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General Paper Essay Outline : Can we ever close the gap between the rich and the poor ?


Stand : No

1) Meritocracy – How can it work best to close the gap, and what are some of its pitfalls

2) Taxation – Do we tax those at the top more ?

3) Minimum wage / Living wage debate & arguments for or against the welfare state

4) Unfair terms of trade between countries

5) Who controls technology & innovation wins ! The gap is already too wide, and it just keeps getting wider

6) What we can do is reduce the gap. The extent of reduction depends on the effectiveness of the government, and the determination of the people themselves so that they will do what they can to close the gap, be it in the values they teach their children, or how they run their businesses, or the community projects that support the poor.

Posted in Questions With Multiple Requirements, Science vs Art, Singapore

General Paper Essay Outline “The Arts are more important for Singapore today than the Sciences.”

Disclaimer : This outline is open to discussion. It is not meant to be taken as the only, or best, answer to the question

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Learning Points :

– Show the CONDITIONS FACED BY SINGAPORE that make either one more important than the other; or both equally important.

 – Show how each actually works/operates to fulfil its important role

[FULL INTRO] As Singapore approaches its 50th year of independence, many questions loom about how the country should move forward. One of those questions centres around the role of the Arts : Are the Arts better for Singapore today as compared to the Sciences? Singapore should take a leaf out of the book of the idealised Renaissance Man. For a people to move forward, they should value both the Arts and the Sciences as separate, yet intertwining, disciplines. In Singapore, while the emphasis on the Sciences continues to be important, the Arts – long under-rated and downplayed – are more important for its people and the country as whole.



[BP1] Singapore already has the clockwork efficiency and infrastructure that are the outcomes of the focus on science and engineering, but without the Arts, the city-state would be bereft of life and soul. The Arts is better than the Sciences for Singapore’s economy because it helps Singapore to stand out as a dynamic cosmopolitan city that is comparable with other world-renowned economic centres like Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and New York. Global cities that emphasize the Arts are able to attract not just tourists but also investors and very mobile talent because the love for the Arts is synonymous with diversity, creativity and tolerance for differing opinions. For this reason, Singapore organises its film festival and arts festival that have grown to become showcases for world-class acts and works. Indeed, the Arts help create the energy that makes the city exciting, fun and liveable.

[BP 2] Yet, the focus on the Sciences cannot come to a standstill because the country has to continuously apply the Sciences in order to find workable solutions to cope with more people and more trade. Hence, with all the above in mind, the government has embarked on a masterplan that marries both the Arts and the Sciences. This includes the development of the new financial-cum-night life district in Marina Bay that incorporates manifestations of science like an underwater expressway and an artificial reservoir to support water supply as well as centres for the Arts like the Arts Science Museum and the Esplanade Theatre. In doing so, the government continues to use the Sciences, but shows greater awareness of the role of the Arts in re-inventing Singapore’s image.

(The above is an example of a complete comparison as required in the question presented across 2 BP).
The BPs below show that the comparison is done within each BP.)


 [BP 3] The world today is full of opportunities. Sg has to provide opportunities for its pple to grow, fulfil their dreams, regardless of field – otherwise the pple could feel disillusioned, and may consider quitting the country altogether.

  • Sg should be Southeast Asia’s Silicon Valley. How? Science education has to grow to suit the technological trends of today and the projections for the future. Effective and current science education can help stem brain drain.
  • Interestingly, the Arts cannot be divorced from this very push for the Sciences, because both functional and aesthetic design have become increasingly important.
  • E.g. the Sciences – for building programme software but the Arts – for creating appealing hardware that is actually marketable.

[BP4] Furthermore, Sg needs to reflect on why so many pple in the Arts left to train and work abroad in the past. They did not see a future for their artistic talents and passion here. But their inclination for the Arts actually makes them valuable in the ever-changing modern world.

  • The Arts have made them more willing to look outside the box, whereas science training is grounded in (natural) laws that once discovered, are generally fixed.
  • Sg today needs more of such people because the textbook answers to evolving real-world problems that science-trained policy makers try to look for are non-existent.
  • The Sciences – develops systematic research methodology – one-track way of doing things or methodically changing only one variable at a time
  • Artistic Expression – far more fluid – greater tolerance for a mad mix of factors that shape society.
  • The logical, systematic solution (promoted by the Sciences) for solving the productivity problem is either to make people work more or use technology to increase output. However, the human aspect is not considered in these options. Thus outcomes like stress, fatigue or emotional disconnection are not carefully pre-empted. Healthy, loving relationships become collateral in a science-driven society because relationships are far more complex and are the result of the interplay of so many factors that cannot be quantified or measured by the scientific mind. The Arts explores these human issues. Continued exposure to the Arts can actually cushion the impact of over-emphasizing measureable results such as grades or output.


[BP 5] In addition, the less rigid nature of the Arts means that there is a higher tolerance for variegated human behaviours. Scientific research tends to ignore anomalies until these are proven to be significant for consideration. In this way, the Arts encourage empathy more than the Sciences.

