(’14)‘For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.’ How true is this of your society?

Related: (’05)Do the arts, such as music and literature, really play a significant part in Singaporean society?

(’10)Would it matter if all the performing arts venues in your society, such as concert halls and theatres, were closed down?

(’11)’Only modern architecture and modern art have a place in today’s world.’ How true is this of your society?


(Introduction) Singapore is not traditionally known/famous for as a city of the Arts, unlike cities such as Paris, Venice, or Rome. But, this does not mean that the Arts are irrelevant in Singapore. As Singapore has already achieved considerable economic success in today’s world, it is increasingly focused on building up the cultural/art aspect of society. Although known to be a pragmatic and conservative society, I believe, the arts scene will eventually overcome that to become an irreplaceable part of our society.

(Refute 1) Some argue that the Arts are irrelevant in Singapore. This is because, they do not have any practical purpose. At best, they serve as forms of leisure; at worst, unneeded/unnecessary distractions. A trip to the national museum (of Singapore) or the Esplanade may be a refreshing change of pace from the usual busyness of daily life, and one may build up his/her cultural capital and start appreciating the finer aspects of life, but such knowledge are largely inapplicable and unusable in his/her daily life. Information on the history of contemporary Southeast Asian art or the different movements of a Beethoven symphony are essentially trivial facts, for any normal Singaporean student or worker. Ultimately, most people are more concerned about the things that will significantly/tangibly affect their life/work/studies in society, leading to negligence of the arts in their daily lives. This is compounded by the fact that many Singaporeans likely do not even have adequate time to make room for the arts; According to an online global survey by international business company Regus, 19% of (one in five) Singaporean workers work eleven or more hours a day. Hence, the Arts are irrelevant in people’s lives.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Precisely because Singaporeans live in a fast-paced, stressful society, all the more they need the arts to alleviate some of the pressure that daily life puts on them. They need regular mental shifts to bring them away from work/school, as important moderations in their lives, and the Arts are ideal for that. This is because, the Arts, especially the aesthetically pleasing ones, appeals to people’s senses and allows us to feel relaxed/contentment instead of stress. In Singapore, these kinds of art can come in unconventional forms, such as architecture and nature. Gardens by the Bay, with its sprawling gardens and creative landscaping that feature everything from Chinese to Indian gardens with statues of various sizes, is a prime example. Evidently, more Singaporeans have realized the value of the Arts in this aspect, as there is now greater appreciation for, and participation in the Arts. According to the National Population Survey on the Arts, released by the National Arts Council (NAC), more than two-thirds of Singaporeans believed that the arts helped them express their thoughts, feelings and ideas, enabled them to be more creative and improved the quality of life for everyone. The Singapore Cultural Statistics 2014 report indicated that visitorship to National Museums and Heritage Institutions reached a new high at 3.2 million in 2013. These findings show that the Arts are not exactly irrelevant in people’s daily lives, hence, I do not agree with the statement.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, the Arts are used professionally in the area of healthcare for therapy and treatment of mental illnesses, exemplifying its function in maintaining mental health.  Traditional treatment methods have seen limited results in treating certain diseases/conditions such as mental illness and physical disabilities, causing the arts to be increasingly recognized as an effective means of treatment and therapy. This is in lieu of increasing scientific evidence which demonstrate that the arts can positively affect medical outcomes and improve the quality of care for patients in the healthcare services. For instance, Singapore General Hospital uses art therapy to help some of its patients understand their mental and emotional wellbeing; this has benefited patients with eating disorders to have a clearer picture of their illness and discharge their emotions in a healthy manner. Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA) provides individuals with disabilities with the chance to access the arts for the purposes of rehabilitation and social integration. Aside from having therapeutic effects on disabled individuals’ physical and emotional self, it aids in practical aspects of their lives such as hand-eye coordination and bodily posture. As shown, Singapore has recognized the fact that the Arts is greatly beneficial in the area of healthcare as it not only promotes faster healing but also reduces stress and improves a patient’s overall sense of comfort and well-being, causing the Arts to become more relevant in these people’s lives.

