Review of GL1101E – Global Issues

For other reviewed modules, check here.

(Alternate title: GL1101E – Interesting big questions to think about)


I had been planning to minor in something, but eventually decided on Global Studies (GL) because it was a “free minor”. To explain more, one needs to usually do 6 mods from a particular major to get a minor, and this is certainly the case for GL. Four core mods and two mods from a particular theme…which can be double counted because many of my PS mods fit within the different themes which GL does. So in short I would already have done 2 mods for my GL minor even if I hadn’t taken a single core GL mod.

In any case, I figured that 1. I might have a slight advantage in GL due to having done a little PS and 2. It would be interesting to see things from a larger picture – not just studying the State. For those wondering about double counting, that just means I can free up those two U/E mods for other mods I find interesting, effectively getting a minor for doing four core mods from GL.

Doesn’t sound too bad and it’s not like there are other mods I particularly want to use for U/E’s (since I’d prefer to study within a structure), so I took it along with GL2102 this sem.

What I expected

Not much – I thought GL was pretty much about globalization and globalization about stuff happening around the globe. The whole ‘shrinking world’ effect and whatever comes along with it, but overall pretty much another fluffy module that lacked substance.

What I got

A deep, rich, module taught by a Pol Philo Prof who always asked really good questions and gave really good answers.

I should note that this experience differs significantly from those that took the module under a previous instructor, so I can obviously only speak for what I took. As I understood it, Prof Smith recently took over this module and he changed a few parts to teach students based on what his understanding of the module’s purpose was as well as what he hoped to inculcate in his students after they were done. Prof Smith himself comes from the realm of Political Philosophy, giving him a great ability to dissect arguments and their counterarguments while posing difficult questions for students to ponder upon. I did enjoy the consultations I had with him even though most of them weren’t specifically about the course material, because it’s fascinating to have someone to talk and discuss these bigger questions about and have them show where one might have made a mistake or so. Indeed, I plan to visit him more frequently in the future to continue discussions about tyranny of the majority or CAP even when I’m not taking his module in the future ^^

Having said that, I’m not sure how much of my positive experience was due to the course instructor instead of the material so I’ll talk a bit more about what was covered. The first half of the module covers theoretical concepts – Cultural Relativism vs Moral Universalism, concepts of Globalization, Global Governance and Government, substantive values like Human Rights and procedural values like Democratic and Legitimacy. These concepts are then reified in the second half of the course where norm cascades, human security, just war theory, refugeehood, development, loan conditionality and climate change/global health are all situations where one can apply or deconstruct what concepts were taught. In short, I found it to be a REALLY interesting module because of how it ties a little bit of philosophy to real world problems and issues.

[Webcasted?] Nope. One should note that Prof Smith doesn’t believe in using slides – he teaches everything through simply lecturing and occasionally drawing on a white board. Really old school like what some UK Unis do, so missing a lecture means one has no slides to later reference.

[Course Materials?] All PDF readings – yay for saving money!

Assessment & Workload

One is assessed as follows:

  1. Lecture and Tutorial participation (15%) – Prof Smith enjoys student participation in lectures as much as tutorials, so show up, do one’s readings and be prepared to engage with points others raise (or raise your own so it’s less of a graveyard).
  2. Reading Quizzes (15%) – Five random quizzes, fairly easy and simply designed to test basic knowledge of ‘have you done your readings.’ Nothing to worry about, most will score full marks if they have done their readings.
  3. Exegetical Paper (15%) – 1k words, explain a given argument in your own words, critique it and then offer a counterargument to your critique. More difficult than it sounds like, but Prof is happy to guide you through and answer questions if you bother to consult him.
  4. Take-home Midterms (25%) – Like the exegetical paper, choosing two out of three questions to reply in the same manner: Explain the thesis, offer an objection and defend the thesis against said objection.
  5. Final Exam (30%) – About fifty MCQs and one long essay. The MCQs quiz one on various specific aspects of the course (though not nitpicking) and look at both lecture and tutorial readings, while the long essay is from a choice of two to three options and one decides which concepts they wish to use from the first half of the semester as well as how they want to ground these concepts via examples from the second half of the semester. The MCQs probably serve to distinguish B+’s from A-‘s and the essay, A-‘s from A’s. Overall most manageable – MCQs can be cleared fairly fast since one either knows it or they don’t, leaving one with ample time to get started on the essay.

