2009 jc1 Term 3 Block Test Paper 1 – Suggested Approaches Q1: “Prejudice is a part of the human condition; it can never be eliminated.” Discuss

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2009 JC1 Term 3 Block Test Paper 1 – Suggested Approaches
Q1: “Prejudice is a part of the human condition; it can never be eliminated.” Discuss.
Suggested Approach:

  1. Define key terms:

    1. Prejudice: a negative regard for another group based on biased or pre-conceived notions. A feeling or attitude.

    2. The human condition: the way humans react to or cope with events that are common or inevitable in life.   

  2. Explain why prejudice is part of the human condition: Consider the following factors and show how they shape values and attitudes.

    1. Fear: an individual or group will feel threatened by another individual or group if there had been negative contact between the two and if there is a conflict of interest. Fear is most often rooted in ignorance: fear of the unknown, fear of the "other," fear of perceived competitors; all of these hold the potential to generate a violent reaction under the right conditions. The degree of prejudice will depend on how much one group feels superior to the other. EG1: How people react to immigrants: White Australians vs Asians. Australians feel their jobs, lifestyles are threatened by the more diligent and better educated Asians.  EG2 : Hate violence caused by fear and ignorance, poses a serious threat to California communities.  In every region of the state, incidents have occurred in which racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities have been harassed, intimidated, assaulted and even murdered.

    2. Environment: hate groups, racist politicians, peers etc

    3. Family upbringing: parents instill racist feelings and stereotypes (includes those about the role of women) in their children at an early age and discourage them from interacting with children of another race.

    4. History and culture: deep-rooted animosity between Jews and Muslims etc.

    5. Tradition:

  1. Give reasons why these factors make it extremely difficult to eliminate prejudice.

    1.  Strong external influences:

      1. The effort of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and other neo-Nazi organizations to preach violence against racial, religious, sexual and other minorities continue unabated today.  They have hate hotlines, computer bulletin boards, hate propaganda distribution networks, youth groups, street gangs, etc. active throughout the state. Youth are constantly bombarded with messages designed to transform the fears of the economically distressed, the paranoid and the ignorant into violent reaction.  WAR, in particular, has been adept at indoctrinating and training gangs of young skinheads to brutalize minorities and vandalize their property.

      2. Peers: many young people join racist gangs out of a desire to belong to a group. This is a very powerful need in an age of uncertainty, dysfunctional families.

      3. Political leaders: some political leaders incite racism to advance their own goals. The fact that political figures and some government leaders approve of these views gives them a veneer of respectability. The young who see leaders use these kinds of tactics are led to believe that there is nothing wrong in race-baiting or gay bashing. EGS(a) Sri Lanka’s present PM’s ethnic chauvinism is alienating the Tamils and reviving the ethnic civil war. (b)When John Howard was PM of Australia, he made public speeches that deliberately accused all Muslims of of terrorism after 9/11. Prejudice against Muslims and racist acts against Muslims increased during this period.(c) In 1978, Margaret Thatcher said, “People are afraid this country might be swamped by people of different cultures.’ Views made by such leaders reflect a new kind of racism, subtle and more dangerous because it is ‘respectable’ –no insults used but in subtle and effective ways, it authorizes the very emotions of hostility. People are aware of differences and they do not think of others as better or worse; they simply do not want to admit outsiders.

      4. The media: perpetuate negative racial stereotypes in movies. Internet sites and blogs hosting hate material. Difficult to control of its anonymity, its massive accessibility and its ability to manipulate and influence the young and the impressionable.

    1. Prejudice is, at a basic level, instinctual.  Many studies have been conducted to show that people habitually, instinctually are drawn to notice differences and similarities between themselves and others.  This is a natural function of our desire to create order out of the chaotic world around us.

    2. In a society based on caste, a person’s position or occupation is hereditary. Caste in India is determined by one’s birth into a particular social group. This has existed for centuries in India and prejudice is deeply rooted and till today the lower castes, such as the Dalits (untouchables) are despised.

    3. The economic factor: although prejudice and the lines of conflict may be drawn along racial or ethnic divisions, the source of hostility is very often the fight for political power and economic resources, and the conflicting interests of those who benefit or are disadvantaged. EGS: Hutus and Tutsis, Tamils and Singhalese, Asian and other immigrants in Europe, US, Australia etc

  1. Support with a wide range of examples/illustrations.

  2. Show how it is possible to reduce it.

  1. In Singapore, there is an effort to increase interaction with other communities. Housing policies hinge on the importance of social integration and not segregation..

  2. Education has been effective in reducing prejudice.

      1. Multi-cultural education in countries like the UK, Canada has helped promote understanding and developed positive attitudes about different ethnic groups. BUT this depends on whether teachers themselves are broad-minded and unprejudiced and whether pupils develop independent critical thought that will enable them to cope with prejudice outside school.

