7 Predictions for 2020 General Paper (GP)

When I was sitting for my A Level many years ago, one of the GP tutors in NJC told us that there is no point in predicting GP questions. To do well, you have to study everything. While I did well for my A Level, for years I was under the illusion that the General Paper is set in an arbitrary manner which follows no logical patterns. And that Cambridge Examiners are nothing but a collection of blindfolded elves who select GP questions by firing darts in a randomised fashion. Well, surprise. I was wrong. After all, writing down 12 essay prompts does seem like a deceivingly simple task to many. After years of teaching the subject, I can testify that GP is a very painstakingly set paper. Examiners determine the questions based on current, contemporary events and issues. Needless to say, there has to be some pattern to it. Year after year, we have proven our theory. This year, we are going to make an exception by sharing with you 7 predictions we have for the 2020 General Paper (GP).

Here at First Class, we discuss issues related to Science and Technology and Media at length, and we suggest you do too. However, we want our students to be adequately prepared not just for one topic but also to have a broad-based understanding of world issues. To do that, we examined what happened in the past year and the contemporary discussions to come up some predictions for the 2020 A Level GP.

1. Environment

If you’re reading this in 2019/2020, You must have heard of Greta Thunberg. That’s right, the young environmental activist who’s shaking up the world with her environmental speech at the UN. Talks about the environment and climate change used to be the domain of grey-haired politicians who have little to lose. Today, the younger generation is more environmentally aware and concerned because clearly, the stake is higher for those who have to inherit the pathetic state of planet. 

According to famous writer Thomas Friedman, Three major forces shape our world profoundly today. The environment, technology and globalisation. Climate change and water resources in particular will lead to war and conflicts that can affect global politics. So there is definitely potential for discussion on various environmental issues in GP in the next few years. Some questions that you can consider for the environment are:

  • Should countries focus on adapting to rather than stopping climate change?
  • ‘Preserving biodiversity is a futile pursuit’. Do you agree?
  • To what extent is pollution properly managed in your society?
  • Given the global impact of climate change, should every country play an equal part in saving the environment?
  • ‘Corporations, rather than individuals, should be blamed for harms done to the environment’. Discuss.

2. Data and Privacy

In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica debacle broke out and Facebook was in the middle of the hurricane. With new implementation of regulations like the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) in Singapore and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, many are becoming increasingly wary of the access, storage and use of our data. The tricky argument about privacy is this: nobody forces you or even charges you for using Facebook or IG. Internet users have voluntarily given up privacy in exchange for a free service. That’s why internet giants like Facebook have not been very proactive in refraining from exploiting users’ data.

For the purpose of GP, we have shortlisted these questions about privacy 

  • To what extent should the State be responsible for protecting our privacy?
  • With the proliferation of the Internet, is privacy more desirable today?
  • Is there still a place for privacy in today’s world?

On top of that, while data and privacy may not be the key focus of GP questions, they can manifest themselves in other forms, such as discussions about social media and cybersecurity.

  • Has social media given people too much power?
  • Is the internet to be welcomed or feared today?

3. Sports

2020 is the year of the Summer Olympics! I’m really not a sports fan but I recognise that sports have an important role in humanity. This year’s Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan. It is the fourth Olympics that the country will see. Prior to 2020, Japan hosted one summer Olympics in 1964 and two Winter Olympics in 1972 and 1998. The country simply has an impressive resume in hosting major sports events. Compare this to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Or the Rio 2016 Olympics. (Note that in the same year, one A Level GP question was this : Considering the money involved, should developing countries be allowed to host major sporting events?)

Perhaps some higher-order thinking themes about sports may surface for 2020 A level GP. As starters, we would recommend looking at these questions.

  • ‘The value of sports is overrated.’ Is this true today?  
  • To what extent is the value of sport determined by its profitability?
  • How far are women valued in sports in your society?
  • Assess the view that there is no place for politics in sports.
  • ‘Technology and sports should not mix.’ Discuss.

4. Giant Corporations

Corporations. We love them and hate them all the same. Today, large corporations have their fingers in every pie imaginable, as long as it is profitable. Decades of consolidation and favourable regulations have resulted in corporations that are too big to fail, and far too powerful. Many people are OK with the immense power that large corporations have. But as Uncle Ben said “with great power comes great responsibility”. What is increasingly contentious is the duty that large corporations are expected to shoulder but fail to fulfil. In 2018, Amazon made $11billion in profit and paid $0 in federal taxes – money meant for infrastructure, social welfare and helping the underprivileged.

