Sample the GP Model Essays that our
students benefit from!


Question: Discuss the view that the environment can only be saved through the efforts of developed nations.

Heart-wrenching photographs of polar bears barely clinging on to a small remnant of ice to stay afloat, parched land highlighting the deleterious effect of desertification, and gaping holes in the Antarctic ozone layer have left the world astounded by the impact of their consumerism. The desire for infinite economic growth has irreversibly devastated the natural world, and efforts to rectify the situation have at best been weak and feeble. This could partly be because the question of who should be conserving the environment continues to go unanswered. Many assert that developed countries should assume a greater role in promoting environmental conservation because they have the financial means and technological expertise, and bear greater historical responsibility in causing this problem. However, relying solely on the efforts of developed nations may mean allowing developing nations and other important stakeholders to shirk responsibility even as they contribute to a multifaceted global issue. In light of the growing environmental consciousness across the world, it can be argued that concerted efforts by all the different stakeholders are necessary to mitigate this multidimensional issue that would affect all of us, and not just certain nations. 

The prevalent view in our society is that developed countries are more well-equipped to protect our environment as they have achieved a certain level of wealth and prosperity and are in a better financial position to ensure the conservation of our environment. Their efforts in managing and mitigating the environmental crisis can be observed in a myriad of ways, from the building of eco-friendly buildings to the development of environmental technology. Developed countries have spearheaded projects utilising low-carbon forms of energy for power generation. Canada leads the world in hydroelectric energy, which currently makes up 90% of its power supply. Countries with flourishing economies are also able to invest in the conceptualization and construction of eco-friendly buildings in an attempt to promote environmental sustainability. A successful execution of this idea can be seen in the United States. The Chicago City Hall Roof boasts a size of 20,000 square feet, featuring bottlebrush grasses, wild rye and thousands of other plantings. It was created as a pilot program to reduce the building’s cooling and heating costs and serves as a model for other Chicago buildings and it has succeeded in both aims. The insulating layer of soil and plants cool the building in the summer and helps hold heat in the winter, reducing climate control costs by $6,000 a year. This idea has already taken root on more than 300 other Chicago rooftops. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that due to the geographical and special constraints, it is not feasible for all countries to actually build hydroelectric plants, making the solution exclusive to countries with adequate land capacity and funds, which is not sufficient enough to make a significant effect on the environment, reiterating the fact that we cannot depend entirely on developed countries to resolve the issue of environmental degradation. 

Additionally, most of the businesses and transnational corporations are headquartered in developed countries and they are greatly responsible for environmental degradation. If these companies take ownership of their actions and do their part to mitigate the environmental impact of their operations, the effect would be greatly apparent. A company that has gained the support of many for its efforts to be ecologically conscious is the soft drink company, Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has developed a relationship with Earthshore’s Founding Member Charity, World Wildlife Fund to help it address pressing water issues, including water conservation. As a result of this collaboration, WWF and Coca-Cola teams have been able to leave positive effects on nearby bodies of water and reduce the amount of water used in the beverage company’s processes. One project improved fishing practices to preserve a 1.7 million acre wetland in Vietnam while another increased water efficiency in the company’s Downey plant where 50% of the water used to be wasted. With the intervention of Coca-Cola, that number is down to 17%. With this, it is evident that some multinational corporations in developed countries can initiate campaigns and programmes to make the world a better, greener place. However, while it should be noted that profits and efforts to save the environment are not mutually exclusive, given the growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility, not all companies are genuinely committed to mitigating environmental degradation. Many corporations pay lip service to environmentalism, believing that it is simply another marketing strategy to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.  The term ‘greenwashing’ – a creative spin on the word ‘whitewashing’, was thus coined by the New York environmentalist Jay Westervelt. For instance, hotels worldwide place placards in each guestroom, ostensibly encouraging guests to reuse hotel towels and contribute to ‘saving the environment’. In reality however, these institutions make little to no effort to reduce their environmental impact. In fact, the actual objective of this ‘green campaign’ on the part of many hoteliers was in fact to reduce costs and increase profit. Over the years, environmental activists have labelled many businesses, including multinational oil corporations, such as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, for their ‘green washing’ efforts. Clearly, unless corporations endeavour to assure greater responsibilities and play a more instrumental role in solving environmental challenges, the efforts of governments of developed countries will be insufficient.


Question: ‘Big businesses cannot be trusted’ Discuss.

A deep mistrust of large enterprises has existed for a long time, since the Industrial Revolution. The evil corporation has become a significant part of our culture and consciousness, leading many to decry its increasing power, just as people did during the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, the near-exclusive focus of these companies on profit maximisation and their ability to get away with unscrupulous practices due to their size do seem to justify a fundamental suspicion of big businesses, both of their products and of their practices. Even so, I believe that the consumers will eventually learn of unscrupulous manufacturing practices, and that big business can be trusted as it is in the interest of profit to be trustworthy, especially if governmental oversight is strong. 

Every firm seeks profit maximisation as a key, if not absolute, goal. However, unlike small firms which could conceivably be founded by passionate individuals who consider their desire to meet a need or fulfil some altruistic aim as another goal, large corporations tend to involve a great number of diverse and often dispassionate individuals with profit as their sole venturing goal. Therefore, the motive for large corporations to engage in unscrupulous acts that increase short-run profit is stronger. For instance, the stakeholders of the Sanlu Corporation were not motivated by a certain desire to provide wholesome dairy products to the Chinese. Rather, the panoply of stakeholders, including New Zealand firm Fonterra, were motivated by a desire to maximise profit from the relatively untapped Chinese dairy market. This gave them the incentive to engage in the profit maximising measure of melamine enhancement, which lowered the need for protein powder and hence costs of production, and increased profit. This is less likely to happen in a small independent firm whose founder is more likely to consider the altruistic aim of supplying quality milk. This increased emphasis on profit maximisation makes big business inherently untrustworthy. 

