environments. Pollution-control
in addition will help us make environments safer and cleaner.

Genetic modification: Genetics is a promising branch of science. Using

biotechnology and genetics, it will be possible in future to create own very own
'personalized' medicines, and we might even be carrying DVDs or other storage
media containing our entire genetic codes! This might sound way too futuristic, but it
is certainly a strong possibility in future.


Technology is a major boon for all of us. It is our responsibility, as stewards of nature to use
whatever resources we have in a sustainable sort of way. And scientific technology is itself
one of the greatest, if not the greatest, resource at our disposal. Scientific development will
also make HDI rankings better for countries, and this will, in my opinion, make the
population morally better and more intelligent. In future, a day might come when we'll
witness a war-free world, where no barriers would be there to keep our descendants
isolated and separated.


Limited in scope in terms of the problems and types of modern technology discussed.
Examples of technology examined that are dated and problems examined are in a very
vague and general sense.
Provide a list of the positive and negative impacts of technological solutions with little
attention paid to evaluating the fairness of the statement. Focus of the question is also
lost and hijacked by examining other factors that are solutions to our problems instead.

Question 4
of key words,

Is there a place for compassion in todays world?

A place: a proper/appropriate time, or priority, or role and function
Compassion: to show a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for another person/other people
who is/are stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the
Development: Considering the context of todays world, the fast-paced life, instant
gratification and self-centredness evident in most modern societies would be the most
obvious factors at tension with the idea of compassion.
Assumptions: Question suggests that compassion is at odds with characteristics of
modern society.


We commonly understand compassion as showing a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for

another person who is stricken by misfortune and it is often accompanied by a desire or
actual response to alleviate that suffering. It is therefore no surprise that German
philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, Compassion is the basis of morality.
Indeed to some people, compassion helps us define our judgement of right and wrong,
and is a characteristic that sets us apart from other beings of lower intellect. To others,
compassion requires deliberate effort which not many are keen to show. While it may
appear that the fast-paced life and pursuits of instant gratification and individualism may
reduce the place for compassion in todays world, it is unlikely so. Compassion still has a
place in modern times because it is after all an intrinsic human quality and modernity has
in fact motivated and availed more avenues for compassion to be shown.

Discussion in

Opponents of the above perspective may argue that there is no place for compassion
today because the characteristics of the modern world are at odds with the idea of
Characteristics of todays world which are at tension with compassion: fast-paced,
instant gratification for efforts, pursuits for individualism, self-centredness in a rat race,
survival of the fittest work ethic in many industries, attention-seeking tendencies in
social networking sites, people who would rather film suffering in action rather than do
something about it, etc
Evaluation: people just want to be mindful of their own lives and success; reduced
desire to show concern for others.
Rebuttal: unrepresentative observation of todays world because there is still a strong
sense of compassion and volunteerism for the less fortunate among people,
especially students, young working adults and retirees, who commit time and effort to
help others in need for the betterment of society.
Egs: helping behaviours, community work and involvement for social causes, pro
bono work by lawyers and doctors, etc
Contrary to stereotypical belief, characteristics of the modern world do not conflict with the
spirit of compassion because compassion is an intrinsic human quality which transcends
generations and cultures.
Evaluation: while some aspects of modernity may dampen compassion, it is unlikely to
completely erode compassion because it is an innate human trait, albeit idealistic.
Elaboration: in fact, the harsh realities imposed by the modern world have
accentuated the importance of compassion, not reduce it.
o More acts of philanthropy from wealthy individuals across the world in recent
years in politics, pop culture, entrepreneurship, education, poverty and other
social causes (Egs. Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Bono, Micheal
Bloomberg, Angelina Jolie, Li Ka-Shing, Oprah Winfrey, etc)
Evaluation: various role models, increasing action and awareness of the need for
compassion and aid for the needy reminds us to of the fragility of mankind, our
interdependence on each other, and the importance of and desire to help others
helping others makes us feel better, which motivates us further.
In fact, compassion is the essential cohesive glue that supports the agendas of the

different stakeholders which make up the society and keeps it stable in todays context.
o Moral pillar law and justice for crime and punishment reinforcement for
desired and prosocial behaviours and condemnation of unwanted and
antisocial behaviours
o Religious groups have their beliefs, practices, and values centred on
compassion, which motivates believers to behave in positive ways
o Crucial in education basis for moral and character education and citizenry
o Crucial in politics basis for policies, initiatives and bills passed essential
to convince electorates to give a mandate for political parties and policies
o Crucial for activism basis for the principal of equality and care for others or
the environment
Evaluation: unlikely so, but even if compassion was merely exploited as a tool to
achieve the ends, it has an important role and value to modern society, and appeals to
our inherent desire for harmony and normalcy in daily life.
Furthermore, the place for compassion will not cease in todays world because greater
awareness and education among people today has led to more convenient, at times even
structured or imposed, avenues for the expression of compassion.
o Religious institutions often conduct missionary trips to less privileged
countries where participants help to build schools, teach young children, etc
o Students often sign up for local or overseas community work for meaningful
social causes that impact beneficiaries positively (voluntary or imposed)
o More companies today (not only social enterprises) endorse corporate social
responsibility initiatives and contribute back to the society in terms of funds
donations or employee volunteerism
o Several government schemes promote compassion and harmony through
participation in interactive activities and community engagement (eg.
Singapores Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Inter-racial and
Religious Confidence Circles, Harmony Fund, etc; Singapores Lend a
Helping Hand initiative by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre)
o International non-governmental organisations and mass global publicity
encourages acts of compassion and philanthropy (eg. World Vision, World
Wide Fund for Nature, etc)
Evaluation: regardless of whether the act of compassion was imposed upon or a result
of voluntary initiative, at the end of the day, we cannot deny that being compassionate
has become easier today and ultimately, every involvement is an undisputed
deliberate act of kindness and a good deal of sincerity and meaningfulness remains,
because the gestures and benefits to the recipients are genuine.

To claim that there is no place for compassion in todays world is hasty and fails to
acknowledge the kindred human spirit that certainly continues to exist and flourish
everywhere today. Indeed, most urban dwellers would concede that people today could be
more compassionate and welcoming towards each other. But beneath the individualistic,
cold and distant surface of modernity ultimately lies a strong intrinsic and common human
desire for care for others around us. Some of us may be very forthcoming and ready to
show compassion for others, while others may be more reserved and hesitant. In small
and big ways, compassion is still evident in modern societies today.


Merely listing reasons why compassion is or is not important is todays world, without
engaging the issue of discussion.
No evaluation of the place, role and function of compassion.
Weak or no concrete illustrations of compassion.

Question 5
of key words,
assumptions (if
any), special

The mass media should act in a more responsible manner. Do you agree?
Key Words
Mass media: Mass media is the means of communication designed to reach a very
large audience. Traditional forms of media include print and broadcast media.
However, with the improvement in technology, we have since seen the birth of the
new media. Mass media industries include books, newspapers, magazines,
recordings, radio, movies, television and the internet.
Should: indicates duty/obligation/propriety
Media responsibility: To their audiences, the mass media is accountable for correct
news reportage, analysis and editorial duties. To the government, the mass media
is accountable for constructive criticism, a relay of popular opinion and adequate
feedback from the populace. To their proprietor, the mass media owes the survival
of the media organization as a business venture as well as a veritable source of
education, enlightenment and entertainment.
Key stakeholders: Individuals (Consumers, Citizen journalists, Journalists,
Celebrities), Corporations (Advertising firms, Advertisers, Media agencies, News
agencies, Media owners), Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (Human
Rights Activists, Reporters Without Borders)
More responsible manner: The word more implies that the mass media has not
been conducting itself in a responsible manner at the moment. There is a need to
examine current trends and phenomena in the mass media that undermine (and
also reinforce) responsible action.


