The Dark Shadow Shrine

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thur Evening Class ALERT! --Youth Employment Prospects in Singapore

We discussed this is an article on this issue that came out today. Here's another link to an earlier posting I uploaded on competition of jobs from foreign talent/workers -- click HERE.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Is China a developing or a developed nation?

Some of u have been asking me this question can pose a bit of a problem as the stature and influence of China has grown tremendously in the last few years, esp after the Beijing Olympics. It now has the kind of influence and world standing that no typical developing nation can match. No world strategic vision formulated by any country can exclude China. It's a heavy weight up there with the likes of US, Germany, UK, France, etc.....It's the world no.2 economic power, second only to the US, and first in Asia, after de-throning Japan from the top spot in Asia. BUT China is classified as a developing nation. According to the World Bank:

"With a population of 1.3 billion, China recently became the second largest economy and is increasingly playing an important and influential role in the global economy. Yet China remains a developing country and its market reforms are incomplete. In 2011, China’s gross national income per capita of $4,940 ranked 114th in the world; and over 170 million people still live below the $1.25-a-day international poverty line. With the second largest number of poor in the world after India, poverty reduction remains a fundamental challenge."
You can read the rest HERE from the World Bank website; or HERE at Wikipedia for what constitutes a developing nation.

So there u go....Note though that the unique situation of China (it is atypical and rare to have a developing nation, i.e. 'poor' nation, to have such wealth and immense political influence) means that u can use China as a useful example to rebut arguments typical of developing/poor nations. China can be seen as rich and powerful enough to wield considerable influence on the international stage, e.g. China's refusal to support the Copenhagen Accord is one major reason why the climate talks failed.

Note that the anomaly of China stems from the fact that it has an overwhelming population unmatched by another other countries, hence giving it tremendous economic potential and political muscle. And while most of the country is steeped in relative poverty, the coastal cities like Shanghai, and of course, the capital city Beijing, are very prosperous. So whether China is rich or poor depends on which part u're looking at. But its GDP per capita is still low when divided against its sheer population of 1.2 billion people. We're thus talking about a wide income gap here.....

Sample Qns:
1) The use of technology has made life more difficult for the poor.
2) Environmental conservation is a luxury that only rich countries can afford.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beware Pitfalls of Direct Admission

Another criticisms of the education reforms introduced by the PM during the National Day Rally's an AQ on PM's speech!

Beware Pitfalls of Direct Admission

Friday, August 23, 2013

Keeping top schs open to all.....

A continuation of the post I put up yesterday....

Add caption

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Some good articles here concerning diversity in Singapore (education landscape) and Malaysia (religious landscape)
Article 1 is about the impending reforms in the Singapore education landscape, as announced by PM Lee during the recent National Day Rally Speech. Some of the policy changes you need to be aware of are:
1) allocating 40 spaces in all primary schools to children who are not affiliated to the sch
2) where top secondary schools are concerned, broaden scope of Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme to include not just talents in sports and arts, but also character traits like resilience, leadership, etc.
3) allow Normal Technical stream students to take subjects at the Express stream level from secondary one if their PSLE grade allows for it
4) replace the PSLE T-score system with grade banding (i.e. numerical marks are replaced by alphabetical grades, just like 'O' and 'A' level)

The first three changes are targeted at ensuring diversity of intakes at the schools (esp branded top schools) to encourage social mixing. Read the article to see why this is so crucial for Singapore. 

Note an interesting paradox in Article 1a (column 2, para 2), where the diversity of pathways to cater to the differing abilities and needs of students is meant to be a good thing, but this comes at the expense of the students from different pathways not being able to mix, i.e. segregated, and even stigmatised. Diversity here is thus both good as well as bad. Note though that policy change (3) as spelt out above will help to rectify this, allowing students of different academic streams to interact, even as it allows the weaker student to learn at his own pacing.

