General Paper

General Essay Writing Tips

  • The opening paragraph

I find writing opening paragraphs very difficult, because I'm writing and thinking at two different levels. On one level, a deeper level of argument, I try to begin with the key facts I need to set up in order to engage my reader. That forces me to figure out what the key facts are. Names? Dates? Definitions? Context? Conventional scholarly opinion, which I'll either work within or react against? Particular scholar I'm drawing on? Key moment in a larger chain of events? Three main questions drive me: (1) What's my topic? (2) What's my thesis? (3) What do I need to tell my reader right away?

On a more superficial level, I also need to figure out exactly how to start. With a quotation? A question? An anecdote? A surprising finding? A paradox or puzzle? Whatever I choose, if I'm writing well it'll be in sync with the deeper level of thinking I'm working on—the particular detail, image, quotation or whatever else will fit with my thesis, my whole argument. For instance, if I'm writing about the fall from grace of many Internet dot-coms, I might start with a particular example—say Jeff Bezos, CEO of, and I might choose as a starting point to make a sharp contrast between his zenith (Time's man of the year in 1999) and the subsequent swoon in Amazon's stock price (down by two-thirds in half a year as I write this).

An opening paragraph establishes a context for your exposition. If you are discussing an author, what is his or her full name? Is the time period you're discussing relevant? Is there a general scholarly tradition or conventional wisdom you're going to be working with, or reacting against? You don't need to cram every significant fact into the opening paragraph, but it's a natural place to put as much critical info as reasonably fits.

  • The thesis statement

A topic is something you want to talk about: the environment, or censorship of the arts, or wealth and poverty in America. A thesis, by contrast, is an argument, generally reduced down to one sentence. Many students think that all they have to do to get an essay off the ground is state the topic. For instance: A key issue in America today is wealth and poverty. But that is not enough.

A strong thesis makes writing the whole essay easier, because it helps you see how the whole argument should be organized. Yet again and again students turn in essays with weak or absent or confusing theses. That's like starting a trip without a clear sense of where you're going. My advice to students is simple: Start with a good thesis, and build on it. Before you get too far in writing the essay, find the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. Can't find it? Problem. Stop, think, and come up with one. And, as you write, constantly check what you're writing against your thesis sentence. Are you still on track? If not, what went wrong? Do you need to refocus your writing, or revise your thesis? Writing is one of the best ways to think, so don't be too convinced that the thesis you began with is the one you should end up with once you've written a draft of your essay.

Okay, how do you come up with a good thesis? First of all by remembering that a thesis should capture your whole argument in one sentence.

  • Paragraphs

The key building block of essays is the paragraph. A paragraph represents a distinct logical step within the whole argument. That step may be big or little; it may take one or ten sentences to lay out—but the key is that it is one step.

Thus there's no point in laying down as a rule (as one sometimes hears) that paragraphs should be four or five sentences long. That's probably a decent guideline for most paragraphs in student writing, but in good writing you'll find longer paragraphs and shorter paragraphs—some as short as a single sentence, if that's all it takes for that particular thought (use one-sentence paragraphs sparingly, but don't flinch from them when they're what you need).

Paragraphs are discrete steps in one's argument, but that doesn't mean that every step in the argument must fit within a single paragraph. Some complex thoughts may require so much space to explicate that the resulting paragraph would be two pages long. In such cases, break into smaller units, looking to subdivide along some sensible and clear scheme.

The basic idea is simple but crucial: When you write a paragraph, you should know what it is meant to do. If your answer is simply, "Well, this paragraph helps explain my topic," then you haven't thought deeply enough. How does this particular paragraph contribute to the argument? What logical step does it make? Where does it fit in the overall chain?

In oratory, the peroration is the conclusion of a speech or discourse, where the speaker recapitulates his argument and presses it a final time with renewed vigor. The ending of a speech or an essay is not the time to raise a new substantive point: it is the time to remind, to reflect, and to send off the reader with a satisfied feeling. Somehow the very best endings possess a near-paradoxical quality—a sense of closure and completeness, and yet at the same time a suggestion of new open spaces to explore, armed with the ideas or information the essay has provided.The point of an ending

Over the years that I've read student essays, I've come up with a scale to rank endings. The worst essays just stop, vaulting the reader out onto the pavement like a car crash. Clearly in some of these cases the writer ran out of time or collapsed from exhaustion. Mediocre essays end with a more or less complete summary of the essay's argument, reminding the reader of key points. Good essays provide some sense of order and emphasis, moving from a mere summary list to a thoughtful recapitulation of the argument. And the best essays manage to look outward, drawing some larger conclusion, pointing to a significant implication or opportunity for further research.

  • Closing the circle

An excellent way to impart a sense of unity to an essay is to return at the end to a quotation, image, or statement that the essay began with. We can call it closing the circle. Done well, closing the circle conveys a sense of order, elegance, and thought that can make a reader smile with appreciation. Here's an example from another essay on Coriolanus. You might contrast it with the balder ending above:


"Boy of tears," Aufidius taunts the Roman general Coriolanus near the end of Shakespeare's play (5.6.100), and the vehemence of Coriolanus' response suggests that Aufidius has hit the mark: there is something childish and sad about this fiercely proud warrior. . . .


By the end, Coriolanus has thrown away not only his old identity but his new one as well. The "boy of tears" is left with only his immature fury and sullen isolation. His final act of mercy leads not to reconciliation but to further suffering, loss, and death.

As these examples suggest, a skilled writer doesn't merely repeat exactly what was said at the beginning. The trick is to echo the words or image one began with while adding some new twist or perspective to broaden the perspective.

More Essay Writing Tips Here

Topic 1: Crime and Punishment

Theories of Crime

Due to the sheer variety of forms of criminal activity (from shoplifting to genocide) it is not possible for one theory to account for all forms of criminal conduct. These theories and approaches taken together do however shed some light on the plausible causes of crime. There will be areas of overlap due to the complex nature of the subject.

1. General Causes

  1. Social Causes - People engage in criminal activities due to peer pressure, or having certain friendships, especially when these groups do not denounce criminal activity. Eg. Street gangs.

  2. Environmental Causes - Some causal factors include high unemployment, poverty, low educational levels who see no future prospects for making money.

  3. Religious Causes - Crime as a result of sin, that man is naturally sinful and lacks self-control.

  4. Social Justice- Criminals are produced because society is unjust, that the rich and powerful control the power and wealth and offer limited access to society’s resources.

  5. Thrill Seekers (Jack Katz) - Deviant behaviour as stimulating, giving one a sense of power, excitement an a demonstration of personal competence. Some people have a need for more intense experiences, and may hence look to crime for gratification.

2. Biological Theories

  1. Criminal behaviour is hereditary. For example, in the 1870s Italian Criminologist Cesare Lombroso argued that criminals could be identified by the shape of their skull. His theory has largely been discredited and unaccepted.

  2. Another biological theory has to do with abnormalities in sex chromosomes. Criminals (male) have an extra Y chromosome which makes them excessively aggressive. There is however no real proof that these males are especially violent.

  3. There is no clear conclusive evidence that genetics is the main cause of crime. Genetics may predispose some individuals towards criminal activity. Recently, however, there is an increasing acceptance that biological factors do contribute to criminality; the only problem is to what extent.

  4. A study by Sarnoff Mednick of several thousand boys in Demark between 1927 and 1947 showed that boys with criminal biological parents and non-criminal adoptive parents were more likely to have records than those with non-criminal biological parents and criminal adopting parents. In addition, the more convictions a boy’s natural parents had, the greater the risk of criminality for boys raised by adopting parents.

  5. Low IQ as a cause of criminality? The feebleminded may be unable to cope with complex social conditions and meet up to expectations.

3. Psychological Theories


  • Criminal behaviour caused by an imbalance in the id (biological drives)

  • superego (socialised experiences), ego (intellectual capacity).

    • He argued that if early childhood socialisation did not occur normally, the superego will be defective and the individual would not develop normal moral standards.

    • He believed that very violent crimes are due to mental problems.

    • Psychopaths (total failure of the superego to develop); there are however only a small number of criminals who are psychotic.

  • Freud’s theory does not explain ordinary crimes, since most criminals are ‘normal’.

  • Psychological theories can explain some aspects of crime, though due to the many types of criminal behaviour, it is unrealistic to suppose that all criminals share some common set of traits.

4. Personality Theories

  1. Certain personality types more prone to crime. For instance, the extrovert.

  2. These theories again do not explain for all cases of crime.

The following are Sociological Theories of Crime, where criminal activity is seen as learned behaviour or as a result of interaction with society, rather than being inherent in human beings.

5. Differential Association Theory (Edwin Sutherland, 1949)

  1. Society contains many different subcultures (Eg. Street gangs), and some of these social environments encourage illegal activities.

  2. One learns and engages in such behaviour through associating with the people around. One may perform such acts to gain peer approval. Criminal behaviour is learned through close and personal interaction with people (Eg. in the ghettos) not through impersonal channels (Eg. TV).

  3. This is not always true since people have their own plans, intentions and can exercise self-control.

5. Labelling Theory

  1. What is “labelled” as deviant behaviour is usually defined by the rich, powerful, males, older generations, and ethnic majorities. This definition of deviant behaviour is done through the formulation of laws and their interpretation by the police, courts and correctional institutions.

  2. This theory helps us see the ways in which some activities come to be defined as crimes. It thus sees criminal behaviour as a process of interaction between deviants and non-deviants.

  3. However, labelling or branding someone a criminal only serves to encourage and reinforce criminal behaviour; hence it becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy.

  4. This theory also fails to explain why people commit crime in the first place, but does account for subsequent violations. Eg. The ex-prisoner due to social stigmatisation and societal rejection, returns to a life of crime.

6. Strain Theory (Robert K. Merton)

  1. This refers to the strain put on an individual’s behaviour when accepted norms conflict with social reality. People may thus turn to crime due to the frustrations of failing to achieve success by legitimate means.

  2. The majority share similar values as to what the most important goals in life are (Eg. material success). There are also socially approved means (Eg. education, hard work) of attaining these goals.

  3. However, not everyone has equal access to the legitimate means to attain these goals. There are unequal opportunities available to all (especially for the lower classes).

  4. According to Merton, the failure to attain these goals results in anomie/strain. Merton presents 5 modes of adapting or responses to this strain. (Note though that not everyone who is denied access to society's goals becomes deviant).

  • Conformists: Accept both the goals and the approved means for achieving these goals. Conformists will accept, though not always achieve, these goals of society and the means approved for achieving them.