(Refute 2) Some argue the arts are irrelevant in Singapore. This is because, the arts scene itself is restricted. Due to the conservativeness of the Singapore society and the tight view that the government pertains towards freedom of expression, there is likely to be negligible tolerance held by the government towards unconventional ideas and art creations by the people. This is evident from the relatively high level of censorship of the arts in Singapore and tight regulations/licensing requirements the Media Development Authority (MDA) has for the arts (and arts practitioners). For instance, MDA had banned the film, “To Singapore, With Love” in 2014, a documentary on Singapore’s political exiles, which criticizes Singapore’s way of turning past Communists into exiles. According to the filmmaker, it was intended to relate the personal stories and emotions of people who have been away from Singapore for an extended length of time, and she had attempted to provide balance to their views by using inter-titles and news clippings in the film. However, the Films Appeal Committee claimed that the film was a “one-sided account with minimal attempts to provide a balanced mix of views” beyond those provided by the interviewees, and may pose a threat to national security. Singapore’s arts community expressed disappointment towards the ban, saying that the government is trying to limit discussion around our very own history, and that censorship does nothing to promote a vibrant society. As shown, censorship prevents the arts scene in Singapore from reaching its full potential and its full outreach to the people; if even topics relevant to Singapore, such as its own history, are banned, Singaporeans will likely become only more uninterested in/out-of-touch with the Arts, causing the Arts to be irrelevant in people’s daily lives.

(Supporting 3) However, I beg to differ. Although censorship does exist for the government to control/ban controversial art, by and large, the government has become more active in promoting the Arts to the masses. They have become increasingly focused on developing the arts and culture ecosystem in Singapore, with the aim of making Singapore the regional arts hub in Asia. Besides the construction of high/fine/contemporary art museums and areas such as the Gillman Barracks, this is apparent through the establishment of various art venues in the heartlands/communities, allowing the Arts to have a greater outreach, and play a bigger role in people’s daily lives. For instance, Ministry of Culture, Community, Youth (MCCY) helps the arts flourish in neighborhoods all across the island through community-friendly spaces, like libraries and community centers, which are termed as “community nodes for arts and culture”. These are places where people can gather to enjoy performances, workshops and more. By 2025, the aim is to have 25 community nodes distributed across the island. Such will take the arts within easy reach of Singaporean households. The PAssionArts Movement is also growing community outreach efforts to bring the arts closer to more Singaporeans. In 2013, more than 14,000 arts and culture events and courses were organized throughout Community Arts & Culture Clubs. A total of 100,000 residents also participated in arts and cultural activities, organized through various Festival Villages as part of PAssionArts 2013. This is an increase from the 85,000 residents who took part in PAssionArts events in 2012. Hence, as shown, through the various initiatives introduced by the government, there is now a greater sense of the Arts through the masses, causing them to be more relevant in people’s daily lives.



(’05)A picture is always more powerful than mere words. What is your view?


(Introduction) ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’. This phrase is synonymous with the power we associate with pictures; that they can express much more than words ever can, they can affect people on a larger degree than words ever can, and that they will always be more powerful than words ever will be. While this may not be wrong, it is plainly an overstatement of how powerful pictures really are. I feel, pictures are not always more powerful than words. In some situations, they may be more powerful, but in others, words prove their worth.

(Refute 1) Some argue that picture is always more powerful. This is because, pictures are universal. Globally, people around the world, regardless of where they come from, would be able to understand the message a picture is trying to convey. On the other hand, words are dictated by language, and this limits the number of people who can understand them; a non-English speaker/learner would never be able to understand words in English unless he takes the effort to translate them into his own language. In this sense, the power of words to reach out to more people is inherently held back by its nature, causing pictures, which can reach out to all via a universal language, to be more powerful. For example, pictures are used as signage on restrooms’ doors, instruction manuals, and traffic and warning signs all over the world. Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, uses pictures to illustrate how to assemble their flat-box furniture, in a step-by-step manner, together. If this was not so, the cost of translating their instruction manuals for a global market would be prohibitive. Pop art, such as Che Guevera or works by Andy Warhol, can be seen worldwide, from the streets of the USA to the alleyways of a very different country, China.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Some words are universal too. Language does not matter. The ideas/stories in these words are known to many, if not everyone, in the world. In this case, pictures are not always more powerful than words. For instance, best-selling novels like the Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million copies and been translated into 63 languages. In another example, for more than four centuries, the world has been enthralled by the words of William Shakespeare. In ‘As You Like It’, he wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” His captivating metaphor of life as a play, and all human beings as actors, has transcended centuries and ages, and become immortalized in the English language. Shakespeare’s words are studied much more around the world today than the works of any painter. His oeuvre has made far more impact and moved more people than that of any painter or photographer.