      2. Meritocracy in Singapore continues to recognize and reward people based on merit and not ethnicity or gender. But this solves the problem of discrimination not prejudice which is a feeling or attitude.

      1. It also has provided a common space for the young to interact in schools. However, other stronger influences like racist parents and friends may nullify the effect.

    1. Media messages through documentaries and movies that raise awareness of the issue. Some internet groups, such as Hatewatch have gone as far as buying racist domain names so that the real racists cannot buy these domains themselves.

    2. Government legislation/policies and the messages/signals sent out to the public by authorities/leaders respected by the people are positive.

NB: Credit should be given to students who are able to discern:

  • that discrimination is actually more of a problem than prejudice, because discrimination disqualifies members of one group from opportunities open to others.

  • Or that only when prejudice is eradicated from the heart, can discrimination be eliminated.

  • And that this can only be done by proper spiritual education which must begin from the earliest formative years of the child’s personality, and that this awareness of the basic human bonds uniting peoples of different races, must be fostered in the family, the home and the community.

Q2: Is ‘voluntourism’ the most suitable way for us to help

underprivileged citizens of other countries?

A new niche in vacation travel - voluntourism is taking off, as more Singaporeans sign up to spend their hard- earned holiday-time doing tough work for charities in difficult places overseas.

Question Interpretation:

Is genuine help being rendered to the less privileged in other countries? What real value do volunteer tourists offer their hosts?

In order to pass, students need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of voluntourism and compare them against other means of rendering aid to the poor and needy in other countries.
To Disagree:

  1. Voluntourists take home more from their “slumming” in the Third World than

leave behind for the underprivileged they are supposed to help. (Hidden agenda involved) E.g. taking photographs with those unfortunate enough to have been born in the wrong place; the opportunity to use the experience on a college application or job resume.
Cleansing of developed-world middle-class guilt?

  1. The charities and aid agencies must play host to a revolving number of people who never stay long enough to make any difference – and who might even complicate matters because of their lack of experience.

E.g. if one is new to rural-anywhere, village life in Cambodia or

Malawi or Mongolia is going to take a lot of getting used to.

Thus, the charities have to get the volunteers up to speed for the

work they have signed up for. Learning a thing or two about the

use of hammers and saws to build a house, school or toilet

involves a rather steep curve. How much use would the

voluntourists be, especially since they are people who are more

likely to call in the locksmith for the broken door than to try to fix it


  1. The vanity or smug superiority which people from developed countries naturally have something to teach the poor or that we can teach the underprivileged of the Third World how to lead their lives.

  1. If one cares enough for a cause or charity, one should simply give money outright instead of making the charity out up with you. Charities and aid agencies have many needs that have to be paid for and money is always in short supply.

E.g. Volunteer tourists in Singapore can pay up to $3,000 for a two-week trip. Imagine the number of permanent local workers an aid agency in Cambodia can hire with that.
To Agree:

    1. Many charities and aid agencies could badly use even short-time help from people with real skills – like doctors, nurses and mechanics – who come to work on crucial projects.

    2. Also useful are the volunteers who are there for the long haul – workers who have made a professional commitment towards aiding those who need help.

    3. Such volun-tours are part of a long-standing commitment to frame, put into context, the charitable work these volunteers do at home, allowing them to better understand conditions. E.g. They learn how much money they might need to raise at home for projects, what materials they might need to collect and ship over.


The most important thing to consider is to be useful and make a real contribution – by means of prudent and effective ways. And not get in the way.
Eg. In July 2007, police in Afghanistan found the bullet-riddled body of one of the 23 South Koreans taken hostage. The Koreans were kidnapped by the Taleban outside Kabul while on a 10-day trip to teach English and help in a hospital. They unwittingly added to the security challenges and difficulties faced by the Afghan government. The hostage-takers have demanded the release of a number of their fighters in exchange for the Koreans’ freedom.
Important to leave aid work in difficult places to the professionals and the experienced.
Q3: Is it better to be a dreamer or a realist?

  • Dreamer  Idealist

(Important for pupils to realize that this concept has both negative and positive connotations; it can stand for people who are visionaries and whose focus is on ‘what can be’ BUT it can also refer to individuals who focus so much on the future that they cannot appreciate the realities of the present, with its problems and difficulties.)
Fundamental characteristics:

- Dreamers

 Thrive on change

 Creative

 Foresight


 Impractical

  • Realist

(Important for pupils to realize is that this concept can refer to individuals that are able to see their place in the world, grounded on ‘what is’ OR it can refer to those who are so pragmatic but they may become narrow-minded)
Fundamental Characteristics:

- Realists

 Politically ‘Machiavellian’ (cunning, scheming in order to realize personal ambitions)

 Negative view of human nature (all men are self-serving and competition and conflict are therefore inevitable)

 Cautious

  • “better than”

(Pupils need to be aware that they can only be one, not both. They need to examine the merits and demerits of being a Dreamer vis-à-vis a Realist. However, pupils cannot examine them separately and then come to a conclusion that one is better than the other, without a fair comparison. It is also not good enough to highlight that it is better to be one rather than another depending on the situation. Instead, comparisons need to be made based on a set of criteria in order to come to a conclusion.)

