2007 GCE “A” Level Paper 1 Essay Guidelines

2007 GCE “A” Level Paper 1 Essay Guidelines

1. The view of the majority is always right. Do you agree?


‘view’: opinion, perspective, values

‘majority’: larger group, such as racial/ religious/ economic/ class

‘always’: absolute

‘right’: what society accepts as the norm, or what is universally ‘right’, or what is in the best interest of the society

Question Requirements

  • Students should show understanding of the different definitions of ‘right
  • Students should explore a range of issues to show that the majority can define what is socially ‘right’, which has negative repercussions


  • Students give standard scenarios (eg. Hitler, Holcaust)
  • Narrow scope, with an emphasis on democracy

Possible stands

The view of the majority can be right

  • The view of the majority is the basis of democracy. Decisions are made based on consensus.
  • Wisdom of the majority.
  • Efficiency in decision-making, as compared to taking everyone’s views into account

The view of the majority may not always be right

  • Possible discrimination. Tyranny of majority over minority. Holier-than-thou attitude
  • Decisions based on lowest common denominator. Tends to be conservative.
  • Mob instinct.
  • Assumes that people are educated and are able to make the right decisions. Could have ignorant majority.
  • Cultural/ social norms of majority may lead to social problems ie. Morally wrong eg. Honour killing
  • People act in self-interest and may not make decisions in the best interest of society

2. Can a belief in the supernatural be sustained in the modern world?

Key words:

Belief: To analyse how it affects one’s mental condition and actions

Supernatural: That which cannot be proven or which is ‘illogical’ e.g. ghosts, fengshui

Sustained: Maintained, remaining relevant and continuing to be embraced

Modern world: The world/society today!!!

Question Requirements:

Student needs to demonstrate that the belief in the supernatural seems to be at odds with the context of the modern world, however the student needs to recognize that belief in the supernatural can still persist today. The student also needs to predict what the future scenario will be based on observations of the present and perhaps the past. Better scripts would deal with different forms of the supernatural not necessarily restricted to religion.


Merely discussing problems of belief in the supernatural in the modern world, or how the supernatural is not to be believed in favor of maybe science. Such scripts would also discount or overlook the keyword ‘sustained’ hence not discussing the future scenario.

Students may overly focus on discussion on religion.

Possible stands:

Yes, a belief in the supernatural can be sustained in the modern world, and how these two elements may not even necessarily contradict each other.

  • Scientific theories cannot refute some supernatural beliefs
  • Scientific texts can even proof the validity of certain religious beliefs/texts/supernatural beliefs
  • Belief or at least interest in the supernatural continues to be a source of artistic inspiration for the arts
  • Conservative and cultural practices based on belief in the supernatural continues to remain in the modern world.

No, it cannot be sustained in the modern world

  • Scientific evidences have proven many supernatural beliefs to be false.
  • People pride scientific proof and rational belief over supernatural beliefs which have no scientific basis.
  • Prevalence of modern day philosophies like humanism instead of belief or reliance on the supernatural.

Yes, it may even gain more relevance in the modern world.

  • People increasingly turn to religion to find the answers to their existentialist issues.

3. 'The arts cannot change the world, but they make it more beautiful.' Discuss this view with reference to one of the following: painting, sculpture or music.

Key words:

- 'change the world' à affect real-world outcomes; alter people's viewpoints with regards to various social, political, etc issues; influence the way people think; challenge set notions / the status quo

- 'make it more beautiful' à serves a purely aesthetic purpose

Question requirements:

- discuss the purposes of art à challenge the notion that the sole purpose of art is to beautify the world

- discuss society's perception of the arts, and how far it has the potential to successfully influence society itself

- specific examples of whichever art form is chosen


- students spend too much time discussing what 'the arts' encompass

- failure to see the link between changing the world and making it more beautiful

Possible stands / viewpoints:

- the arts can change the world, by influencing people's views on current social & political issues affecting their society or raising awareness of these issues à art as a reflection of society, hence having the potential to change the world by highlighting what the artist sees as a problem e.g. Goya's etchings (scenes of war)

- art uses aesthetic value to arouse emotions, hence changing mindsets à artist changes the world by manipulating the audience's emotions to the point where they might take action to make a negatively perceived situation better e.g. the Vietnam wall