  • Innovators: Accept societal goals but use illegal means to achieve those goals. They innovate (design) their own means to attain the goals. Such means may be through robbery, or other criminal acts.

  • Ritualists: Abandon societal goals because they no longer believe they will attain these goals. They follow societal rules, but are not concerned about the outcome.

  • Retreatists: These give up not only the goals but also the means. They escape into a non-productive, non-striving lifestyle, and often retreat into the world of alcoholism and drug addiction.

  • Rebels: Rejection of both the societal goals and the legitimate means. They create their own goals and means, by protest or revolutionary activity.

7. Rational Choice Theory

  1. Humans are rational actors; they freely choose actions based on a cost –benefit analysis and a means/end calculation. Choices are made to maximize individual pleasure, but these can be controlled through the potential punishments that will result if social norms or laws are violated.

  2. Prior to a crime, an offender will evaluate the risk of being caught, the seriousness of the expected punishment, and the potential returns of the venture. Crime occurs when one decides to risk violating the law after considering his own personal situation (need for money, personal values) and situational factors (how well a target is protected, how affluent the neighbourhood is, how efficient the local police is).

Invisible villains

After weeks of virus chaos, a new police report concludes hi-tech crime is a growing threat to UK net users. David McCandless reports

Thursday August 28, 2003

The Guardian

Hi-tech crime is now one of the major threats posed to the UK by organised crime, says the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).

In its annual UK Threat Assessment report published last week, it lists the leading activities of criminal gangs. Some are expected: class A drugs, fraud, money laundering, firearms, immigration crime and sex offences against children.

But, increasingly, the use of computers and technology for fraud, extortion, and other criminal profit is also figuring in their investigations.

Malicious viruses, and the odd email swindle or pyramid scheme, have always been a tiresome feature of the internet experience. Historically they've been the work of some backroom scam artist or anarchic individual out to get attention by hacking a system.

But organised gangs and professional con-men are working the net for criminal profit "wherever there is money to be made", the report concludes.

In short, cybercrime is on the rise. "There are two main categories of hi-tech crime," says Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU). "Traditional crimes revitalised within the digital environment, such as fraud, extortion and child abuse type offences. Then there are newer crimes, offences under the Computer Misuse Act, such as hacking and virus writing."

Viruses are the most commonly experienced new hi-tech crime. Systems around the world are still reeling from the effects of last week's Sobig worm, just one in a recent flurry of malicious programs that have propagated themselves across the world's networks in record time.

Sobig's distinctive new twist - its potential to turn every computer it infects into a spam relay - thankfully didn't materialise. But many viruses these days contain "Trojan" code to leave "backdoors" open on infected machines. Any hackers with the correct tool can then control the computer remotely and use it to generate huge quantities of spam or host porn sites - without the owner knowing.

"If there's no anti-virus, no firewall, they can control huge amounts of machines... It's near perfect and almost untraceable," says Paul Wood, information analyst of internet security firm Messagelabs. "If anyone does trace it, the trail ends with you. And you don't want the police banging on your door in the middle of the night."

This is exactly how the F variant of the Sobig virus originated last week. According to the FBI, which was unravelling the trail as it unfolded over the weekend, a hacker - perhaps the author - seized control of a home computer in British Columbia made vulnerable to infection by a backdoor Trojan.

Using stolen credit card details, an account was created with a local ISP and this served as a launchpad to unleash the virus on the net. The whole process took minutes. The owner of the computer was unaware until the FBI confronted him. The hacker remains unknown. He is still at large.

Among the old-school crimes given new life on the net, fraud is the most widespread. Auction fraud accounts for 46% of all net fraud, according to the FBI.

People buy bargain laptops, the latest videogame consoles or rare col lectable Beanie Babies on sites such as eBay, but they never arrive. Expensive watches or software may be delivered but turn out to be counterfeit.

Besides auctions, internet con-men rely on a tried and tested standby: spam fraud. Like all scams, spam preys on people's hopes and fears. Offers of bigger penises, cheaper drugs, and money for nothing often lure the unsuspecting into parting with money or revealing bank details. Other spams fake the corporate appearance of institutions or lead to realistic looking but wholly fake financial sites.

"This is your final notice," reads the email from the billing department. "Please take a moment to update your credit card information by clicking here and submitting your information." Most users hit the delete key. But a gullible minority don't. "There are always small numbers of people who respond to spam," says Wood.

Despite massive publicity, bogus investment schemes like the notorious Nigerian 419 fraud ("I am a senior account officer of one of the banks in Lagos. I have a very urgent and confidential business proposition for you,") still ensnare victims.

In the US this year, a secretary of a Michigan law firm fell victim and ended up moving $2.1m (£1.3m) to various bank accounts in South Africa and South East Asia. She said she intended "to pay the money back" when she received her windfall. And in February, the scam claimed its first life when a 72-year-old man entered the Nigerian embassy in Prague and shot the Czech consul dead. The gunman's bank account had been drained by someone posing as a senior Nigerian official in a classic 419 sting.

The extent of spam fraud is difficult to monitor since it goes mostly unreported. "Many victims, embarrassed by their naivety and feeling personally humiliated, do not report the crime to the authorities," say the Metropolitan police.

For those who don't fall for spam, and are boxed to the hilt with firewalls and anti-viruses software, a more disturbing form of fraud may yet sneak through.

Identity theft, where someone uses your personal data to obtain credit cards in your name or even assume your identity, is on the rise. According to the Fraud Advisory Panel, more than 42,000 people suffered some form of identity theft in the UK last year.

The crime is still largely low tech. "The thieves obtain information by going through trash outside of businesses and government offices, and by stealing mail," says Beth Givens, director of, which advises the public on how to protect their private data.

"We are also seeing more cases of multiple identity theft emanating from the workplace. A dishonest employee obtains a printout or diskette, or even a laptop, full of names and details, either of the organisation's employees or its customers."

However, electronic means of extracting personal data is becoming more common. The Sobig virus's ability to install Trojans could easily have led to the theft of bank details. As our personal information - passwords, bank details, our mother's maiden name - is disseminated across wider and wider networks of companies, shops and websites, or stored on easy-to-steal handhelds and laptops, the risk increases that it can fall into the hands of those looking to profit quickly.

An alliance between organised crime and virus writers is not far away, most experts maintain. As the NCIS report puts it: "Criminals are becoming increasingly technologically competent and serious and organised criminals have demonstrated in other areas that they are willing to buy in skills and expertise, or subcontract to specialists, where there is a need or advantage in doing so."

"It's the profitability that attracts them," says Woods. "The lure for them is the same as for any e-business. Low overheads. Potentially high profitability. Massive global reach." Plus the added bonus of relative anonymity.

In the UK, at least, cybercrime is still relatively rare. The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit focuses on five main areas: hackers and virus writers, online child abusers, extortionists, drug traffickers and fraud.

The growing ingenuity of the cyber villain is a serious challenge to modern law enforcement. Like hackers, organised crime is always on the look out for holes to exploit in the system and has always enjoyed the challenge. "Whenever there is new technology, it will look to adapt that to its illicit use," says Hynds.

A lot of the unit's work is preventative, focusing on increasing awareness and encouraging users not to be duped into revealing their personal data.

"If a man came up to you in the street and asked you for your credit card details or what your ATM card Pin number is - would you give it? Of course not. If someone on the internet asks you, your answer should be exactly the same," is their advice.

Yet it appears a certainty that hi-tech crime will increase. Spam traffic now exceeds that of legitimate email. Viruses are mutating rapidly in the wild. And criminals, in line with the rest of the population, are becoming increasingly technically savvy.

The NCIS report concludes on a foreboding note. "It is reasonable to assume that criminal use of hi-tech methods will only increase as banks, businesses and individuals become more reliant on IT and online transactions, and more and more potentially valuable data is stored on networks."

Anti-viruses and firewalls are the best way of preventing most of the new or emergent forms of cybercrime, experts say. Unfortunately, as the MS Blaster epidemic proved, many people don't keep their security updated on a regular basis.

The internet is at risk of being split into two castes: a higher caste of immunised power users and a lower caste of naive "vectors" who spread the bulk of the infections from their unprotected machines. Not having a firewall, says Wood, is "like driving without insurance, just hoping it won't happen to you."


  1. Why is cybercrime increasingly popular? What type of environment does cybercrime thrive in?

  2. What are the problems associated with cybercrime?

Taken from,2763,1030240,00.html

Monday, 7 January, 2002, 15:22 GMT

Japan cracks down on youth crime

By Hugh Levinson

Ruriko Take stands at a lectern and tells stories about her son, Takakazu. About how he coped with health problems, about his ambitions at his school in Osaka, his hero-worship of Hide, the star of the flamboyant Japanese rock group X. Stories of an ordinary Japanese teenager growing up in the 1990s.

And then she tells her audience how Takakazu was murdered four years ago by a group of teenage boys. How the police and the courts - following procedures laid down by Japan's Juvenile Law - completely excluded her family from their investigation and decisions.

How she later discovered that only one of the killers had been prosecuted and he had only gone to reform school for less than a year.

Mrs. Take's outrage over what happened led her to set up a group campaigning for the rights of crime victims. They have been remarkably effective. The government has revised the Juvenile Law for the first time since it was passed 50 years ago, during the allied Occupation.

As of April 2001, victims will get more information about what happens in Family Courts, which try most teenage criminals. Victims will also for the first time be allowed to make statements to the court.

More controversially, the age at which young offenders can be tried in the criminal courts will go down from 16 to 14. And teenage murderers will in principle be tried like adults.

Punishment is sometimes necessary, says Kenji Ikegami, a lawyer supporting Mrs. Take, to let them (young criminals) know what they have done. Surveys suggest most Japanese would agree, especially after a series of brutal and highly publicised murders by youngsters.

But there are dissenting voices. Hiroko Goto, a professor of law at Fuji College, says many of the assumptions behind the revision to the law are incorrect. She points that although crime - including youth crime - has been rising for the last three or four years, crime rates were actually higher in the 1980s and much higher in the 1960s.

She argues that in practice the new law is unlikely to prove a deterrent to the kind of disturbed children who commit the most serious offences.

Indeed, imposing tougher sentences may even prove counterproductive, turning misguided children into hardened criminals, according to defence lawyer Yoshikuni Noguchi.

Four years ago he defended Japan's most vilified young criminal, a 14-year-old from Kobe who at the age of 14 killed a younger boy and cut off his head. Mr. Noguchi argues that virtually all young criminals can be rehabilitated - even the Kobe killer.

He's a supporter of the old Juvenile Law, which emphasises rehabilitation over punishment. As a result, relatively few young criminals in Japan are detained, and they are usually kept not in prisons but in Juvenile Training Schools. I was taken to see the oldest of them, the Tama Juvenile Training School at Hachioji in the suburbs of Tokyo.