Merits of being a ‘dreamer’

Demerits of being a ‘dreamer’

1. Science & Technology
Dreamers provide the cornerstone for scientific and technological progress
*Theory of Relativity was dreamed up by Albert Einstein when he dreamed that he was sledding down a steep hill at night, his sled traveled faster and faster, until it approached the speed of light.  At that speed, the stars and night sky were transformed into a dazzling spectrum of colors.

*Dreams provide a visual template for scientists to ‘see’ their theories, see links between apparently disparate ideas, made possible only by a ‘mental picture’

*Thrive on innovation, because it conceives that which has not existed before, challenges convention to come up with something better
*Niels Bohr said that he developed the model of the atom based on a dream of sitting on the sun with all the planets hissing around on tiny cords. He won the Nobel Prize for that dream

*Dreams offer a simple but effective alternative to using other approaches like drafting complex equations and holding conversations with intellectual peers

1. Education
Dreamers may lack the self-discipline to achieve success
*Many young dreamers have often been labeled failures as they are unable to concentrate during lessons in school

*Many of these pupils are unable to cope with the pressures of meeting others’ expectations and academic ranking

*Unfortunately, many young dreamers are also ‘late bloomers’

2. The Arts
Dreamers and their creativity provide the world with beauty, grace and charm
*The random quality of individual dreams, mean that anything that is inspired by them will inevitably be unique

*This would explain the uniqueness of different paintings, musical pieces and dance movements.

*Examples of dreams that have inspired famous painters and musicians include Handel and Richard Wagner

2. Sociological
Dreamers are often regarded as social misfits
*Dreamers are often picked on (in school by playground bullies or even teachers) because they are perceived to be different

*In the working world, dreamers are often ignored since they do not conform

3. Politics
Dreamers have the power to effect a change in the course of human history
*Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech broke down racial barriers and empowered African-Americans to demand equal rights

*Dreams can inspire followers, start political movements and offer hope to those who wish for a better tomorrow

3. Politics
Dreamers may champion ideas that are impractical
*Mao Zedong’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ was an ideal that he dreamed up to outdo the capitalistic West but he was not able to illustrate in detail how his plans would work; and since ideals are open to different interpretation by different people, his subordinates came up with extreme measures to meet unrealistic quotas, eg. Rural Chinese peasants melted pots and pans to meet steel production quotas

*The famous political idealist, Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations failed because he failed to accept the fact that conflict is an integral part of human nature and states are designed to protect their self-interest.

4. Sports
Dreamers serve as a means to inspire and act as a role model for others to follow
*Athletes like Jack Nicklaus use their dreams as an out of body experience to see how to change certain aspects of themselves to win, eg. Nicklaus used his dreams to change his golf swing

*Many top athletes are taught visualization techniques and encouraged by sports psychologists to imagine what they would do before each race or game to prepare themselves

Merits of being a ‘realist’

Demerits of being a ‘realist’

1. Political
Realists make excellent statesmen since they are equipped with a strong sense of awareness of what happens around them
*Realists possess the necessary foresight to switch sides in a war in order to survive, eg. Josef Stalin’s eventual disregard for the Molotov- Ribbentrop Agreement he signed with Germany when he realised that Germany had turned against them and that Germany would lose WWII with the entry of the USA into the war

1. Political
Realists lack moral courage in their bid to defend their self-interest

*Realists cannot be trusted by their allies as they have a tendency to place their survival above all else

2. Economic
Realists provide stability in a complex, global economic system
*As a result of their strong appreciation of rules and regulations, realists are more likely to be fiscally responsible

2. Sociological
Socio-economic progress will be slow because of the realist’s general aversion to risks
*Because of their need to survive, realists are less likely to conjure up new ideas to improve society, preferring instead to try and live with what they perceive they cannot change (i.e. sense of resignation)

3. Psychological
They are more likely to be psychologically and emotionally resilient
*Because of their ability appreciate current realities, they are more likely to tolerate hardship (unlike the dreamer who may experience dissociation, retreating instead into his own thoughts and dreams)

3. Educational
Being a realist makes the individual more inclined to upholding mainstream views
*Realists tend to be critical thinkers, rather than creative. They may not be able to accept change so readily and they thrive on maintaining the status quo

Q4: ‘Privacy is undervalued today.’ Do you agree?
Definition of ‘privay’: the state of being alone in order to be able to do things without people seeing or disturbing you.

Yes, privacy is undervalued today:

  • Climate of fear (e.g. of terrorism) giving rise to the need for increased surveillance, thanks also to a proliferation of tracking technologies. E.g. closed circuit televisions, legalization of phone-tapping.