- however, art can simply be for art's sake à art doesn’t try to change people's views or attitudes, it can merely be a vehicle for entertainment or something whose main purpose is to beautify the world e.g. still life art

4. How far should a state have a right to monitor the actions of people within its borders?


‘how far’: to what extent, balanced cannot be absolute

‘right of state to monitor’: sovereignty, public sphere vs private sphere, intrusion of privacy, rights of individual/civil liberties

Yes, the state has a right to monitor people’s actions within its borders

- The social contract theory postulates that for the government to represent the interests of its people, they must have the mandate from the people to do so. Bestowing this mandate to the government to manage the country necessitates the surrender of some personal rights. Therefore, in democratic countries, civil liberties are important but people recognise that there is a need to relinquish some of their freedoms in order for state to guarantee stability for individuals to pursue personal interests. E.g. The issuance of identity cards in Singapore could be perceived as a way to track the whereabouts as well as have basic background information on its populace. Hence, it may constitute a violation of privacy of an individual. Yet such measures are necessary to preserve law and order.

- In times of crisis where national security is at stake, the state might have a more justifiable reason to monitor the actions of its people. E.g. The US and Britain post 911 have heightened security and stepped up surveillance efforts to avert possible terrorist attacks. This is exemplified by the Patriot Act in the US and other anti-terrorism legislation that would to some extent infringe on the privacy rights amongst other rights of individuals for the sake of security. Similarly in Singapore and Malaysia, the Internal Security Act serves to safeguard the country but at the expense of some personal rights.

- The state has, technically, sovereignty over its territory. Therefore, they have to be vigilant to any threats to socio-political stability. It is only right that they do what they can to maintain social order.

No, the state has no right to monitor the actions of people within its border

- Rights to privacy enshrined by the UN Declaration of Human Rights would be violated if the government insists on spying on its people. The creation of an Orwellian society where “Big Brother” has its eyes and ears on you is a frightening reality especially where barriers between the private and public spheres are blurred or worse, non-existent. E.g. the US government’s scrutiny of citizen’s e-mail and phone conversations.

- Dictatorial governments such as North Korea iron fist rule over its people through indoctrination, intimidation and close monitoring of dissenting activities to hang on to power is clearly unwarranted. Keeping a close watch on civilians to ensure total and utter compliance to an oppressive regime is a blatant violation of human rights.

E.g. Liberal democracies Robert Mugabe

5. ‘Mass production’ inevitably means a loss of craftsmanship and quality.’ Is this true in your society?


‘mass production’: production in large quantities to meet demand involving the use of machinery, where processes are divided into simpler processes to enable automation.

‘craftsmanship’: High quality of end product because it involves manual labour which suggests that there is attention to detail and artistry.

‘your society’: Should be interpreted as Singapore as a modern society.

Statement implies that mass production to meet large demand would result in a loss of craftsmanship, but not necessarily craftsmanship.

Yes, ‘mass production’ inevitably means a loss of craftsmanship and quality.’

By definition mass production and handiwork are contradiction in terms.

Craftsmanship is linked to handiwork which can only be produced by individual manual labour. E.g. Pottery, woodwork carvings, paintings, needlework. Thus what is expected of the finished product is a result of creativity, individual attention to details, personal interpretation of task.

On the other hand, mass production focuses on efficiency, productivity, and low costs. This is made possible by automation but it would also mean that the end product will be standardised. Thus, there is no requirement for craftsmanship.

E.g. Mass produced clothes compared to tailored clothes; mass produced shoes vs customised shoes

However, not all mass produced goods lack craftsmanship and quality

Mass produced goods such as cars need not sacrifice on craftsmanship, and certainly not quality. Higher end cars pride themselves on design, engine etc.

Similarly, for consumer electronics such TV and audio equipment craftsmanship and quality are important.

Watches are largely mass produced but marketed according to design and quality.

Yet, some mass produced goods do not focus on craftsmanship and quality

In a modern “throw away” society, where cost of labour is high (for repairs). Mass produced goods are not expected to last e.g. kettles, light bulbs, household utensils, cheap t-shirts. Consumables


Not showing balance

Claims not supported with evidence

Too much focus on your society????

