Writerite Weblog

June 22, 2008

Writing a formal letter to the newspaper

The following shows a typical situational writing question. Analyse the question and consider its requirements. Afterwards, read the answer Sample A and consider why it does not meet expectations. Then, read answer Sample B to learn new skills to write a convincing answer.

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Recently, the newspaper ran an article on how students are under great pressure having to attend intensive classes during the June school holidays. While some parents welcome the efforts put in by the school and its teachers, others feel that such pressure exerted on their children is unnecessary, especially if these students are not in graduating classes. The following which is an extract from the article, reveals differing views on the issue:

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The four-week mid-year school holiday has begun but many students and teachers will not get a proper break until one or two weeks later.

 

A check with 25 primary and secondary schools showed that almost all have some form of classes, mostly for graduating batches of students – Primary 6s and Secondary 4s and 5s. Only two schools – Raffles Girls Primary (RGPS) and Hwa Chong Institution – said they are not holding classes at all.

 

Many parents, whose children have to return to school for such “compulsory” lessons, say they do not see the point in them, especially when the children are not sitting for major exams at the end of the year.

 

Over at Zhonghua Secondary, its Secondary 4 and 5 students have compulsory lessons from 8 am to 315pm every day for the first two weeks of the holidays. Principal Dolly Ong said parents were advised early in the year not to take their children on a vacation. “Unless there is a family emergency, we want students to come back for the classes. They need the time to prepare for the examinations,” she added.

 

Mrs Susan Kiew, 49, a housewife who has two children in Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary, said the lessons would benefit her elder daughter who is sitting for the O levels at the end of the year. “If she has problems she can ask her teacher – it’s extra help for her and is better than staying at home,” she said.

 

Schools say they are careful to set aside time for teachers to rest. As RGPS principal Tan Siok Cheng, who stopped holiday classes five years ago, put it: “The girls get so tired, and some don’t show up because of vacation plans … so we target them throughout the school year, rather than ask them to come back during the holidays.”

 

~ Excerpt from “School Holiday: WHAT HOLIDAY?” of “The Straits Times” dated May 26, 2008.

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As a student in the graduating year, you have to attend school lessons during the June holidays. After reading the article above, you feel strongly about responding to it.

Write a letter to the forum page, voicing your opinion on the issue, explaining why you appreciate or criticise such a holiday programme and what students can do to deal with the stress presented by such a programme.

Write in correct English and a convincing tone.

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Sample A

Dear Public,

 

I am a Sec 4 student of an autonomous school. I am writing to express my views on the recent article in your newspaper.

 

Although I understand why schools have holiday programmes for students, I feel that since students face a lot of stress throughout the school term, during the holidays, they need to de-stress. However, more homework is given to students and students are forced to attend classes daily from early morning till late afternoon. What kind of holiday is that?

 

Teachers are worried that students will be lazy during the holidays and eventually do badly in the national exams. However, I think most of the time, teachers are just worried about their own work performance which is highly dependent on students’ grades and the school is obsessed with ranking so the principal and teachers force students to do as much work as possible during the holidays.

 

Unfortunately, they don’t realize that students are not punctual for lessons or fail to turn up or don’t pay attention in class at all because they are in the holiday mood. Moreover, some parents complain about such a programme because they want to take their kids for an overseas vacation yet they don’t want their kids to miss out on what the teachers are teaching during these lessons.

 

Also, why should we need these lessons if the teachers do their job well during school-term? And don’t teachers themselves need a holiday? In fact, some of my teachers have told us that they actually don’t want to conduct these lessons but the principal has forced them to do so.

 

In conclusion, I just want to tell all the unreasonable principals and teachers out there this: Even if you don’t have a life, we teenagers do! So let’s do away with such ineffective programmes and give us a much-deserved break!

 

By an angry teenage reader

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Sample B

123 Flower Road

Singapore 123456

 

26 May 2008

 

The Editor

The Straits Times

1000 Toa Payoh North

News Centre

Singapore 318994

Dear Editor

 

Response to “School Holidays: WHAT HOLIDAY?”

 

I am a Secondary 4 student of an autonomous school who would like to express my views on a recent article in your newspaper dated 26 May 2008. Personally, I fail to appreciate the effectiveness of such programmes even though I appreciate the teachers’ efforts in preparing the learning materials and in conducting the lessons.

 

The purpose of school holidays should be for students to take a break from the usual hectic school-life that they face during term-time. A typical student in a local secondary school has official lessons from morning till 2pm, only to be occupied with remedial lessons or co-curricula activities afterwards until evening-time. When home, he has hardly any time to rest as he has to complete several assignments due the next day. In many schools, students of graduating classes even have to attend evening classes that stretch from 6 to 9 pm! Therefore, it is not demanding of students to expect time to relax during this period.

 

Moreover, teachers deserve their time to reflect on their teaching and be re-energised so that they can better prepare themselves for the new term. In addition, parents would like their children to be able to spend some time bonding with the family, no matter whether they intend to take a vacation overseas. Most importantly, students themselves must learn to be independent learners who can balance the time spent resting and that revising their work.

 

However, if unfortunately, students have no choice but to attend such lessons during the holidays, they should adopt a positive attitude towards the programme and show appreciation of the teachers’ efforts and the school’s concern. Besides, such a programme will provide weaker students a chance to catch up on their work and clarify their doubts with the teachers. There are also some students who are ill-disciplined so they need such lessons to motivate them.

In order to ensure a balance between holiday lessons and relaxation time, students should manage their time efficiently. Once lessons are over, students can still catch a meal or a movie with friends or engage in a game of basketball. Furthermore, students still have the weekends to catch up on their favourite activities and sleep. For as long as students pay attention during these lessons, there is hardly a need to continue daily intensive revision after holiday lessons.

 

I hope my views are reflective of most students’ views and my advice can benefit some students who are in a similar situation as me.

 

Regards,

Sanjeev Pillai

 

 

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