Topic 82: Some people think that children should learn to compete, but others think that they should be taught to cooperate with others. What's your opinion?
There has been a lot of debate among educators about whether students should work together (known as cooperative learning) or individually (known as competitive learning). While the former model of learning encourages collaborationbetween students, the latter seems to value individualism and personal achievement. In my opinion, cooperative learning is more favourable, despite some of its drawbacks.
Cooperative learning occurs when students work collaboratively towards a common goal. A student's achievements are positively correlated with those of his or her peers in the group. Students work together in small clusters or groups and thus have a feeling of connection with other members of the group as they accomplish a common goal. Not only can it enhance the sense of teamwork among students but also it enables students to exercise their communication skills, with much of their learning being involved in face-to-face interaction.
Another benefit of cooperative learning is allowing students to take advantage of individual strengths and combined efforts. Working in a group, each member is assigned with a task, which closely matches his or her strengths, expertise and aptitudes. It will enhance efficiency and productivity. Meanwhile, group members might discuss how well they can function as a unit throughout the process and how effective their working relationships can be. It raises the possibility of students' making swift adjustmentfrom school to work when the time conies.
However, some characteristics of collaborative learning have made it inapplicableon some occasions. For example, successful collaboration normally requires group dynamics, great variation in skills and intellectual levels of group members and a good command of social skills, and so forth. These prerequisites can easily overwhelm the possible benefits that collaborative learning techniques may have. Although collaborative learning tends to favour ordinary or slow students with giving them more support, it turns out that talented, eager students might learn little and become disenchantedover time. This situation can be remedied by encouraging intergroup competition, grouping students and allowing them to compete in groups. It minimises the negative effect of individualism while retaining the interest of outstanding students in groupwork.
In light of the above-mentioned facts, teachers should identify the best learning style for students and predict its outcomes, either destructive or constructive. In cooperative learning, personal success springs only fromgroup success, while in competitive learning one learner succeeds at the cost of other learners. Collaborative learning brings more benefits, despite the possibility of impeding outstanding students' personal development, a problem which should be handled with caution.
6. spring from = arise from = originate from = develop from = derive from
7. with caution = with care = prudently = sensibly
Topic 83: Some people believe that educating children altogether will benefit them. Others think intelligent children should be taught separately and given special courses. Discuss those two views.
Not surprisingly, students feel privilegedwhen working with someone with exceptionalabilities even from very early years. With the aim to produce elitestudents, schools now endeavour to gather children of special talents and offer them special courses. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this educational philosophy.
Treating gifted children the same as others might seriously hamper their personal development. Imagine that a maths prodigyworks out solutions to a thorny and tricky problem briskly;it makes no sense to force him or her to follow an ordinary curriculum. Some might argue that it will foster depression or frustration amongst low-achieving students if talented students are arranged with a special class and given specialised instruction. Many students think otherwise. Studying with high achievers cause slow students to feel frustrated and cast doubt on their effort. Feelings of worthlessness will drive them further toward low performance.
Another advantage of grouping students is enabling them to advance a strong friendship or partnership within different groups. Some opponents of this strategy argue that special students suffer socially, in a misguided belief that students would seldom talk to each oilier in an air of professional jealousy. This stereotype has blinded people to the fact that students with the same background knowledge are more likely to share a common topic of conversation. By exchanging experience and knowledge, they can make quicker progress toward their academic success.
Despite the significant position of special courses in education, it is not to say that ordinary students should be denied the same opportunity. Treating students differently can twist a child's perception of his or her abilities and potential. A student experiencing great difficulty in studying should be provided with extra support rather than being treated as the loser. The sense of exclusiondoes not inspire their performance or commitment but merely triggers their further decline in school record.
In view of the arguments outlined above, ability grouping is of great value. It fosters a nutritious environment in which talented students can facilitate their learning process and easily find their palsof the same gift. However, special courses should be open to any willing learner; otherwise, students will feel discriminated.
Topic 84: Some people who have been successful in the society do not attribute their success to the theoretical knowledge they learned at university. What is your opinion on the factors contributing to one's achievement?