  • Technological advances make intrusion of privacy easier. Also easier for private information or matters to be leaked out.,e.g. the Tammy scandal and the Edison Chen scandal.

  • The use of ‘cookies’ by individuals to keep track of the number of people visiting the site, the time of visit and even the email addresses of the visitors. Some employers are also able to access private mails of their employees.

  • More and more tech-savvy companies and bosses are using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on job applicants.

E.g. a consulting boss went online to suss out an applicant from a top college. At Facebook, the candidate described his interests as smoking marijuana, shooting people and compulsive sex. He did not nail the internship.

  • Local firms exist to sell programs that forward secretly SMS messages from one’s spouse or partner to oneself. The programs promise to supply all the evidence one requires to nab a straying partner.

  • There is a long list of conveniences for city living that seem built to facilitate the possibility of surveillance. E.g. Hong Kong smart ID card. Powered with a memory chip, it can be used for digitally storing medical records and, if an electronic money function is activated, financial information too.

  • Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites are increasingly being targeted by cyber-criminals drawn to the wealth of personal information supplied by users. (ST, July 31, 2009 – “Are You On Facebook? Beware of Hackers”)

  • Malware - a malicious software often designed to infiltrate a computer system for illicit purposes. Can be used to steal bank account data or credit card information once installed on a personal computer.

  • Advertisements intrude into one’s private moments. We are forced to watch them in between programme, read them in our mails. Intimate products are also blatantly advertised.

E.g. sanitary napkins.

  • Commercial gains to be reaped from the invasion of privacy.

e.g. paparazzi hounding celebrities.
No. Privacy is not undervalued today:

  • Citizen Journalism ( e.g. STOMP!).

While privacy is violated, the true intention is to fulfill one’ moral duty to inform the public of pertinent events and issues.

  • Privacy Laws.

Q5: Where does one learn best – the school or the workplace?
Question Interpretation:

The candidate is expected to take a stand on the issue, while giving some kind of comparison.

Emphasis is on the word ‘learn’. Therefore, the candidate must offer a definition in order to substantiate the stand taken.
School –

  • Structured curricula make learning easier and systematic, but may stifle creativity.

  • Foundation for moral values reinforced, esp through Co-curricular Activities and Community Involvement Programs.

  • Mini (Microcosm of) society that allows individuals to learn through interaction.

  • Learning at a regulated pace. Room for mistakes.

  • Imbibe values (e.g. love, respect, integrity & commitment0 at an early age.

  • Discipline.

Workplace –

  • The real world

  • Real life experience. To learn is to live life.

  • Apprenticeship means modeling.

Q6: Is work a necessary evil?
Question Interpretation:

Besides taking work at face value, that is, in the sense of ‘going to work’ or ‘to have a job which one is paid to do’, there are other interpretations of the word ‘work’.

People could also be working towards a goal, working at school or working at a sport.
Students are also expected to display understanding of the phrase “necessary evil” and offer a sound definition of it.

“A necessary evil” can be understood as something which is not desirable / not welcomed yet essential / vital for individual survival / social progress.

Why work is necessary:

  1. To achieve something in life. (self-actualisation – refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) Work is one of the ways of getting that ‘something’.

  2. To make a living – feeding the children and paying the bills. Money is an important return for the time and effort they invest.

  3. To conform to society’s expectations.

  4. To relieve boredom.

Why work is considered an ‘evil’:

  1. Could be utterly banal, mundane or even repetitive and mentally unstimulating.

  2. In some cases, an individual’s line of work may against one’s principles and beliefs but they shrug it off, convincing that they cannot help it.

E.g. the man who ekes out a living from illegally trapping and selling exotic and rare animals from a sanctuary. His conscience reminds him that it is wrong, but he has no choice but to undertake this type of work to survive.

3. Multi-taskers who bite off more than they can chew, whether it is

working in the office or studying, in order to get ahead in life.

Distraction slows down information-processing ability.

  1. The mental and emotional stress brought on by working at ‘twitch speed’ at all times and meeting deadlines. Being technologically savvy means workers are expected to stay permanently plugged in and ‘connected’. This necessarily leads to the invasion of work into one’s leisure hours. E.g. the pressure to check email while on vacation. Work-life balance is affected. Scant respect paid to personal time and space. Toll taken on social and family life.

  1. Work-hours are getting longer in today’s world. Working hours could even

increase now that people are able to work from home. Be it closing a foreign deal or meeting an overseas boss online, work is expected to be done at a faster pace. “Work can never be finished”

  1. Work could possibly be fulfilling and meaningful. E.g. people who work admirably for the good of others / to make a contribution to society. ( Focus on the element of personal satisfaction involved in working) Think about Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta.

  2. Work with the intention of learning. By working, one binds knowledge and experience – resulting in a better individual. E.g. work-attachments / apprenticeship

  3. Work could produce social progress. Think about Aung San Suu Kyi in her younger days, working for her nation’s democracy, even at the expense of being cut off from her friends, family and the rest of the world.