Articles 2&3 are about how religious diversity in Malaysia can pose a challenge for the country and creates potential problems for the govt.
In Article 2, the rising influence of the Shi'ite branch of Muslims is dividing up the nation and eroding the power of the ruling govt. Read the article for some background on the distinction between the Shi'ite and the Sunni branch of Muslims. Malaysia is predominantly Sunni.
In Article 3, the diversity of religions in Malaysia can cause friction where the use of the word 'Allah' is concerned. The Muslims are unhappy with the Catholics' use of the word 'Allah' as a translation for the word 'God' in the Catholics' Malay bible. The issue has gone to court is and potentially divisive for the society.

Sample Qn:
1) How far is your society tolerant of diversity?
2) 'the trend towards diversity is a positive development.' Comment. (AJC Prelim 2012)
Article 1a

Article 1b

Article 2: Clampdown on Shi'ism in Malaysia raises concern

Article 3a
Article 3b

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PM Lee's Rally Speech

If you are a Singaporean, make sure you see this HERE. Our PM painted quite a good sketch of the challenges and solutions concerning Singapore. Make sure you know a few of these....
Do try to catch up with the articles reviewing the speech in the papers over the next few days. Sometimes, it is not just what the PM says, but what others say about what he said that can be more revealing and shed more light. In a sense, these reviews are AQs on the PM's speech.

The Missing Piece

Interesting, thought-provoking, philosophical link....Click HERE. Then HERE.

What you've just watched is called 'The Missing Piece'. The second link is the sequel called 'The Missing Piece Meets the Big O'.

Some background on 'The Missing Piece':
If you can read Chinese, click HERE , otherwise here's the Wikipedia version: HERE

It's simple yet powerfully profound -- contains ideas on conformity and how perfection can be a flaw!

Lemon Law in Singapore

'lemon law' cropped up in one class's some background on it....useful for rebutting (via solution method) OVs on fraudulent advertising.

Arab nations feel the heat after Spring

A good read on the mess created by Arab Spring....

Environment + Economic?

For article 1b, note that floods are caused by deforestation and changing weather patterns due to global warming (think La Nina). Man's disregard for Mother Nature can thus exact a huge economic cost on us....hence economic health requires environmental health.

Sample Qn:
'Environmental concerns and economic growth cannot co-exist.' Do you agree? (Cambridge 2011)

article 1a

article 1b

Gender Wage Gap in Japan

Came across this from the travel guide Lonely Planet when I was doing some research on Japan.
1)There's some bit at the top about how Japan's population is fast shrinking and ageing, not unlike Singapore, and with an equally low TFR.

2) Read about the situation on women there. There's some mention about the wage gap there btw men and women -- only 66%.  Those who have done the Hana Rosin Compre can use this statistic to support Rosin's claim about the wage gap argument. Seems like the Jap society is not just xenophobic but sexist as well.....
Note there's a wage gap btw men and women as well in the civil service, but this is due to men having served NS, hence seen as a compensation for their delayed entry into the workforce, not so much a sign of discrimination.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Equality of Opportunities -- Meritocracy?

Meritocracy's strength lies in the fact that it recognizes only merit and is blind to gender, race, family wealth and connections, etc. In a nutshell, under meritocracy, the job goes to the best man with the requisite skills. In that sense, it is seen as fair, but only if everyone is on the same starting line to begin with.

Meritocracy has benefited Singapore in the past, as evidenced by the fact that most people from poor family backgrounds in the past have managed to rise to middle or even upper income level today, i.e. rags to riches. But today, a different scenario is gradually playing out: those who managed to reach the top pass on their advantages to their children, while those at the bottom are unable to do so. The result is that the poor are more likely to be trapped at the bottom while the rich continue to stay at the top -- social mobility is thus reduced. See explanation for this in the article. A useful stats to remember to show this: 6 out of 10 students from top pri and sec schs live in private property

Hence, there are two sides to meritocracy. It can allow the poor to have a chance to rise to the top (as it recognises only merit), but at the same time, it can also trap the poor at the bottom, penalizing the poor for not having access to the resources that those from the rich do. The poor can thus work very hard and put in a lot of effort, but they are still less likely to succeed compared to the rich, through no fault of their own.

