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BROADER PERSPECTIVES

TEACHER’S
NOTES
2015 ISSUE FOUR & FIVE

THE ESSAY ISSUE

Secondary variables expand or specify the scope of examples. and formulate points for their essays. It may be useful to list down the defining characteristics of the given context(s) during the planning stages of writing. ‘should’ and ‘must’ help generate two opposing responses to the question (i. the more assumptions there are to be addressed – and thus the more complex the argument required. The main variable is identified by its direct association with the polarity word and hence constitutes the main tension or debate in the question. and so on). ‘can’. does/does not. and they change the tone of the question and the extent to which one’s point of view need to be argued. Constants can also appear as given context(s). INTRODUCTION 02. and some questions contain multiple constants. ‘does’. There are usually multiple variables in a question: a main variable and other secondary variables. They can be the contexts of time (‘nowadays’. As a general rule of thumb. The purpose of this framework is to help students break down the questions into key terms or clauses. is/is not. Variables: Variables are words that determine the scope of the argument. and conditions that are relevant to the discussion. while arguing that it has. Not all questions contain constants. ‘has’. Questions phrased as statements may need to be paraphrased so that the polarity word (and the main variable) can be identified in these statements that are central to the question. ‘today’s world’).e. PVC FRAMEWORK For the teacher’s notes of this essay issue. has a future aspect to it. The main variable is either the key issue that needs to be resolved or the key value that needs to be established by the end of the argument. ‘never’. We believe close analysis of the wording of questions will aid students in understanding the tension. space (‘Singapore’. or does. Some commonly seen constants are ‘only’. We term questions without constants ‘basic polarity questions’. Questions that contain specified context(s) require students to answer the question within the parameters of that context(s). scope and demands of the debate they are engaging in. contexts. understand the questions’ requirements. Constants: Constants are terms that change the meaning of the question by introducing specific assumptions or additional requirements that need to be addressed in the argument. Arguing about what should be or must requires considering why it is ideal or what creates the imperative. Students must answer the question they have selected based on the polarity. . or will. as this will ensure relevance of their responses. Here is a review of the PVC Framework: Polarity: Every argument begins with a basic polarity of two sides. ‘your society’) or a combination of both. focuses on the present. ‘will’. ‘really’.NOTES 01. Arguing that something can. the more constants there are in a question. Words such as ‘is’. or ‘ever’. These contexts highlight where the debate is most relevant and helps to generate insightful points or perspectives. we provide you with the question analyses of the 2014 ‘A’ level GP essay questions using the PVC (polarity-variable-constant) Framework.

The given context is ‘your society’. The range of rights that can be curtailed should be established. and the firms’ responsibility towards their workers.’ To what extent is this true of your society? This question can be rephrased as: Is traditional marriage an outdated concept in your society? Polarity and main variable: ‘Is’ or ‘is not’ ‘an outdated concept’. and which ones tend to be under threat by firms seeking to stay profitable. whether it is the government. How ideal or right it is to permit or condone this action is the main argument. Secondary variables: ‘Firms’. The idealism of “should” is contrasted with “is realistic or not”. The effectiveness and desirability of legislating against gambling on sport and . and marriage as a religious or legal bond could be features of a ‘traditional marriage’ set apart from other less conventional (and conservative) relationships. with clarity about what are fundamental rights and secondary ones. APPLICATION OF THE PVC FRAMEWORK 1. ‘Gambling on sport undermines its spirit and should be banned. Constant: ‘when profits are at stake’. ‘their (firms’) workers’ rights’. From the main variable ‘an outdated concept’. The relationship between firms and their workers is to be examined. traditional wedding vows. This could be defined through social. reminding students not just to focus on the ideal but on whether a ban would work or be sensible given the world we live in. the central debate must focus on the current relevance (of traditional marriage) and address what has changed from the past to now. including the balance of power. marriage between a man and a woman. 2.’ How realistic is this position? This question can be rephrased as: Realistically. This tension between profits and workers’ rights (and hence their wellbeing) raises questions about the nature of firms and what their main priority should be. Any argument made should be informed and shaped by this condition of profitability being threatened. Secondary variable: ‘Traditional marriage’. 3. that would be Singapore and its unique characteristics that make for a meaningful discussion of the changing (or unchanging) institution of marriage. their symbiotic relationship.NOTES 03. ‘Traditional marriage is an outdated concept. or perhaps some other form of governance like unions or business ethics committees. cultural and legal lenses – for instance. should gambling on sport be banned because it undermines its spirit? Polarity and main variable: ‘Should’ or ‘should not’ ‘be banned’. This begs the question of who will be doing the permitting. How far should firms be allowed to limit their workers’ rights when profits are at stake? Polarity and main variable: ‘Should’ or ‘should not’ ‘be allowed to limit’. the public. For most students. lifelong fidelity.