There are 200 boys here, who live highly regimented lives, with a busy schedule of classes, exercise, assemblies and group discussions.

Vocational training is also strong, with classes in metalwork, computer skills, construction techniques and - bizarrely - handling of dangerous substances. I was impressed to hear that the training is evidently effective, as 40% of the boys find jobs before they leave.

There is also a strong emphasis on reflection and contemplation. Each boy writes in a diary each day, which is read and commented on by his personal teacher, who also acts as a counsellor.

I was not allowed to speak to the boys directly, but I later met a young man who had been detained at Tama after a series of violent assaults.

He told me that he had been reformed thanks to the personal care and instruction of his teacher, Mr. Yamada, who had made him realise the harm he had caused to his victims. My parents are dead, he told me, and in some sense Mr. Yamada was like a father to me.

After leaving the school, he was also lucky enough to receive an exceptional level of personal attention while on probation. This was thanks to his probation officer - who is one of the 48,000 volunteers who do the vast majority of probation casework in Japan. By comparison, there are fewer than 1000 professional probation officers.

And this offender, like the majority of former inmates of the school, he has not reoffended. Only around 24% of those released from Juvenile Training Schools commit further crimes, according to Kayo Konagai, a professional probation officer. There are questions over the validity of this statistic, as young offenders in Japan are not tracked into adulthood, when they may reoffend.

If it is even roughly correct, however, it suggests that Japan's methods of treating young criminals are remarkably effective by international standards - and also that Japan should perhaps think carefully before abandoning a system that has served it relatively well.

Also in this edition of Crossing Continents: a look at the ultimate gizmo for dealing with annoying mobile phone conversations, a visit to a sacred mountain threatened by a road project and a chance to experience the ultimate in relaxation - a traditional Japanese bath.


  1. To what extent do you think juvenile delinquents should be locked up for their misdeeds? (Think along the lines of the nature of the crime)

  2. What possible repercussions can result from harsh punishment inflicted on youths?

  3. How do we prevent young offenders from indulging in criminal acts?

Friday, 27 July, 2001, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK

US's hard line against youth crime

By BBC Washington Correspondent Nick Bryant

Prosecutors across America believe they are dealing with a new breed of juvenile offender, the authors of more serious crimes, with more violent consequences.

In the Midwest state of Michigan, for instance, police estimate that a fifth of major crimes are carried out by children, many carrying firearms.

The case of Florida schoolboy Nathaniel Brazill - jailed on Friday for killing his teacher - in many ways typifies the problem of where an everyday classroom dispute was settled with a handgun. Afterwards, he boasted about becoming a more accomplished criminal.

Juvenile crimes such as the massacre at Columbine High School have shocked the nation

Traditionally in America, lawbreakers under the age of 18 have faced trial in juvenile courts, where their names remained secret and punishments were tailored to encourage rehabilitation.

But over the past 10 years, nearly every state has passed new laws making it easier for minors to be tried as adults.


Proponents argue that tougher statutes protect the public from violent offenders and deter other young people from following in their path.

Some prosecutors and police believe that many juveniles already are career criminals, and that no amount of expensive rehabilitation can reform them.

Florida has led the way, prosecuting over six and a half thousand children in adult courts in 1998 alone.

Nationwide, the figure was over 200,000, according to figures from Amnesty International. Now, 38 states house child prisoners alongside adult ones.

Cycle of crime

Statistics reveal that young black Americans are more likely to face trial than whites and other ethnic groups.

African American youths account for only 15% of the population 10-17 years old, yet they comprise

· 30% of youths arrested

· 40% of youths held in custody

· 50% of all cases transferred to adult criminal courts

The trend towards incarcerating the young has provoked a howl of protest from human rights and civil liberties groups.

They argue that children can easily be confused by adult court proceedings and are often physically and sexually abused in jail. There have been numerous examples of children being murdered in jail, while others have committed suicide.

Whilst serving their sentences, they are often introduced to a cycle of crime and are robbed of their futures.

Complaints have also stemmed from the failure of the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

It states that crimes committed by a juvenile should not result in execution or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Somalia is the only country not to have ratified the treaty.

Between 1973 and 2000, at least 17 men have been executed in the United States for crimes they committed as children.


  1. Is there a trend of frequent offences in a particular community in your country? If so, what could be the possible reasons?

  2. Do you think it is fair to lock a criminal up for life based on the crime he has committed during childhood/adolescence?

Friday, 6 July, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK

China executions 'part of culture'

China committing 'execution frenzy'

By Holly Williams in Beijing

"If someone commits a serious crime, he should be killed. It makes me feel safer to know that people like that aren't around anymore", says Wang Jin, a 27-year-old Beijing hairdresser.

Wang should be heartened by a report on Friday from Amnesty International detailing the recent executions of over 1,700 people by Chinese authorities.

There's a Chinese saying that you should kill the chicken to scare the monkeys. We need that threat to be there - it's part of our culture

University graduate Yu Li

The rights group called the deaths a "huge waste of human life", and noted that China has executed more people in the last three months than the rest of the world has in the past three years.

Amnesty attributed the record number of deaths to the current "strike hard" campaign, aimed at cracking down on rising organised and violent crime. It said the campaign had sparked an "execution frenzy".

China prescribes execution for 68 offences, including 28 non-violent crimes. The recent executions included individuals convicted not only of murder and drug-trafficking, but of corruption, fraud and petty theft.

Olympics bid

According to Chinese legislation, accepting bribes of more than $12,000 is punishable by death. A man in the south-western province of Yunnan was recently executed for deliberately starting a forest fire.

The Amnesty report comes just days before the International Olympics Committee announces the host city for the 2008 Olympics. China has fought a public relations battle to try and secure the games, attempting to deflect widespread criticism of its human rights record.

But the "strike hard" campaign is aimed at a domestic audience with very different sensitivities.

Capital punishment is still widely popular in China, especially as punishment for corrupt officials and gangsters. Authorities parade those sentenced to death at huge public rallies. Some are even broadcast on television.

Spates of executions aimed at "cleaning up" society are publicized in Chinese media before most major festivals and national holidays.

Changing opinion

Yet there are signs that opinion may be changing. There are no longer public executions in more sophisticated cities like Beijing and Shanghai. This week's edition of the influential magazine Outlook Weekly criticizes the "strike hard" campaign for encouraging the extraction of confessions through torture, and sentencing innocent suspects to death.

Still, even most sophisticated urbanites would shrink from the idea of abolishing capital punishment altogether. "There's a Chinese saying that you should kill the chicken to scare the monkeys", says university graduate Yu Li. "We need that threat to be there - it's part of our culture".


  1. Do you agree with the notion of capital punishment?

  2. What are the agreements for and against this harsh measure? Do judges have the right to determine life and death?

Capital Punishment

Issues: Capital punishment: pros and cons

Critics of the death penalty

  1. may be used to eliminate political opponents to the government or used as a tool of social oppression

  2. no evidence that it deters others from committing crimes especially politically motivated crimes because terrorists and assassins see themselves as martyrs and are not afraid of death; not true all people fear death (eg: mountain climbers, racing drivers etc); destroys the deterrence theory of capital punishment

  3. inflicted on the vulnerable members of society who are less able to function effectively in the justice system due to the lack of knowledge, confidence and funds; extremely poor quality of legal representation (eg: blacks on death row in America outnumber whites)

  4. error and inconsistency on the part of judges, prosecutors, jurors, police (judicial investigations or reviews into error rarely occur after the execution)

  5. often the accused are already convicted by the public even before the trial; pressure on the justice system to convict the person

  6. the death penalty is often seen as a bluff because it is not swiftly and surely applied; due to costly delays and endless appeals which cost a lot of money; prospective murderers will take the risk

  7. life imprisonment as an alternative would cause would-be criminals fear such a miserable existence (argument that the effect of the death penalty is momentary); the miserable moments of a life imprisoner is scattered through his whole life while death exerts its whole force in a moment; true life imprisonment provides the same protection to society as executions

  8. laws which detest and punishes murder should not commit murder; the death penalty encourages the notion of revenge amongst men; the death penalty weakens and destroys man’s natural horror of bloodshed; breeds the idea in citizens that killing and violence is the solution to human problems

  9. executions may cause undue sympathy for the convict; many people may cry at execution scenes due to sympathy for the criminal’s fate, taking away the deterrent factor of the punishment

  10. death penalties are meant to appease mob emotions and desires for revenge; a reflection of a culture addicted to violence

  11. the death penalty deters on the assumption that men are rational but most murderers do not commit the crime due to wilful depravity where the criminal deliberately plot and commit the murder in cold blood (eg: crimes of passion, under the influence of drugs and alcohol); in addition, social and economic forces overwhelm these murderers and these factors are beyond their control

  12. goes against major religious teachings

Supporters of the death penalty

  1. imitation of divine justice

  2. to deter others from committing crimes as death is harshest possible punishment

  3. murder has made the criminal unworthy of the fellowship of mankind; he who forfeits the right to live for another man has forfeited his own; by imposing the death penalty, the dignity of life is affirmed; murderers are not punished for revenge but to protect society; murderers are society’s greatest enemies

  4. the existence led by life imprisoners is terrible; better a short death than a living tomb

  5. the legal system tends to favour the defendant as citizen jurors possess are reluctant to impose the death penalty hence indiscriminate verdicts would not be passed; the accused has every reasonable opportunity to challenge their convictions

  6. sympathy for the accused is misplaced because people forget the person who was murdered and the effects of the murder on his family; people want to abolish the death penalty because it is cruel but they forget the cruelty of murders

  7. if the state has the right to send people to war, it also has the right to take the lives of murderers

  8. if the accused suffers no sense of remorse, life imprisonment is too mild and life imprisonment sometimes threatens the life of others like fellow prisoners and wardens who are killed by jailed prisoners; few murderers are imprisoned for their whole life; society’s resolve to punish them weakens over time; life imprisonment cost the state immense expense

  9. the death penalty prevents potential victims from being killed as released murderers often kill again; Issac Ehrlich’s findings where he argues that for each execution, it might be responsible for the prevention of eight deaths by murder

Hate Crimes

Should acts of hate be criminalized? What acts should be considered hate crimes?


Crimes against minority groups, or between different groups of people, are probably as old as humanity itself. Human history is filled with accounts of genocide, and human rights violations motivated by the race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation of the victim. However, efforts to enact legislation to impose heavier penalties for crimes motivated by hate are a relatively new phenomenon in a number of countries.

