Topic 105: People tend to believe that all young adults should undertake a period of unpaid work for the good of the community. Do you agree or disagree?
In recent years, it has become more and more common for societies to encourage and organise young people to work as volunteers for non-profit organisations and the community. Community service has even been proposed as a requirement for graduation in some middle schools. There is a lot of opposition to "mandatory" volunteer work, a term which seems to be self-contradictory. I agree that the voluntary participation of youths is required, but volunteerism is a preferred option to most youngsters in today's world.
A fact to support volunteerism is that it allows young people to gain experience and exercise skills, which are beneficial for their performance in the future workplace. Most of the young workers that are volunteering have little social experience, as they spend much of their time at school. Working with others and interacting with people from all social backgrounds, they can enhance their abilities of problem solving, communication and teamwork. They are thus better prepared for the public life in the future.
Another benefit of volunteerism is the development of a young worker's motivation to help others and serve the interest of others without reward, a spirited fightback against individualism and egoism. A worrying trend in today's society is that a young adult's motivation is sourced more from individual interest than from the interest of others. Organising volunteer service on a large scale, especially among youngsters, can counteractthe corrosive effect of this trend. Youngsters are directed to look after the goodof others and help others without asking for payment or reward. In the long term, it upholds a sense of community, rebuilds the cohesionamong members of community, and reduces distrustthat is escalatingbetween people.
Despite those merits of organised volunteer work, participants' entire willingness should be guaranteed. Otherwise, they would be less willing or likely to commit to their work. Instead of enforcing a policy without consultingyoung people in advance, schools can take another approach, showing youngsters the meaningfulnessof their commitment to the local community. If possible, young adults can be given a range of options so they can choose one that is most helpful for their skill enhancement.
It seems from the above discussion that youngsters should be encouraged to participate in volunteer work, increasing both skills and their awareness of the long-run interest of the community in which they live. If administered well, volunteer work has benefits to both individual workers and the society as a whole.
1. without reward = without payment = free of charge = voluntarily
2. counteract = counter = offset = neutralise
3. good = interest = benefit
4. cohesion = unity = solidarity
5. distrust = disbelief = suspicion
6. escalate = worsen = intensify
7. consult = discuss with = seek advice from
8. meaningfulness = significance
9. enhancement = improvement
Topic 106: Some people think that students benefit greatly from going to private secondary schools, but others assert that private secondary schools have a negative impact on the young generation and the society alike. Discuss both views.
Parents seem to have ongoing preference for a private secondary school, although they have to pay extremely high tuitions for their children. Despite the fact that a private school is very often associated with quality service, professional teaching staff, competitive courses, and excellent facilities, critics are concerned about the harmful effects of private schools on society. The merits and demerits of this argument will be explored below.
Unarguably, private schools outperformpublic schools based on their more flexible and advanced academic and extracurricular programmes. With this distinguishing advantage, private schools are capable of adjusting their programmes for students of different levels and assisting them to attain their objectives individually. Another remarkable quality of a private school is its proficiency in formulatingand promoting different non-academic programmes, such as group sports and outings to foster students' physical, emotional and social well-being.
Private schools are also acclaimed as experts in addressing students' discipline problems. Keen to consolidateits image as an excellent quality provider, a private school focuses not only on a student's academic performance but also on their demeanour. For this reason, physical fights, drug use, bullying and other behaviour problems are less likely to be seen in private schools. On the other hand, private schools have high entrance requirements and tuition standards, resulting in relative homogeneityof students' family background. Students are mainly from medium or high income families. Upbringing and strict school discipline jointly contribute to better behaviour of students. It is no wonder that most of private school students are good-manneredand have a positive self-image.
Although the position of a private school as a well-qualified education provider is prominent, it benefits some sections of school-age populations only. Because of tuition fees, a private school is accessible only to those who are able to pay, rather than those who are able to learn. It has deniedmost students' access to quality education, potentially causing the gap between rich and poor to widen.
The arguments presented above have created a dilemmawhen people evaluate the effects of a private school on society. On the one hand, the private school is better than the public school in many aspects, such as teaching staff, learning environment and facilities. On the other, it tends to discriminate against students from low income families by maintaining high tuition fees. While teenagers from high income families continue to benefit from their social status, those of a lower class suffer enormously from lack of educational opportunities.
Topic 107: Some people believe that students who graduate from high school should have one year's time to obtain work experience before going to university. Do you agree or disagree?
Schoolingplays an integral part in individual's life. At the end of high school, students who wish to continue with their education face two probable choices — either suspend their study for a year to obtain work experience, or go straight into university. The second choice appears to be more sensible.