corporations might emphasise profit/ the long-term sustainability of their business. reserved for special occasions. Given context: The urgency and scale of the global need for energy is the defining context for this discussion. The spirit of sport needs to be well articulated and understood in arguing whether it is impacted negatively by gambling or not. or ill-informed. Secondary variable: ‘gambling on sport’. Thus the truth of this should be considered and developed in the essay rather than only arguing the other negative effects of gambling on sport. This specifies a type of gambling but still allows for a broad range of examples and levels of severity.NOTES the defensibility of this position is the key contention of this question. or limited in practicality and utility. ‘For the majority of people. desirable or not is the main argument. with an increasing global need for energy. This is defined as the main reason for opposing gambling on sport. Global players should be considered especially since they will be the ones determining the demand and supply of. Discuss the view that. Constant: ‘undermines its spirit’. How this majority is defined and described should be carefully developed to avoid sounding simplistic. The implied contrast of this scope and the Arts is that the latter is highbrow. For instance.’ How true is this of your society? This question can be rephrased as: Are the Arts irrelevant to the daily lives of the majority of people in your society? Polarity and main variable: ‘Are’ or ‘are not’ ‘irrelevant’. every possible source should be exploited to the full. and hence pursuing or limiting the exploitation of resources with different motivations. This question can be rephrased as: With an increasing global need for energy. The mundane. NGOs might emphasise the protection of the environment…) 5. A range of examples and categories of energy sources should be explored to reflect the degree/extent denoted here. Students can challenge the validity and realism of this belief as a means of arguing for their stand. overly generalised. Secondary variable: the daily lives of the majority of people. enjoyed by a select group of people. day-to-day routines of most people make up the scope and interest of this discussion. Secondary variable: ‘every possible source’. should every possible source be exploited to the full? Polarity and main variable: ‘Should’ or ‘should not’ ‘be exploited to the full’. states might emphasise energy security / the welfare of their people. The extreme nature of exploitation is emphasised and whether this is right or wrong. . The current relevance is to be assessed and that requires arguing the meaning and value of the Arts. 4. the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives. practical.

This pits adverse economic conditions against humanitarian ideals. 7. The use of “should” and “expected” emphasise that this debate is about standards and ideals that we hold and being able to articulate why we have them. Given context: in times of economic hardship. The reasons for expecting a country to provide aid in good or ordinary times need to be re-evaluated in the context of economic hardship to see if they continue to be valid. aspirations. There are different levels of severity and various causes of economic hardship which would inform the argument on expectations. and useful it is. other countries. valuable. Arguments about why it is important or not can be made with different evaluations of how necessary. This creates a comparison between times when the economy is faring well and there is an expectation. along with the divide between local affairs and foreign affairs are assumed to be innate. . media. but can be contradictory given globalisation. The tension between the responsibility of governments to care for their own country versus that of caring for others is key to this question.NOTES Given context: ‘your society’. preferences and preoccupations can be considered. The differentiation between one’s own country and others. cultural environment. Constant: ‘still’. Those who might expect this of a country include citizens. economy. or international governmental organisations. How far is it important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own? Polarity and main variable: ‘is’ or ‘is not’ ‘important’. Secondary variable: people’s awareness of current events in other countries. Singapore’s unique demographics. 6. Secondary variables: ‘a country’. In times of economic hardship. and links with the world’s cultural institutions and performing artists as well as the majority of Singaporeans’ lives. pragmatism. Different types of countries should be considered to create the range and complexity in addressing this general question. critical. should a country still be expected to provide financial or material aid to others? Polarity and main variable: ‘Should’ or ‘should not’ ‘be expected’. ‘provide financial or material aid to others’. and times of economic hardship when there may or may not continue to be that expectation. How awareness can be assessed and the means by which awareness is created should also be considered in the planning stages of the essay.