The mass media refers to institutions concerned with the large-scale production
and diffusion of communication. Besides a few repressive states, the media is often
allowed sufficient freedom to present the truths of various issues. Ideally, the media
should ensure the right of citizens to truthful and important information, which
allows them to form adequate impression about social processes and the situation
in the modern world. However, the medias ability to influence is often exploited for
commercial interests. This results in grossly biased information, sensationalised
and inaccurate reports and content that is violent or sexual to target the scandalmongering natures of people. In this age of Citizen Journalism, where the world has
shrunk and information-sharing through the social media has already proved its
mettle in bringing about major changes, it is essential to take a critical look at the
role and the responsibilities of the media. In my view, the mass media should act in
a more responsible manner.

Areas of
Discussion in

1. It is the social responsibility of the mass media not to mislead the public
but to report in an accurate and objective manner. In fulfilling this
obligation, many negative consequences/problems we experience today
could have been avoided/ can be rectified.
Suggested points of discussion:
With the advent of globalisation and the rise of new media, the
pervasiveness and permeability of the media in our lives has increased
rapidly, to the point that we are not even conscious of the influence the
media has over us. The media has the power to enrich society for future
generations or to dismantle social progress. The media has to exercise this
power carefully.

sentences in

(in point
form) of
Balance to
be captured

Respecting the right of society to objective information, the journalist must

convey truthful information and a whole spectrum of opinions on certain
issues. The news should be based on facts and information where
truthfulness can be checked. Information should be obtained in legal and
ethical ways. Journalists must keep secret the sources of confidential
information. The journalist should differentiate between publicly important
information and information that evokes public interest (e.g. crimes,
accidents). Unfortunately, many examples today show that the mass media
fail to fulfil these responsibilities.
Biased information, sensationalised and inaccurate reports and content that
is violent or sexual are often used to increase readership/viewership leading
to higher revenues for media agencies. In cases where the media is not
independent of the government, it is common for the media/government to
use its/their wide circulations to promote their pet political causes or
denigrate people not in their favour.
E.g. Reporters may exaggerate the extent of damage caused by natural
disasters in their own country to toy with peoples emotions in an attempt to
increase the proportions of aid that will pour into the country. This often
generates anger among those who are misled by the inaccurate news,
resulting in strained international ties. E.g. Sri Lanka.
E.g. A news report on the Little India riot in Singapore in 2013 by Indias
Sun TV attracted strong reactions and controversy in Singapore for
erroneously reporting that the deceased was pushed out of the bus by the
driver, as well as being attacked by locals. This caused uproar among
Singaporeans. Sun TV issued a correction the following day and apologised
for the error, after Singapores High Commissioner to India wrote to the new
agency to ask for immediate corrections.
Sexual and violent content broadcasted by the mass media comprises the
medias true purpose to inform and educate. Studies have shown that
exposure to violent images have the capability to teach young and
impressionable children how to commit violence. With the proliferation of
media platforms, it also becomes a hard battle for parents to control the
content viewed by their children. The responsibility of communicating quality
content, removed from vice and horror commonly associated with great
viewership and profits, hence falls on the shoulders of the media content
producer. E.g. Grand Theft Auto inspired massacre, Connecticut
Other examples: News Corporations phone hacking scandal, sexism case
at Sky Sports in the UK, Al Jazeera published the leaked 'Palestine papers'
about the Middle East peace process causing inflamed tensions in the
region, Danish cartoons that degraded the image of Allah, false advertising
These examples illustrate how the failure of the media to act responsibly
has led to detrimental consequences that affect the well-being of individuals,
the social fabric of societies and bilateral relations. As people rely on the
mass media as a source for credible information, the mass media has the
social obligation to act in a more responsible manner.

2. Some may argue that the mass media, as a commercial entity, also has an
obligation to maximise profit, or in the very least observe their profit
margins. Thus, the mass media should be given the autonomy to pursue
its other interests, apart from its social obligations. In this light, the mass
media is not expected/obliged to act in a more socially responsible
Suggested points of discussion:
Proponents of this view argue that binding the media with social

responsibilities related to censorship issues undermines the dedication

of many well-intentioned journalists who are determined to find the good
stories, to tackle the issues that concern people and to give voice to
what needs to be said.
As a commercial entity, the mass media, which lies in the hands of profitmotivated corporations, has to ensure its survival as a business venture.
This implies utilising ways, be it socially responsible methods or not, to
generate revenue for its owners and to protect the livelihood of those of
the media profession.
Instead of greater media responsibility, proponents of this view argue
that individuals/ content consumers have the freedom of choice to
believe in or dismiss the information they receive and should educate
themselves to identify the various forms of media subjectivity.
However, the very fact that the media is operated by innately biased
humans challenges their view. Media freedom is often misappropriated
for defamation and to intentionally mislead. Also, media content
consumers have the right to demand for quality and accurate content as
paying customers.

3. While the media ought to exercise more responsibility, there is no doubt

that perceptions of responsible action vary according to different
stakeholders. In addition, the advent and rise of new media types, such as
social media, which blurs the line between content producers and content
consumers, makes it even more difficult to clearly outline responsibilities
of different stakeholders.
Suggested points of discussion:
Frequently, there is a grey area between what media content is detrimental
and what is not. E.g. nudity, child sexuality, standards of beauty etc.
Democratic media and government-controlled media vary in their beliefs of
media freedom/responsibility. As the Fourth Estate, the media carries the
burden of identifying the wrongdoings of the government and acting as the
supervisor to check the elected governments agenda against its campaign
promises. For a state-controlled media, it unlikely that the mass media
exercise this responsibility instead of protecting the governments/
politicians interests.
Often, the media faces real ethical dilemmas. The question is to whom or
what the media should be responsible or accountable, assuming that some
level of responsibility is expected. Is it to society as a wholethat is, to the
general public? To specific audiences or sub-audiences? To their peers, or
perhaps to some general notion of ethics appropriate for the mass media?
To more than one of these groups, or perhaps to some others as well?
These issues/questions demonstrate that the notions of responsible media
action may be ideal but not always practical/realistic/applicable. The media
should act in a more responsible manner but this is only achievable if every
member of the global community (news corporations, government,
advertisers, social media users etc.) is committed to ensuring that media
content is objective and transparent. This is in itself an obstacle given the
varying interests and intentions of different players in the mass media.

Mark Twain once said, If you do not read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if
you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. This describes the state of the
mass media today. The mass media should act in a more responsible manner and
the international community needs to contribute to the creation of the conditions for
a free flow and more balanced dissemination of objective information, on a basis of
equality of rights, mutual advantage and respect for the diversity of cultures.


Merely describing what the media has done (positive or negative) or merely
providing a list of reasons why it is important or not for the mass media to act
responsibly, without evaluating whether their actions live up to their
Merely listing the functions or the pros and cons of the media with complete lack
of regard for the issue at hand.
Examining mass media in a very vague and general manner, instead of
confining discussion to specific, concrete range of media types (e.g. social
media, print media).
Focusing on actions of consumers (e.g. social media users) instead of referring
to the mass media as an institution.

Question 6

We are not paying enough attention to environmental issues. Discuss.

We: Individuals, national governments, international community.
Attention: This could be in the form of resources, policies, global efforts, media coverage.

of key words,
s etc.