(Refute 2) Still, some argue that picture is always more powerful. This is because, it also appeals to the emotions. Photographs, especially, are deemed by many people as a powerful form of communication, as it replicates every detail, every emotion perfectly. This often has an effect of amplifying anything the image depicts, and increases the ability to evoke emotions such as shock, happiness and depression. Such allows pictures to capture a period in time where words are just not adequate enough to express the situation fully. Some examples are: the fall of the Berlin wall, a student activist facing-off a Chinese tank in Tiananmen square, a starving African child being watched by a vulture, pictures of Japanese videographer Kenji Nagai being shot in Burma, and the Hindenburg as an inferno. The solemn yet triumphant raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima that was published in newspapers all over America the following day gave a war-weary American public renewed belief that the war could be won. The Mona Lisa, with her subtle smile, is regarded as one of the greatest works of mankind. Hence, pictures are always more powerful than words.

(Supporting 2) However, I beg to differ. Pictures tend to be limited (in depth) of what they can express; this usually leads to a picture romanticizing a scenario, without going into the depth and specifics of the idea. E.g. Painting of the storming of the Bastilles: It seems to show that the French revolution (Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!) was a sudden, catylmtic event where the people rose up and threw off their chains of oppression. In fact, the French Revolution was a brutal, drawn-out affair with infighting that led to reprisal killings against different factions of the revolution. Such superficiality of pictures mean that they may actually evoke less emotions from people compared to words, which are able to go into depth describing a scenario/event/idea.

(Supporting 3) Furthermore, words also can appeal to emotions. In fact, there have been many times where words moved people to feel and to fight, where great words have influenced people sufficiently enough for them to be translated into action. For example, In Martin King Luther Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, he said, “I have a dream, that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. “I have a dream,” he expounded, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” His dream came true, and in no small part due to the power of his words. There was no picture that could have resonated in the hearts and minds of Americans and championed the cause of racial equality as resoundingly and powerfully as his words. (Another example is Winston Churchill’s wartime speech: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”) Others include Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their ‘Communist Manifesto’, which inspired millions of workers to rise up against capitalists; Hitler, which engendered such deep hatred in his people as to drive them to genocide; Mahatma Gandhi, which galvanized and enlightened Indians to seek change through non-violent means. As shown, words are just as powerful as pictures in affecting people’s emotions/actions, therefore, pictures are not always more powerful than words.

(’14)Do films offer anything more than an escape from reality?

Related: (’04)Discuss the appeal and value of fantasy stories and films.

(’01)A film has one purpose- to entertain. Using examples, consider this view.


(Introduction) The history of cinema now spans more than a century. One could say that the twentieth century was the first century to be recorded in motion pictures. But what is the purpose of motion pictures and what do they offer? Many say that films only entertain, by providing us an escape from reality. In this sense, they have much appeal, but little value. However, in my belief, films offer much more than just that. Through the stories told in films, certain meaningful messages/themes are discussed. Furthermore, films are also a source of revenue/profit for the filmmaker/film company, and some reflect our reality to us, serving as a record of the world itself.

