Here’s our predictions for GP in 2020, specially analysed and curated by our highly experienced First Class GP Tutors Team!
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.
Important General Paper Prediction : Environment
When the Coronavirus pandemic reached Italy, tourism came to a halt. Popular sites like Venice suddenly saw clear blue water again. Viral videos of marine life in Venice canals have brought home debates about human impact on the environment. For once at least, it seems like nature is claiming back parts of the planet.
If you’re reading this in 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 rapid population growth, is preservation of the environment a realistic aim?
- ‘Corporations, rather than individuals, should be blamed for harms done to the environment’. Discuss.
- ‘We have very little control over the natural environment we live in.’ How far do you agree?
General Paper Prediction 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.
Due the the COVID-19 pandemic, telecommuting platforms like Zoom have been under intense scrutiny for failure to protect users’ privacy. (I use Zoom for online GP tuition classes btw. So far so good.) Contact tracing apps are also raising privacy concerns for mobile tech companies Apple and Google. In 2020, rising tensions between China and India prompted India to ban TikTok over privacy concerns. The US may follow suit as we are writing this.
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?
- To what extent is the new media is a boon for democracy?
- Is the internet to be welcomed or feared today?
Sports, General Paper Prediction 3
2020 Tokyo Olympics has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo and corporate sponsors have already invested $3bil in the Olympics. Economists estimate that the delay will cost the Japan $6b in economic losses.
I’m really not a sports fan but I recognise that sports have an important role in humanity. This year’s Olympics was supposed to be held in Tokyo, Japan. It would have been 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. In the same year, one A Level GP question (which we covered in our tuition classes) was “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.
Giant Corporations as your fourth GP pick
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.
Big corporations that have benefitted for years from low taxation have appealed for government bailouts (funded by taxpayers) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They do so under the pretext that they may have to lay off workers if they do not receive any support. People are finding it hard to swallow that the same corporations that have exploited them are now asking for the people’s money.
Like it or not, large corporations are the new world order. Even tuition centres in countries like China are getting listed on the stock market. Can you believe it? 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.
Pick Poverty and Income Inequality as your GP topic
I believe that inequality will be an increasingly common (and relevant) theme. I have repeatedly reiterated the importance of this topic in our tuition classes. 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. Even supposedly equal, progressive countries in the Nordic Scandinavian region have seen unprecedented levels of income 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?
Diplomacy and International Politics, frequently tested for General Paper
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. With the rising tensions between countries, despite (and because of) the pandemic, many GP tuition centres have also covered this topic of international politics extensively. I will therefore not go into details here.
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.
Young vs old, Demographics, an important GP topic
Our Yishun GP tuition centre is smacked right in the middle of an ageing estate. There are many lovely old folks around the area. So it’s safe to say that ageing is practically a question I think about every day.
The question about young vs old is literally an age-old debate in the General Paper examination. 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. Young graduates are increasingly under the financial pressure of tuition fees they have to pay for higher education. 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 in Singapore and abroad.
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?
- How far should countries have relations with others whose human rights record is poor?
- ‘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 Singapore 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 Singapore, 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.
There are many topics that are worth your time investment. While I strongly encourage you to study all the topics listed above, I would also like to urge you to read beyond what is offered here. Ultimately, the General Paper is a broad-based subject. You will general improve as long as you expand the scope of your knowledge and build new knowledge on top of what you already know.
If you find that reading so much is daunting, the good news is this. We have compiled useful headlines and summaries of important news over the years for 16 different topics. It is packed with over 1000 summaries articles! You will never have to waste time doing research again. Visit this link to download.