One of the key conflicts in enacting such laws is whether or not it is appropriate to penalize someone because of their beliefs and motives. Critics of hate crimes legislation argue that it is perfectly appropriate to criminalize acts of violence, but not appropriate to add additional punishments for a person’s thoughts or speech.

Another problem associated with hate crime proposals is the difficulty of determining which groups are to be “protected.” While some countries have laws adding penalties for crimes motivated by acts against ethnic or religious minorities, most countries do not have special penalties for crimes committed against people for their gender or a different sexual orientation. It is also possible to conceive of other identities based on group affiliation, such as political party, occupation, or social status. Acts of violence against the poor, for example, could also be considered a hate crime. As more groups are defined as “protected” the distinctiveness of the penalties becomes lessened.

Proponents of hate crimes legislation are quick to point out, however, that the most egregious hate crimes against minority groups are often part of organized social movements or an extension of an ideology of hate that permeates entire segments of a society. Strong penalties are necessary to indicate the intensity of government or societal condemnation of such crimes.

Topic 2: Education


  1. Should one aim of education be the development of talent in such fields as music, art, drama? (1985)

  2. Do schools try to teach too much? (1985)

  3. How far should the teaching of history aim to foster pride in one's country and its past? (1986)

  4. How can modem technology be used to aid learning in schools? (1988)

  5. What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of a university education for a business man or woman? (1989)

  6. ‘Conformity should be the main aim of all schools.’ How far is this true? (Dec 2002)

  7. ‘Education does not develop individuality but conformity.’ Is such a statement always valid? (Nov 1998)

  8. ‘The main function of education should be to enable people to gain employment.’ Do you agree? (Dec 1994)

  9. Do you think there is need for a change in the educational system in your country? (Dec 1990)

  10. ‘Education has for its object the formation of character.’ Do you consider this to be the most important aim in education? (VJC Promo 1999)

  11. ‘Schools teach us to conform.’ Discuss. (VJC Mid year 1996)

  12. Has the education system in your country fulfilled the goals of education? (VJC CT 1995)

  13. Education is both a divisive and unifying force. Is this true? (VJC Promo 1995)

  14. To what extent do you agree with the statement that true education cannot be obtained in the classroom?

Aims of education

The aims (purposes) of education are both explicit and implicit in most societies. They include the following aspects:

  1. Economic training

    • To equip children with the skills and abilities to become effective members of the nation's workforce. National prosperity will depend to a large extent on a well educated, highly skilled workforce. This is particularly true at times of rapid economic change when workers must be able to adapt to different jobs during their working life. It is also true of a high-technology economy where jobs become more highly skilled, and manual and semi-manual work declines.

  2. The transmission of culture (socialisation)

    • To help children develop the attitudes and values characteristic of that nation's culture and which contribute to becoming a 'responsible' citizen of that society. School, as with the family, is an important place for 'socialisation', i.e. for transmitting values of commu- nity, personal responsibility and discipline.

  3. Social selection

    • Education can help identify those best suited to particular positions in society and the economy. If people are helped to find the positions and jobs best suited to their abilities, then education can help to increase both personal satisfaction and national wellbeing.

  4. Social control

    • We have already mentioned 'discipline' in (2) above. Some would argue that this deserves to be a separate point School helps us learn that we cannot always do what we want Some behaviour is acceptable and some unacceptable. Education is important in helping children identify and adopt patterns of behaviour acceptable to the particular society.


Most countries seek a 'balanced' curriculum with encouragement for the humanities (literature, history, geography, etc.) arts and crafts as well as science and technology. There is frequent debate as to whether the curriculum should be more vocational (see 'Vocational education'), in other words more directly geared to future occupational opportunities.

Another debate concerns the 'value' of particular subjects in the curriculum. Those who wish more vocational education might suggest less emphasis on the Arts or music or on other subjects.

Education system

The institutional arrangements used in providing education in a country. In Singapore there are ten years of formal education, starting at age six in primary one. At the end of six years the child proceeds to secondary school for a further four or five years. The more successful continue with pre-university in preparation for tertiary education. (See also 'Specialisation' and 'Streaming'.)

Equality in education

One of the issues faced by many education systems is whether girls are given the same opportunities as boys. There is evidence in many countries that girls are under-represented in vocational and higher education as compared to boys, and also in the higher levels of corporate management Women are over-represented in semi-skilled and relatively manual tasks (sales assistants, etc.).

In Singapore there is no sexual bias in education, with both boys or girls being taught the same syllabus. A number of factors have been suggested as affecting the educational progress of girls in many countries.

  1. Parental socialisation

    • Parents may sometimes expect boys and girls to have different interests and play different games at home. This may affect their later preference for subjects such as science and technology as compared to boys.

  2. Hidden curriculum

    • Although boys and girls may face the same school options, the values held by parents and teachers may encourage girls to select certain subjects which are believed to equip them for their future role in the family and society.

    • Some would argue that the different outcomes for girls and boys in education and the workplace are compatible with equality.

    • Both sexes are seen as of equal status but the role of the woman is seen here as being different to that of the man.

    • Women have a more specialised (and equally valued) task in the home and in child-rearing, and the fact that they select certain subjects and careers is seen as consistent with their different role.

    • Others would argue that girls are trapped into under-achieving at school (and in later life) by social values which cause them to avoid subjects (and careers) for which they are actually well-suited. -

History / National Education

A question frequently asked involves the role of history in the curriculum. The reasons why many argue that it is an important subject include the following:

  1. You can only understand the present if you understand the past Many of the problems in the world today can only be understood in a historical context, i.e. in terms of what has happened to people in the past Similarly, an individual nation's present situation can be better understood by appreciating its past

  2. If we consider the 'mistakes' made by individuals and nations in the past, we may be able to avoid making those same mistakes again today.

  3. History can often help us appreciate more fully the importance of certain ideals and groups of people. When we learn the 'cost' to earlier generations of providing us with much of what he have today, our respect for older people and for the values they struggled to preserve, is often increased. A sense of national identity and common interest can, in this view, be important in cementing together the members of a nation.

  4. History is an academic subject in its own right, teaching us to examine evidence and to establish cause and effect. We can learn to think logically by studying History as much as by studying any academic subject.

Critics who hold the view that there is too much emphasis on history in the curriculum often mention the following:

  1. History can sometimes be used for 'unworthy' ends, e.g. to build up an excessively nationalistic pride; indeed it can sometimes be distorted to represent historical untruths.

  2. History spends too much time looking at the past and not enough time looking at the present.

  3. History is a subject that does not have the 'academic rigour' of science or technology.


This refers to the progressive concentration on particular courses as the child moves through school. At the end of secondary two in Singapore children begin to specialise in a science, commerce, technical or an arts stream. This specialisation continues further in post-secondary and tertiary education.


This refers to children being placed in similar-ability groups within a school. Streaming was introduced in Singapore in 1980 and was aimed at maximising the child's potential by providing different groups with different course to allow them to learn at their own pace.

At the end of primary four streaming places pupils in three different kinds of classes. Streaming also takes place in secondary one, to either Special, Express or Normal, Normal Tech.

Advantages claimed for streaming include:

  1. Children receive the correct level of teaching for their ability.

  2. The whole class can be taught at the same pace. In mixed ability classes, often the teacher has to teach more slowly to those with learning difficulties.

Disadvantages claimed by those who oppose streaming include:

  1. If children are labelled as slow learners by being put in a lower stream class, they become slow learners (self-fulfilling expectations!)

  2. The sense of failure of children may be heightened by being placed in a lower-stream class, leading to behavioural problems.

  3. Teachers may make less effort with lower-stream classes.

Vocational education

This is education geared in some way towards the needs of industry and of the future occupational profile of society. In many countries there is a debate whether more school subjects should be introduced which are 'vocational' in content. For example, if society is facing shortages of craftsmen or technologists then some would argue that the school system should place greater emphasis on these subjects.

Others would argue that a good general education is the best preparation for any type of future career. With economy and society constantly changing, a good grounding in 'academic' subjects is the best basis for later specialisation in a whole variety of tasks. They see early vocational learning in schools as being too narrow, risking the preparation of children for specific jobs which may not even exist whey they leave school.

Education systems in the 21st century


    • To consider how education systems in different countries are preparing the young for life and work in the 21st century.

    • To consider their strengths and weaknesses

Goals of education

    • To achieve human happiness and the welfare of society

    • To produce good men and good citizens

    • To perpetuate national ideals

    • To develop the potential of each individual

    • To meet the manpower needs for a manufacturing-based industry

In the context of today’s world, should these goals be extended to reflect changes, which have a significant impact on the way, the young are prepared to live and work in the 21st century?

What are the trends today?


    • Technology has become so pervasive as to invade our lives.

    • Increasing automation of processes has made some jobs obsolete and others have to be redefined because jobs demand that workers have advanced technological skills and knowledge

    • Advances in information technology which have led to easy access to huge amounts of information and a borderless world has opened up possibilities for global networking, whether personal or institutional, and increased opportunities for greater collaboration within and between various fields

    • There is also an exponential expansion in new knowledge in certain fields, like microbiology, biotechnology etc.)


    • With increased sharing of information resources and know-how, there is greater interdependency across borders

    • With this opening up, there is not only increased competition but also increased collaboration across borders

    • The comparative advantage of countries like Singapore will shift from lower –skilled towards more knowledge-intensive industries, reflecting the shift that has been occurring in developed countries

    • Developing countries can no longer think of mass markets. Like developed countries , they have to tailor their goods and services to particular niches and to particular clienteles

    • In Singapore, an example of catering to a niche is the marketing of our managerial and consultancy skills in the region, through joint ventures

    • These new areas of comparative advantage require workers who are capable of staying abreast of market developments, anticipating and solving problems and making judgements for themselves

    • Thus as the economy develops an external wing, people will also need to understand, collaborate and work with those from other cultures


    • There will be a growing demand now for more highly skilled workers

    • If some workers upgrade their skills and others do not, this will increase the disparity in income between more highly skilled workers and the less skilled, and heighten socio-economic differences already present

    • An ageing population. Older workers are less highly skilled and more resistant to change

    • The openness of the economy also means greater exposure to foreign values and cultures

    • Greater excess to information and ideas will compound the likelihood of deleterious exposure

    • This coupled with having to cope with an environment of continual change might have unsettling effects on values and family life

    • Exposure to the products of technological advancement has led to an increased preoccupation with individualistic rather than group activities, as evident in the popularity of computer and arcade games among the young which emphasise interaction with machines than with peers

In view of these trends, the goals of education could be extended to

    • Develop human resources to meet manpower needs in the economy, especially in key areas where creativity and innovation were required.