People harbour different perceptions of tertiary education. Although higher education is recognised by many as the most important predictor of one's success, its efficacyhas been subject to long discussion. It is always interesting to note that some people do not owe their success to the knowledge they acquired at university, despite the great effort they ever made in obtaining a qualification. In my opinion, tertiary education itself cannot guarantee one's success, and there are many other elements combined to mould a successful role model.
Knowledge, an essential element of one's success, is normally acquired through formal education, but it is not the only approach. A university is home to those teaching professionals who have a firm graspof a given knowledge area and can impart it to students by various techniques. However, not all the knowledge, experience and skills can be passed on to students by teaching. Experiences and rules of thumbare non-transferable at a traditional classroom. The only way to gain a mastery of them is the full participation in a job.
In addition to hands-onskills and practical experience, characters can foretellone's prospects. Society has been polarisedas economic and social changes make it more competitive. Those with outstanding academic qualifications are not sought-after as much as before. Employers show interest in other qualities of an applicant, for example, resilience, willpower and adaptability. It is increasingly believed that the most successful are normally those who are most likely to adapt to changes in their world. Some other qualities, such as the ability to work in a hard-working, stressful and ever-changing environment, are viewed as the shared traits of successful people. Running toward success is more of a marathon than of a sprint. Only those persistent, self-motivatedand self-directedcan eventually attain their objectives.
There are some other factors, such as opportunities, that play a contributing role in one's success, but for simplicity's sake, one does not need to cite all these factors to uphold the assertionthat a college degree is not the precondition to personal success. Practical experience, a mastery of different skills and personality suffice to illustrate the complex nature of personal achievement.
Topic 85: It is generally believed that education is of vital importance to individual development and the well-being of societies. What should education consist of to fulfil both these functions?
Education is one of the largest items of government spending. It is regarded as the pathwayto economic prosperity, an instrument for combatingunemployment and the driving force behind scientific and technological advance. Given the importance of education for individuals and society, its scope, constituents and configurationhave long been the subject of research, studies and discussion.
Theoretically, a student is expected to acquire knowledge of a specific subject or profession at school, but throughout the learning process, education should focus on the development of their skills. A successful school leaver should show exceptional abilities to acquire, organise, interpret, evaluate and communicate information when graduate. Similarly, a proficient learner should meanwhile be a resource coordinator and user, proficient in identifying useful resources (such as information and capital) with speed and utilising them to the full advantage. A qualified student should also possess some other skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking, which are essential not only for their further education but also for their careers later in life.
When students become knowledgeable and resourceful, they should be equipped with competence that would enhance the transitionfrom school to work. An excellent learner is admittedly important to society, but more important is his or her productivity. Education should absorb new substances and embrace new concepts in order for students to keep in touch with community and have full knowledge of the needs of community. Besides, a school should facilitate the progress of students in every practical field and give them opportunities to try new tasks and take on new roles. By enhancing then hands-on skills and job-related skills, schools can foster students' and society's future development and prosperity.
When enhancing learners' academic excellence and professionalism, education cannot overlook learners' physical and psychological well-being. In this fast-changing and competitive society, many people are not in good formin coping with stress and health problems. Encouraging students to reduce stress and develop good health habits is therefore important. Sports, for example, function effectively as a health facilitator and as a good stress reducer. These extracurricular activities can be combined with academic activities to boost students' mental health and learning outcomes.
To conclude, today's students are expected to be versatile, productive and healthy individuals when they finish schooling. With society becoming more specialised and economies demanding more skills, students should focus on both theoretical and practical aspects of education. They should lay a stress on physical activities as well.
Topic 86: Nowadays, some universities offer graduate students skills that assist them to find employment, but some people believe that the main function of university should be to access knowledge for its sake. What is your opinion?
There is an upsurge in practical knowledge in these years and people have seen many education courses being totally work-based. The idea that students should apply theory to practice or even focus on practice only has become widely accepted. In my opinion, schooling should be designed to prepare children for real life, rather than underliningthe academic aspect only.