Coming fresh out of high school, students do not have a clear understanding of the harshrealities of the world. Either in academic background or in work experience, they are not in a strong position to undertake early employment. Exposure to an unpredictable and dauntingworld will easily cause a sense of frustration and shake their confidence, both having a devastating effect on their development later in life.
Another problem of early employment is that most young people are not able to make a correct career decision. Choosing a career requires sufficient knowledge of one's own strengths, aptitudes and the trends in the job market. Most young adults, unfortunately, lack such knowledge. Their initial experience in a job might lead them to jump on a conclusion and devote themselves to a career without careful consideration. So fast is their fondnessfor this job that their affinityto the job is mostly ephemeral. It can ruin their entire working lives.
Another noteworthy problem of working is that it might divert a young adult's attention from his or her previous academic objectives. If students give up the opportunity of being educated and pursueother ventures, they will lose their abilities and willpower to learn something carefully and patiently. The side effect ofdisengagementfrom schooling might not be significant in the first several years, but with age, it will surely disadvantage them a lot. Before long, disillusionedwith early employment, young people might resolve to resumestudy but soon discover that they are not suitable for a learning environment any more.
It is therefore clear that students should not attempt a career life once they finish high school's study. Instead they should go to college directly, and ensure that their future is built on solid foundations, before exploring what else life has to offer.
Topic 108: In order to improve the quality of education, high school students should be encouraged to evaluate and criticise their teachers, but others think it will result in loss of respect and discipline in classroom. What is your opinion?
Teacher appraisal is not a new instrument in improving teaching performance or developing teacher training. However, when it comes to inviting the input of students and seeking their comments on teachers' performance, there is disagreement. Some people object tothis practice, saying that it leads to the loss of respect and discipline. In my opinion, students' participation in teacher appraisal is definitely helpful, but it should be administrated properly.
A strong argumentfor using student ratings to evaluate teachers is that students' judgement is reliable and impartial. Because of their ongoing interaction with teachers throughout the semester, students have the authority to measure the performance and competence of a teacher, with the knowledge they have obtained from learning and the stancethey have adopted toward the subject taught A critical analysis of students' feedback enables teachers to enhance their competence and adjust teaching aims and methods for better attainment of students' learning objectives.
Students are also concerned about whether the teacher is fully committedto his or her job. The value of a teacher is determined as much by competence as by commitment. The school can therefore assess the performance of a teacher by collecting students' feedback on some observablefacts, such as a teacher's punctualityand the legibilityof his or her writing on the board. Teachers who perform poorly are advised to reflectdeeply ontheir teaching practice, the drawbacks in particular, which is the key to the improvement of their performance.
Despite those overt advantages of encouraging students' input, analysis of their input is important and should be handled carefully. Misinterpretation of students' opinions might leave teachers an inaccuratepicture of their strengths and weaknesses and lead them into a poor judgement about what they can do to satisfy the needs of their students. It is also important to guide teachers to perceive the feedback sensibly; otherwise, they might have feelings powerlessness.
What has been discussed is to support a notion that students' input provides an important source of data for evaluating teachers, helping teachers not only to discover their disadvantages but also to make an improvement.
Topic 109: Schools should teach children the academic subjects which have a close relationship with their future careers, so other subjects like music and sports are not important. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
There are many indications that schools have become increasingly vocation-oriented in recent years, with integrating many work-based courses in curriculum. Some academics advocate that sport and music classes should be cancelled in exchange for more academic classes, in an effort to help students beat other jobseekers. This argument has several strong elements that deserve attention.
The first is that few employers are interested in a job applicant's performance as music lover or sports fan. Instead, they are keen to assess candidates' academic records and professional skills. At a time when business grows complex and skill-based, the evidence that candidates have sufficient knowledge relating to their job profession is more capable to attract the eye of recruiters. A student excelling ina subject is far more marketable in the job market than one playing a music instrument adeptly, or displaying talents in a sport.
Another reason is that students, in most cases, engage themselves in sports or music spontaneously. There is no need to formalise their pastimes, when the amount of time they spend in academic activities is desperatelyinadequate. Teenagers and young adults have plenty of energy to expenddaily. Even when heavily loadedwith learning tasks, they exert themselvesfor outdoors and group activities. They gather for sport activities and concerts, but seldom review their textbooks after school. Given these elements, the top priority for educators is to maximise students' contact with academic classes at school and to recommend sports and music as extracurricular activities only.
The above discussion favours a conclusion that sport and music classes should be cancelled so students are more likely to commit themselves to academic courses, which are more important to their future employability.