Big business is not only inherently more motivated to engage in unscrupulous profil-maximising behaviour, but is also more able to evade detection. Its sheer scale enables it to employ more creative and effective means of cover-up and deception, keeping consumers in the dark. Enron was able to maintain its fraud partly because of its ability to use its vast financial resources to employ highly creative accountants to hide it. The creativity of these accountants is only.rivalled by that of the financial engineers and consultants employed by CitiGroup and Lehman Brothers, among others, who created collateralized debt obligations and other financial instruments which basically allowed them to sell the same debt many times. This and other financial tomfoolery contributed significantly to the worst recession in eighty years. Of course these firms could not have gotten away with it without pressuring relevant agencies and lawmakers to turn a blind eye, something possible only for that size of company. The fact that big businesses can and do regularly get away with defrauding customers as such gives them impunity to commit whatever untrustworthy act they wish in the name of profit, as opposed to smaller corporations which do not enjoy such impunity. Hence, big business is fundamentally untrustworthy. 

There is, however, a limit to the above argument, as it has been proven to be almost impossible to conceal such fraud indefinitely, as some consumers will ultimately sense the suspect quality of their products and blow the whistle. This was the case with Sanlu, whose contamination of milk was discovered by consumers who noticed foul-smelling urine emitted by their children. Despite the aggressive concealment measures taken, such as assault on whistleblowers, the contamination was finally exposed to national scandal. This led to the shaming of the now-bankrupt company. A similar process occurred with the US investment banks, when their customers wondered what exactly they were trading and whether it was overpriced. This led to a crisis in confidence and the collapse of Lehman and Bear Sterns, among others. This acts as a disincentive for dishonesty, as fraudulent actions result in the possibility of short-run profit but also of long-run loss of reputation and collapse.


Question: ‘As technological developments become more sophisticated, books play no role in learning.’ How far is this true of your society?

In the newly opened five-storey-high Punggol National Library in Singapore, it is common to see shelves of books framing rows of students hunched over brightly lit laptops. Once a cherished bastion of knowledge, books have found themselves tossed aside in favour of the lure of shiny, new technology. Yet, the value of books in our modern society is undeniable as they expose us to different narratives, teach us valuable lessons about our culture and heritage, and are a reliable source of information in learning.

The engaging nature of technology has long been its main selling point, providing consumers with multimedia content that physical books cannot offer. The added visual and audio elements offer a more stimulating learning experience that is much needed in the mundane Singaporean school life. For instance, the recent implementation of the online learning platform, ‘Singapore Student Learning Space’, was designed to provide students with access to a wide range of engaging multimedia resources, such as videos, interactive simulations, quizzes and games. Such methods of learning are a nice respite from the traditional chalk-and-board teaching methods and the blocks of text commonly seen in textbooks. This is especially so in Singapore, where learning is mostly a routine activity conducted within the four walls of a classroom, which can make the learning process repetitive and tedious, especially if the information to be learnt is within the black-and-white pages of a physical book. As such, the value of technology in learning is amplified by its ability to aid students in learning the same information, but through a more experiential and active medium. Thus, the engaging nature of technological developments eclipses the role that books play in learning.

Yet, it is myopic to conclude that books are passe. Despite the attractiveness of new technology, books remain an indispensable source of knowledge and learning. Indeed, books have long been regarded as an effective medium for the expression of personal voice, and the multitude of literature available for study means that readers can be exposed to and distill different narratives and perspectives. While technology has facilitated access to a vast array of information, books encompass a wide range of genres, from poetry to biographies. Reading across different genres helps readers learn about different narrative styles, develop empathy and broaden their understanding of various cultural contexts that technology cannot offer with its fixed algorithm to display the same information for its users, albeit in a more engaging manner. For instance, from the fictional book ‘Ministry of Moral Panic’ by Amanda Lee Koe, to the trilogy of plays titled ‘The Singaporean Trilogy’ by Robert Yeo, Singaporean books are well-known for their reflection of our nation-state’s cultural diversity. Such unique, personal stories showcase the complexities and multifaceted nature of what a diverse Singapore truly is, and these distinct lessons cannot be learnt from any technology present. Indeed, as a multi-cultural society so keen on cohesion but restricts any potentially controversial information online, it is only wise to turn to books to learn about what the different walks of life in Singapore truly face. The personal touch of books, compared to the stale information regurgitated by technology, makes learning more meaningful. Thus, books still play a major role in learning. 

Furthermore, books play a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage and fostering national identity. Through books, Singaporeans can learn about the rich tapestry of their history and culture. The long-form nature of books allows authors to delve into intricate details, presenting a nuanced understanding of their culture. In contrast, digital content available from sophisticated technological devices often prioritize brevity in the hope of keeping their users engaged, and this may lead to a more superficial understanding of the complex topic of cultural heritage. ‘The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew’ spanning 680 pages is a pertinent example of how our cultural identity is best preserved in books. As the founding father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew’s memoir offers an in-depth perspective and a firsthand account of the political and social decisions that shaped Singapore’s unique cultural identity, providing readers with an immersive understanding that online sources cannot provide. In comparison, the information provided in novel technology, such as ChatGPT or other forms of artificial intelligence search engines, is currently only capable of generating brief information. While such technology may improve in the future, current capabilities of technology are limited in its ability to produce detailed, nuanced content on our culture. As such, books as a medium for learning are vital in preserving our rich history in more authentic forms compared to a simple Google search.