6. How important is a sense of history in shaping the future of Singapore’s society?

Key Words:

· Sense of history – awareness and knowledge of past events/their lessons

· Shaping – influencing, playing a part in the building of

· The future of Singapore’s society – students must focus on the circumstances and problems that Singapore will / is likely to face (as opposed to merely what’s happening now)

Question requirements:

· Detailed examples of Singaporean society within extended and recent history

· In order to give a balanced picture of how important a sense of history is, students should assess the extent to which a sense of history is needed, as well as the extent to which it is unnecessary, in the building of the future of Singapore society

· Ideally, the student’s starting point should be the possible needs, developments, challenges, etc, in Singapore’s future.

· Each should be considered in terms of whether or not it requires awareness/knowledge of particular historical circumstances in order to be dealt with

· Future needs that could be shaped by a sense of history – by which aspects of history & how exactly

· Future needs that do not need a sense of history to be dealt with – why not; and what, if not historical knowledge, is it that they require?


· Bringing in irrelevant aspects of history which do not apply to Singapore

· Lack of a focus on what future developments are/can be

Possible stands:

· Yes it is important

o “those who fail to learn from the past, are doomed to repeat it” - We need to understand what has happened in the past in order to prevent it from happening again – E.g. Japanese occupation during WW2 & need for national security; National education to prevent race riots

o National identity aspect, we need to know our roots, traditions, culture and where our forefathers came from and the hardship they faced in order to know who we are and where we came from. This is very important for social cohesion and for us to know our place in globalisation.

o Gives us a sense of the need for readiness, especially in face of our vulnerability. E.g. SARS experience, all the other historical setbacks we’ve encountered.

o It is important to justify our current political climate and to maintain the hegemony of control of our prevailing political elites. This is done through a selective and amnesiac construction of history. This sense of history has also been appropriated for commercial-tourism.

o We have been criticised as a cultural desert, constantly looking overseas for inspiration while we diminish our own, usually for political reasons and perhaps even due to neo-colonisation.

· In building our future, we have to be aware how history is manipulated. We may end up building something which is hollow if we conveniently or intentionally “forget” some of the more obscure aspects of our history. This is seen in how we keep our history in a “glass bottle” in museums and are hardly cognisant of many historical matters. Thus our lives are lamented as hollow and meaningless.

· Not really necessary

o The world has changed and its rate of change is ever increasing due to globalisation and other forces. We do not want to be stuck in the past and need to be forward looking. To be held by traditional approaches would mean lack of creativity and eagerness to explore new frontiers, especially since innovation is so important these days.

o History is written by the winners and is hardly objective thus being artificially constructed.

Q7 Should poorer countries develop their tourist industry when the basic needs of their own people are not being met?

Key words:

Poorer countries: Developing countries defined by the World Bank in terms of 2000 gross national income per capita (having low income of US$755 or less).These countries are characterised by low levels of industrialisation, infrastructure and other capital investment; little sophisticated technology, widespread illiteracy and poor living conditions. These countries are collectively designated as the Third World and sometimes as the South because a large number of them are in the Southern Hemisphere. Some 48 very poor countries (LDCs) are predominantly agricultural, have sharply limited development prospects in the near future and tend to be heavily dependent on official development assistance.

Tourism industry: Plays a substantial role in job-creation and export earnings. It is a demand-driven, service-oriented industry experiencing rapid growth and innovation. The industry now faces the challenge of balancing economic, social and environmental dimensions to achieve sustainable growth. Tourism earnings can be direct (employment, foreign exchange earning and tourist expenditure on transport, accommodation, retail) or indirect (through financial services, construction, printing and publishing, manufacturing and insurance).

Basic needs: Basic needs would include food, clothing and medicine. Others are clean water and sanitation, adequate levels of nutrition, access to primary health care (including access to family planning and reproductive health facilities) and basic education. There is a notable gender bias with regard to priority given to family planning.

Question requirements:

The Q requires students to recognise the assumption that the needs of the local people will be compromised in poorer countries if governments embark on the tourism industry without first meeting the basic needs of its people.The government is recognised to have an obligation to provide for the needs of the local people as evident by the word ‘should’.The Q should balance the 2 competing contexts and offer an evaluation of what is best for poorer countries. Note: The subject is 'poorer countries' not 'tourist industry'.