(Refute 1) Some say films only entertain. This is because, Popular films often have fictional plots, an imaginary story that happens in an imaginary setting, detached from real life. Such only offers viewers an escape from reality, allowing them to immense themselves in the imaginary world, and ultimately, entertainment from doing so. For example, fantasy stories told through film such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings series brings viewers to a whole new world (literally), where characters and beings such as wizards, dwarfs, goblins, non-existent in the real world, become a reality.  Science fiction and cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner and Inception allow us to get a glimpse of alternative realities, of what the world could be like, whether in past, present, or future. Such unrealistic films would not have taught viewers any real, practical things, and hence just exists as a form of entertainment, for people’s enjoyment purposes.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Indeed, fictional films usually do not teach viewers any tangible things, but they almost always leave viewers with something intangible. Through the themes explored, subtle social commentary, and character development, viewers may be able to realize something, or start pondering over certain collective beliefs and big topics in society, such as the nature of humanity. Using Inception again, the main character, Dom Cobb, is a skilled thief who steals valuable ideas from within the sub consciousness of others. Hired by Saito, a highly powerful businessman, he and his team now has to do the reverse: to plant an idea instead of steal one. Through the process of manipulating other people’s sub consciousness, Cobb deals with subconscious issues of his own. He does so by burying them in a prison he created to dump them in, and locked them away without intending to address them. However, this only caused his inner issues to come back to taunt him even more, surfacing in different ways; at first sporadic, then later on frequent, and in the most unexpected situations. They were self-sabotaging. Such thus allows the viewers to learn that avoidance is never a solution to anything, and that the best way to deal with our issues is to deal with them straight on. The ‘Rocky’ film series, the story of Rocky Balboa, a small-time club fighter who later gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship, gives viewers an inspirational take on the value of determination, grit, and never giving up. Hence, films offer more than just entertainment.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, not all films are fictional. Documentary films present certain information or events, seen or unseen, that exist, or have existed, in reality. Their purpose is to impart knowledge of this subject to viewers, let them understand, be aware of these issues and know what the world needs today. Citizenfour, a 2014 documentary film, is about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. Super Size Me, directed by Morgan Spurlock, is a social experiment on fast-food gastronomy which sees him attempting to subsist uniquely on food from McDonald’s for an entire month. In the process, he gains weight, his energy level plummets and he experiences many unexpected and terrifying side effects. The film also examines the corporate giant’s growing role in the lives of American consumers and explores its methods of indoctrinating young people and its contribution to America’s obesity epidemic. In An Inconvenient Truth, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows Al Gore on the lecture circuit, as the former presidential candidate campaigns to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming and calls for immediate action to curb its destructive effects on the environment. As shown, rather than a form of entertainment and an escape from a reality, these films are the reflections of realities that the audience is living in now. Hence, films offer more than just entertainment.

(Refute 2) Some say films only entertain. This is because, film techniques that have been developed evidently seem to be only targeted towards increasing the entertainment factor for viewers. Increasingly sophisticated techniques are used to delight and entertain audiences. For instance, animated films, which involves the display of rapid movement in an art work, usually more vibrant and dramatic compared to their live action counterparts, has become more widespread. The advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) also made it possible to do spectacle more cheaply and on a massive scale.  CGI techniques and visual effects can be used to create realistic images of people, landscapes and events, both real and imaginary, and also to animate non-living items such as Lego. Furthermore, with the rise of 3-D technology and films, once 2 dimensional images projected onto a flat cinema screen come to life in full 3 dimensional glory. Much technologies were created just to make movies seem more entertaining than they actually are, and give viewers a better movie experience. As seen, given the amount of work put into making a film interesting and entertaining, the sole purpose of film is to do just that.

(Supporting 3) However, I beg to differ. Another purpose of the film is to create profits for the film-makers. That is the ultimate reason why such technologies are developed for and used in films nowadays. By doing so, films remain more relevant with the tastes and preferences of the current generation, allowing them to gain popularity, and eventually have a higher gross in the box office. The highest grossing film to date, with worldwide box-office gross of about $2.8 billion, Avatar, utilized many special visual effects and CGI. The studio created over 1,800 stereoscopic, photo-realistic visual effects shots. In addition to digital characters and environments, the machines, vehicles, and equipment in the movie were also digitalized to further blur the line between imagination and reality. Animated family films have also performed consistently well in the box office. Disney enjoyed success with films such as Frozen (the highest-grossing animated film) and The Lion King and also with its Pixar brand, of which the Toy Story films and Finding Nemo have been the best performers.  Beyond Pixar animation, the Shrek, Ice Age, Madagascar and Despicable Me series have met with the most success. As seen, films with these technologies fared better with the crowd. Hence, aligning with a film’s purpose to create money, many film-makers use, and film companies develop, such technologies. In this case, the purpose of a film is more than just entertainment.

(’10)The book has no place in modern society. Discuss.

Related: (’03)Does the book still have a future?

(’08)Nowadays, the pleasures of reading can never compete with the pleasures of visual entertainment. To what extent do you agree?