  4. Some people actually enjoy working. Regard working at working or other as a useful way of filling their days, compared to sitting around and getting nothing out of life. Some even claim to have a sense of peace and well-being while, or as a result of, working.

  5. The option of flexi-work in today’s world could spell an improvement in one’s quality of life, resulting in improved work-life balance. (Refer to ST article “New Economy Sees Rise of ‘Entreployees’, 10 June 2006)

  6. Many people’s work is creative, fascinating or valuable and rewarding.

Q7 : Crises bring out the best in man.’ Discuss.
Requirements of Question:

  1. A good working definition of ‘crisis’: a feeling or situation of extreme conflict or suffering that has become so dangerous or threatening that it pushes man out of his comfort zone and summons either his best (positive character traits) or his worst (negative character traits).

  1. A balanced approach- not only the best but also the worst.

  1. A clear link must be demonstrated between the crisis and what/how/why the crisis brought out these qualities (positive and negative)

  1. Cite a broad range of specific and relevant examples of crises (political/economic/humanitarian/personal/emotional) to support the arguments.

Suggested theses

  1. When people are faced with adversity, more often than not, the very best is not brought out in them because the sides that inevitably surface as the crisis quickens are fear, anger, selfishness, despair.

  2. When people are faced with a crisis, the best in them surfaces to deal with the situation.

  3. Man’s dual nature- his basic selfish instinct to survive and his basic humanity-is put to test in a crisis. The strength of these two contradictory impulses varies among people and thus it would be reasonable to state that a crisis can bring out both the best and the worst in man. (a balanced thesis)

Crises bring out the best in man

  • Humanitarian acts reflect a humane and civilized society, one that takes care of the weakest in society. Barriers of race, religion, nationality, colour are transcended as people realize their common humanity and get involved in massive global relief operations(e.g. outpouring of aid during tsunami/Hurricane Katrina/Sichuan earthquake). Qualities- compassion and empathy of non-victims/resilience of victims etc.

  • In conflicts, such as wars, heroic qualities are displayed – courage, selflessness and a willingness to die for a cause or fellowmen.

  • Crises promote a sense of unity:

  • Countries cooperate to solve crises.

  • G20 summit to solve the current economic crisis, G8 summit to outline measures to reduce carbon emissions etc.

  • Crises awaken the spirit of innovation and creativity: the human mind is challenged to come up with incredible solutions. Egs- WW2 provided the impetus for the invention of the atomic bomb (a controversial example, but it ended the war) , development of vaccines for epidemics in the past and pandemics today etc.

  • Crises (personal) allow man to grow in wisdom and self-knowledge- one of the highest levels of spirituality a man can attain: intense suffering leads him to question deeply the meaning of life and this sharpens his intellect, sensibilities and understanding of self.

Crises bring out the worst in man:

  • Conflicts bring out the beast in man: violent and brutal nature

  • Rwanda War – ethnic cleansing is explained as necessary.

  • Terrorist attacks – the killing of innocent people and the beheading of hostages are seen as solutions to oppression.

  • Other base qualities as revealed in his actions- rape, betrayal.

  • Crime becomes rampant when a crisis strikes.

  • Every man for himself : breeds fear and the possibility of being deprived– e.g. looting and incidents of violence during Hurricane Katrina.

  • Poverty- can lead to desperation and despair and brings out the criminal in a man.

  • Countries are quick in protecting national interests(selfishness), hence neglecting global responsibilities:

  • Earth Summits are not very effective in dealing with environmental problems as countries pay lip service to agreements.

  • They still prioritise economic growth over environmental well-being (e.g. US did not ratify Kyoto protocol in order not to be left behind in the economic race with its major rival, China).

Q8. “The arts serve no purpose other than to amuse and entertain.” Comment.
Understanding terms:

Candidates should take a broad definition of the arts. The various categories of expressive disciplines include:

  • Visual Arts – photography, painting, 3-D installations, multimedia art.

  • Performing Arts – theatre, music, dance, pop art (MTV culture).

  • Literary arts is a category on its own.


The statement reflects a disappointed/scornful/contemptuous attitude towards the arts, and implies that other identifiable functions of the arts have been sidelined by the arts industry so much so that the observer may conclude that the arts exist only to offer entertainment and amusement. Candidates ought to be able to read the disapproving tone implicit in the statement.

‘amuse and entertain’ – connotations of frivolous entertainment for the masses, without seeking much to engage and enlighten minds, or to promote ‘progressive’ values.
In order to pass, candidates ought to

  • display an awareness of the range of purposes the arts serve

  • show some understanding of how the arts amuse and entertain

  • take a stand as to what degree the arts exist to serve the purpose of entertaining (the masses).

