English as a Second Language

IGCSE English as a Second Language - Cambridge Syllabus

Topic 5 - Added (August 18,2010)

You have been asked to give a speech on what a government could do to make a country successful.

You had a class discussion and some of your classmates came up with the following comments.

“We should have a good health policy.”

“I think there should be democratic accountability in all areas.”

“There should be a smart taxation and spending policy.”

“We need a different approach to education.”

Your speech expressing your opinion should be between 150-200 words long.

The comments above may give you some ideas but you are free to use any ideas of your own.

You will receive up to 9 marks for the content of your speech, and up to 9 marks for the style and accuracy of your language.

©John Peter Christie


 Topic 1

A survey of young people found the majority were not going to bother to get a decent job when they left school or college.

Here are some comments from your friends on this topic:

“It’s a total distortion of the truth. The teenagers I know would do anything to get a good job.”

“They’re fudging the facts. We all want a good job.”

“Maybe true!”

“I can’t stand surveys which bend the truth. I’d like to know exactly who they asked and the questions they used.”

Write an article for your school magazine about your opinion on this matter. You article should be (100-150 words for core candidates / 150 – 200 words for extended candidates).

You will receive up to 5 marks for the content of your article, and up to 5 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Core Candidates) / up to 9 marks for the content of your article, and up to 9 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Extended Candidates). 

  Topic 2

In what ways has your school prepared you for work? 

Here are some comments from your friends on this topic:

"I've learned how to use my initiative when I do projects."

" I've learned foreign languages which will give me international opportunities."

"I've learned to be more ounctual, which is essential in most jobs."

"Being a prefect, I've learned how to get on with different kinds of people. I've become more mature."

Write an article to your local newspaper with your views on this issue. You article should be (100-150 words for core candidates / 150 – 200 words for extended candidates).

You will receive up to 5 marks for the content of your article, and up to 5 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Core Candidates) / up to 9 marks for the content of your article, and up to 9 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Extended Candidates). 


  Topic 3

Many countries in the world are suffering from severe shortage of food. What measures can be taken to solve this problem?

Here are some comments from different people:

"Why don’t countries that have plenty of food share it with those that don’t ?"

"Inform people about the dangers of pollution."

"Share technology to help developing countries."

"Poor countries must seriously think of their population growth."

You have been asked to write an article for your school magazine about the issue. You article should be (100-150 words for core candidates / 150 – 200 words for extended candidates).

You will receive up to 5 marks for the content of your article, and up to 5 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Core Candidates) / up to 9 marks for the content of your article, and up to 9 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Extended Candidates). 

 Topic 4

Your school is planning to introduce ‘Fine Arts’ – music and dance as one of the optional subjects for all grades.

Here are some comments from parents and students.

"We hear enough music and see enough dances on TV channels. Why in school also?"

"It is a welcome idea to learn music and dance in a planned and systematic way in schools."

"There are only 8 periods and we have important subjects to learn."

"Music and dance taught as a subject will help even slow learners to find a profession."

"This proposal can help identify talented students and develop them."

Write an article to be published in your school magazine giving your views.You article should be (100-150 words for core candidates / 150 – 200 words for extended candidates).

You will receive up to 5 marks for the content of your article, and up to 5 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Core Candidates) / up to 9 marks for the content of your article, and up to 9 marks for the style and accuracy of your language (Extended Candidates).

Worked out topics on some key issues taken from the web.


Who learns faster - children or adults?

Small children seem to learn very quickly, while adults sometimes appear to lose the ability to pick up new subject such as languages, music, games, or computer programs. In this essay, I will discuss whether children or adults make the best learners.

It is undoubtedly true that children seem to learn very quickly. In just a few years, they can learn how to play a musical instrument, speak one or even two new languages, and deal with many subjects at school. They even have time for sports and hobbies, and become experts in their favorite pastimes. However, how much of this is social pressure and how much is genetic? I am convinced that while children's brains have a natural ability to absorb new information as part of their developmental growth, much of their achievement is because of social pressure. Schools force them to take many subjects. Parents force them to practice new sports or to learn music. Even their playmates force them to become better at computer games or to read Harry Potter novels faster. In summary, children may enjoy learning, but their environment also is a big motivating factor.