(Introduction) Since the early ages, books had been hugely important to human civilization, as instruments for communicating information and ideas. However, in this age of information and technology, everything once written in books can be quickly brought online, adapted into films, and transcribed onto our screens. Undeniably, this has made life much more convenient and entertaining. But, this also means that the functions of books will be, somewhat, replaced. Technology provides a faster and more convenient way for us to do many things, compared to books. Still, I believe, there is much value in books. Books put readers through an irreplaceable experience. The internet can never take away the feeling of reading a book, nor the connection between the reader, characters, or even the author, at that given moment. Hence, I believe, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(Refute 1) Some may say that the book has no future. This is because new media has replaced books’ informative purposes. Information, ideas, and knowledge once written in books can be, and will be, eventually, all brought online, or made into e-books. The Amazon Kindle, a series of e-book readers, has over 3.2 million e-books available in its database. The internet itself has several zettabytes (1 000 billion gigabytes) of data. Sometimes, this medium is even better than paper books. For instance, Apple’s ibooks provide interaction between ‘book’ and reader, unlike paper books that only allow for passive reading. Furthermore, the internet makes the information once on books quicker and easier for people to access. When people want to know something, they will usually venture online to do a search, instead of going to the library or bookstore to find a book with answers, as this takes up less of their time. As seen, books that once served as sources of knowledge and information are replaced by the better alternative. Hence, the book has no future.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. The internet does have a bigger pool of information that is more easily available at our disposal. But how effective is it in transmitting that information to us, and making sure that that information is retained in our heads? We would probably remember what we read from a book, but not what we read on the net from 3 weeks ago. For example, in a 2011 experiment published in Science Magazine, college students remembered less information when they knew they could easily access it later on the computer. Precisely because of how easy information is made readily available to us on the net, our brains start to disregard this type of information, with the mentality, ‘I’ll still be able to find it online easily, later.’ In contrast, because information from books was harder for us to find, we tend to remember it, in fear of never finding it again. This is why many textbooks and academic books still come in print, and many have been continually revised, reprinted over the years. Hence, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(Refute 2) Still, people argue that books have no future because their leisure purposes have also been replaced. In the past, reading a book was a good way to unwind and relax, as a form of escapism for readers. However, with the advancements in technology, there are now other, better platforms of escapism. These include movies, drama, and film; books were gradually adapted to the big screen, and people opted to watch those instead of read the original book. Simply because, they bring the book to life (literally), allowing people to actually see what the book was describing. Static words and sentences are replaced by real-life, moving images. This change definitely seems appealing. In some cases, this resulted in the movie/film series overshadowing the original book. E.g. ‘Jaws’ movie series (Who knew they were actually adapted from a novel?) Other than that, with the development of avenues such as video games that are more stimulating and exciting compared to books, and engages a person to a larger extent, books that once served as sources of leisure and entertainment have also been competed out by their better counterparts. Hence, the book has no future.

(Supporting 2) However, I beg to differ. Indeed, while the new mediums have their merits, they have not taken away the appeal of books. The appeal of a book is that the reader is able read the story at his/her own pace. Every flip of the page is decided by the reader. The reader takes charge. This is not possible for a moving film, unless one is able to bear pausing and rewinding portions of the film over and over again. Furthermore, books also allow for readers’ imagination. When movies and films present everything to their viewers, they leave no room for imagination. Everything is just as it seems. However, for a book, the same words may mean many different things to different readers. Everyone is allowed to interpret the stories, the ideas, the characters, their own way. This way, books provide more satisfaction compared to films. Hence, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(Supporting 3) Furthermore, functions of books have expanded since ancient times, and they have also adapted, along with others, to today’s modern society. This allows them to stay relevant today, and in the future. For instance, Books have become therapeutic, and not in sense of merely providing inspirational quotes or advice (the internet can do that); some have become specifically therapeutic in nature, and they are gaining popularity with the public of society. For example, Bestselling books in Amazon include coloring books for adults: Secret Garden: An Inky treasure hunt and Coloring book, and Enchanted forest: An Inky quest & Coloring book, both by Johanna Basford. Secret Garden: An Inky treasure hunt and Coloring book has sold 1.4 million copies. Colouring is a therapeutic activity that allows people to zone out, relax and focus on a simple task. The process of filling in black and white drawings with colour can be paralleled with the process of filling up their stressed-up lives with good and vibrant things. Such can only be done on paper books. The computer only simplifies the process with the ‘fill’ function on Paint, causing the therapeutic effect to be lost. In an increasingly fast-paced, stressful society, such books would only become even more relevant in the future. As seen, this is one function of the book that can never be replaced by the technology, among many others. Hence, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.