Review of GES1018 – Singapore, Asia and American Power

For other module reviews, please click here.

(Alternate Title: GES1018 – Some current affairs + SFP)


I had the opportunity to clear one U/E this semester and originally attended the introductory lecture of GET1023: Thinking Like an Economist. That lecture was really fun – the Prof was so enthusiastic and comedic it felt like I was watching a stand-up comedy at times because of how skillfully (and amusingly) he coaxed an initially apathetic NUS audience into active participation. Unfortunately that module clashed with this module’s timeslot and I hadn’t cleared my GES, so I dropped that module and took up this module instead.

What I expected

I hadn’t done any modules proper on the United States or American Foreign Policy, so I took this module hoping to cover a little of that content gap. Going by the title, I expected something along the lines of offshore balancing to be taught – American power in Asia and specifically SEA region, for example.

What I got

An interesting tour of the region beginning with Singapore and then travelling out to neighbouring countries before venturing further towards China, Japan, and domestic issues in the United States. At the back of one’s mind, though, were always the implications for both Singapore and the United States, which helped to anchor (or acted as the primary lens for) what was learnt. The content for the module is surprisingly legit – in the sense that it’s not as fluffy as one might expect and covers some interesting paradigms from the perspectives of various disciplines. Neither does one need to have any specific background knowledge of a major to grasp what is taught, for the Prof takes care to break down themes or theories in a manner easily understood by the layman. For that reason alone, I feel this module is fairly accessible to non-Arts majors and yet packs some good content for them to chew on/ruminate on.

I took this module under Prof Abraham who is fantastically sharp in his analysis and comfortable both in the realms of sociology and political science. Specifically, he demonstrates a good ability to discuss and teach – with great ease and confidence – domestic issues both related and unrelated to politics as well as the broader contours of international politics. His disarming manner in tutorial sessions also makes classes with him quite amusing, so trying to get into his class if you’re taking this module would be a great idea.

[Webcasted?] Nope.

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

Assessment & Workload

One is assessed as follows:

  1. Tutorial Attendance and Participation: Approx 10-20% (lost the original syllabus). The usual of showing up having done tutorial prep beforehand and participating actively in class discussions. Good fun.
  2. Policy Paper: Approx 20-25%. A short (soft cap of 1k words) policy paper where one has to pick one country (out of four) and write about how their experience in a particular theme is relevant to Singapore’s own endeavours to that end. Fairly fun to write but one preferably should be somewhat familiar with how a policy paper differs from normal analytical essays.
  3. Midterm Exams: Approx 30-40%. One’s tested on whatever’s taught up till Recess Week, which surprisingly is a fair amount of content ranging from smallness/vulnerability as a discourse to considering ASEAN and Asia’s future. With 5/6C2 questions to write on, whatever one’s studied should definitely appear but the precise form cannot be guaranteed…
  4. Final Exams: Approx 30-40%. One’s tested only on the latter half of what’s taught in the semester – basically everything after the midterm exams. Not that challenging in terms of time (two short questions and two long questions), but elaborating on what’s taught during the module may prove more difficult for some topics than others.

The workload for this module is light – at a maximum of 60 pages per week, an hour at most would be sufficient to clear the readings.

Expected Grade

Having received a crushing blow in the form of a B- for my midterm exams (somehow bringing in my SFP knowledge was a bad idea for the stronger question and the weaker question was poorly answered), I didn’t quite know what to expect for my final grade but was prepared to S/U this module if the grade was too bad.

Actual Grade

I never knew what my policy paper’s grade was, but I suppose that plus finals and tutorial marks were sufficient to pull me up to a B+ at the end. Although I still S/U’d it to lighten my CAP by 0.01, it was pleasantly surprising not to receive a B for this module.

Conclusion & Tips

Despite the bad grade I got for this module, I’d still recommend taking it purely for Prof Abraham’s teaching alone. It’s like the ‘Yoshi’ version of PS1101E where people took a module not so much for the content as much as how much they heard others enjoy the teaching of the Prof. In this case, one both gets good and interesting content delivered in a thoughtful and occasionally droll manner, making it my recommended module for non-Arts students interested in current affairs issues and international politics generally.

  1. It would be prudent not to be complacent based on whatever prior knowledge one has when entering this module – Prof Abraham cuts through fluff like a hot knife through butter in both lectures and tutorials. Do one’s readings and come to a reasoned conclusion – that would be probably sufficient.
  2. Though I didn’t take my own advice and consult him for my policy paper (since I started on it too early and moved on from it quite quickly to other assignments), those with a bit more time to deliberate would probably find his inputs useful in improving or refining the direction of their paper.
  3. Approaching this module with an open mind and general curiosity with regards to current affairs would help, given the multi-disciplinary approach adopted by the Prof towards examining several pertinent domestic or international issues. From that point of flexibility, one should be better able to excel in both assignments and discussions.

No materials to preview unfortunately 😦

Here are some of my personal notes though ^^


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