  • The Arts – reading for allegorical, indirect meaning, look beyond the surface – even in society, symptoms of problems can be taken more seriously before the problems become apparent
  • E.g.  In absolute scientific terms, the number of problem gamblers in Sg is small and containable even after the opening of two casinos in 2010. Yet the Arts proffer a contrary view. The Arts encourage the mind to explore possibilities, see the world through a more empathetic lens and stress-test the moral values that a person holds dear; thus, the mind sees a more devastating fallout that absolute numbers do not uncover.
  • The new world we live in will throw up even more debatable developments, thus the Arts grows in importance.
  • Furthermore empathy and values imbued through the Arts inspires people to serve those in the fringes, who, by scientific calculation, are unimportant to society. Sg needs more of this as the rich-poor divide unabatedly widens


 [RESOLUTION / FULL CONCLUSION] Both the Arts and the Sciences have strengths. Both are indispensible for Sg to advance.  However, given that Sg already has begun its journey as a nation with a strong foundation in the Sciences, it has to look to the Arts to fill in some developmental gaps because its growth has not been holistic. The problems caused by this lop-sided growth are becoming more palpable. Therefore, while the Sciences are still important, the Arts are better for Sg today.


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General Paper Essay Outline : Is violence ever justified ?

Disclaimer : This is just a set of broad ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or the best to the question.

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Learning Point : Achieve a wide-ranging response

Stand : Violence is justified with very strict conditions — as a last resort in self-defence or in defence of victims of violence, as well as for the sake of maintaining order, provided precautions are taken to prevent the abuse of authority.
BP 1 : Violence is justifiable if the victim of an aggressor has no other choice but to defend himself
— individuals against assailants
— countries/groups under attack should fight back e.g. Kuwait had a right to defend itself against Iraq
— it is his or their right to self-defence
BP2a : Violence can be said to be justifiable as a kind of help in situations that have turned violent
— riot police during riots e.g. In the Ferguson or Baltimore riots, even though people were rioting over police brutality, the police cannot do nothing if the rioters become aggressive.
— but even in their use of force, they have guidelines to prevent them from abusing their authority e.g. restrictions on the use of firearms. This is due to their ultimate role of protecting the people e.g. Egypt has been criticised for the way the Arab Spring protests were handled because of the fatalities caused when the police or military open fire at the crowds
— military intervention to rescue a group of people who are subjected to violence – preserve the rights of the victims

BP2b : On the other hand, the argument in support of  violence becomes untenable when it comes to cases of military intervention in this day and age
— expensive and extremely politically troublesome to go to war
— Today, democracies need approval in their congress or parliaments to wage war against another legitimate leadership who will see this as an invasion that they have a right to put up a fight against
— As such, military intervention is usually taken with other motives that serve the country, not just to rescue a people
e.g. US democratisation of Iraq, Afghanistan also done for economic reasons
— it is difficult to justify wars when good motives have been coloured or hijacked by other self-serving goals
BP3 : It is also absolutely unjustified to use violence against others in order to hurt them or take from them
— attack other people or countries
— domestic abuse, rape e.g. Delhi gang rape, mass shootings e.g. Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook;
— genocides e.g. Bosnia, Rwanda; invasions e.g. WW2 etc
— “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once wrote
— The quote implies that the violence was the outcome of the failure to discuss, rationalise, persuade, cooperate, win others over, achieve aims by legal means, compel using more intelligent or less brutal ways
e.g. of competence :  6-party talks over N Korea’s nuclear programme, US sanctions against Russia, Russia mediating in Syria (as opposed to just declaring war)
BP4a : Some may argue that violence is justifiable if it is for the greater good
— violent punishment now as a deterrent to potential criminals (death penalty, corporal punishment e.g. Bali Nine)
— torture for those who are detained in order to extract information from them (terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay; waterboarding)
— pre-emptive strike

BP4b :  While some would empathise with such acts of violence, each of them can also be argued against
— death penalty goes against the right to life, reduces the moral credibility of the govt that uses it, goes against the moral ideal of compassion
— in the case of torturing suspects, detainees may actually be innocent and clueless; gross injustices to individuals have been committed in the name of the “greater good”
— who does a pre-emptive strike actually hit ? e.g. US in Afghanistan
BP5 : In relation to the above, violence is unjustified because it regrettably leads to a Pyrrhic victory — too many pernicious consequences
— war : pain for the families of soldiers, needless loss of lives of non-combatants; potential for backlash reprisals in the future; loss of property and all other things that were achieved through hard work; loss of cultural artefacts; loss of dignity of an entire people
— domestic violence : psychological, emotional trauma due to loss of dignity, promotion of chauvinism, effort needed to rebuild relationships, if this is even possible
— even projections of violence in the name of artistic realism become indefensible because these make the malleable mind more receptive to gratuitous violence e.g. GTA, films (Art wins but society loses)
— too little good comes from violence for it to be justified
Resolution :  A violent world is not what we wish for, but the violent tendency is already inherent in Man. In fact, we need this instinct for our own defence. Yet, what we also need are ways to suppress violence at the individual, community and even the international levels with approaches that appeal to our sense of humanity. We cannot callously accept attempts to justify violence without thinking of its consequences.