Better scripts would argue that poorer countries can maximise the rewards and minimise the impact of the tourism industry through the adoption of various measures by the government and/or the people.

Pitfalls: Merely listing the needs of people in poorer countries and how these needs are not met AND/OR listing the benefits of tourism without considering how they affect the people.

The governments of poorer countries should develop the tourist industry even when the needs of the people are not met:

1. The tourism industry, being capital-intensive, can jumpstart the local economy and provide quick capital injection.

2. Countries with quaint, exotic, unspoiled, off-the beaten track charms are much sought-after and some of these are also most in need of economic development. Investment in this area may pay off handsomely especially if the tourism industry caters to the well-heeled or offers high-value services (as in niche boutique hotels in Bhutan).

3. Where governments are inefficient or corrupt, the tourism industry provides one source of direct earning to poor people.

The governments of poorer countries should not develop the tourist industry when the needs of the people are not met:

1. Infrastructure and development costs can cost the government and local taxpayers (e.g. road improvement, airport expansion) and may reduce government expenditures in critical areas such as education and health.

2. Increasing demand for basic services and goods from tourists will often cause price hikes that negatively affect local residents whose incomes do not increase proportionately. In addition, the related rise in real estate demand may dramatically increase building costs and land values and put access to affordable housing beyond the reach of local people.

3. Developing countries, especially those with little ability to explore other resources may suffer unstable income and revenue as a consequence of the fluctuating tourist business. The seasonal character of jobs affects those with the least skills or most inflexible skill set. This worsens the existing problems these workers have (job and income insecurity/difficulties in getting training, unsatisfactory working conditions.)

4. Countries make themselves vulnerable to unpredictable (external) economic conditions. The Asian financial crisis and others (Sept 11) had devastating consequences on tourist earnings especially for small island states that are severely dependent on tourism revenues for survival.

5. The supposed benefits from tourism for the locals may never materialise due to the creation of "all inclusive" vacation packages or enclave tourism.This happens when tourists remain for their entire stay on the same cruise ship or in the same resort because it provides everything they need. There is not much opportunity for local people to profit/benefit from tourism.

5. The environmental impact of the tourism industry on the locals must be considered. Where there is no benefit to offset the negative impact, developing the tourism industry may be a raw deal. Hotels, discos (with accompanying noise and bustle), greater air, land and noise pollution and urban congestion, upset the tranquility of the place. Tourism can lead to the creation of unsightly human structures that do not fit in with the local architecture and lead to damage and/or disturbance to wildlife habitats (accompanying loss of biodiversity). Some tourist destinations may become victims of shifting tastes.In this context, the excessive building and environmental destruction often associated with traditional "sun and beach" tourism may contribute to a destination's saturation and subsequent decline. An example is Spain's Costa Brava

It is possible to maximise the benefits from the development of the tourism industry and yet minimise the impact on the people:

Good governance and the correct processes can help developing countries to achieve the means and conditions necessary to achieve these twin goals. Some methods include

1. Defining social priorities and building the capacity of local institutions. All resources (human, material

and financial) must be properly managed and those in charge must be held publicly accountable for the

results achieved.

2. Promoting sustainable development with the view to poverty reduction. This requires grassroots participation.

3. Mounting formal and non-formal educational programmes at all levels to provide basic/core skills.The focus should be on building economically sustainable communities and responsible institutions.

4. Good planning will allow countries to benefit from high-value added tourism such as eco-tourism, medical tourism, educational tourism (Student Exchange Program and Study Tour), adventure tourism and creative tourism (a form of cultural tourism, drawing on active participation by travelers in the culture of the host communities they visit.) Private tour guides are an excellent way to get insight into a country and also help locals earn an income. A recent trend is dark tourism (a small niche market driven by varied motivations such as mourning, remembrance or macabre curiosity). An example will be Cambodia which combines cultural and dark tourism (Angkor Wat and Tuol Sleng War Museum).