Not enough: Implies/assumes need to evaluate degree of sufficiency of attention. More can
and should be done, current measures are disproportionate and insufficient in light of the
severity of these problems.
Environmental issues: Some examples include the loss of biodiversity, resource
scarcity/conflict, climate change, pollution (air, water, land), population growth.
Centuries of exploiting the earths resources and unrestrained growth at the expense of the
environment have led to the fragile state of affairs today. However, the growing chorus of
pro-environment activists and the rise of environmental politics in Western Europe offer
signs that humanity is finally devoting more attention and resources towards addressing the
environmental mess that we find ourselves mired in.
Yet, I believe that at all levels of society as individuals, national governments, as well as
the international community, we are guilty of not paying enough attention to the various
environmental issues of our time. This essay argues that for reasons such as the lack of
political will, the human tendency to maximise ones self-interests, as well as increasing
levels of affluence in certain parts of the world, environmental concerns such as climate
change are often put on the backburner.

in full
Balance to

1. At the international level, there is insufficient attention devoted to the issue of climate
change because of the lack of political will among national governments to tackle this issue.
It is immensely difficult to get international governments to cooperate on tackling the
issue of climate change as many are unwilling to compromise, especially if the effects of
climate change do not ostensibly threaten their national populations.
While there have been international agreements and summits aimed at reducing global
carbon emissions over the years, these have thus far failed to achieve the elusive goal
of the overall reduction in global carbon emissions.
Kyoto Protocol: 1997 pact to commit rich countries to reducing emissions of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
However, substantial cuts by industrialized nations have done little to combat the
problem on a global scale. Worldwide emissions have surged by 50% since 1990,
driven by economic growth in China and other parts of Asia, South America and Africa.
Failure of Copenhagen Summit in 2009; no legally binding treaty on emissions
reduction was agreed on by participating states as developing nations accused the

rich world of attempting to wriggle out of its responsibility for climate change.

Thus, while there has undeniably been global attention focused on the issue of climate
change, the glacial pace of progress highlights the fact that more attention and urgency
needs to be injected into current negotiations.

2. At the domestic level, environmental issues are often given short shrift as voters and
political parties alike are more likely to focus on bread and butter issues (economic growth,
unemployment, social welfare, etc.) that have more direct and immediate impact on them.
In the 2014 Indian general elections, the countrys main political parties mostly sidelined
environmental issues in their campaigns to garner votes, focusing instead on promises
of poverty alleviation and issues pertaining to the economy.
In Australia, current Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the repeal of the politically
unpopular carbon tax a centrepiece of his election campaign in 2013, potentially
throwing the future of the countrys environmental policy into chaos.
It is often only when environmental problems pose a direct threat to the health of
individuals that attention is focused on these issues, such as the public outcry over the
hazardous levels of Beijings air pollution in 2013 that put pressure on officials to take
emergency actions to improve the situation.

Therefore, it is evident that voters and political parties alike are not devoting enough
attention to environmental issues because of the instinctive behaviour to maximise
ones self-interests. As environmental policies often involve additional costs to
taxpayers and are hence politically unpopular decisions, this explains the general lack
of interest and willingness among voters and political parties alike to support and
implement wide-ranging and effective environmental policy proposals.

3. Additionally, governments often intentionally downplay or ignore the environmental

impact of their developmental projects in pursuit of economic imperatives.
Laos is pushing ahead with the construction of two hydropower dams on the
mainstream of the Mekong River despite objections from environmental and civil society
groups, as well as downstream riparian states such as Cambodia.
Environmental groups claim that these mega-dams pose a devastating threat to
regional fisheries and food security, and will severely threaten already endangered
species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin.
As a developing country, Laos stands to make huge economic gains from these
hydropower projects and perhaps understandably, is not prioritising environmental
issues above its financial interests.
In similar vein, both the Malaysian and Singapore government have also accused each
other of causing the damage and loss of coastal ecosystems as a result of their
respective land reclamation projects over the years, but have done little (both
individually and jointly) to address the situation.
Hence, these show that governments often do not pay enough attention to
environmental issues by relegating them to secondary concerns, prioritising economic
interests first.
4. The rising level of affluence in many regions around the world today is another reason for
the lack of attention paid by individuals to environmental issues like waste production.

With Chinas emergence as an economic power, this has led to the rise of a huge
middle class as well as the nouveau riche (new rich), who are noted for their lavish
lifestyles .
With more disposable income, these consumers are increasingly purchasing more
products and generating more waste than ever before. Many of these people adopt the
mentality that having excess is a way to exhibit ones social status.
Coupled with the lack of a recycling culture or even legislation to enforce recycling, it is
unsurprising that the concept of recycling often exists as a mere afterthought.
In Singapore, the amount of waste that we generate annually has been steadily
increasing over the years, despite steps taken by the National Environmental Agency
(NEA) to promote waste minimisation and recycling such as through public educational
campaigns as well as providing recycling bins in all public housing estates since 2007.
Therefore, the rising levels of affluence is a factor which causes many to overlook the
salience of environmental issues as it is often at odds with peoples lifestyles and
consumption habits.

5. On the other hand, some might argue that there has been sufficient attention given to
certain environmental issues such as the preservation of the earths biodiversity.
For instance, they point to the widespread media coverage of the initiatives of
environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd. The latter is notable
for its controversial and aggressive tactics employed to disrupt whaling operations in the
Antarctic region, and has even had a television series aired on the Animal Planet
channel documenting its exploits.
Furthermore, it would seem that with the involvement of the United Nations and the
International Court of Justice in the anti-whaling debacle, the preservation of
biodiversity has been given the due attention that it deserves as a pressing
environmental issue.
Yet, it cannot be said that we have paid enough attention to this environmental issue
simply because there are many other species out there at risk of extinction which have
received far less attention than they deserve.

While there is extensive media coverage of certain species such as gray whales and
Bluefin tuna, less attention is paid to the plight of other critically endangered species
such as the Arakan forest turtle, which many have never even heard of before.
Especially since nothing can be done to reverse the extinction of animal species, far
more attention thus needs to be paid to highlight the alarming rates at which other less
known animal species are disappearing off the face of the earth, as well as bring to light
the impact of human activities that are responsible for these problems. Apart from
raising awareness, more attention in the form of swift, active political debate and action
for the environment need to be paid in order to deal with the very severe, rapidly
deteriorating state of the environment today.


The claim that we are paying enough attention to environmental issues cannot be further
from the truth today as it fails to take into account the lack of domestic and international
progress in addressing the various environmental issues that we currently face. While there
has undoubtedly been an increasing focus and more resources devoted towards addressing
some environmental issues, it would be premature and erroneous to argue that these are
sufficient measures to solve these intractable issues. Nonetheless, these measures and
developments are positive signs that bode well for the future and sustainability of the


Merely listing reasons why environmental issues are important without evaluating if the
attention given is justifiably proportional.
Focusing on whether we should pay attention to environmental issues without engaging
the issue of discussion.
Contradictory statements/stand by describing various situations in which we are both
paying enough attention as well as not paying enough attention without proper
reconciliation of these opposing views.
Describing environmental issues and the measures taken to address them without any
focus on the issue of attention.

Question 7

Can individuals ever change the world?

Can: The possibility, practicality and feasibility of something happening/taking place, the
ability to make something happen.

of key words,
s etc.