Possible discussion points:

  • It might appear that the arts serves the sole function of offering amusement and entertainment, as

  • the public’s notion of the arts is largely informed by the mass media, which plays up the entertainment value of the arts (e.g. Cirque du Soleil)

  • Infusing the arts with pop culture has blurred the lines between the arts and entertainment (e.g. Andy Warhol)

  • Yet, the other functions of the arts are much valued, though often ignored or undermined:


  • To make a point (e.g. to showcase inherent beauty)

  • To convey a message (e.g. to make a social commentary) or meaning (e.g. a symbolic representation of a universal truth through the façade of everyday life).


    • The arts define out unique existence and cultural heritage, by helping cultural groups explore and build on their heritages and to share these heritages with others, thereby building close bonds between various communities.


    • In the West, the arts play a significant part in the national economy. The architecture, theatre, the music industry, movies and arts-related media software products contribute a substantial amount of profits to the gross national product. E.g. in Canada, GDP in the arts and entertainment industry as steadily grown from $8.9b in 1998 to $11.7b in 2007. The arts contribute an average of 6% to the national GDP in these countries.

    • The arts promote tourism in Singapore. Since the arts act as a window to our culture, tourism industry aims to tap into the cultural appetites of our foreign visitors.

    • The arts revitalize old buildings which are adapted and reused to house arts organizations (e.g. in Singapore, Hill Street Police Station now houses MICA, the old SJI is used by the Singapore Art Museum, and the old Parliament House is now The Arts House – our modest, but laudable attempts at conservation)

  • No doubt much of the entertainment that passes off as art comes across as either highbrow, exclusive and inaccessible , or mere mass-produced froufrou, candidates could challenge the assumption that the business of amusing and entertaining the masses is necessarily one which brings little real value to society.

    • In fact, employing the arts in entertaining the masses in large-scale displays (from the mardi gras in Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, New Orleans, to Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige’s outdoor extravaganzas in China) promote cultural identity and pride.

    • The arts as entertainment have also functioned as a salve to soothe away society’s collective pain. Charlie Chaplin, one of the greatest mime artistes and film-makers of all time, can be credited for providing the much-needed laughter and relief for war-torn Europe. A recent trend in African is the proliferation of ‘creative representations’ of genocide in multiple media (in fiction, memoirs, feature films, documentaries, performances and art exhibitions). Some of these creative works include Terry George’s feature film Hotel Rwanda, Gil Courtemanche’s docu-fiction A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, Andrew Miller’s novel The Optimists, a 2005 Senegalese dance performance enacting the horror of the genocide (aptly termed ‘trauma aesthetics’) – meant to provide carthatic release for the performers/audience and to promote the values of tolerance and reconciliation.

    • The better candidates could attempt to argue that the capacity of the arts to amuse and entertain places the arts in a naturally advantageous position to challenge existing mindsets and to effect profound societal change.

Q9: What is wrong with organ trading?
Question Interpretation:

The question requires candidate to examine the varied perspectives surrounding the sale and purchase of human organs.

Background Information:

The sale of organs is illegal in most countries, although there is a grey market where those who can afford it have transplants done in less well-policed places.

Singapore bans organ trading, but it supports people who go elsewhere to buy an organ by giving them subsidised drugs on their return.

The Ministry of Health also advises people who want to go overseas for "commercial transplants" to "clearly weigh the risks and benefits".

Arguments against organ trading:

  • Organ transactions should be purely altruistic.

  • Kidney transplants are “a big life-and-death operation” and people should not be induced to part with a part of themselves for a financial reward.

  • It is more important to raise the number of organ donors available. A price-tag should not be put on human organs.

  • The poor and the weak would often be the ones who have to give up their organs and this could lead to them being intimidated and harassed.

  • Such trade inevitably involves exploitation of the worse-off in society.

  • Every operation carries a risk. Since the poor will be the main sellers, their compromised health will be further jeopardized.

  • Treating the body as a saleable asset is regarded by many people as morally wrong in principle. It degrades the value of human life – to treat one’s body as you would any other object.

  • Either the only sellers will be poor, or, if the price is increased to attract the rich, only rich patients will be able to afford the organs. Thus, either way, the poor are treated unjustly.

Arguments in favour of organ trading:

  • People are dying of organ failure. And there are people who are healthy enough to donate their organs. It is ironical that the law at present punishes the very victims it is supposed to protect.

  • (Assoc Prof Lee Wei Ling, 2008)

  • In Singapore, it is possible to ensure the donor is healthy enough to donate his organ without adverse medical consequences, and there is fair remuneration. Checks can be made to ensure the donor does not carry any diseases that can be transmitted to the patient through the transplanted organ.

  • "Every one of us has a duty as human beings to help others. People who may potentially be saved are dying, yet we still bury our heads in the sand and allow the suffering to go on? Of course, we should not break the law. But we should change the laws when they have become irrelevant. We should ensure that the person who is selling his organs is protected, and eliminate the middleman."

  • As long as there is a willing buyer and seller, why not? If the seller does not feel exploited, who are we to judge? It's more important to save lives first.