Affirmative actions from the govt are thus necessary to level the playing field, and you want to know that the Singapore govt has pledged to commit S$3 billion to quality pre-school education for the poor over the next five years, as announced in the Budget early this year. Note that such affirmative actions are seen as positive discrimination and are considered desirable.

Note also the end of the article where it is mentioned that we cannot allow 1% of the population to be successful while the remaining 99% are disenfranchised and left feeling unhappy and unfairly treated. Our widening income gap (indicated by S'pore's Ginni coefficient of about 0.458) shows that we are heading in that direction gradually if we are not careful. Not doing anything to mitigate this can only lead to chaos and social instability, as seen in the culmination of the Arab Spring, where the frustrated and disenfranchised poor who are fed-up with the govt decided to overthrow the govt.

See HERE for more on meritocracy.

Sample Qns:
1) Poor people have only themselves to blame for their problems. Comment.
2) In your society, how far is equality for all a reality? (Cambridge 2012)
3) There is no place for discrimination in the world today. Do you agree?

article 1a

article 1b

article 1c
article 1d

article 1e

Artificial Means of Having Kids

Note how artificial means of reproduction can create problems for the notion of parenthood. The definition of who is the 'parent' becomes blurred when science intervenes. While legislation here appears to be the solution by intervening to clarify the definition, note that it is not a satisfactory solution as the definition is subjective.
There is also the danger of mix up, as the Thomson Fertility Centre case shows in Singapore. It can be very traumatic for the parents who went through IVF to realise that the child is not theirs due to a genes mix up at the lab.
 There is also mention of reproductive tourism at the end of the article. When doing qns on tourism, other than the conventional tourism, you want to also think of eco-tourism, medical tourism, sex tourism, and now reproductive tourism(esp those involving surrogacy).

Sample Qns:
1) Should people be allowed to have children by artificial means? (Cambridge 2012)
2) To what extent is science the solution to all our problems?

article 1a

article 1b

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

CORRECTION! It's Lincoln!

For those whom I mentioned the quote 'government of the people, by the people and for the people' when talking about democracy, I mistakenly attributed it to Roosevelt. That's WRONG! It should be Abraham Lincoln, also one of the ex-Presidents of the US. See link HERE.

The Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, ever witty and sarcastic as usual, gave Lincoln's quote a sardonic twist with:
Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

Pace of Life

Sample Qns:
1) Is the pace of life in your society too fast for its own good?
2) 'The key criterion for good government is how well the economy is managed.' Is this a fair assessment? (Cambridge 2012)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lone Wolf Terrorists

An excellent article on terrorism....a student's remark made me realise that there has not been a question set specifically on terrorism per se for more than a decade!!!!
This article focuses on lone wolf terrorists that are so hard to track down, as they operate alone.....One such lone wolf terrorist from Singapore actually is an alumnus of RI and NJC! GASP!There are also some mention of possible solutions that can keep terrorism at bay....

Sample Qn;
Can we ever eliminate terrorism? (RI Yr 6 Mid Year 2013)


Friday, August 09, 2013

Fri Evening Class ALERT!

Here are some of the links to articles I made reference to just now....Take a look!