Individuals: Single, specific persons. Definition ABSOLUTELY does NOT include collective
groups of individuals like individual corporations/governments/countries/organisations.
Change the world: To cause very significant progress/developments to be made through
their deeds and efforts, such that these have revolutionised entire societies and changed
the way the world in different aspects of life significantly. Students should talk about very
large-scale aspects of life and how individuals can/cannot have effected changes in these
(i.e. talking about causing developments in terms of world problems, collective cultural
beliefs/thought, systems, etc.)
Ever: There is the implicit/underlying assumption that as a single entity of action, it is highly
doubted that individuals have the ability to effect any change of the abovementioned scale.


in full
Balance to

The question seems to imply that individuals single, specific persons are unable to
effect much significant change in our world. Individuals have definitely changed the world in
the course of history. Even as we speak there lies the potential in rare, outstanding
individuals to revolutionise our lives. This could be the result of these individuals ability to
employ their charisma and popular appeal to change the mindsets/lives of millions of others
without the support/assistance of collective action. In other cases, a unique combination of
circumstances/factors did enable single individuals to effect significant change. However,
these are but extremely rare exceptions. Individuals rarely can, and have rarely ever
changed the world single-handedly. There are limits to individual will and resources. Given
this fact, the extent of change/impact specific persons can effect will consequently be
smaller in scale. Additionally, for someone to be said to have changed the world, we would
be considering large-scale problems and world issues. Changes in such issues cannot just
be effected merely through individual actions because collective, large-scale action
(sometimes transnational/global) is required to make significant headway. As such, I am of
the view that while individuals have managed to change the world before, on the whole it is
extremely rare and difficult for this to be possible.
1. There are definitely instances in which individuals have managed to change the
world and completely overhauled the way we live our lives, but we cannot deny
that such instances are few and far between. In fact, in recent years, while it
appears that individuals have single-handedly been able to change the world, one
can see upon deeper examination that this was due to extenuating factors.
Without a unique combination of modern tools and circumstances, individuals
could never have so easily changed the world, so to speak.
Such individuals possessed exceptionally persuasive personalities or championed such
compelling/novel & refreshing causes/philosophies to the point where they were able to
influence entire societies/the world over to change the way they lived their lives.
Historical examples of such individuals include the late Mahatma Gandhi, who showed
the world that it was possible for one man to stand up to an entire empire (the British)
via a strategy of both ethics and intelligence. While Gandhis interests lay in gaining
independence for British India back then, his individual philosophy and efforts garnered
worldwide attention and irrevocably changed mindsets about the relationship between
colonial powers and their subjects. He also paved the way for the concept of modern
peaceful resistance globally. Today, millions around the world follow in his footsteps as
an alternative to violent struggle/resistance, with even the late Martin Luther King Jr.
and the Dalai Lama emulating his methods.
Even in modern society, mavericks like Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs & Mark
Zuckerberg are credited for revolutionising the way we use technology in virtually all our
and made traditional forms of communication and information processing a thing of the
past. Their inventions have been lauded as innovations that are as important as the
evolution of Mankind itself.
However, when one examines the course of human history, it is definitely obvious that
such outstanding individuals are hard to come by.

In addition, in the case of many illustrious individuals like those we have highlighted
above, it did not just take the effort of any single one of them to create
products/circumstances that caused life-changing ripple effects. Of course, we cannot
deny the great legacy and individual efforts of people in the likes of the late Gandhi and
Mother Teresa.
But in so many other instances, changing the world could not have been possible
through the efforts of a single individual. While the technology giants mentioned earlier
fronted the technological revolutions they have been credited for, it took dozens of
dedicated technical experts, researchers and computer/networking enthusiasts to
realise the said changes. Without the unprecedented rate of modern globalisation and
the need for a more efficient and convenient means of communication across the globe,
Facebook may have just been another flash in the pan.
Just as how many have credited the discovery of electricity to Sir Benjamin Franklin and
the advent of human aviation to the Wright Brothers, it cannot be denied that it was only
thanks to the continued, collective efforts of those that have gone before/come after
them that the harnessing of electricity and modern air travel was possible.

Hence, while individuals have and certainly can change the world, it is not something that
happens easily or is feasible under all circumstances.
2. In addition, individual will and resources are in limited supply. Given the fact that
we are talking about effecting very significant change/developments, the efforts a
lone/single person can invest in a cause is limited by human capacity.
To effect significant change, one needs considerable time and financial resources,
especially when it comes to making changes to world issues. Single individuals just do
not have the ability to do so much on their own, especially if we talk about funding
E.g.s include individual scientific breakthroughs by Marie Curie, Einstein, Stephen
Hawking even though their intelligence/genius was what drove their earth-shattering,
world-changing discoveries, they could have done what they had done without the
financial and infrastructural backing of their respective governments/educational
Moreover, in most aspects of society (environmental, political, social), changes do not
happen overnight. Even if a single individual were willing to devote his/her whole life to
a cause, he or she may not live to see the fruits of his/her labour, and will inevitably
require other individuals/groups/future generations to carry on his/her legacy.
E.g.s include the discovery of electricity and the harnessing of the A/C current (Franklin
& Tesla & co.), the invention of the telephone and its modern permutations (Bell,
modern smartphone innovators), the discovery of DNA and further breakthroughs via
the Human Genome Project (Watson & Crick & modern co.)
A simpler, more down-to-earth illustration would be that of an individuals efforts to
conserve electricity and reduce ones carbon footprint -> a single individual is not going
to make much difference/impact in changing the fate of our Earth, but collective action
is what changes things dramatically.
It is thus evident that given the obvious limitations to human capacity, it is very rare that
individuals can change the world on their own.
3. Lastly, apart from considerations of scale when discussing the concept of
changing the world, even if individuals appear to be able to kickstart change and
move the hearts of millions, it is questionable whether such supposed change is
genuine, given the complexity of many issues that individuals have claimed to make
life-changing progress in.
Many aspects/issues in which individuals have claimed to change the world are multifaceted, inter-disciplinary or trans-boundary in nature. Having an individual change the
way many societies/individuals think/live in the present does not necessarily guarantee
that such a legacy will be continued in the long-run/will spill over to other countries or
related aspects.
Continuing from the above point 2, dont forget that for more complex issues/aspects of
life, single individuals do not have a birds eye view, alternative perspectives or



expertise and sustained, practical solutions that are vital in effecting large-scale
Collective, large-scale efforts (be it organisations, governments, institutions, or different
countries) are what would be more practical/feasible in ensuring significant, effective
long-term revolution.
E.g.s include how Malala Yousafzai galvanised millions of people, thousands of
womens rights activists & many governments to relook the issue of gender inequality in
educational policy/societies around the globe. It appears on the surface that she has
revolutionised the way in which education for women is being prioritised, and is causing
reforms and much greater awareness around the world, but in reality, such an issue is
complex, and cultural/societal mindsets are not changed at its root. Even in her home
country, Yousafzai has indeed become the champion of womens rights and raised
awareness, but in the larger scheme of things, not much real progress has been made
in countries like her native Pakistan, India and other developing countries around the
world still. The effectiveness and extent of impact is questionable because the issue is
way more complex and difficult to solve than that.
Ultimately, the complexity of many issues individuals attempt to address do not allow them
to effect real significant changes.
At the end of the day, it is not a matter of perspective: changing the world is no mean feat. It
is only plain to see that while it is possible for some outstanding individuals to radically
change the world in which we live and the way humanity lives, on most occasions, with the
very real limitations of Mankind, it is extremely difficult for single individuals to change the
world. Only through the collective efforts of different individuals can significant change be
brought, and success rates of such change be much higher.
Failure to address the key words can and ever and their implications -> not
recognising the fact that there is inherent scepticism that such ability to change the
world is possible and just launching into a narrative/descriptive piece about how
individuals have changed the world, without considering extent (i.e. they may take a very
simplistic can/cannot stand)
Flawed interpretation of the key phrase change the world -> looking at very simplistic,
trivial/shallow/frivolous, even erroneous definitions/examples of what it means to change
the world (low-level personal changes).
Misinterpretation of the word individuals, twisting it to talk about GROUPS of
Hijacking of question -> instead of focusing on the limitations to individual efforts,
students may instead talk about how THE OPPOSITE GROUPS of people change
the world.

Question 8

A society obsessed with success. Is this true of your society?

Obsessed: Excessive focus on something. Term has a negative connotation, implying that
society has had to sacrifice other aspects.

of key words,
s etc.