Adults on the other hand are supposed to be poor learners. However, I disagree with people who say that adults cannot learn quickly. Adults have many skills that compensate for the decline in the ability of the brain to grasp and remember new material. They can organize their learning by setting times for reading or practice. They can build on skills and experiences they know already. Adults usually cannot learn to do ballet or to play the violin, but even despite these physical challenges, their motivation can often be higher than a child's. Unfortunately, society does not encourage many adults to learn. People are busy with families and work, and some adults may feel that further learning is pointless, since they have already achieved many goals at work or in their personal life.

In conclusion, I feel that we cannot generalize about children or adults being better learners. It depends on the situation and the motivation of the person, and the level of enthusiasm he or she has for learning.

 Should dangerous sports be banned? Yes!

Millions of people play sport every day, and, inevitably, some suffer injury or pain. Most players and spectators accept this risk. However, some people would like to see dangerous sports such as boxing banned. This essay will examine some of the reasons for banning certain sports.

Some sports are nothing but an excuse for violence. Boxing is a perfect example. The last thing an increasingly violent world needs is more violence on our television. The sight of two men (or even women) bleeding, with faces ripped open, trying to obliterate each other is barbaric. Other sports, such as American football or rugby, are also barely-concealed violence.

Some people argue that the players can choose to participate. However this is not always the case. Many boxers, for example, come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are lured by money or by social or peer pressure and then cannot escape. Even in richer social groups, schools force unwilling students to play aggressive team sports, claiming that playing will improve the students' character (or the school's reputation), but in fact increasing the risk of injury.

Even where people can choose, they sometimes need to be protected against themselves. Most people approve of governments' efforts to reduce smoking. In the same way, governments need to act if there are unacceptably high levels of injuries in sports such as football, diving, mountaineering, or motor-racing.

I accept that all sports involve challenge and risk. However violence and aggression should not be permitted in the name of sport. Governments and individuals must act to limit brutality and violence, so that children and adults can enjoy and benefit from sport.

 Save our Sports!

Today, many sports are becoming increasingly regulated. Boxing, rugby, soccer, and other games are being targeted by sports bodies and medical organizations in an effort to improve safety standards and to reduce injuries. However, for some people, this is not enough, and they would rather see some dangerous sports banned completely. In this essay, I will examine some arguments against banning dangerous sports.

Sports, competition, and games seem to be natural to humans. Young children learn their own limits and strengths through play with others, but they also learn valuable social lessons about what acceptable behavior and the rights of others. Sport therefore is not just a physical phenomenon, but a mental and social one.

Challenging sport provides a healthy, largely safe, physical outlet for aggression. There is very little evidence to show that people who take part in dangerous sports become violent as a result. In fact it is more likely that apart from the many friendships created in playing, sport acts as a safety valve for a society by reducing stress. Moreover, sport teaches and requires discipline, training, and respect for the rules - valuable lessons in any society.

Almost all sports involve some risk. Young rugby players are paralysed every year in scrums. Scuba-diving accidents can lead to brain damage or death. Even golf or jogging can lead to pain or injury. Without some elements of risk or challenge, sport becomes meaningless. A marathon runner trying to improve his time, basketball players fiercely battling an opposing team, or a sky-diving team defying gravity - all are trying to push themselves to their maximum. There is therefore no sport without danger.

There is also the issue of freedom. Without a wide range of sports, many people would feel trapped or limited. People should be free to participate in activities with others as long as it does not affect the safety of non-participants.

There also should be limits to the power of governments to ban sports. If one sport is banned because of alleged danger, then what sport would be next? Boxing is the most common target of opponents of dangerous sports. But if boxing is banned, would motor racing follow, then rugby, wrestling, or weightlifting? Furthermore, many sports would go underground, leading to increased injury and illegal gambling.

Nobody denies that regulation is needed. Medical bodies have introduced safety rules in boxing, in soccer, and these safety regulations have been welcomed by players. But the role of government should be reduced.

In conclusion, our society would be healthier if more people took part in sports of all kinds. We should continue to try to prevent accidents and injuries. However, we should also ensure that sports are challenging, exciting, and, above all, fun.


School Drop-Outs: Problems and Solutions

Today, although most students in the UAE complete school, a large number still drop out because of family, social and work pressures. This problem requires serious action from both individuals and the government.

Most students who do not complete school do so because of family problems. Girls, especially, want to get married and start a family. Some parents are not interested in education and do not support their children in studying. Social problems are also a contributing factor. Education is compulsory but, despite this, some people do not take it seriously. Furthermore, jobs are available even if students do not have a good education. The third reason is work pressure. Some families are poor and need their children to work in order to increase the income. All these problems will create young people who do not have any skills and who will not be able to improve their lives for the family and the country.