    • As long as donors are aware of the risks and money makes them more willing

    • to give up their organs to save lives, what's wrong with that?

  • People can continue to lead healthy lives with one kidney, and the risk of death from donating a kidney is less than one in 1,000.

  • Selling the heart is obviously out; liver transplant carries a 1 to 3 per cent risk of death, which is too high; and to ask someone to give up an eye is ridiculous.

    But there are now about 3,000 people with kidney failure in Singapore. At least a third would have better and longer lives – and at a much cheaper cost – with a transplant.

  • Basically, dialysis doesn't stop the ravages to the body from a non-functioning kidney. So people on dialysis live shorter lives.

  • Even with the expanded Human Organ Transplant Act which allows organs to be taken from brain-dead people, and not just those who died in an accident, the waiting list continues to grow every year.

  • A final argument: Organ trading already exists.
    Over the past 20 years, more than 600 Singaporeans have gone abroad,

    • mainly to China or India, for organ transplants. They very obviously paid for the organ.

      Singaporeans are not the only people buying organs from poorer countries. The Americans do it, the Europeans do it, the Israelis do it – lots of people do it.

  • The fact that it goes on doesn't make it right.

    But if it cannot be stopped, then it may be better to legalise it, to protect both buyer and seller. It would be the lesser of two evils.

Q10. Is Singapore paying too high a price for success?
Singapore is paying too high a price for success:

  • Progress has taken away parents from their rightful place- their home. In today’s affluent society, the high cost of living demands that both parents go out to work, leaving their children often in the care of nannies or domestic help.

    • Quality time with one’s family thus is the cost that we have paid for progress, people say, and too high a price to pay at that as we see bonds among family members weakening in developed societies.

  • Success translates to high cost of living, discouraging many from having many children or having children early, resulting in an ageing population.

  • Complacency sets in, resulting in serious lapses in security and hygiene practices/ checks:

    • The escape of Mas Selamat, a highly dangerous leader of JI operations in Singapore, and the recent spate of food poisoning incidents partly due to NEA’s poor supervision of temporary markets, are evidences of complacent behaviour.

The price paid for success has been alleviated (1st option):

  • The government and companies are doing their part to ensure familial relationships do not suffer:

    • The government initiated the Family week, with a week long of family-oriented events and carnivals to encourage families to participate in activities to strengthen bonds.

    • The government also recognises companies that have adopted family-friendly practices - in an annual event, awards are given out to the most family-friendly organisations.

    • Increasingly, we see more employers allowing their staff to work from home, only requiring them to report to work a few days a week.

  • The government offers monetary incentives to encourage Singaporeans to have children:

    • The ‘baby bonus’ and extended childcare leave have led to a rise in the number of babies born this year.

  • The government has tightened security procedures and taken severe measures in dealing with those responsible for lapses in a bid to deter others from committing the same mistakes:

    • The officers responsible for Mas Selamat’s escape were either discharged or demoted and a court action has been taken against the ‘rojak’ seller accountable for the first case of mass food poisoning in Singapore.

The price paid for success is a reasonable sacrifice for the gains that Singapore has acquired (2nd option):

  • High standard of living  first world country with high standard of living, more employment opportunities

  • improved living conditions compared to the past in the 1950s – 1960s – e.g. better health services, housing conditions – low infant mortality rate, high literacy rate

  • Highly skilled workers in demand in workforce overseas

Q12. ‘In a culture that is biased in favour of the young, the old have

become increasingly sidelined.’ Is this true in your society?


An essay which meets the minimum requirements ought to take into consideration both aspects of the quotation – the young and the aged, and the relationship implied (i.e. one is increasingly displacing the other).

The issue of ‘balance’ in this essay (which should not be the benchmark for passing) needs to be more delicately handled. It seems hardly reasonable to dispute that ours is a youth-oriented culture, and that the old are, in many ways, marginalised. The ‘balance’ or the evaluative content, could be woven into the discussion through an attempt to answer questions such as

  • What are some of the factors (socio-economic, cultural) which have brought about this trend?

  • Has this been identified as a problem? What are some of the ramifications of such a trend?

  • What measures, if any, are there to offset the marginalisation of the elderly? Have these been effective?

These questions should not dictate the direction of the essay, but are useful to help the candidate develop insight into the issues.


The issue of ageism is especially pertinent to Singapore, where in 2007, 8.5% of our population were 65 years and above; but this figure is set to hit 20% in 2030. This ‘silver tsunami’ that we are already experiencing has to be responded to with both grace and good practical sense. Ageism cannot be stamped out, but could be discussed openly such that it is not unnecessarily perpetuated.

Yes, the young have been given preferential treatment, at the expense of the elderly

  1. Forces of ageism at play in the workplace.

  • To employers, the word ‘old’ connotes negativity – ‘old’ workers come across as ‘inflexible’ or ‘unwilling to change’, frail/physically dependent – hence, less likely to land the job, and more likely to be laid off. Those perceived to be old are less likely to received training and given fewer opportunities at work.