Success: To provide a clearer boundary between the thesis and anti-thesis, success here
can/should be defined loosely as material success (career, educational, wealth/income,
status). As such, success in raising a family etc, whilst technically an apt definition, would
collapse any potential counter to the statement in the question.


in full
Balance to

Your society: Examples and analysis should be limited to the context of Singapore.
Students also need to clearly engage with specific characteristics of Singapore society and
evaluate how these could have resulted in our current state of obsession/not.
Assumptions: Statement suggests an absolute/excessiveness. Hence students are required
to weigh the extent to which society is deemed to be chasing material desires, rather than
just writing example-led essays that describe how we are/are not obsessed with success.
Success can be seen as the end result, with the anti-thesis to it being the notion that we
could possibly be more interested in the journey, rather than the final product.
Singapore- a gleaming beacon of economic prosperity, long herald as the Monaco of the
East. Such is our identity (and Tourism Board marketing catchphrase) to many parts of the
world. Indeed, many choose to bask in such an acknowledgment, often echoing praises of
how ambitious we are, and have been in our quest for perfection. Yet, beyond the surface of
success and rapid growth, there is a growing sense in society that we are overlooking the
importance of the journey, choosing instead to remain infatuated with the end result. We
see this most obviously in our education system, our work environment, and even
embedded in our social culture in the form of status accumulation, which ultimately leads to
detrimental effects on the family and beyond. As such, I believe that we are indeed a
society largely obsessed with success.
Working in Singapore is a dynamic experience. We are apparently seeing a new breed of
Singaporeans being more excited by the meaning and pride they have in their work.

Singapore is an information-based economy, where job movement is more fluid, as

skills and re-training are more common.
Singapore has a highly educated workforce, meaning once again that workers find
less barriers in switching trades when they no longer find an intrinsic sense of
satisfaction in their job, which seems to be very important, especially to the younger
generation of Singaporeans today.
A recent survey in March done by Kelly Services, indicated that 70% of respondents
advocated, and are proponents of job-hopping. Their main reasons were primarily
so as to explore their strengths, being flexible, and being exposed to new ideas that
challenged them.
All these seem to indicate that they were looking at much more beyond rising to the
top in their respective jobs
This seems to imply that they were more about self-improvement, broadening their
horizons and finding new meaning in the careers they chose.

However, despite all this, Singapore remains a competitive corporate hub. Ultimately our
political and social culture is driven by an ideology of survival and intense competition that
also sees many leaving the country as they are disillusioned by the endless struggle they
face in trying to succeed in their careers.
Because of the few barriers that exist in employment, over the years there has been
growing discontent with the competition from foreigners.
Linked to companies remaining competitive by hiring the cheapest labour available.
Maximising profits and annual turnovers are the clearest gauges for success.
Leads to the sink or swim mentality amongst many Singaporeans, where they
then become obsessed with having to succeed, or face losing out on a job to
In a study done by the Institute of Policy Studies, 20% of young adults indicated a
sense of economic disenchantment, as the pressure to succeed was too

Furthermore, expert observers hypothesize that job-hopping is less about a sense
of fulfilment, and more about a way in which to increase salary quickly, hence
strengthening the argument that society is still ultimately obsessed with success.
Compared to the average 2% increase in income from staying in the same job yearon-year, job-hoppers see increments of 20-23% in wages.
So we see that whilst one may claim the job market in Singapore promotes
flexibility, personal growth and creativity, the end-game still appears to be a material

Increasingly, there is a belief that our education system is one that is attempting to be more
holistic, choosing to nurture students and allow them to discover themselves.
Ministry of Educations official motto being: Bringing greater choice and flexibility,
whilst encouraging those with special talents to go as far as they can
Greater emphasis on Co-curricular activities, making it a more significant criteria
when applying for admissions to institutes of higher learning.
The building of more schools that cater and provide to students with different
pursuits (SIT, Sports School, etc)
Our governments attempts to encourage and nuture more creativity in students to
fill the void in innovation at a national level
However, such measures are slow in implementation, and with a system being embedded
for so long, it will be hard to change overnight. As such, our education system, whilst lauded
by many as being one of the finest in the world, is still one that is exam-oriented,
representing the continued obsession with results and success in terms of academic grades
and achievement.
Syllabus largely formulated around preparing students for exams and tests. Weekly
and month lesson structures are primarily to ensure students can score for upcoming assessments.
Failure is still not an option. The stigma attached to being a retainee, or choosing a
longer route to universities. All indications that the end result seems to be more
important that the journey of learning and self-discovery
Building pressure on students, from both parents and teachers alike. Students are
assessed largely on their test and exam scores. They are the first and only
document that is needed to be submitted to universities for consideration. Character
testimonials and values a student holds comes in handy only when one is appealing
to get into the school upon being rejected the first time.
In a Today article in July 2013, there was a report from Samaritans of Singapore
estimating an 80% increase in youth suicide. Whilst due to a variety of reasons, the
overwhelming cause still linked back to performance in school, and a perception of
inferiority, along with the inability to produce results that would advance them to the
next stage of education.
Success in examinations and grades hence ultimately still appears the main aim of
the Singapore education system, where students who cannot conform to the
demands of rigidity, often face increasing pressure by societys definition of
Culturally, Singapore will find it hard, as a nation, to move beyond the traditional definitions
of success, as well as the endless pursuit of it
The DNA of our country has always been one of impatience -> note the iconic
kiasu mentality.
Our foundations were built upon the endless quest for perfection, and the need to
be top in what we do. How often have we been regaled with the same old tales
about how we rose from the backward ashes of a fishing village, to become a
gleaming metropolis in the short span of half a millennium.
Whilst fairytale-like, it has imbued our society with one persistent quality- the need
for rapid and instant gratification. Such is our cultural make-up that Singapores
obsession with success and material desires should not be surprising.
The accumulation of status- from the 5Cs, to being the best airport etc.

Yet, with all the bells and whistles, comes the crack in our social fabric. Voted as
one of the unhappiest places to live, Singaporeans are starting to feel the strain of
the obsession.
More and more are emigrating to escape what they deem a rat race. A Mindshare
survey of Singaporeans carried out in 2012 found that 56 per cent of the 2,000-odd
polled agreed or strongly agreed that, "given a choice, I would like to migrate".
Hardly shocking was their reason of a stressful and unfulfilling life, full of deadlines
and career pressure. Most also did not want to raise their child in such an
environment where competition seemed to be starting from branded kindergartens.

The bedrock of every society - the family - has also come under increasing strain due to our
need to be professionally successful.
Falling birth-rates have long been attributed to young adults seeing the need to be
successful in their careers before considering having children.
Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said there needs to be a sea change in societal
attitudes in relation to Singaporeans choosing one over the other. Such a statement
serves as an admission that at the heart of our social fabric lies a very worrying
trend, and a dilemma that many Singaporeans are forced to face.
This may be explained by the fact that many Singaporeans are daunted by the cost
of living, and are hence reluctant to start a family as they cannot comfortably afford
one. Hence, the obsession with making as much money and being as successful as
one can may even be seen as means to an end.
Perhaps this is the reality of living in a country like Singapore, voted one of the
worlds most expensive to live in. That one becomes overly infatuated with being a
success story seems almost painfully inevitable.

Success is by no means undesirable. But it quickly becomes just that when too much
emphasis is placed on it. We have seen the results- cracks in society that range from job
disenchantment, to an education system that leaves little room for setbacks. Our societys
greatest asset, could well be its downfall- ambition. The need to be recognised, the
prioritizing of career and material wealth, has also consequently taken its toll on the family.
Moving forward, it is clear to see that if indeed this society is to remain a desirable
destination to grow as a person, and explore the journey beyond the pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow, that we must look inward instead of out to attain a sense of fulfilment that is
not fleeting, but more lasting. The definition of success will always change, but it is only
when we are happy within, that we are truly happy. For now, my society of Singapore
remains one that is largely obsessed with success.