There are several things that can be done about these problems. Parents should be encouraged to send their children to school. Schools with baby-minding facilities should be opened specially for married students. The government needs to stress the importance of education and even offer financial support to students to continue. This will encourage students to stay at school rather than start working.

In conclusion, there are several things that the government can do to allow more people to finish school. However, a number of society attitudes also have to change if the country’s young people are to achieve their full potential.

Should Smoking be Banned?

It has become fashionable in the world today to condemn smoking. However, although I feel that smoking can be harmful, I do not think it should be banned completely.

Let me deal first with the positive side of smoking. First, smoking undoubtedly helps many people to relax. For some, it even improves concentration. Many people like to smoke before exams or when they are relaxing with friends.

A further point is that governments throughout the world make huge profits from levying taxes on cigarettes. This provides funds which are used for building schools, hospitals and other public amenities.

The tobacco industry also employs tens of thousands of people throughout the world, particularly in poorer countries like Zimbabwe or India. Without cigarettes, these people would have no jobs.

I would also argue that people should have the right to choose whether they smoke or not. People should not smoke in a room where there are non-smokers but surely they should be free to smoke elsewhere.

The arguments against smoking are well known. Smoking has been shown to be dangerous to health. Heart disease, bronchitis and lung cancer have all been linked.

A further issue is that smoking costs governments millions of pounds because of the large number of people who need treatment in hospitals for smoking related problems.

There is also concern today about passive smoking. Recent research has shown that non-smokers can suffer health problems if they spend long periods of time among people who do smoke.

In general, I think the world would be a better place without cigarettes. However, the decision as to whether to smoke or not should be for each individual to make.

College and Success in Life

It is very difficult to answer the claim that a person needs a university education to be successful in life because success in life means different things to different people. This essay starts by defining three different ideas of success. Following this, it looks at which types of success are dependent on a university education.

Success in life can be achieved in different ways. Many magazines and television programmes tell us that success means having a lot of money, having a fulfilling career, and being powerful. In contrast, most religious and spiritual organizations claim that success means finding spiritual happiness and being at peace with God and with yourself. Another idea of success focuses on relationships - being surrounded by people who love you and care about you, spending time with family and friends. 

A university education can help you achieve some types of success, but it makes little or no difference to whether or not you are successful in other areas of life. Undoubtedly, a university education is essential if you want to have a career in a profession such as law, engineering, teaching, or medicine. However, you do not need a university degree to become a wealthy and powerful movie star, sports star or businessperson. In fact, a university education does not generally enable you to achieve spiritual happiness, or to have successful relationships with family and friends.

sIn conclusion, there are many different types of success. A university education may help you to achieve professional success in some careers. However, it will not help you to achieve success in other areas of your life such as your spiritual life or your relationships.

Security Cameras and Privacy

Does the individual have a right to privacy?

Security cameras have become ubiquitous in many countries. Whereas before they appeared only in banks and at high-security areas, they are now entering public places such as malls, streets, stadiums and transport. Many people feel this affects their privacy. This essay will examine whether the advantages of these cameras outweigh their negative impact.

Surveillance cameras have several benefits. An obvious benefit is that the police can catch criminals in the act, thus reducing crime. This will make the streets safer for ordinary people. A more important point is that criminals, particularly young offenders or petty criminals will be deterred. They will not be tempted to carry out crimes, and thus society will be a lot safer. Cameras are also cost-effective and unobtrusive. Authorities do not need to spend large amounts of money on police.

However, security cameras are far from being a perfect solution. The biggest objection concerns privacy. Many people feel that they should be free to travel or move around a shop, mall, street or country without being photographed or recorded. They feel that being watched constantly is like being in a jail, and that ordinary people are losing their freedom because of these devices. Another point is that although the police say that only criminals have something to fear from the cameras, many people do not trust governments with too much information. Corrupt authorities could use information in the wrong way or twist it to victimize some groups. Thirdly, cameras and computers can make mistakes.

In conclusion, although there are definite advantages to using surveillance devices such as cameras, we need to balance the need for security with respect for the individual's privacy and freedom. If we do not trust the members of society, a situation like George Orwell's "1984" could be the result.

Retirement Age

When should people be made to retire? 55? 65? Should there be a compulsory age limit?