    • To instill sound moral values to serve as cultural ballast in the face of rapid progress and change.

These unprecedented changes in technology and economy have led many countries to rethink their education policies.

Topic 3: Family

Essay Outlines on Family

1. Should marriage be a lifelong commitment?

  1. Show why marriage is considered by many to be a lifelong commitment.

    • religious sanctity of marriage/ sacred vows morality

    • for proper child-rearing (statistics on delinquency?)

    • for society's well-being

    • for a couple's own well-being

  2. Show why some pessimists (who consider themselves realists) might feel that it is too idealistic to regard marriage as a lifelong commitment.

    • many people jump into mismatched marriages., should they live with this mistake for the rest of their lives? No.

    • when one party breaks the vow, should the other one pay for it? (abuse/ adultery)

    • the concept of a lifelong monogamous marriage is outdated and unrealistic. (other forms of childcare available/ we should not be influenced by old fashioned man-made laws for a strict, repressed society/ even the 'holy' people from the Bible like Abraham practiced polygamy/ there is no point repressing our sex-drives, it will just end up in neurosis (Freud))

  3. Make a clear stand, after considering both sides of the issue.

2. Is the role of the family as important today as it used to be?

  1. Discuss the various roles of the family.

    • child raising (' FIRSTS'... education, social interaction, moral development etc)

    • support for its members (emotional, physical (financial), spiritual, mental)

  2. Explore the reasons why some people might say that the role of the family has dwindled compared to what it was like in the past.

    • child raising: in the developed world, many alternatives are available (professional help...)

    • support: once again, in the developed world, many alternatives are available

  3. Explore the reasons why others might say that the role of the family is even more important now.

    • in the developing world, not many of these alternatives are available

    • in the face of so many external influences (mass media, peer pressure etc), the family has to work harder to make sure a child is well brought up/ nothing beats family upbringing?

    • current turmoil in the world (terrorism, financial crises etc) demands more family support

  4. Make a clear stand, after considering both sides of the issue.

3. Equality of sexes is not only impossible, but even undesirable. Discuss.

  1. Clarify the term 'equality'. -equal ability? treatment?

  2. Show why, even with apparent shifts towards gender equality, true equality of sexes is impossible.

    • EVEN WITH greater access to education for women (esp in developed countries) -less discrimination against women (does not mean no discrimination) -the appearance of more successful women everywhere -THERE ARE OBSTACLES TO EQUALITY

    • physical differences (strength and child-bearing ability) already mean that it is only fair to treat women differently for their own sake

    • some religions have very strict laws about the status of women (strict Jewish, Islamic and Christian laws)

    • many people still hold on firmly to traditions which place men above women inheritance of family name, family wealth etc... Indians, Chinese etc)

  3. Show why some people, especially feminists, might find gender equality desirable,

    • blind belief that equality = fairness without looking deeper into the issue

    • ill-treatment and discrimination of women is never good

    • increased human resource (manpower/ brainpower)

  4. Show why others might find gender equality undesirable.

    • too many women in full-time jobs might cause them to neglect important roles that their bodies are designed for (child-bearing 'and nurturing)

    • societal problems might occur when confusion over gender roles causes families to become dysfunctional

  5. Make a clear stand, after considering both sides of the issue.

4. How are the roles of men and women, boys and girls, changing in your society? Which changes are for the better and which for the worse?

  1. Compare the roles of males and females in your society now and in the past. Briefly discuss the factors of change. Project further changes in roles.

    • in the past, males were often the sole breadwinners and the father was seen as the head of the household

    • females were seen as homemakers, child-bearers and caregivers

    • with modernisation, it has become very difficult for working class households to survive on single incomes, so women have to start working

    • feminist movements, which encourage the education of women, have pushed women to the forefront, and as mindsets change worldwide, more and more women are expected to take over traditional male roles

    • more males are beginning to play active roles in housekeeping and child-rearing in order to fill the void left behind when women go to work -

  2. List down the changes which are for the better (consider the majority). Give reasons for your choice.

    • up to the individual

  3. List down the changes which are for the worse (consider the majority). Give reasons for your choice.

    • up to the individual

5. Divorce is an urban social problem that cannot be solved. Discuss.

  1. Discuss several causes of divorce in urban societies.

    • disillusionment caused by unrealistically high expectations -stress of urban living / lifestyle

    • extramarital affairs and failure to compromise

  2. Show why many might say that divorce is a problem that cannot be solved.

    • marriage was never meant to be monogamous (a recent concept from unrealistic colonial ~ laws stemming from the religious leaders of colonial powers ego Britain)

    • mentality of'disposability' brought about by consumerism and the urban concept of dating (as opposed to matchmaking in the past and in rural communities)

    • divorce appears to be promoted as the 'best way out' when thi~s do not turn out as expected (eg. Hollywood influence)

  3. Discuss any glimmer of hope.

    • not everyone gives up so easily on a marriage

    • there are still people with strong moral fundamentals

    • the families of today have an important role to play in educating the adults of tomorrow (but are they doing it right?)

    • slowly but surely, as more studies are being done to identify major causes of urban divorce, we may be able to find a cure (we already know more than we did ten years ago / divorce rates in Singapore are stabilizing)

    • the state can step in (education! counselling / laws to make divorce appear uninviting / radical new laws? to prohibit dating? to allow polygamy? unlikely)

  4. Make a stand. Your own opinion, after considering both sides of the issue, counts.

6. Marriage is not a word – it is a sentence.” Examine people’s perception of marriage in a rapidly changing world.

  • A student attempting this question should briefly discuss changes in the world: declining birth rates in developed countries, changes in status of women, the spread of liberal values, weakening of faith in institutionalized religion, globalization. The essay must provide this by way of context, and pick out relevant features of “a rapidly changing world.”

  • The term ‘sentence’ needs to be explored (bonus if the pun is identified) and defined: Implications of punishment, bondage, loss of freedom, strong sense of cynicism and disillusionment.

  • Also, the script must address the term “perception”, with good scripts pointing out the variation that obtains across societies.

  • On balance, the script might examine why marriage still survives as a social institution: security (emotional, financial, social), companionship, children.

7. Does everyone have the right to be a parent?

  • Must agree/disagree/agree to some extent and give reasons.

  • Define ‘ right’ (An entitlement by law? A moral right?)

  • Who is ‘everyone’? (Teenagers, mentally and physically disabled, Singles, Homosexuals, adults, the aged?)

  • What does it take to be a parent?

  • In arguing your case, consider the individual’s right, the question of morality and the consequences for both the individual and society if certain groups of people, eg teenagers, become parents.

  • Also consider the means by which they become parents (natural birth, adoption, surrogacy..)

  • Question whether ‘right’ will necessarily convert to effectiveness. (Cite cases of dismal failures in parental roles)

  • Show awareness of the right ascribed in the UN Charter and practices in different countries in allowing this right. E.g. until not too long ago, Sweden, the bastion of democracy, practised forced sterilisation of women who were mentally handicapped.

  • Show how people may be given the right but many may not wish to exercise that right. Others may not be able to conceive and enjoy that right.

8. ‘Modern life today is not conducive to the survival of the family.’ Discuss.

Clarification of Key Terms:

  • Modern life today: life in the 21st century characterised by rapid changes, an increasingly interconnected world, continual advancements in science and technology, increasing importance of the knowledge-based economy

  • Not conducive – not favourable to; does not encourage/promote

  • Survival – continued existence of family as a basic unit of society together with the recognized roles and functions it serves to individuals as well as society, relationships and the values associated with it

  1. Need to take a stand:

    • Conducive – modern life has features that promote the existence of the family

    • Not Conducive – certain aspects of modern life threaten the continued existence of the family

    • Depends - by considering both factors discussed in a) and b)

  2. Must examine the impact of modern living in an era of globalisation, pervasive mass media, changing moral values, rising education levels of women (& hence the changing gender roles), aging population and technological advancements and the implications on family life

  3. Must consider the following when clarifying and addressing ‘survival of the family’:

    • The concept of the family – a unit with parents and children that is recognized by the law and that fulfils certain responsibilities

    • Physical survival of family and its traditional concept (for example, the presence of fewer marriages, acceptance of cohabitation, lower birth rates, non-traditional family units where children may come from different marriages)

    • Relegation of families’ roles & responsibilities to other institutions (like the mass media, maids, childcare centres & schools) who are voluntarily/involuntarily taking over the parents’ roles, for example, in caring for the younger generation and the transmission of core values.)

  4. May limit the scope to developed countries since modern living is usually associated with modern lifestyle in more advanced societies

Suggested Points:

9. ‘Care for the aged is more the responsibility of the state than the family.’ Do you agree?

Clarification of key terms:

  • Care for the aged: Seeing to the various needs of the elderly, such as physiological, security, emotional, health, financial. Not all the aged need taking care of; the primary focus of this question would be on those who are dependent on others for their well-being.

  • More the responsibility of the state than the family: to a larger extent the duty of the government to see to the provision of these needs than the family.

Question Requirement:

  • Take a stand as to which party is more responsible for the elderly or whether there should be joint (not equal) partnership in fulfilling this duty. Elaborate on why they are responsible to a greater extent and in what way they can carry out this responsibility.

  • Provide a balanced argument showing how the family is mainly responsible for seeing to the social and emotional needs of the elderly and how the government plays a crucial role in seeing to their needs at the macro level by giving reasons for their roles/responsibility.

  • The role of the two specified parties must be examined before students can discuss others involved in this issue. Students need to make a comparison between the two parties, examining the reasons for one being the party in a better position to care for the aged/fulfil the needs of the aged.

Possible approaches:

  • Agree that it is more the responsibility of the state.

  • Disagree that it is more the responsibility of the state. Instead, the families should play a greater role in seeing to the needs of their elderly members.

  • Joint/shared responsibility of both the state and the family in seeing to the different needs, where the government complements the families in looking after the elderly.