Defining success too broadly, thereby encompassing both the anti-thesis and thesis
Failure to adequately paint obsession as a negative. Effort must be made in every
paragraph to highlight the cracks that have appeared in society. Only then can one claim
the obsession is unhealthy, as the question implies.
Listing/describing different scenarios where Singapore has been about being successful/
or on other factors, without much evaluation. Listing of examples must also be followed
by linking them back to the issue
Likewise, arguments and elaboration should be primarily on the duality of the issues, not
only examples.

9. Should nuclear technology be eliminated?

Nuclear Technology:
Technology that is derived from the reactions of atomic nuclei and the resulting
radiation that it produces.
o Nuclear weapons
o Nuclear energy and power plants
o Medicinal uses
Medical radiography X rays.
Radiation therapy used to treat cancer and malignant cells.
o Commercial uses
Radioluminescence Used as a light source for low light situations
such as in wristwatch faces and emergency exit signs.
o Agricultural and good processing
Radiation is used to sterilise tools and equipment, destroy harmful
bacteria, viruses or insects in food and agricultural products.
To address should there is a need to evaluate the benefits and threats /
disadvantages posed by nuclear technology, in order to ascertain whether it should
be completely eliminated.
Completely getting rid of all types and examples of nuclear technology and research
with no exceptions.
o Extreme stand, elimination of nuclear technology to some extent is not part
of the question.

The recent meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has once
again generated much controversy over nuclear technology and the dangers it poses to
humanity. Many are even going to the extreme of calling for the elimination of all nuclear
technology. Such a perspective is too extreme and impractical. Nuclear technology
should not be eliminated. It is true that some nuclear technologies such as nuclear
weapons and nuclear power pose very grave dangers to humanity. However these
same technologies can actually be beneficial when the dangers that they pose are
managed well. More importantly, nuclear technology is ubiquitous to modern life and
can be found benefitting humanity in sectors such as medicine, commerce and
agriculture. It is thus too extreme and impractical to call for the complete elimination of
nuclear technology across the globe.


Argument: Critics argue that nuclear technology should be eliminated as it has resulted
in the creation of nuclear weapons that have the potential to wipe humanity off the face
of the Earth through nuclear warfare.
E.g. Possibility of nuclear war between the USA and Soviet Russia during the Cold
There are enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire surface of the Earth
several times over.
Critics argue that the massive threat posed by such technology far outweighs any
benefit it might bring.


Argument: However, that is a one-sided view. The massive destructive power of nuclear
weapons may ironically enforce peace. In addition, efforts are already underway to
account for and disarm existing nuclear stockpiles.
The massive destructive power of nuclear weapons actually forced nuclear armed
nations to resort to diplomacy and negotiation instead. (Nuclear Peace Theory)
o Differences between the USA and Soviet Russia never escalated into war.
Ironic that the destructive power of nuclear weapons has actually resulted in a
greater willingness for nations to resolve their conflicts peacefully.
Nuclear armed nations have also taken steps to account for and decrease their
stockpile of nuclear weapons.
o E.g. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).



Thus the danger that these weapons pose today has significantly decreased.
Focusing on the pure destructive power of nuclear weapons as a justification for
eliminating nuclear technology is too one-sided.
Nuclear technology and the weapons it creates should be carefully monitored,
managed, and used as a deterrent. To call for its elimination would be to gloss over
the positive impacts that it brings.


Argument: Detractors also argue that nuclear technology as an energy source poses
huge dangers and risks. They argue that this is sufficient justification for the elimination
of nuclear technology.
E.g.s: Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear
Power Plant.
Nuclear disasters resulted in the spreading of radiation over a large land area,
rendering these locations hazardous to human health.
These areas will be hazardous for a long period of time as the radioactive fallout is
long lasting.
It creates a myriad of health problems for those affected, ranging from the increased
risks of getting cancer, sterility and giving birth to babies with severe birth defects.
The disposal of radioactive waste from the generation of nuclear power may
contaminate the environment in which they are disposed in.
It seems that the potential dangers and risks posed by nuclear power is sufficient
evidence that nuclear technology should be eliminated.


Argument: However, calling for the elimination of nuclear technology based on the risks
and dangers posed by nuclear power is too hasty. One should also consider the
significant advantages that nuclear power provides.
Nuclear power plants actually reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global
warming compared to other more conventional ways of generating power.
Research has shown that nuclear power actually causes far less fatalities per unit of
energy generated than other conventional sources of energy generation.
Arguments calling for the elimination of nuclear technology and nuclear power fail to
take into account the benefits of nuclear power.
Given such advantages, nuclear power and nuclear technology should not be
eliminated. Although care needs to be invested into ensuring that nuclear accidents
should never occur again.



Argument: The problem with arguments supporting the elimination of nuclear technology
is that they fail to consider that nuclear technology is actually an ubiquitous part of the
technology that supports our modern society, and are therefore crucial to us.
Nuclear technology has several applications that serve to make our lives better.
This is evident in the medical, commercial and agricultural sectors.
Medicine: Radiation has been utilised for radiography and X-rays. Radiation therapy
has also been used to treat cancer.
Commercial sector: Radioluminescence is used to produce light sources in low light
situations such as in wrist watches and emergency exit signs.
Agriculture: Radiation is used to sterilise tools, equipment and produce to ensure
cleanliness and hygiene standards.
Eliminating nuclear technology means the elimination of all these technologies that
have maintained our lifestyles and well-being.
The elimination of these technologies would thus have a profound and likely
undesirable effect. Because nuclear technology has become ubiquitous, these
negative impacts would likely be very large in scale as well.
Arguing that nuclear technology be eliminated is not only too extreme, it is also
impractical given that nuclear technology exists in a broad range of useful
technologies that humanity utilises to make our lives better.


Nuclear technology has some very obvious and dangerous risks, these includes
the potential destruction that could be wrought through nuclear weapons of mass
destruction. The risks associated with the production of nuclear power should also not



be taken lightly. Yet, both nuclear weapons and power have their advantages and role
to play in fulfilling humanitys growing need for energy and security from foreign threats.
Nuclear technology has also become an ubiquitous part of the technology that maintains
our way of life. To call for the complete elimination of nuclear technology would be
extreme and foolhardy, born out of one-sidedness and a lack of understanding of the
risks and advantages that it offers. Therefore, nuclear technology should not be
eliminated, although we should be careful to manage and guard against the potential
danger that it poses.

Pitfalls and

Students attempting this question should be wary of limiting the scope of their
essay to only nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
Students should not turn this essay into a listing of the benefits and dangers
associated with nuclear technology.
o They must engage with and respond to the extremity of the question,
conveyed by the word eliminated.
Students should also seek to evaluate the benefits and dangers posed by nuclear
technology as part of addressing the modal verb should.

Question 10

How important is beauty?