There can be little doubt that the main purpose of providing university education is to assist young contendersto begin and pursue their future careers. The hypothesis that theory and abstract conceptual knowledge are important lies in the fact that they are the fundamentals of tertiary education, but without bridgingtheory and practice, education will possess little value and receive much less support from the public. A university should place its emphasis on vocational training (or career education), which is directly related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation. It is particularly true when many well-paid jobs require intense use of technical skills.
Aside from theoretical knowledge, universities should assumethe responsibilityto enhance, diversify and consolidatethe skills students can possibly use in many life situations. Life skills refer to a wide range of skills necessary for successful living, including recognising other people's feelings, setting realistic and attainable goals and employing problem-solving strategies. The university can devise its curriculum to achieve these outcomes. For example, by organising sports and other physical activities, the university can help students enhance their team-building and leadership skills. Meanwhile, team assessmentscan be designed to facilitate students' group discussion and improve information-sharing skills. These skills, when taken together, enable students to put their potential to the maximum and to apply the knowledge dextrously.
Meanwhile, as education is widely accepted as the foundation of society, emphasis should be placed on the relationship between education and economic success, Education is sometimes considered useless because it leads learners away from practicality and distancesthem from real life. To tackle this problem, educators are required to restructure the curriculum to suit the emerging trends in society. A good example is that if some industries, such as retail, tourism and information technology, are projected to have good prospects, educational institutes should generate skilled workforcefor those industries, thereby giving a boost to the employability of young contenders.
As suggested in the above discussion, the role of education is to prepare young generations for paid work. Vocational education or training should be integrated in the curriculum, in an effort to make students productive members of society.
1. underline = underscore = emphasise = highlight
2. contender = aspirant = applicant = candidate
3. bridge = link = connect = join
4. trade = craft = line of work = occupation = profession
10. workforce = worker = employee = personnel = labour force
Topic 87: Some people think that teachers should be responsible for teaching students to judge right and wrong and to behave well. Some say that teachers should only teach students about academic subjects. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Traditionally, the task of teachers was to use a variety of methods and materials to impart the knowledge of a given field to students. However, this notion has been refutedby many people, who consider it important to integrate other elements in education, such as morality. In my opinion, moral education will become a central part of modern education and teachers should be responsible for correcting students' behaviour and improving their moral values.
Ethics in plain wordsmeans studying and analysing right from wrong, which is identical with the objective of education, telling the young generation what is the right thing to do. Without being aware of the distinction between acceptable and accusablebehaviours, young people become delinquentsand criminals, rather than qualified workers and successful individuals. It is particularly true as people are living in a society where violent juvenile crime, teen pregnancy and suicide are becoming worrying problems. There is thus a strong call for linking the modification of young people's behaviour to the teaching of moral and social values in schools. Teachers are expected to take preventive measures to address misbehaviours, such as substance abuse, focus on the root causes of the problems, such as family violence, and help those who appear troubled. It stops a problem among young people from occurring or reoccurrence.
Ethical principles and moral values have relevance to the order of a society and individual citizens' quality of life. The young people who are unaware ofstandards of morality will end up with breaching their duties as law-abiding citizens and ruining the moral values of the society. Nor can they become happy, successful and productive. A good example to support this is that many recent business frauds, bribery, embezzlement and other illegitimate activities have been found related to some well-educated but unethical people. Despite their strong educational background and high intelligence, they cause damage to enterprises and communities.
Ethnic education can also help shape the behaviour pattern of individual citizens. Morality is neither a vain promise nor a collection of ideals that appear in writing only. It is reflected in how people respond and act in different social situations, such as whether they habitually or instinctively reserve seats for the elderly and disabled at a bus. When children and young people construct most of their knowledge of the world through social interactions, teachers are in a very good position to impact such knowledge to them. Young people are hence will informed of moral principles, code of conduct and motivated to speak and act in a manner as intended.
As suggested above, teachers should play a more active role in the moral development of young people, instead of simply translating knowledge of a subject into course materials and imparting it to students. They should pass on good judgement, moral principles and wisdom to students, all contributing to studentsí individual life fulfilment and well-being.