Thinking and writing critically for good IELTS scores

In our writing class the other night I showed my students an IELTS essay I had written and I was pointing out certain features and structure of a good essay.  Government investment in the visual arts, the kind you commonly see in art galleries, is a waste of money. Governments must invest this money in public services instead. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

First I had a paragraph about the value of art . . . but then I had a paragraph about the importance of government funding of education and health and other public services.  This led me to have a discussion with the students about why governments fund public services . . . what would happen if they didn’t?  What does actually happen when they don’t?  What happens in India? What happens in the Philippines?  How do the poor live?  What happens in the society when you have a few very rich people and a lot of very poor people? Is it a safe place to live? How do these people eat?  Where do they live? In what kind of houses? What about their health?  What about the future of their families?

I could go on and on.  Then I brought up what I know about many people from the Philippines. They look overseas for service jobs – like a menial job at a Middle East airport, or being a maid for a family in some culture that is used to having household servants. Perhaps they leave their kids to live with grandparents.  There are so many stories I have heard.   This is a phenomenon in that country. I wonder if it is similar in your country.

So then I drew on something I had heard about on the radio the other day.     go to 1.56.15   (the time on the recording) and you can listen to this very interesting discussion about slavery in modern times – happening right under our noses even when we thought slavery was abolished in the 19th century. A very interesting Catholic priest called John McCarthy,  is on a mission to abolish the appalling enslavement of children and adults all over the world, but particularly in the supply chain of the goods we buy, such as the T-shirts we wear.  He spoke about migrant women working as servants for employers who take their passports so that they have no power to leave – and then they can treat them as slaves. (I thought of those Philippino maids.) He also spoke of children enslaved in factories in poor countries making goods of all kinds. He spoke of the garment (clothing) industry – why do you think K-Mart sells clothes so cheaply?  He spoke of women offered visas to work in Australia by criminals who promise regular work but end up selling them into prostitution – presumably these criminals do all the paper work required by Australian Immigration and they make it look legitimate.

This information gives an interesting perspective to the idea in my essay that governments need to look after basic services for all people so that they don’t become captive to the criminal world just to stay alive.

So why do you think this is relevant to writing essays for IELTS?  It is because often the questions you are given to write about in such a short time are difficult.  They are political concepts such as the funding of human society, spiritual concepts such as morals and ethics or beauty, or scientific concepts or social issues. What I am saying is that THE MORE YOU CAN PRACTISE EXPRESSING YOUR MORAL OR POLITICAL VIEWS AND KNOWLEDGE ON ANY TOPIC, THE MORE INTELLIGENT AND WELL WRITTEN YOUR ESSAYS CAN BE.

This particular concept of reducing the gap between the rich and poor is a very fundamental one for any political thinking.  In an academic IELTS test you are asked to demonstrate that you are able to use your life experience and information of the world to have an opinion on this kind of abstract topic.

So, don’t forget, when practising your essays, that your own life contains a lot of experience and information.  Come and join our class in Adelaide on a Thursday evening where we learn to think critically and write about your personal experience of the world. Contact me.