Discursive / Argumentative Model Essay #4

What good shall I do this day cup

What are some of the values one can learn from the Values in Action Programme (VIA)?

In Singapore, it is compulsory for students of all levels to participate in the Values in Action Programme (VIA). The programme, which requires students to fulfil at least six hours of community work a year, was implemented with the aim of introducing youths to the notion of volunteerism and encouraging them to contribute back to society. As a student who has taken part in several VIA projects, I personally find the programme an educational one that cultivates many good values.

Firstly, VIA inculcates a sense of altruism in students. These days, many parents and educators use the carrot and stick approach to motivate the young to behave well or study hard. While the method has its merits, it also inevitably gives the wrong impression that a good deed should always be rewarded. Such self-serving mindset is unacceptable and can be corrected through VIA. As the programme requires students to volunteer their service for a good cause without expecting remuneration or other forms of reward, they learn to put the needs and happiness of others before their own. This fosters a sense of community spirit and teaches them to be selfless givers, not just takers.

Secondly, VIA nurtures students into caring and compassionate individuals. As Singapore is an affluent country, the majority of youths here lead a comfortable and somewhat sheltered life. Consequently, many are blissfully ignorant of the plight of the less fortunate. VIA awakes their social conscience and allow them to become aware of the problems that affect some people in society such as being poor or suffering from terrible illnesses. Through helping these less fortunate brethren, students will not only learn to show compassion, but also count their blessings and appreciate what they have in life. 

In addition, VIA instils the value of hard work into students. For instance, students participating in a flag day are given the responsibility to collect money in public places for charity. The task is a real test of their diligence and perseverance as they have to be on their feet for hours and overcome all kinds of weather conditions. To raise as much funds as possible, they also have to be bold and conquer their fear of rejection by actively approaching people for donation. Sometimes, they even have to explain what the charity is about and convince people to give generously. It is by no means an easy task but students can look back with great satisfaction that they have worked hard and carried out their duties to the best of their ability.

Apart from that, VIA teaches students the importance of good teamwork. Besides donation drives, the programme also involves students in other volunteer work such as visiting the homes of the underprivileged where they help to clean, paint and repair. These homes are usually in a state of dilapidation and a lot of work is required to improve their condition. Thankfully, many hands make light work and students will learn that with cooperative teamwork, they can get the job done swiftly and successfully. Through the experience, they will also learn to deal with different types of personalities and enhance their interpersonal and communication skills.

In a nutshell, VIA is an educational programme that develops students into caring and socially responsible individuals. Even though students are not financially rewarded, they will benefit from the programme in more ways than one and learn important values that money cannot buy through volunteering their time, effort and skills.

Secondary 2, 2018, English Tuition

Discursive / Argumentative Model Essay #3

“Money can’t buy happiness.” What are your views?

Can you imagine living without money in this day and age? Is it even possible to survive without money in today’s materialistic and cash-driven world? It has been said that money makes the world go round. Hence, it is no wonder that money has become the central focus of many people’s lives. Everyone seems to be working tirelessly for money. Even students are studying hard so that they can get a well-paid job and earn lots of money in future. Although I think money cannot buy happiness, it is something that we cannot live without.

It is clear that money cannot buy happiness as many people who work hard and long every day for money are often very unhappy. Most of them do not even have time to spend their hard-earned money due to heavy workload or long working hours. They have no time or energy for leisure activities and needless to say, their family and friends hardly get to see them too. This can make them feel lonely and depressed. Thus, working hard for money does not bring happiness but instead misery in this case.

Worse still, money is often the main culprit that ruins relationships. People frequently fight over money and this can become a very serious problem, whether it is between friends or family members. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear of family members fighting over inheritance or longtime business partners squabbling over money-related matters. In some cases, ugly lawsuits ensue and relationships are destroyed forever. What then is the point of having lots of money when there is no one to share it with?

However, from a different perspective, money can sometimes make one happy. For some, earning enough money to pay their monthly bills and put food on the table makes them happy. For others, it could be saving up enough money to buy things of their interests or go on a dream vacation. Having some savings instead of living pay cheque to pay cheque also gives one peace of mind. After all, a person cannot possibly be happy if he or she is constantly worrying about running into financial difficulties. Hence, money does buy happiness where one’s survival is concerned or when he wishes to satisfy his wants.

Mark Twain once said, “The lack of money is the root of all evil.” I agree with him as no one can survive without money in this day and age. Like it or not, money matters and one’s financial situation has a direct bearing on his happiness. That said, money does not guarantee contentment. Money often rears its ugly head and ruins relationships. One also has to make sacrifices such as lack of family time in the pursuit of wealth and material comforts. Therefore, to be happy, I think one must realise that there is more to happiness than money.

Secondary 3, 2017, English Tuition

Discursive / Argumentative Model Essay #2

“Fear is good.” Discuss.

Fear is the bad feeling that one has when he is in danger or when a particular thing frightens him. A German proverb goes, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” This is absolutely true as fear will often cause people to imagine the worst and act irrationally. In that case, can fear be any good? Personally, I think a small amount of fear is good and even necessary as it not only acts as a form of control and deterrence but also serves to motivate oneself. Nonetheless, being overly fearful is bad as it will severely hamper man’s progress. In this essay, I will discuss how fear can be a double-edged sword, bringing both advantages and disadvantages to man.

Fear is good as it deters people from doing dangerous acts and prompt them to control and regulate their behaviour. For instance, despite the numerous wars since World War Two, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan remain the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare. This is because the world is fearful of the widespread devastation that such weapons will bring about. Therefore, the fear of total annihilation has prevented world leaders from acting irresponsibly and going down the path of self-destruction. 