8. The pen is mightier than the sword. Can written language be so powerful?

Key words:

· Pen/written language – all kinds of written language (e.g. treaties, protocols, the press, literature, propaganda, intelligence)

· Sword – force (all types: governmental, military, illegal, corporate)

· Mightier/so powerful – greater effect in all areas than “sword”

Question requirements:

· Explain the proverb in context of the real world with reference to the written word’s power

· Be able to recognise the respective scopes of “pen” and “sword”, giving strong examples

· Show instances of how/why the pen is mightier than the sword and vice-versa.


· Students get too abstract without giving solid real world examples

· Straying away from the “written” aspect and talk about language in general or even images

Possible stands:

· Instances where pen is not mightier than the sword

o Censorship

o Nations ignore or pay lip service to treaties signed

o When the masses do not pay attention/appreciate what is expressed

· Instances where pen is mightier than the sword

o Evasion of censorship – Underground press, alternative channels

o Creation of inspirational ideals, treatises, philosophies to shape people’s minds and hearts

o When laws, agreements and policies are crafted and implemented with more effectiveness than applying brute force (e.g. wars, treaties, etc)

9. 'Advertisements are often entertaining, but they rarely affect consumer choice'. Is this your experience?

Key words:

- advertisements à TV & radio commercials; posters; newspaper & magazine (print) ads

- entertaining à catches the attention of the viewer through the enjoyment of the ad; makes consumer remember the ad

- consumer choice à purchasing decisions of the buyer

Question requirements:

- students have to address both parts of the question interdependently

- students must explain and possibly challenge the assumption that entertaining ads have no power / capacity to influence

- students should acknowledge that there are other factors present that affect consumer choice à but should not make the essay about these other factors

- students must use a varied & wide range of examples to illustrate both ads that were merely entertaining, and ads that were effective while being entertaining


- students must not give personal examples of their experiences of either watching ads & / or being a consumer

- students should not address both parts of the question independently

- students should not spend too much time describing the ad, to illustrate its entertainment value

- students should not tackle the question by merely listing different 'permutations' of the stand

Possible stands / viewpoints:

- ads are rarely entertaining, but the ones that are tend to affect consumer choice simply by being entertaining à they stand out from the crowd & hence the consumer remembers the brand when next purchasing the product

- ads can be entertaining, but whether or not they affect consumer choice also depends on which stage of consumption the consumer is at à if the consumer doesn’t need / want the product, the ad may have very little immediate effect until the next time the consumer needs / wants the product, at which time the consumer may not remember the brand advertised

- ads can be entertaining but it also depends on the individual à how easily influenced the consumer is dependent on several factors e.g. socio-economic status, education level, etc

10. Is it possible to protect the environment when many countries require increasing amounts of energy to progress?

Key words:

Protect: Conservation, preservation, to reduce environmental damage

Environment: Flora and fauna and the natural world, natural resources

Energy: Fuel e.g. nuclear, coal, bio-fuels

Progress: Material and economic development

Question Requirements:

Students need to demonstrate awareness of how efforts to protect the environment are often and conventionally at odds with the pressing need to progress economically; they are mutually exclusive. They also need to focus on demand on energy only, and that every attempt (or non attempt) to protect must be examined in the light of economic progress. Both developed and developing countries must be examined, and examples MUST be provided.


All manners regarding the difficulties of environment conservation while ignoring the the second premise that countries need energy to progress.

Possible stands:

Yes, it is possible to protect the environment when many countries require increasing amounts of energy to progress.

  • Alternative energy is a growing business; therefore it contributes to economic progress.
  • It is a viable option due to scientific advancements which provides alternative clean sources of energy in efficient ways.
  • Alternative energy becomes cheaper and more easily accessible
  • Political will makes it possible to balance between protection and progress (international cooperation, governmental legislation e.g Germany, California)
  • While there is an increasing demand for energy to progress, developed countries are nevertheless better placed to protect the environment when they cut down on wastage and consumption.

No, it is not possible to protect the environment when many countries require increasing amounts of energy to progress.

  • Economic progress is still an imperative, even for developed countries. This means an increase in industrialization and economic output.
  • Many developing countries cannot afford alternative sources of clean energy.
  • Limitations to scientific advancements to finding alternative sources effectively.
  • Businesses and individuals are not willing to spend the money or the effort to protect the environment in pursuit of their economic progress.