  • Joint/shared responsibility and include other parties, e.g. the community, the aged themselves

Suggested points:

Students should discuss the reasons for deciding on who is to take on the responsibility of caring for the aged:

  • The family: Children should take care of their parents – after all they were raised by them

  • The state: The government needs to do all the above in view of the elderly’s past contributions to the nation’s economy and success and it is the role of the government to take care of its electorate and to ensure that their country does not encounter problems (e.g. an ageing population whose needs are inadequately met will pose financial and health problems to the country)

  • The individual: everyone must be responsible for himself; he cannot expect his family and country to provide for him. If they start from young and make the effort to lead a healthy lifestyle and save up for their old age, they will not pose a burden to their family and the state

  • Students to examine which party/parties are in a better position to meet the needs of the elderly

10. To what extent is having children just another lifestyle choice?

  • Discuss how far having children is a lifestyle choice just like other lifestyle choices, and how far having children is due to other more intrinsic or profound reasons (meeting innate biological and psychological needs, meeting universal needs like continuation of the species)

  • Define lifestyle choice (a decision or choice on how we want our lives to be lived typified by attitudes, beliefs, values, possessions)

  • Discuss one or two other lifestyle choices (priority placed on career advancement, singlehood, celibacy, downshifting, bohemian lifestyle, ascetic lifestyle, minimalism / eschewing materialism, altruism)

  • Show how having or not having children is similar to other lifestyle choices for practical reasons (personal gain, self-gratification, convenience, economic benefits, utilitarian value of children, seeing children as encumbrances)

  • Consider what values underlie the decision to have or not to have children.

  • Able to bring in cross-cultural perspectives.

  • Consider how having or not having children or having a limited number of children is not a lifestyle choice but a situation forced by circumstances ( one-child policy in China, unwed mothers, infertility)

11. ‘East or west – home is still the best.’ Assess the truth of this claim.

  • Some description of ‘home’: the place in which one's domestic affections are centered; a person's native place or own country, any place where one has taken domicile or refuge.

  • Describe some advantages/disadvantages related to the East/West/travel. Some possibilities:

    • Broadening of outlook through exposure to other cultures

    • Increased work opportunities overseas

    • Sense of displacement and alienation

  • Describe some advantages/disadvantages related to home. Some possibilities:

    • Dysfunctional families cripple the individual’s development

    • Home may have less growth opportunities or physical resources.

  • Balance with ideas to show that home is still the best in some things but not in other things. Some things the home can remain the best for:

    • Bringing up children

    • Transmitting values

    • A sense of belonging

    • Home as a sanctuary

  • Whether 'home is still the best' is determined more by the preferences and values of individuals than by the environment.

  • Discuss the relative superiority of regions in the East or West. Some possibilities:

    • In the West, many nations are democratic and do not overtly disadvantage any one social group.

    • In the East, there is tremendous room for economic growth due to cheap labour costs and resources.

Topic 4: Marriage & Divorce

1. Should divorce be made even easier to obtain, or are there social and moral reasons to discourage it?


In most countries, a concrete reason is needed to obtain a divorce, such as adultery or neglect. This reason must then be argued in a court of law, and its validity scrutinised. The question under consideration is whether the process should be made easier. The proposition might define the motion that either partner can independently obtain a divorce from a court without having to give any grounds for the separation. It might also be profitable (depending on the context) to argue both sides on purely secular grounds, due to the diversity of opinion of world religions on the subject of marriage.

2. Is marriage an outdated institution? Is co-habitation replacing the institution of marriage, and will this affect the security and stability of children?


Marriage is arguably losing its appeal claim many social scientists, and indeed many tabloids. With divorce ever on the increase – with statistics showing one out of every three marriages end in divorce, the institution of marriage as a religious and legal bond may be considered outdated in today’s society. Co-habitation is no longer unacceptable, indeed it is commonplace among the youth of today, and illegitimacy no longer carries such a social stigma. But is a stable family environment dependent on a marital bond – or more appropriately, if not dependent is it improved?

Topic 5: Mass media

Essay Questions on Mass Media

  1. "Censorship is a means of defence against unwholesome values and is therefore justifiable." Do you agree?

  2. "Most modern advertising is at best deceiving and at worst immoral." Discuss.

  3. 'The mass media today provide little more than "infotainment".' Do you agree?

  4. Does the mass media help or undermine the appreciation of the Arts?

  5. 'The medium is the message.' Do you agree?

  6. Why are so many heroes drawn from the world of entertainment and sport?

  7. Should the Internet be controlled?

  8. Is the "Information Superhighway" something to excite or alarm?

  9. "Governments didn't build the Internet, they don't own it, and they can't control it; they will have to learn to live with this." What is your view on Internet censorship with reference to your own country?

  10. What is the Internet's distinctive role in the field of human communication and information transfer?

  11. What is the Internet's distinctive role in the field of human communication and information transfer?

  12. To what extent is freedom of speech desirable?

Topic 6: Arts

  1. Do you agree that the primary purpose of the Arts – whether music, painting, drama or literature is to entertain? (Dec 1985)

  2. Which of the artistic talents would you most like to possess and why? (Dec 1987)

  3. “All art is propaganda of some form.” Discuss. (Dec 1990)

  4. “The arts speak not only to us but about us.” Discuss. (June 1992)

  5. Consider the importance of drama in your country today. You may refer to live theatre, television and radio plays or any combination of these. (Dec 1994)

  6. “It is impossible to prove that one art form is superior to another.” Do you agree? Refer to specific examples from painting, music or literature to support your answer. (Dec 1995)

  7. “Enjoyable, but ultimately of little practical use.” Consider the value of music or art or literature in the light of this comment. (Dec 1998)

  8. “Public money should not be wasted on supporting the Arts; they should support themselves.” Discuss. (Dec 2000)

  9. “A work of art can never be valued just in financial terms.” Discuss. (Dec 2002)

  10. “To appreciate art is to appreciate life.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

  11. Why is knowledge of the arts still necessary in this age of technology?

  12. How can an appreciation of the arts be cultivated?

  13. Is advertising an art form?

  14. To what extent do you think the cinema mirrors life?

Topic 7: Religion

Are religious beliefs irrational or rational? Have they done more harm than good?


The majority of the population of the world is at least nominally committed to some religion or another. And despite the perception in some parts of the Western world that religious belief is in terminal decline, or that economic and social development go hand in hand with secularisation, there are many parts of the world where fundamentalist religious belief is firmly entrenched (including arguably the most ‘developed’ nation on earth, the USA). Religious belief, it seems, refuses to go away. Some people might think that religion is not an appropriate topic for debate – perhaps because it is too personal, too sacred, or outside the realms of rational debate. For the rest of us, however, there is a fascinating and lively debate to be had. There are many different dimensions to debates about religion. To start with there is the philosophical question of how plausible belief in God is. Then there are social, moral, and political questions about the effects of religious belief on individuals and communities both in the present and historically. Has religious belief, on balance, been a force for good or for harm in the world? This is an enormous area. The arguments below provide only the most basic of skeletons. It is for debaters themselves to do research and find their own examples from the present and from history to substantiate and illustrate the arguments.

Essay Outlines

1. “God is watching us.” To what extent is religion based on fear?

  • A possible approach would be to acknowledge that religion is indeed based on fear but it is also built on several other factors. Students should illustrate how and why religion is based on fear but recognise that this is too narrow an interpretation and raise other bases of religion. Examples and illustrations would be useful for such an abstract essay.

    • Religion is built on fear of the unknown, fear of punishment, fear of committing sins etc. This can be seen from how there is a list of don’t’s, things to abstain from, to disassociate oneself with because these are vices and thus punishable. Relevant illustrations are needed.

    • To argue that fear is the only basis for religion would be too narrow and perhaps old-fashioned a doctrine. It may be counterproductive and not sufficient to explain why so many people believe in religion. Religion is more dynamic and multi-faceted than that.

  • Other factors

    • Religion is a way to make sense of the world. There appears to be an inherent need in many individuals for an explanation beyond science to account for our existence, for catastrophes and so on. Supernatural concepts have come to be accepted as an alternative to science or to build on scientific knowledge.

    • Religion guides moral conduct and civilisation of humankind.

    • Religion exists not just because of fear but also because of faith and love. Faith makes you ‘do’ something because you believe in its benefits and not because you are afraid of punishment. To believe that religion is based on faith and love allows us to see the other values associated with religion such as charity, kindness. This allows religion to progress and have a positive effect.

2. Does religion always lead to contentment?

  • The essay requires clear definitions particularly of the concept of contentment. For example, simple material contentment would lead to a very limited scope for the essay.

  • Because of the emphasis on religion, students should recognize that many faiths expect a certain degree of sacrifice that is ostensibly not compatible with material contentment.

  • In addition, students should recognize that it is possible to have levels of contentment without religion.

  • Better scripts will recognize the need for a comparison of religious beliefs (e.g. Buddhism and Islam) that would enable contrasts to be drawn. Such scripts may also note the different forces upon the individual (e.g. modern life places a heavy emphasis on material well-being whilst spiritual life tends to reject this).

  • Excellent scripts will consider these questions from a global perspective and will work towards a clear, well-considered conclusion.

3. “Religion does not liberate, it blinds.” How far is this true?

  • Make a stand about HOW TRUE the statement is and give reasons.

  • Show how religion blinds instead of liberates.

  • Show ways in which religion liberates, apart from blinding.

  • Is ‘liberating’ the opposite of ‘blinding’ or could it be ‘binding’? (Question the question)

  • The extent of truth of the statement should be discussed.

Topic 8: Youths

Essay Outlines

1. ‘The future is entirely in the hands of the young.’ Comment on the validity of this statement.

  • Show how the statement cannot be valid because of the absolute word ‘entirely’.

  • Define ‘entirely’: totally, in all situations, and all areas of life.

  • Define ‘lies in the hands of’: determined, controlled and shaped by the young.

  • Establish the parameters of what it means to be ‘young’ : physical (below a reasonable age level,) but the mental/spiritual aspect is acceptable also if the argument is convincing.

  • The young can refer to those who are young today who will be adults tomorrow, or the young of tomorrow.

  • Show why and in what ways the future lies in the hands of the young (talents, skills, education, vibrancy, energy, enthusiasm, adaptability, resilience, idealism…)

  • Show the limitations of the young ( may not have the experience, the resources, the money to determine the future of people or countries; young are victims of exploitation and negative environmental circumstances)

  • Show how the future is also in the hands of adults (parents, educators, community leaders) especially in the way they shape the minds of the young today.

  • Show how other factors are precursors to the future which the young will inherit (present world political situation, political leaders, government policies and provisions, education systems laid down currently, health and environmental situations today), which will have a positive or negative impact on how much they can shape the future.

  • Can mention how to some extent the future is unpredictable, unknown and uncontrollable.

2.“Young people today have gone soft.” Is this a fair assessment of the young in modern society?

  • Evaluate the extent to which the young today have gone soft.

  • make comparison with youths of the past, youths in developing countries

Possible points:

  • Over-reliant on others to take care of themselves.

  • Unable to take pressure

  • Physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually weaker

  • Generation Y: “maggi mee” generation - instant gratification

  • More concerned with frivolous/superficial pursuits

  • Not concerned with larger issues, e.g. issues of national concerns, as opposed to issues concerning themselves

  • Must make comparison with youths of the past, youths in developing countries


  • Young people now more willing to take risks, venture beyond the tried and tested.