Beauty: General term that refers to a nice appearance and pleasing looks
important: Consider its significance / value / role it plays in society
How important: need to address the extent / degree of importance

Full Introduction

Possible Areas
of Discussion in

Beauty is a general term that often refers to a nice appearance and pleasing
looks. It is not so easy to determine what has caused or is causing beauty to
feature so prominently in society today. There are individuals who argue that
the media has reinforced certain stereotypes of beauty but there are others
who put forth the idea that the media merely reflects the prevailing
perceptions of beauty in society. It is also not easy to determine exactly how
much physical appearance actually impacts our lives, careers, relationships,
and happiness. Although multiple studies have tackled this controversial
question, there are no clear cut answers. I believe that even though we tend
to say beauty is only skin deep, humans put much more importance on looks
than we would like to admit.
Beauty is important because without an intimate knowledge of a person's
character, we tend to judge others on shallower factors such as looks.
First impressions are very much based on physical characteristics, of
which appearance plays a huge part. People take mere seconds to judge
someone and make a first impression. In general, research shows that
people who are seen as attractive are assumed to possess other positive
Since childhood, we are inclined to impart positive characteristics to
attractive people and negative characteristics to unattractive people.
This stereotype is reinforced and played up in the media. In fairy tales,
Disney princesses are often portrayed as good-looking and virtuous. We
are led to believe that attractive women with their hourglass figures and
flowing locks are the symbols of innocence and goodness.

sentences in full
explanation (in
point form) of
Balance to be
Looks matter in the workplace, and attractive people tend to have an
advantage over their less attractive counterparts.
Attractive people have a better chance of getting jobs, and of receiving
higher salaries. Studies have concluded that taller men and thinner
women, fitting the commonly accepted norms of what constitutes beauty
and attractiveness, earn more than their shorter or heavier peers.
Customers too, prefer attractive employees.
In some countries, it is not uncommon to hear of individuals who go to
the extent of undergoing plastic surgery before job interviews to
increase their chances of standing out from among the many
applicants, and thus, being hired.
Beauty has become so essential to many people that they are willing to go to
all lengths to achieve unattainable standards of what they deem as beautiful.
The great significance that beauty has in society today is both reflected
and perpetuated by the media. Thanks to the media, we have become
accustomed to extremely rigid, uniform, and unrealistic standards of
The constant over-exposure to beautiful people increases an
individuals dissatisfaction with their appearance, and poor body-image
is a problem which begins as a very young age.

In extreme cases, such unhappiness with their appearance pushes

people, especially insecure teenagers/individuals who obsess over their
looks, to go under the knife for dangerous cosmetic procedures, or
suffer from eating disorders and psychological problems.

Of course, there are people who would argue that beauty, in the form of
outward appearances, is not that important. What counts more is a
persons character.
While first appearances count, and physical attractiveness plays a part,
over time, it is a persons innate qualities which matter more.
Mere physical beauty fade over time, and it is who a person truly is
inside which makes a greater impact in the long term.
Long term relationships are based on and sustained by a persons
character and other qualities. Physical appearances can be overlooked
when a persons innate traits/attitudes etc. are brought into the picture.
Some people claim that beauty is getting less important today, because
with increasing awareness of how unrealistic expectations of beauty have
become, various parties are now trying to redefine beauty to make it more
Unilever launched the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in order to
celebrate the different types of beauty that exist in society today. The
idea was to tell every woman that she is beautiful.
While the plan is well-intentioned, and politically correct, such attempts
still boil down to the fact that beauty is all important. Ultimately, beauty
(in whatever form), is still seen as the goal and the best option. Beauty
still plays an important role in society today.

While there is no doubt that beauty certainly plays a significant role in our
lives and careers, we should be mindful not to place undue importance on
beauty. Although the quote beauty is only skin deep might sound clich to
some, there is an undeniable truth in the quote as beauty is impermanent
and is transient. What might be considered beautiful today might no
longer be considered beautiful in tomorrows fashion industry. As such,
we should not obsess over beauty in society because of its impermanence.


Trivial examples which focus solely on peoples physical appearance

and heading into an extended discussion of plastic surgery, the use of
cosmetics and a general criticism of how superficial society has
Hijacking the question and launching into a discussion of how beauty is
not important because other valued traits are important instead without
linking it to beauty

Question 11
of key words,
(if any),
s etc.

Areas of
in Body
in full
(in point
form) of
Balance to

Consider the view that education heightens the problem of inequality.

Education: Formal education/ Schools/ Institutions.
Heightens: Exacerbates. Question is not about education creating/leading to the problem of
inequality but it is about making the problem worse.
Inequality: Social inequality arising from income divide. (The common perception is that
through education, one can achieve upward social mobility, earn more money, escape from
poverty, etc). Other forms of inequality include different treatment accorded by gender,
sexuality, race/ethnicity, religion, etc.
Assumption: Question challenges a common view that education is a social leveller (helps
to eradicate inequality).
Horace Mann, an American statesman in the 19 century, proclaimed that education is the
great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery. Such a
statement fuels the thinking that despite their background, children can improve their lot in
life through education. In reality, however, the unequal access to education, the cost of
education in itself, and other social factors prevent such a utopian dream from being
realised. Instead, education not only reinforces the problem of inequality but can be said to
heighten that problem between individuals and between nations.
It is undeniable that education has led to the problem of inequality, as educational
achievements are invariably linked to job positions and income levels.
Looking at job advertisements, one can see the hierarchy in a company is staffed at
different levels by people with varying qualifications. For instance, someone with a
high school education, for example, would be at the lower rung earning a lower pay,
compared to someone with a degree.
Thus, education in itself has led to this inequality. But, is it inevitable?
Therein lays the promise of education as a social leveller.
Students have often been told to study hard in school so that they can achieve
upward social mobility.
Regardless of their family backgrounds, as long as they do well in schools, they
would be able to advance in the education system and eventually get a good job
and get themselves out of their plight.
However, this axiom holds true only if everyone has equal access to education. As
this is not the case, education does heighten the problem of inequality.
Unequal access to education and other factors that prevent access to education
further widens the gap between the educated and uneducated.
We may preach how education helps someone improve their lot in life and truly
believe in this, but how would this apply to those living in agrarian societies or the
least developed countries in Africa?
In many villages, where families depend on their children to be farmhands, the idea
of education is last on their minds as they do not see the immediate, tangible
benefits of sending their children away to chase after paper qualifications when the
time spent can be gainfully used in the farms.
Even if they do want their children to get an education, it is not surprising to find that
the only schools found in villages tend to be basic, elementary schools that lack the
proper teaching facilities and sometimes even qualified teachers.
For many of these families, sending their children to the cities to seek education is
out of the question as this would incur further costs that they would not be able to
The problem will be fully accented, when the children of these families decide to
leave their villages in the hope of searching for the proverbial better life. They will
soon find that lacking education, they would have difficulty finding gainful
employment in the cities or elsewhere.
On the global front, education further drives a wedge in terms of economic
development between the developed countries (with more educated citizens) and
developing countries (with less educated and illiterate citizens).

According to figures from the United Nations and the CIA World Factbook, countries
with the most illiterate population are in the poorer regions of Sub-Saharan Africa
and in Central and West Asia.
Three-quarters of the worlds illiterate adults are in 10 developing countries, namely,
India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia and
the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The correlation between literacy (one of the two fundamental aims of education; the
other being numeracy) and economic development can be understood in terms of a
rapidly changing world, which is fuelled by technology.
Needless to say, countries that are less educated would not be able to fully
embrace the advancements in technology.
Besides that, the digital world and the Internet are largely biased towards the
English-speaking world, with Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) or website
addresses are expressed in English. So, it is not enough for countries to embark on
literacy programmes for their citizens in their native languages but they must also
be literate in English in order for them to function in the modern world.