Like it or not, large corporations are the new world order. But for the purpose of our discussion, have a look at these questions

  • How important are small businesses to your society?
  • ‘Consumers are at the mercy of corporations.’ Discuss.
  • To what extent do multi-national corporations worsen the levels of inequality in the world? 
  • How important is it for firms to be socially responsible in today’s world?
  • Assess the importance of regulations of corporations.

5. Poverty and Income Inequality 

In many nations, income inequality is at its peak. The inequality in America has become so severe that working class people are turning their attention to the super rich. Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren wants to impose a wealth tax on billionaires in order to fund Medicare and help students laden with tuition loan debt. Likewise, a survey done in 2018  revealed that income gap – not race nor religion – is Singapore’s most divisive fault line. That prompted a lot of discussions about wealth inequality and social mobility.

Inequality appeared in the 2019 General Paper: To what extent should income equality be a goal in your society? However, the scope of income inequality is broad and there is great potential for other questions on inequality. Some questions are worth examining when it comes to inequality:

  • Assess the view that globalisation has only resulted in more inequality in the world.
  • Education perpetuates rather than fights inequality.’ Comment.
  • Technology is an effective social leveller.’ How far do you agree?
  • Is it fair to blame the rich for the plight of the poor?
  • Can we ever close the gap between the rich and the poor?
  • Only the rich can afford to be ill.’ To what extent is this true?
  • People who are poor have only themselves to blame.’ Is this a fair comment?

6. Diplomacy and International Politics

Ah, world politics. My favourite. As the world becomes more and more intertwined, so has governments across the planet. International politics is a recurring theme in the A level General Paper for good reasons: it is a valid test of students’ worldview, a key tenet of the subject. Clearly, having an in-depth knowledge of what is happening around the world will benefit you immensely.

Here, I have compiled questions that can get you started on international politics.

  • Diplomacy, not war, is the solution to conflicts in the world today.’ Do you agree?
  • Should small countries be allowed to take the lead in global affairs?
  • Consider the view that foreign intervention in a country’s affairs does more harm than good.
  • International relationships between countries are becoming increasingly important.’ Discuss.
  • Can war be avoided when countries continue to invest in weapons?
  • Can a country afford to isolate itself from the rest?
  • “The provision of financial or material aid to countries in need does more harm than good.” Discuss.
  • “Morality has no place in international politics.” Discuss.
  • International cooperation has not solved the global problems of today.’ Do you agree?
  • Assess the view that international organisations are mostly ineffective.

7. Young vs old, Demographics

This is an age-old debate. The needs of the young are different from the needs of the elderly. For example, old people don’t have to go to school. Young people don’t have to go to the hospital as frequently. Young people cannot vote as old people do. As people are living longer and having fewer children, the priorities of governments have also shifted. Singapore’s life expectancy is now one of the highest in the world. The large aging population may also necessitate a new Ministry of Ageing to cope with the new challenges. On the other hand, the young people today face different problems from the young people of yesteryears. There is a lot of room for discussion about youth and the changing demographics.

Here is a long list of questions pertaining to the subject.

  • Do you agree that it is inevitable for the elderly to be a burden to society?
  • ‘We lack role models who can inspire our young.’ Comment.
  • How far should the media be held responsible for the problems faced by the young people today?
  • Do young people in your society have what it takes to ensure that the nation remains successful?
  • ‘The world would be a better place if young people were more involved in politics.’ What is your view?
  • ‘Much has been lost with the passing of the older generation.’ To what extent is this true of your society?
  • How prepared is Singapore for its aging population?
  • In your society, how well are the needs of the young and the old balanced?
  • ‘Grey is the new gold.’ To what extent is this true of the aged today?
  • With the emphasis on technology, will the elderly in your country be left behind?

Here’s another tip for you. To answer questions about demographics and population, you must arm yourself with not just understanding but also statistics. 

To Sum Up

These are 7 of our predictions for the General Paper in 2020. You will find that just being prepared for these questions would have prepared you for many other related issues. That’s the beauty of the GP. I have shared with you WHAT to prepare for; the challenging part is explaining HOW to prepare for it. 

If you feel that your friends can benefit from this article, do share the link with them. If you still struggle with understanding the subject and exam is near, consider some external help. 

Here at First Class, we arm our students with the content and the skills to do well for the paper. Our goal is to help students study efficiently by simplifying the subject and giving bite-sized information that you can digest quickly. Our past students have consistently seen improvements of at least 2 grades by applying what we teach in class and using our wealth of resources. 

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