3. ‘The future is made for the young.’ Should they regard it with pessimism or optimism?

To pass, students are expected to:

  • Recognise and consider any one of the two interpretations of ‘The future is made for the young’.

    • One interpretation – the future is created and crafted in such a way that it caters to the young and is meant to be enjoyed by them.

    • Another interpretation – the future has been pre-determined or set for the young to inherit and the young have limited control about the kind of future that is in store for them.

  • Discuss who makes the future? How valid is the future or responsive is it so that the young should view it with optimism or pessimism?

  • Answer must be from the point of view of the young people and the impact on their future. They should not be generic causes that give rise to pessimism / optimism.

  • Assess the present situation and project the situation into the future.

  • Examine relevant areas like education, work, health and the environment.

  • Examine the people who have made and shaped the future for the young. These include parents, teachers, religious leaders, the government (through policies and provisions).

  • Make a moral choice between pessimism or optimism. Should state that while there are reasons justifying pessimism, it may not be wise to adopt a pessimistic outlook because only optimism can help to propel change and bring hope for the future.

Note: Fail for content - Students who address the second part of the question without relating it to the first.

To score, students are expected to:

  • Recognise and consider both interpretations of ‘The future is made for the young’.

4. ‘The general apathy of the youth is the cause of the increased pessimism today.’ Discuss this statement in relation to your society.

This is an argumentative question that requires students to assess the validity of this cause-effect relationship, i.e. analyse the extent to which the perceived pessimistic outlook is caused by the youth’s lack of interest. A demanding question that cannot be adequately answered by a simplistic yes or no stand.

Definition of Key terms

  • “Increased pessimism” in relation to S’pore – economic uncertainty, loss of traditional family values, sense of bleak future, psychological uncertainty of S’pore’s future progress as a nation

  • “General apathy of youth” – disinterest in matters beyond their personal life, especially relating to politics, current affairs and social issues

  • Youth need not be restricted to just teens, but can also include young working adults in their late 20s.


  • Youth seen as future of S’pore. So their lack of initiative and involvement in national issues and politics is a main cause of concern.

  • Loss of family values and culture often cited by older generation as an indication of decline of society


  • Economic uncertainty caused by national and international elements, such as globalisation and threats to security, not by youth’s apathy.

  • Other reasons often cited as cause of bleak outlook:

    • Terrorism

    • Rise of China and India as economic giants

    • Declining birth rate (caused more by adults than youth)

    • Political rigidity (increased ‘brain drain’ / migration rates)

Also, students are free to dispute the inherent assumptions in the question, but must be able to provide sound reasons and evidence.

Inherent assumptions that can be disputed:

  • There is an increased level of pessimism

    • Support: surveys conducted by ST in relation to locals’ perception of future

    • Possible counter argument – mood of economic outlook is said to be improving esp with increased national growth in 1st quarter of this year

  • There is a state of general apathy amongst the local youth.

    • Support: Surveys & opinions of local sociologists and political figures

    • Possible counter argument – presence of youth groups that are actively involved in addressing social issues, e.g. NYC, PAP Youth Wing

5. Individualism is an overrated concept amongst the young today.

Concept / Definition of Individualism

  • Individualism holds that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny that societies exist or that people benefit from living in them, but it sees society as a collection of individuals, not something over and above them.

  • Individualism is a concept / word that refers to the behavior of someone who likes to think and do things in their own way rather than follow or imitate other people.

  • Individualism is about establishing one’s identity / asserting the preference, belief, ideologies, value system, choice and priorities of self.

  • The concept of individualism harbours its fundamental principles and existence with the theory of freedom – of choice, speech/human/ individual rights.

  • Collectivism holds that the group---the nation, the community, the proletariat, the race, etc.---is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. Collectivism holds that one's identity is determined by the groups one interacts with, that one's identity is constituted essentially of relationships with others.

  • Individualism and collectivism are conflicting views of the nature of humans, society and the relationship between them. The concept of embracing societal norm s, values and preference of others and society as opposed to self.

Meaning of – Overrated

  • Overrated – people have higher value, opinion, regard or give it more importance than it deserves.

  • Individualism overrated – can lead to a self – indulgent society that practices individualism and ignores collectivism i.e the nature and well being of humans, society and relationship between the others.

6. Individualism is an overrated concept amongst the young today.

Analysis of Question:

  • This question invites a discussion on the concept of individualism being overrated by the young today. Students must show understanding of the concept of individualism and establish a stand as to whether it is overrated or not.

  • They can argue to show that Individualism is an overrated concept that has lead to self – indulgent society

  • Or state their claims to explain that the young embrace individualism yet [cooperative individualism] seek to live as a group---the nation, the community, the proletariat, the race, etc and understand the nature of humans, society and the relationship between others without compromising individual identity

  • They must also back up their points with specific examples. Student must show some attempt at analysis and evaluation.

Individualism is an overrated concept because

Social :

1. Home

Embrace individualism yet [cooperative individualism] seek to live as a group---the nation, the community, the proletariat, the race, etc and understand the nature of humans and society.

1. Confident yet caring individuals.

  • Fostering independence and individual achievement

  • Parents developing – independent children from young.

  • Emphasis on achievement and individual success.

  • Therefore, nurtured with the need to succeed and achievement the best for self.

  • Young today, vocal, independent and chairmen driven.

  • Governed by values.

  • Still contribute to society.

  • The way young respond to crisis proves that they are not extremely individualistic

  • eg. Tsunami, SARS, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Many young people came forward to help in cash and kind.

2. Promoting self-expression, individual thinking, and personal choice?

2. Adopting western values of individualism but yet practice – collectivism.

  • Taught and trained to develop thinking skills and ability to express from young.

  • The young today do not hesitate to express opinion and preference.

  • Individualism thrives in such a setting

  • Singapore’ trend – young visit parents and still care for them.

  • Still [practice filial piety.]

  • Singapore – emphasis given to family values and time.

  • Shows importance of living as a Community.

  • Will not lead to country filled with young with overrated belief in individualism.

3. Materialism

Economy is associated with private property, individual ownership success.

  • Drive to attain and move upwards is high.

  • Have seen cases where moral values, family ties are strained due to this quest.

  • Eg.s Tangs, Yeos, businesses.

3. Cannot ignore the influence of media and powerful wave of globalization.

4. Quitters / trend of migration.

  • Yet, Americanization is not the only way of life.

  • Other traditions, languages, culture and art forms are still surviving and thriving.

  • Young have not given up on their cultural identity.

  • World phenomena – mobility is great – Leave home land and move for better opportunities.

  • Can see this trend in Singapore, India and China.

  • Many sports man give up their country of birth to become citizens of developed country for fame and money.

  • Patriotism vs Individualism??

4. Recent trends in global scene – shows that young today value national pride and are patriotic.

5. Weakening family ties in Asia.

  • E.g. the many soldiers dead – War against Iraq.

  • Influence of media has helped establish traditional art forms and culture.

  • Two way influence.

  • The concept of individualism has not ruined traditions and culture in the east.

  • Young today have to adopt a balance between west concept of individualism and the east concept of traditions and culture .

  • The young are only concerned with their lives/ Leave homes and parents without proper care.

  • Number of old folks home in Singapore is evident to show affluence and lack of commitment amongst the young.

6. Decreasing birth rates

  • young do not want to start families . Individualism overrated – emphasis on self

  • Do not want to share and give their time and love for others.

  • More interested in career pursuits

7. Influence of media and globalization.

  • Media eroding cultural identity and tradition amongst the young.

  • Concept of individualism – from the west is overrated to an extent where identity is lost amongst the young. Language, Clothes, festivals, art forms, traditions all loosing significance.

  • Globalization – Americanization – contributes to individualism being overrated.

8. Singapore – CIP/ NE

  • Infused into curriculum to create a more inclusive younger generation.

  • Shows that the young today do not volunteer involvement. Need to be structured for them,

7. What do you think should be the most important rights of children?

Straight forward approach/rationalized selection of choices/explain evaluate on relative basis/

egs from Developed & Developing world

Very Good scripts

  • Some reference to UN charter/prioritize choices/good ex & ev/egs from all over the world/higher order reasoning for inclusion of Developed world/some notion of future scenario.


  • Choice of rights with some relative discussion/some exp&eva/some counters argument/some awareness of future trends.


  • Mere choice of some rights/generalized discussion/hardly any worthwhile egs/poor evaluation/ facile statements/neither breadth nor depth.

8. “Forever young, I want to be forever young.” (Alphaville). Is this a healthy attitude?

  • Candidates need to establish clear definitions in relation to the quotation. The original song talks of dying young or living forever and implies an obsession with maintaining youth and in particular youthful beauty.

  • Weak scripts may simply focus on the pros and cons of youth.

  • Average scripts are more likely to look at the impact of such an attitude on society.

  • Better scripts are likely to consider the benefits of age and also the concept of ageing with dignity. Such scripts are more likely to take an objective view of things such as plastic surgery and rejuvenation therapies.

  • Recent technological and scientific evidence can be used to support the case for slowing down the ageing process to enable people to live longer more fruitful lives.

9. “Selfish, soft and not hungry enough for success as the previous generation.” Discuss the implications of this statement about Singaporean youth.

Students are expected to discuss the implications and consequences of such a statement, NOT the reasons for this predicament, or whether the statement is true or false. A discussion of remedies should also be kept to a minimum – a concluding paragraph at best, rather than half the essay

Possible implications:

For Singaporean youth

  • More grueling educational policies and practices to be put in place to address the lackadaisical attitude of the Singaporean youth? Cf. the National Education initiative when a comparable statement was made some years back

  • Fewer social support mechanisms for fresh graduates

  • A new need to prove themselves to society or even greater apathy and alienation as a result.

For government/society/the national economy

  • An atomised, self-centred society with individuals who lack compassion

  • Unable to face challenges → future of Singapore may be at risk in view of global challenges

  • Effective future leadership of the country may be undermined.

10. ‘Youth is more a matter of attitude than age.’ Discuss.

  • Students should determine what youth is broadly (characteristics of youth, emotional, physical and intellectual aspects) and, in particular, compare attributes of “attitude” and “age” in their consideration.

  • Students could agree (eg older people can be young at heart when they exhibit the characteristics of youth) or disagree (eg youth, at the end of the day, is a biological or chronological phase of one’s life and one cannot remain 18 forever).

  • Students may agree or disagree with the statement or argue that both youth is both a matter of attitude and age.