11. Should research into expensive medical treatment be allowed when only a few can afford them?


‘medical treatment’: pharmaceutical products, surgery, future technology (eg. Stem cell research, cloning etc), plastic surgery

Question Requirements:

  • Students are required to consider the arguments for and against research into expensive medical treatment
  • Students are required to identify and challenge the assumption that resources should not be devoted to research if it is not ultilitarian


  • Students merely discuss the ethics of certain medical treatments without addressing the issue of affordability

Possible stands

No, there should not be research into expensive medical treatment since few can afford it

  • Widens the rich-poor divide. Penalizes the poor who cannot afford it.
  • It is not utilitarian ie. resources are not optimally and responsibly used, especially if it is taxpayer’s money
  • Since there are limited funds, such research into expensive medical treatment may reduce funding for research into more common but less lucrative diseases
  • Some expensive medical treatment is not for life-threatening illnesses (eg. Cosmetic surgery), so it undermines the intent and purpose of medical science ie. To save lives

Yes, there should be research into expensive medical treatment even if few can afford it

  • Research into diseases will have a trickle-down effect from the rich to the poor. Eg. Expensive AIDS drugs and their cheaper generic counterparts
  • Cost can be reduced by aid grants/ subsidies.
  • Research into medical treatment is imperative regardless of the cost (eg. SARS, avian flu). This is therefore a public good, and research into medical treatment is the responsibility of the government.
  • While the initial start-up cost may be high, continued research into medical treatment is often with the aim of improving the quality and lowering the costs
  • The pharmaceutical industry is a profit-driven one and choice of research into expensive medical treatment is treated as a business decision

Q12 ’The word failure should never be used in education.’ Discuss.

Key words:

Failure: A condition of not meeting stated objectives or standards. This can refer to a mindset, process or


Education: Refers to the entire spectrum of educational processes; at all levels ranging from the most

elementary to the tertiary level.

Question requirements:

The Q requires the candidate to attend to the absolute stand as evident by the term 'never'. The word "should" implies that educational institutions have an obligation to nurture the learner and provide the conditions necessary for him to achieve to the best of his ability. Several different contexts must be raised and the notion of failure and its impact on various parties must be examined. Note: the subject is "education" and not "school".


· Merely listing the failures of education systems in general or even more narrowly, the Singapore education system.

· Inability to maintain an appropriate tone. Candidates degenerate to whining and complaining about the shortcomings or how the education system does not fulfil personal needs. Essentially a too self-centred approach.

The word failure should never be used in education.

1. There are/must be different definitions of intelligence and different indicators for measuring achievements and standards. It is unrealistic to expect students of diffferent learning abilities to conform to standardised measures.

2. With changing standards and the introduction of different educational niches (specialised courses in all areas), it is even more difficult to quantify student achievement. Some school systems, in fact, are too traditional or have outdated modes of assessment. Educational institutions have not always been able to keep track of changing trends (to stay relevant), let alone global trends.

3. The current-day educational context (a globalised context, knowledge-based, learner-focussed, digital classroom, borderless learning) offers more opportunities for independent learning than ever possible. In such a context, some schools and methods may even be archaic in approach and curriculum.

4. In many educational contexts, especially in adult, continuing or distance education, the modes of assessment may not be examination-based. These coursework, research or project- based assessment may offer more accurate modes of assessment

5. The impact of being labelled/named a failure may backfire or have a stigmatising effect that is hard to overcome. Students might be psychologically scarred. This may retard or slow down future development or progress; academically, socially and emotionally.

The word failure can be used in education depending on the context

1. Being able to recognise and live through a situation when one has failed will make the person tougher

and more resilient.

2. Failure prepares the person for the real world.

3. When people fail, it could be due to reasons other than academic ability. These reasons can range from lack of preparation to poor language skills to a case of underestimating the demands of the examination. When the reasons for failure are isolated, it is easier for the people to take remedial/corrective measures to right the situation. Getting the person to acknowledge that his actions cause the situation will force him to take responsibility for such future situations.

4. When an institution is unable to provide its students with the relevant life skills or fulfill the stated objectives, this institution is no longer a relevant one and its test/assessment instrument is no longer a fair, accurate nor necessary one.


paige said...

this was really helpful, thank you!

:a: :b: :c: :d: :e: :f: :g: :h: :i: :j: :k: :l: :m: :n:

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