The workload for this module is fairly light – readings consist of two long readings to three medium length readings every week, and tutorial readings are extremely short as well. Weekly readings could thus be cleared in about an hour and a half to two hours max – including the time required to work on course deliverables, about four hours a week on average should be sufficient for a decent grade.

Expected Grade

Having gotten an A- for my exegetical essay and A- for my midterms, I expected somewhere between a B+ and A-. B+ if I screwed up the finals or competition was tougher than expected, A- if I performed as per normal.

Actual Grade

Most surprisingly, God blessed me with an A. Perhaps competition wasn’t as tough as assumed, but indeed, I feel somewhat bad for those who put in more time and effort and yet didn’t get the grade they deserved. TGBTG 🙂

Conclusion & Tips

For those looking to do a minor/major in GL, this module offers a good spread of issues which one may then decide which to focus on. Even if one isn’t necessarily interested to minor/major in GL, I cannot recommend this module enough for those that wish to have discussions relating to bigger questions of morality and appropriateness – Prof Smith is as much an intellectual draw for this module as Prof Yoshi was an entertaining draw for PS1101E in the past. So while one may find the quality of discussions with other students sometimes lacking, Prof Smith both encourages and helps the development clarity in thought and writing. To conclude, a good module to take if you like asking big questions relating to world issues and being challenged to form your own opinion on them.

  1. Consult, consult, consult. There are some nuances within the concepts taught (doesn’t moral universalism also allow for some degree of tolerance? How then is that different from cultural relativism’s professed tolerance?) that aren’t immediately apparent when they are first explained in lectures, and may not necessarily be tested but help immensely in one’s understanding of them. Prof Smith is welcoming as most/all Profs are, and one would be hard pressed to have an intellectually disappointing discussion with him. So if one cares about their grades – consult. Even if they don’t but still want to learn (which is pretty good and might be better than the former), consult too. Think of your questions and your answers to them (as well as why you answer them the way you did), then sit back and let the discussion roll.
  2. Listen to what Prof Smith’s requirements are for the exegetical essay. To paraphrase him, “I’ve said this to the other lecture groups in the past – focus on how the argument flows and not so much on examples or fluffy elaborations. This will have direct implications for your grade, but if you don’t listen and write a normal essay then it will be reflected in your grades accordingly.”. So following his requirements is a good way not to screw up for that essay, and once you’ve gotten the hang of it the take-home midterms and finals will be much easier.
  3. As usual, make sure you’ve got a good grasp of the course’s concepts before you go into the finals. Less examples is more time for elaboration and hopefully incisive arguments, so yep.

No materials to preview unfortunately 😦

Here are my personal notes I’ve taken though ^^

5 thoughts on “Review of GL1101E – Global Issues

  1. Pingback: Review of GL2102 – Global Political Economy | Ramblings of Roe

    • Hi David, sorry for the late reply.

      At present the Megaupload folder doesn’t have any lecture notes because, as mentioned in the review, he doesn’t give out slides. Same goes for tutorial notes, plus I don’t think we were allowed to take back the exam papers so I don’t have a hardcopy of it. Maybe by searching the archive of PYPs (past year papers) on NUS Libraries you might be able to find them if the Department released them.

      I may consider uploading my handwritten notes on this site though, but that might be during the December holidays since it takes some time to sort them and such. I’ll write an announcement when that happens. Best of luck for your GL finals!


  2. Pingback: Review of PS3233 – Political and International Ethics | Ramblings of Roe

  3. Pingback: Review of PS4882A – Topics in IR: Globalization, Security, and the State | Ramblings of Roe

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