Next, fear is good as it is a powerful motivator. For individuals such as students and entrepreneurs, the fear of failure will prompt them to work hard and put in their best effort in their studies and business undertakings. This will lead to results and progress. Similarly for nations, the fear of losing their competitive edge will spur them to constantly improve and reinvent themselves to keep pace with the fast-changing world. For example, Singapore is taking active steps to maintain and improve her skilled and flexible workforce to ensure that she remains competitive and does not fall behind major economies like China. Retraining schemes and upgrading courses have been provided for the workforce to ensure that it stays relevant. Hence, we can see that the fear of losing out to others is one of the reasons that has motivated nations to take active steps in improving their economies. Without fear, nations will become complacent and they will eventually fall into a decline. 

However, although fear is good, man must keep in mind that too much fear may be detrimental to his development. Being overly fearful of the unknown and intangible will prevent people from venturing into areas previously unexplored. For instance, in the area of space exploration, Apollo 11 would have never landed the first humans on the moon if the Americans had let fear get in the way of their dream. As the late John F. Kennedy once said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” To achieve great feats, man must learn to conquer his fear and find the courage to overcome the obstacles that life presents. Only then can the human race continue to make progress and enjoy the sweet smell of success. 

In sum, fear is good as it will ultimately lead to a well controlled and motivated society. Nevertheless, people must keep in mind that they should not be clouded by fear as it will hinder their progress. I believe that a small dose of fear and a good deal of courage will make a great man as such a man will have the spirit to pursue his goals and the sense to act responsibly in the process. 

GCE O-Level, 2014, English Tuition

Discursive / Argumentative Model Essay #1

Teenager Pondering

What are the problems faced by teenagers in our society? How can these problems be overcome?

Someone once told me that adolescence is the most wonderful time of a person’s life. As a 14-year-old, I have to say I do not feel that wonderful. Teenagers are supposed to be leading a wonderfully easy life: full of fun and free of stress. Their sole responsibility is to study hard, which according to adults, is a simple task. However, living the life of a teenager is not that easy. Some of them would even describe it as a horrendously awful experience that they can do without. Here are some problems that confront adolescents today.

As society becomes more competitive with each passing year, teenagers face increasing pressure to excel. Even from a tender age, they are loaded with tons of assessment books. They are drilled to work hard and long, with their well-meaning parents breathing down their necks to make sure that they do well academically. As a consequence, many of them are brought up to fear failure; they must not let their parents down. To make matters worse, some parents are known to impose their unfulfilled dreams and wishes on their children. Woes betide teenagers if they are unable to live up to their parents’ high expectations. Their parents will reproach them and even make deprecating remarks and endless comparisons between them and the neighbours’ children. Eventually, arguments break out and the relationship is strained.

In school, teenagers are faced with immense mental strain. Assignment after assignment, project after project – life is one big cycle of schoolwork. Many students often feel like “walking zombies” memorising and regurgitating all those mathematical formulae and historical dates. As if all the schoolwork is not enough, they are constantly bombarded with tests and examinations. In addition, they are expected to excel in extra-curricular activities like sports and music, causing them to undergo added stress.

The hectic education system leaves teenagers little time for social activities and hence, greatly hinders their personal development. Some of them may become reserved, to the extent of being anti-social. Their primary concern is to score distinctions; what becomes of their social life takes a backseat. This kind of thinking eventually filters into adulthood, which explains why many adults put more emphasis on establishing their careers than on starting a family.

When teenagers cannot withstand the demands of this modern society, they turn to their friends for support. Peers are an important influence on behaviour during adolescence and teenagers often find it difficult to resist peer pressure. While peer pressure can have positive effects on teenagers when they are inspired by their peers towards positive behaviour such as volunteering for charity, it can also affect them negatively. This is because peer conformity among teenagers is commonly linked to episodes of adolescent risk-taking like underage drinking and smoking, shoplifting and drug abuse as these activities usually take place in the company of peers. Therefore, when teenagers associate themselves with bad company, they may engage in risky behaviours and become juvenile delinquents.

Some teenagers also face problems with their love lives. Boy-girl relationships are becoming increasingly common among teenagers. Curious about many things, teenagers are more than eager to try them out. Though not without good effects, these infatuations have their negative consequences. Whilst a relationship may help to alleviate the stress of schoolwork, it in turn gives rise to emotional pain when it fails to work out.

The complicated stresses and strains that teenagers face can be quite unbearable. How then can they make their teen years a fun-filled experience?

They can do many things such as planning their time between work and play wisely for a start. They can also share their problems with a counsellor or even their parents. Having regular communication with their parents will ultimately lead to better understanding. Furthermore, a harmonious and cohesive family is a safety net that will provide emotional support when they need it. As for friendships, teenagers must bear in mind that they are vulnerable to peer pressure and exercise caution when they make new friends. Similarly, when it comes to affairs of the heart, they should deliberate over entering into a relationship with the opposite sex to avoid unnecessary heartaches. Only when they become more mature and responsible should they seriously think about a romantic involvement.

Finally, teenagers should note that the various obstacles they face are there for a good reason. As the aphorism goes, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Once teenagers learn how to cope with each and every problem, they will be stronger and more able to deal with the challenges ahead. Although adolescence may not always be smooth-sailing, it is still a very special phase to be cherished.

Secondary 3, 2010, English Tuition