  • In order to entice employers to retain older workers for longer periods, to reduce the strain they may place on the state’s resources, the Government has allowed employers to cut the wage of older workers (e.g. for a 60-year-old worker - up to 10%), but the wage cut ‘must be based on reasonable factors other than age, such as changes in an employee’s productivity, performance, duties and responsibilities. The CPF (retirement savings plan) is structured to reduce an employee’s total income as he ages, to encourage employers with senority-based wage structures to hire older workers. Other benefits such as annual leave entitlements are also reviewed and cut for older workers. Such measures might ensure that older workers hold on to their jobs, but continue to perpetuate the perception that older workers are less ‘useful’/productive. [evaluate the measure]

  • Counterarguments:

  • Our attention is often drawn by the media to pockets of older folks who are still meaningfully employed past the age of 62. e.g. Mr Yap Kwei Hock, 90 years old, who is secretary to business tycoon, Mr Tan Keong Choon, 89; MM Lee Kwan Yew, 85; President S R Nathan, 85; top local banker Wee Cho Yaw, 80. (but women woefully lag far behind men – the employment rate for older women is less than one in 10, compared to one in 5 for men)

  • Some businesses prefer older workers to younger foreign workers, as they tend to be more loyal, stay on the job longer and carry a wealth of experience which is helping when attending to customers. e.g. Han’s Café, fast food restaurants.

  • MOM labour force survey in 2006 reveal that the number of older folks still working almost doubled over the past decade:

    • 1999: 45,000 workers in their 60s, 9,400 above 70

    • 2006: 83,600 workers in their 60s, 15,600 above 70

A large proportion of these elderly work in blue-collar jobs. 4/5 of the workers aged 65 and older are in the service industry, and most of them are cleaners/labourers, in sales or work on production lines.

  • However, the desire and necessity of working longer may have some unintended side effects. It might result in a society seeing value in older people only if they contribute economically. This may pressure older people to work longer even if they do not feel like it. This might also undermine the value of retirement and volunteerism, and the other areas older people could contribute in, such as helping their working children care for their children.

  1. Businesses target the young, remain wary of older consumers for fear of acquiring a dowdy image

    • e.g. Mr Henry Quake, CEO of the Council for Third Age, has to spend 6 months sweet-talking companies to set up booths at the 50+ Singapore Expo (Jan 09). He claims that products marketed to the old do not sell, as the old would not want to acknowledge that they are old (through buying such products), and the young want nothing to do with the aged.

  1. Within politics and public service, there is clearly a relentless hunt for new blood, with those on the wrong side of a number falling by the wayside.

    • e.g. Public Sector Leadership framework – fixed 10-year terms for permanent secretaries and chiefs of statutory boards. This allows talented civil servant to take top positions as early as in their 30s or 40s, but also means that they could leave the organizations before official retirement age of 62.

    • e.g. 2002 – the People’s Association required grassroots leaders step down from key posts when they hit 65. The following year, it limited the chairmen of residents’ and neighbourhood committees to three consecutive terms, or six years, prompting an allegation of ageism from MP Charles Chong.

  1. Changing lifestyles and family structures have alienated the aged. Traditionally, in Singapore and other Asian countries, older and younger people live and work together. Now, we increasingly segregate the generations. With the growing demise of multi-generational families, youth have little contact with their grandparents, and within one-and-a-half generations, the perception of the elderly as experienced and wise has been deeply eroded. New technologies quickly render the old obsolete.

  1. Even popular discourse tends to paint ageing as a ‘problem’ in Singapore - the news often focuses on problems associated with the aged, such as outmoded skill sets or inadequate retirement funding. This is not helped by the constant exposure to youth-oriented images beamed by global media outlets erodes the residual respect one has for older people. The media is also guilty of casting the elderly person as comic caricatures (e.g. Jack Neo’s Liang Po Po). “Even in Workfare and CPF poster, the old men are toothless, with glasses hanging down their noses, and their bodies always seem to be pear-shaped”, so points out retiree Lena Lim, 71.

  1. The changing definition of ‘old’ emphasizes the growing presence of ageism in all levels of society. Singaporeans think people are considered ‘old’ at an increasingly younger age. According to the 2005 global AXA Retirement Scope survey, which polled about 300 people here, old age started at 71. In 2007, the benchmark dropped to 67. Last year, it slid to 66. This perception compares unfavourably with other countries like India (oldness=67), or Australia (74) and other industrialised nations. A researcher for the Institute for the Future of Ageing Services has this theory, “The closer a society gets to being old, the more frightened it becomes. The closer you get to a society that is getting older, the more there is a backlash against ageing, so there is an interest in having a youth-oriented culture.”

(Discussion points adapted from ‘On the Wrong Side of a Number’, ST, 28 Feb 09)

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