the economy. Some students may choose to question the dismissiveness of this and argue for redeeming this role of films. as well as different types of science and technology would be meaningful for nuancing this discussion. and the environment. ‘an escape from reality’. Varying the different players who would be in charge of the regulation. Secondary variable: ‘the regulation of scientific or technological developments’. efficacy. and possible short and long term implications for different groups of people. or influence and impact reality. 10. 9. relate and interact. it should be examined on a larger scale given that this is a General Paper essay. To what extent can the regulation of scientific or technological developments be justified? Polarity and main variable: ‘Can’ or ‘cannot’ ‘be justified’. . to see how ‘getting what one wants in life’ would have wider implications for how people live. This suggests that films are only capable of offering escapism and are thus limited in their use and impact. Do films offer anything more than an escape from reality? Polarity and main variable: ‘Do’ or ‘do not’ ‘offer’. significance. This requires examining the reasoning behind regulation and also weighing aspects like cost. This question can be rephrased as: Is getting what one wants in life what matters? Polarity and main variable: ‘Is’ or ‘is not’ ‘what matters’. films could immerse the audiences in reality. Secondary variable: ‘getting what one wants in life’. or how this principle may be reflected in our institutions. Varying the types of films presented in the essay and how they provide an escape from reality is important. instead of simply addressing the two sides of the argument. Rather than offering an escape from reality. The dichotomy of escape and return could be helpful in generating ideas. While this sounds like a rather philosophical and personal question. security. ‘Getting what one wants in life is what matters. Constant: ‘anything more’. Having to argue for whether something counts or is most important in the final analysis requires considering its value. systems.’ Discuss. downsides. and communal values. This allows for the essay to explore a wide range of personal goals and aims as well as diverse methods of achieving them. ‘Justified’ implies that the essay must address whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa. Secondary variables: ‘films’. and how it impacts other aspects of life both in the short and long term. as well as the temporal effect (escape) versus the permanent or lasting effect of films. possible abuses.NOTES 8. work.

12. The focus is on the current state of the world and the latest trends. Secondary variables: ‘some careers’. instead of simply addressing the two sides of the argument.NOTES 11. Clarity in the differences between the genders (perceived or otherwise) and what reinforces those biases is also needed. This question can be rephrased as: Is expenditure on arms and the armed forces justifiable in the modern world? Polarity and main variable: ‘Is’ or ‘is not’ ‘justifiable’. and major events reshaping the debate on military spending. and types of arms or forces would be important. Secondary variable: ‘expenditure on arms and the armed forces’. Examine the extent to which expenditure on arms and the armed forces is justifiable in the modern world. Consider the view that some careers are better suited to one gender than the other. This would largely be expenditure by governments. . as opposed to jobs or types of work. This question calls for examining the validity of the reasons supporting and opposing. Given context: the modern world. ‘Justified’ implies that the essay must address whether the pros of spending on arms and the armed forces outweigh the cons or vice versa. This question can be rephrased as: Are some careers better suited to one gender than the other? Polarity and main variable: ‘Are’ or ‘are not’ ‘better suited’. Establishing an insightful categorisation of careers that favour one gender over the other for a variety of reasons would help with the development of the essay. amount of spending. ‘one gender than the other’. Varying the types of governments (and therefore states). This invites the student to assess the current situation and argue whether this perception of an advantageous fit for only one gender is true. The use of the word “career” suggests a more holistic and long term view. pressing issues.