Many old people work well into their 70s and 80s, running families, countries or corporations. Other people, however, despite being fit and highly talented, are forced to retire in their or even earlier because of company or national regulations. This essay will examine whether people should be allowed to continue working for as long as they want or whether they should be encouraged to retire at a particular stage.

There are several arguments for allowing older people to continue working as long as they are able. First of all, older employees have an immense amount of knowledge and experience which can be lost to a business or organization if they are made to retire. A second point is that older employees are often extremely loyal employees and are more willing to implement company policies than younger less committed staff. However, a more important point is regarding the attitudes in society to old people. To force someone to resign or retire at 60 or 65 indicates that the society does not value the input of these people and that effectively their useful life is over.

Allowing older people to work indefinitely however is not always a good policy. Age alone is no guarantee of ability. Many younger employees have more experience or skills than older staff, who may have been stuck in one area or unit for most of their working lives. Having compulsory retirement allows new ideas in an organization. In addition, without age limits, however arbitrary, many people would continue to work purely because they did not have any other plans or roles. A third point of view is that older people should be rewarded by society for their life’s labor by being given generous pensions and the freedom to enjoy their leisure.

With many young people unemployed or frustrated in low-level positions, there are often calls to compulsorily retire older workers. However, this can affect the older individual’s freedom - and right - to work and can deprive society of valuable experience and insights. I feel that giving workers more flexibility and choice over their retirement age will benefit society and the individual.

Telecommuting: will it change the world?

Telecommuting will have major effects in the worlds of work and family life. However, its biggest effect will be in the area of individual freedom, responsibility, and time management.

Work and workplaces will alter dramatically. Offices may become smaller, as fewer desks are needed. There will be greater need for high-bandwidth connections to link the office and the home, and even homes to other homes, as other employees and supervisors also begin working at home. Hours spent commuting, traffic jams, and fights for parking should diminish, as workers make fewer journeys or work staggered hours.

Family life will also change. Workers, both husbands and wives, can arrange their work around family commitments such as taking children to school, cooking, leisure activities, etc. However, households will also have to set aside areas for work - particularly if both spouses are telecommuting.

However, although the ideas of more time at home and less time traveling are attractive, there are some drawbacks to telecommuting. People may feel unable to escape their work, and may even work longer or more unsocial hours. The quality of work may suffer because of the reduced face-to-face interaction with other employees. There may be delays if other workers are not immediately available. Telecommuters may feel isolated or unmotivated, or insecure about decisions. A major change will be in the way people think about work as a place or an institution. Instead, they will focus on the task or product. Workers may feel less loyal to a company and more inclined to change jobs or work part-time or on contract.

In conclusion, the effects are difficult to predict because they depend on the extent to which telecommuting becomes popular. However, telecommuting could be the start of a major societal shift, possibly as big as the Industrial Revolution which created our present ideas of work.

Should rich countries help poorer ones?

Today, the world is becoming more and more closely linked. Trade has increased and the movement of people between countries is greater than ever before. However, billions of people still live in poverty, and in many places, the gap between rich and poor is widening. This essay will look at the arguments for and against helping poor countries.

There are many reasons for helping poor countries. First of all, there are humanitarian reasons. Like individuals who give to charity, many countries feel it is their religious, social, or moral duty to help people in other countries who are suffering from famine, drought, war, or disease. However, many rich countries also donate money for political or diplomatic reasons. They want to maintain a relationship of dependency with the recipient, or simply to influence the government and direction of the country. A further reason why many countries help poorer ones is for economic reasons. The donors may want to control the supply of commodities such as oil, water, or wheat. Alternatively, the richer country may want to ensure markets for their own products, whether these are planes, computers or shoes.

However, aid is not necessarily the best way to help a country. For one thing, billions of dollars of aid often goes missing, into corrupt governments or inefficient administration. A second point is that many foreign aid projects are unsuitable for the target country. Many agencies build huge dams or industrial projects that fail after a few years or that do not involve the local people. Furthermore, much aid returns to the donor. This can be in the form of expensive specialized equipment and experts from the donor country.

There are many other ways we can help poor countries. Opening up trade barriers, so that poor countries can sell their goods is one way. Another is to remove subsidies so that imported goods from poorer countries can compete fairly. A third method is to forgive debts. Many poor countries have huge interest repayments on old loans.

The needs of the poorer countries may seem obvious. However, although our humanity makes us want to help eliminate poverty and suffering, we must examine the real needs of poor countries and implement solutions that will benefit both them and us.