1) Link 1 -two clips that show how social media is anti-social and has an alienating effect....note the rebuttal in the first clip
2) Link 2 article that describes how social media gets in the way of bonding, i.e. anti-social
3) Link 3 how social media creates envy and depression, i.e. doesn't bring people together
4) Link 4 online flirting and cybersex can be 'safe'
5) Link 5 potential rebuttal to Link 4 above: online flirting can lead to extortion and blackmail
6) Link 6 ads influence
7) link 7 danger of online gaming
9) On the point that social media can bring people closer by educating or providing info to correct prejudice, consider these two examples: the myth that AIDS can be transmitted by sharing toilet seats and utensils, that all Muslims are terrorists....
8) When talking about cyberbullying, consider the example below that was quite famous:

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Excellent Quote on Environment

'We did not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we merely borrow it from our children' -- a famous native American proverb.
An interesting quote u can use to BANG with whenever u are doing qns regarding the environment. What the quote is saying is that we do not own the earth, since we did not inherit it from our ancestors. It is only on loan to us before we eventually return it to our children. Hence, it does not give us the right to destroy the earth with our selfish tendencies. We owe it to our children to return to them a clean and pristine earth, not one that is ruined by our wanton desires.

Media and Gender....

See how these two topics are intertwined in this article...usually u cannot talk about one without the other. The article talks about how the media has led to our skewed perception about the female gender, with the use of celebrity on media further exacerbating the situation. Note of course that the media also has the power to correct this flawed perception, as seen in an earlier post (see HERE)

Sample Qn:
To what extent is our perception of reality influenced by the media?

article 1a

article 1b

Money won't solve low birth rate problem -- Mr Lee

Yet another excerpt from LKY's latest book -- to be launched today! Note his views on the low fertility rate here, and the supposed vs the REAL reasons behind it. Note also the comparison with Japan, esp regarding the attitude towards foreign talent/immigrants.
Whenever  tackling a qn about 'your society', whether in essay or AQ, obviously you want to confine your discussion to just your society. But recognise that you can make references to OTHER countries if ur aim is to do a comparison/contrast in order to make a point about Singapore. Eg, if you want to make the point that it is imperative for Singapore to embrace foreign talent, mention how Japan is allegedly going into decline because it is not welcoming towards foreigners. (This is technique of contrast using an inferior alternative).

Meat Culture -- stem cell beef burger

Refer to earlier posts on similar issue:
1) Check out article a&b at the end of the post HERE
2) Meat culture is like the GM food equivalent of crops (See HERE). Both are scientific ways of 'growing' crops and meat using technology instead of traditional methods.

Note the benefits and drawbacks of meat culture highlighted in the article below:
-solve major problems like food shortages, overcome ethics problem of having to kill animals for food (but the use of stem cells poses ethical problems of another kind)

Sample Qns:
1) 'Science can never provide complete solutions to problems.' Do you agree?

2) How far do you agree that science and technology has worsened the plight of the poor?

Silence or tell the truth?

Pertaining to my earlier posts on silence, here's more:

Article 1 is a quote from soccer player Ronaldo. Silence can indeed be golden sometimes, esp for famous celebrities whose every word will be lapped up (and very likely misquoted, quoted out of context and even misinterpreted) by the paparazzi and fans. As a Chinese proverb goes, 'yue miao yue hei' -- the more u explain, the worse it gets. It elicits unwanted attention, feeding fodder to the media.
Saying bad things about the organisation u belong to is also bad for one's reputation, making u come across as petty. So be gracious and keep silent.
If u are also in the middle of negotiating a big deal, it pays not to say too much in advance too, or it will spoil the deal for u. Incidentally, I think Ronaldo is in talks to cross over to another club. But this principle applies to business decisions and acquisitions as well. Nothing is ever announced during the negotiation period as it may affect the share prices. In short, a lot is at stake here so it is better to embrace silence. That said, there are parties who deliberately let loose a rumour to the media during important negotiation process to apply pressure on others to accept a deal.

Article 2  is a warning not to spread untruths online as it may get u into trouble with the law, as well as cause potential panic and anxiety among the public. See similar article here regarding rumour recent false rumours about PSI readings and insufficient face masks -- click HERE. The link to silence here is that it is better not to open ur mouth unless u can get the info verified as a fact. Any shadow of a doubt should require that u shut up....So don't be too quick to circulate a mail u receive online about something shocking.