The tuition fees for higher education are prohibitive to children of parents who are
less well-off.
A report from the United States shows that having a university degree boosts an
individuals lifetime income by as much as $590,000 on average.
This shows how education heightens the problem of inequality between the haves
and the have-nots especially since not everybody can afford the high tuition fees
that come with higher education.
Tuition fees have risen over the years and are expected to continue to rise due to
various factors including manpower costs and other structural overheads. In the
United States, tuition fees have risen by 20 per cent in the last five years to more
than $30,000 per annum for private universities. In the United Kingdom, tuition fees,
which were almost negligible in 1998 rose almost ten-fold by 2012. In Singapore,
university tuition fees are also on the rise, with lab-based courses like the sciences
and medicine chalking up higher increases.
Besides general inflation, the rising cost of education is something that financial
advisers would remind parents who are planning to take up endowment and
insurance plans.
For parents who are better off or who have managed their finances well, funding
their children for further education is not a problem. But, for the majority, they would
be faced with a dilemma: either they take up a student loan (which would already
add to any existing financial burden their families may already be shouldering) or to
forgo further education altogether.
The figures from the United States are sobering: American student debt adds up to
US$1.2 trillion, with more than 7million people have defaulted on their debts.
How could we then call education a social leveller if our young graduates have to
start their working adult lives in debt?
Children from humble backgrounds could potentially stand to lose out to their welloff peers at every rung of the education system.
Critics would disagree that financially disadvantaged children would be saddled by
tuition fee loans.
To be sure, besides loans from financial institutions, there are also other avenues
such as scholarships that would off-set the high tuition fees.
As scholarships are limited, they are handed out only to the most able and brightest
in the cohort in a meritocratic manner. But, the irony is that scholarship recipients
are mostly populated by those from more privileged backgrounds.
Indeed, sociological studies have shown that almost half of children who do well in
school have parents who are both graduates (implying families with a higher socioeconomic status), while only 5 per cent of such children are born of non-graduate
It is not difficult to see why. Despite the promise of meritocracy, the reality is that
school-going children do not enter schools at the same starting point.



Those whose parents are more educated (ie, with better means, higher income) can
afford to send them to enrichment classes and activities to get them better prepared
for school.
When more of such children emerge, inevitably, the school curriculum and
assessments have to be adjusted to a higher standard/level of difficulty, leaving the
other children who have yet to even learn their alphabets in Primary One playing
catch-up all their lives.
As the curriculum gets more difficult, parents who are more well-off are able to
afford to send their children to extra tuition classes to ensure their children continue
to do well.
When all else fails, these children would still be guaranteed of leaving the education
system with a degree thanks to a different kind of scholarship the papa mama
scholarship when the parents would be able to pay for a place in an overseas
For children from humble backgrounds, such an avenue is not available to them.
They need to do either well enough for state-funded universities or very well to get a
scholarship for overseas studies.
Granted that it is not the end, as there are still avenues such as long-distance
courses and now thanks to the Internet, massive open online courses (MOOC) that
allow students to follow university-level courses from anywhere in the world without
chalking up high fees. They do not even have to leave their homes.
But, the million-dollar question is the recognition of such certificates and diplomas
by employers? Based on media reports, the answer is less sanguine.
Thus, inequality is heightened further by education.
Based on the many factors argued above, it can be seen how there is merit to the statement
that education heightens the problem of inequality. But, that is not to say that the culprit is
education in itself. Taking Horace Manns metaphor of education as a balance-wheel of the
social machinery, perhaps this balance-wheel needs some lubrication as is often the case
for such devices in order for it to fully serve its function. Likewise, instead of faulting
education for heightening the problem of inequality, we could try to find out additional steps
that can be introduced into the social system to make it a more level playing field.
The question implies that there is an existing problem of inequality. Students should
address this but should not be fixated on this alone, as they need to address the issue of
how the problem is heightened/exacerbated by education.

Question 12
of key words,
s etc.

History is of little value. To what extent is this true in your society?

Study of the past
Broad term that relates to both an academic discipline and to its subject matter. Can
also include historical sites and physical objects such as historical artefacts.
of little value
having no real worth/purpose, not very important
Note that this assumes that there is some value in history, however limited.


Winston Churchill, the great statesman, once said that the secrets of statecraft lie in history.
Not everyone subscribes to the notion that history is valuable though, with Napoleon even
calling it a myth, and others preferring to deal with the challenges of the future rather than
to look back at the events of the past. In Singapore, a country which takes pride in being a
forward-looking, modern society, history does seem to be of little importance. In fact, much
has been said about our propensity to bulldoze over history in our pursuit of progress.
However, contrary to common belief, history is of value to Singapore and Singaporeans,
insofar as it is able to contribute to the nations development and progress.


In the early post-independence years, history, as a subject of study, was deemed by many
as having no immediate, practical use.
Low priority given to the teaching of history.
Subjects such as mathematics, science and technical studies were deemed to be more
useful in producing a technically proficient workforce to meet the needs of the countrys
rapid economic development.
Focus was on the future, rather than the past.
History was seen as a hindrance to progress in a modern technological society.
Even today, history is not a popular subject of choice among students, many of whom
see it as a dead subject with no real relevance to the ever-changing realities of the
modern world.

in full
Balance to

In addition, many aspects of our history, especially in the form of historical and cultural
heritage, are deemed to be of little value in the face of economic and infrastructural
Much of Singapores historical heritage has also been lost in our relentless pursuit of
In the 1970s and 1980s, especially, survival, economic development and infrastructure
building took priority over the preservation of history, culture and identity.
Many relics of Singapores past have been demolished to make way for progress.
Many of these sites and buildings played vital roles in Singapores history, and loom
large in peoples memories of the past. (E.g. Bt Brown Cemetery)
Even today, with greater awareness of the importance of conserving buildings and
structures so as to have tangible reminders of Singapores short, but interesting history,
much is still lost.
That said, in recent decades, there has been a renewed emphasis on using history. It plays
a valuable role in nation building, particularly in building national identity.
History, in the form of our shared past, is used to forge a common identity, necessary in
a country like Singapore with diverse immigrant roots. Singapores history of people
coming from various parts of China, India and the Malay Peninsula (among others)
indicates a potential for fragmentation and division.
Knowledge of our shared past, and the history of our independence binds the different
communities together.
E.g. Historical accounts of our separation from Malaya and wartime experiences during
the Japanese Occupation underscore common experiences which foster unity.
It is imperative for Singapores future progress to establish a sense of national identity

and foster social cohesion. What better way to do this than through an emphasis on our
shared experiences in the past?
Today, the value of history also lies in its role as part of citizenship education to instil a
sense of pride in Singaporeans, especially the younger generation.
It is believed that with adequate historical knowledge of Singapores turbulent past and
the hard road to nation building, young Singaporeans would not take peace and
prosperity for granted. This, in turn, is believed to enhance their commitment to ideals
such as meritocracy and multiracialism.
By instilling a sense of pride in the common past, the teaching of Singapores history
contributes to the creation and strengthening of nationalism.
In fact, cynics would even argue that the National Education programme in schools is a
form of propaganda that is based on history, essentially to stir up patriotic feelings in
young Singaporeans.
Whatever the case, there is no denying that history, distilled in this form, is of great
value to Singapore and the government.
History is valuable in guiding policy making, as Singapore learns important lessons from the
The government takes note of relevant key events in history, and uses them in
formulating policies.
E.g. The racial riots in the 1960s highlighted the social division in our multiracial
society. Recognising the importance of social cohesion amongst the races, the
government implemented various social policies to facilitate that. The multiracialism
ideology and meritocracy, basic tenets of our society, stem from that. Other notable
policies and measures: the racial integration policy to prevent the formation of racial
enclaves, having common spaces where people of different races can interact.
All this is done to prevent history from repeating itself, and help us to avoid making
mistakes of the past.

To determine whether history is of little or significant value to Singapore, it is necessary to

first consider the many aspects that history can take on. It is undeniable that parts of our
shared history, especially those which are momentous or significant on the socio-political
level, are of great value today, especially to the government and policy-makers. However,
other bits of history which deal with the day-to-day socio-cultural practices and memories of
ordinary people are unfortunately considered of little value to our development, and are
largely forgotten.


Some candidates are misled into thinking that the statement is a complete denial of the
value of history. The keywords of little value do not mean a complete absence of value.
The scope of discussion is limited and revolves around how important it is to learn
lessons from the past.
Essays simply consist of lengthy descriptions of incidents from Singapores past such
that the writing style becomes narrative rather than argumentative.