11. ‘The future is made for the young.’ Should they regard it with pessimism or optimism?

To pass, students are expected to:

  • Recognise and consider any one of the two interpretations of ‘The future is made for the young’.

    • One interpretation – the future is created and crafted in such a way that it caters to the young and is meant to be enjoyed by them.

    • Another interpretation – the future has been pre-determined or set for the young to inherit and the young have limited control about the kind of future that is in store for them.

  • Discuss who makes the future? How valid is the future or responsive is it so that the young should view it with optimism or pessimism?

  • Answer must be from the point of view of the young people and the impact on their future. They should not be generic causes that give rise to pessimism / optimism.

  • Assess the present situation and project the situation into the future.

  • Examine relevant areas like education, work, health and the environment.

  • Examine the people who have made and shaped the future for the young. These include parents, teachers, religious leaders, the government (through policies and provisions).

  • Make a moral choice between pessimism or optimism. Should state that while there are reasons justifying pessimism, it may not be wise to adopt a pessimistic outlook because only optimism can help to propel change and bring hope for the future.

Note: Fail for content - Students who address the second part of the question without relating it to the first.

To score, students are expected to:

  • Recognise and consider both interpretations of ‘The future is made for the young’.

12. ‘The future is entirely in the hands of the young.’ Comment on the validity of this statement.

To Pass

  • Show how the statement cannot be valid because of the absolute word ‘entirely’.

  • Define ‘entirely’: totally, in all situations, and all areas of life.

  • Define ‘lies in the hands of’: determined, controlled and shaped by the young.

  • Establish the parameters of what it means to be ‘young’ : physical (below a reasonable age level,) but the mental/spiritual aspect is acceptable also if the argument is convincing.

  • The young can refer to those who are young today who will be adults tomorrow, or the young of tomorrow.

  • Show why and in what ways the future lies in the hands of the young (talents, skills, education, vibrancy, energy, enthusiasm, adaptability, resilience, idealism…)

  • Show the limitations of the young ( may not have the experience, the resources, the money to determine the future of people or countries; young are victims of exploitation and negative environmental circumstances)

  • Show how the future is also in the hands of adults (parents, educators, community leaders) especially in the way they shape the minds of the young today.

To Score

  • Show how other factors are precursors to the future which the young will inherit (present world political situation, political leaders, government policies and provisions, education systems laid down currently, health and environmental situations today), which will have a positive or negative impact on how much they can shape the future.

  • Can mention how to some extent the future is unpredictable, unknown and uncontrollable.

13. “Be gentle with the young.” Comment.

Clarification of Terms

  • What gentleness entails.

  • Set parameters for who the young are.

Minimum Requirements

  • Examine the scope of gentleness – e.g. tolerance for their faults, providing encouragement instead of reproaching them severely, treating them with tender care, adjusting one’s expectations of them.

  • Consider the reasons for being “gentle” with them and support these with concrete examples.


  • Accusing the adults of treating the young harshly without explaining why they should do so otherwise.

  • Extolling the virtues of youth without paying attention to the word “gentle”

  • Interpreting “gentle” as a physical attribute only e.g. speaking softly.


  • Give credit if students are able to discuss the need to be flexible in one’s attitude towards the young i.e. there is no definite approach as it depends on factors like varying circumstances or who the individual is.

Possible points:

  • Today’s youth are seen to be pampered and unable to endure hardship, not having gone through poverty and wars that the older generation faced. But they face different sets of challenges e.g. uncertain times and increased competition due to globalisation. Adults should therefore not impose their standards (e.g. their definition of “suffering”) on the young.

  • Youth is a time of freedom and exploration and it is the best time for learning. They should be given the chance to make mistakes and learn from them before the responsibilities of adulthood prevent them from doing so.

  • The young today are more exposed to information, mature at a younger age and are more confident about their opinions. Thus they do not accept authority easily. Adults should therefore show them encouragement and support instead of putting them down if they want to win the young people over.

  • In an age which emphasizes creativity and entrepreneurial qualities, young people need to be given the opportunities to fail. Being forgiving of their shortcomings allows them to develop these qualities.

On the other hand,

  • The problems faced by the young – increased juvenile crime, violence in schools and sexual promiscuity are due to the adults being too gentle with them. Need to return to the “old school” method of enforcing corporal punishment e.g. spanking, to set things right – “spare the rod and spoil the child”

  • Being gentle with the young could prove to be disadvantageous in the long run – protecting them from the harsh realities of life would do them more harm than good as they might become over-reliant on the adults for solutions and lack resilience in today’s uncertain world.

  • In an age of increasing moral relativism, there is a greater need to provide guidance for our young. If we are too gentle with them with regards to their attitudes and behaviour and fail to teach them socially acceptable values, it could be harmful for society in the long run.

14. "The young are not concerned with anything except to get on with their own lives." Is this a fair comment on the youth in your country?


  • Acknowledge that the statement is a sweeping one;

Possible Stand (1)

  • That while this statement seems fair for a section of youths, it cannot apply to the majority/minority of Singaporean youths. This is because the young in my country have made significant contributions to family and society despite their heavy commitments in school and the workplace. Thus there are young people in my country who are able to reconcile their personal needs and desires with their other obligations to family, friends, the community and the nation.

Suggested Points

  • Arguments to illustrate that the statement is fair where the majority/minority/a significant number is concerned: Students have to show what young people are doing to get on with their own lives, that is how they spend time, energy and money pursuing their own desires and needs. Also need to show if this is a trend among many and if what they are doing is always only for themselves.

  1. Students are so pre-occupied with their studies/exams because this concerns their future career and lives that they have no time for other concerns.

  2. Young working adults are pre-occupied with their careers/jobs, put in long hours at the workplace because of desire for promotion, keeping the job, status.

  3. Much time spent with friends and colleagues-for personal entertainment and enjoyment or for networking.

  4. Young married couples prefer nuclear families-move away from their parents, their lives revolve round their spouse and children.

  5. Increasing trend of the young migrating to other countries for greener pastures leaving behind aged parents and their roots.

  • Arguments to show what they are not doing, that is what the other concerns are or should be.

  1. Family- parents and grandparents, his roots/culture.

  2. Society-less fortunate/poor/the environment/culture

  3. Nation-loyalty, interest and involvement in its development and progress.

  4. World- its well being and peace.


  • Most are able to reconcile their personal desires and needs with the other concerns and that only a minority are self-centred.

  • OR- Most are self-centred and are concerned mainly with their own interests.

Possible Stand (2)

  • That this is a sweeping statement. That it is the older generation’s perception of the young and is a biased one. Although it is true that there are self-centred young people, the majority have not forgotten old family values and have made significant contributions to society.

Suggested Points

  • Arguments to show that the perception is biased and even inaccurate.

  1. That time has changed the world rapidly over the past 5 decades and what may be viewed as selfish or irreverent by the older generation may be seen as normal in an era where individual freedom is the norm.

  2. The perception could have arisen from the fact that the young have adapted themselves to an intensely competitive world.

  3. That what is perceived as rebellion and self-centredness might in fact be the drive and zest of the young in their search for new experience and individualism.

  • Arguments to show that the statement is true where a minority are concerned.(Refer to points in Possible Stand 1)

  • Arguments to show that the majority have contributed to family and society despite their involvement in their own concerns. (Refer to points in Possible Stand 1)

15. Comment on the ways in which youths in the world are deprived today.

  • In order to provide a comprehensive answer, candidates should evaluate how the youths are deprived in developed and developing countries.

  • Candidates must be able to show awareness that in developed countries the youth are usually deprived of emotional support (due to the demands of school and work leaving little time for family and friends) and that in developing countries they are usually deprived of basic necessities (food, clean water, shelter and education).

  • Better candidates will be able to present a balanced viewpoint and discuss how most youths are in fact presented with more opportunities now and enjoy a higher standard of living (esp in developed countries).

16. “Selfish, soft and not hungry enough for success as the previous generation.” Discuss the implications of this statement about Singaporean youth.

Students are expected to discuss the implications and consequences of such a statement, NOT the reasons for this predicament, or whether the statement is true or false. A discussion of remedies should also be kept to a minimum – a concluding paragraph at best, rather than half the essay

Possible implications:

For Singaporean youth

  • More gruelling educational policies and practices to be put in place to address the lackadaisical attitude of the Singaporean youth? Cf. the National Education initiative when a comparable statement was made some years back

  • Fewer social support mechanisms for fresh graduates

  • A new need to prove themselves to society or even greater apathy and alienation as a result.

For government/society/the national economy

  • An atomised, self-centred society with individuals who lack compassion

  • Unable to face challenges → future of Singapore may be at risk in view of global challenges

  • Effective future leadership of the country may be undermined.

17. Apathy is characteristic of today’s youth. Is this a fair comment?

Note: Do not end up grumbling about how busy young people are, and so they cannot help being apathetic, etc. Do not be myopic and focus only on Singapore youth. You should include a broader perspective. (Refer to first lecture on “Youth”). Do not attribute something specifically to youth when it could apply to the whole population (eg. saying youth are politically apathetic caring only for their immediate concerns when the general population itself is often more concerned about bread-and-butter issues than politics.

Address the question!! It’s not about the reasons for youth being apathetic, but rather, the fairness / unfairness of the comment. After all, the statement is rather sweeping, that apathy is “characteristic” of youth today.

  • What you can bring up in the intro: the characteristic features of youth, the paradox of youth.

  • Then, address the charge. Is apathy “characteristic”, given such diversity and unpredictability of youth?

Issues / Comments:

  • Young people are in the process of finding themselves, their identity. Therefore they are more focused on self, grappling with issues closer to the heart, dealing with more immediate concerns. It is not an easy time for them, often marked by turbulence, uncertainty, confusion. These are valid concerns and therefore to label them as apathetic because their concerns / interests do not encompass a broader perspective would not be fair.

  • They are young and have yet to find their voice. Perhaps they have no avenue to voice out their feelings. [But now, youth forums, blogs, etc ?]

  • Look at the young people in some countries, who fight for a cause, whether deluded or not. They have the passion and conviction, to fight for what they believe in. (Use egs from lecture). Surely it would not be a fair comment therefore, to say that youth are apathetic.

  • The pressure of academic pursuits / peer pressure / family pressure could numb them to the bigger picture, hence a sense of social apathy. Lack of maturity to deal with anything beyond their immediate circle.

  • Youth appears to be misunderstood in every generation, often the target of negative perceptions (whether justified or not). If they voice out their concerns, they are seen as rebellious, but if they keep quiet, they are apathetic! Also, there is a tendency for youth to act cool and blasé, and this could be mistaken as apathy.