Sample Qns:
Honesty is the best policy.
The truth should always be told.
Consider the value of silence.

article 1

article 2

Monday, August 05, 2013

LKY Speaks.....

An insightful read -- an excerpt from a book by LKY that's newly released....all the more impressive when he wrote this before the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown by the Egyptian people....
1) how the Arab Spring in Egypt did not have a fairy-tale ending (useful rebuttal via same example for the oft-cited point of social media's role in the rebellion that was meant to give the people a better life)
2) the plight of women in Arab nations (and the consequent impact on their economic progress)
3) the phrasing of the OV to distance writer from that view so that the subsequent rebuttal of it won't sound contradictory:
a) One might, argue, of course, that .......
b) Observers have pointed out that ...... (see the 'small pic rebuttal' in operation here in the article)

article 1a

article 1b

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Online space can be 'safe'?

This article provides an interesting point about 'safety' on the internet. Online flirting, cybersex, sexting (texting sex messages) can in a sense be 'safe', particularly due to the anonymity factor.....see how it is argued in the first column of the article. There's also of course the assurance that you would not contract aids or other STDs. Note though that this point can be rebutted......The guy mentioned in the article, Weiner, was forced to step down from his high post when his sexting escapades came to light..... 

Sample Qn:
Online spaces are dangerous for young people. How far is this true? (MI 2013)
article 1a

article 1b

Brawls in Taiwanese Parliament

I put this up as I was just talking about this in one class a couple of hours ago......For those from VJC, where the mid year compre test passage is on silence, there was one point about how silence is crucial to let us reflect instead of react emotionally. An example to show this would be Taiwanese politics. And this article makes the point very clear.
This article is also a good criticism of the democratic system, where parliamentary debates can degenerate into a circus,

Sample Qns:
1. Consider the value of silence.
2. Consider the view that effective government is more important than democracy. (Cambridge 2011)


'Without passion, one writes in the air or on the sand of the seashore' -- Katherine Mansfield, a famed short story writer from New Zealand, of the early 20th century Modernist era. An article on her appeared in today's paper.
An interesting quote for banging, if u ever were to do a question on passion, which is the theme for the compre passage of the recent AJC paper this year.

Sample Qn:
What is important is passion, not pragmatism. How realistic is this view in today's world? (AJC mid Yr 2013) (Note the comparative element in this qn)

Friday, August 02, 2013

Lady Gaga's Delicious Meat Dress

This pic of Lady Gaga in her infamous beef/meat dress turned up into today's papers. It created a huge sensation when she wore it a few years ago. Look closer and u can see that the meat is still raw, and it is as if the blood is still dripping from it....That quote on TV comes to mind -- it is 'rare', a 'medium' of communication and not 'well-done'! You'll be surprised to know that she actually has a message to convey with that dress. Read it HERE.
So is she trying to promote a worthy social cause or just creating shock value? you decide....

Sample Qns:
1. The world today is obsessed with appearance. Do you agree? (AJC Mid Yr 2013)
2. 'Advertising should not be restricted in any way'. What is your view? (AJC Mid Yr 2013)
3. The value of the arts lies in being controversial. To what extent do you agree? (AJC Mid Yr 2013)
4. Can fashion ever be serious (TJC Mid Yr 2013)
5. Consider the view that food is more than just sustenance. (TJC Mid Yr 2013)

Sham/Scam Marriages

For the qn below, think also about the point how marriage is used to fortify one's business empire (or literally one's dynastic empire in the past!)....For those who have watched 'Meteor Gardens' or the Korean version titled 'Boys over Flowers', recall how the evil mother of the male protagonist wanted him to marry the daughter of a rich oil company in order to consolidate the family business empire.

Sample Qn:
Is marriage still relevant in modern society? (RI Mid Yr JC2 2013)