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IELTS Writing Task

Many old buildings protected by law are part of a nation’s history. Some people think they should be knocked down and replaced by news ones.
How important is it to maintain old buildings?
Should history stand in the way of progress?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own experience or knowledge.



Monuments of national heritage are old buildings preserved by the state for their historical significance to the formation of the nation's identity. They are considered by many to be redundant ornaments that take up precious space in the national landscape which could otherwise be utilised for residential estates, commercial purposes and further urbanisation projects. Although history is often viewed as an obstacle in the way of progress and development, I am a proponent of the idea that history could be a major driving force in fostering national identity and socioeconomic progress. The past and the future need not be mutually exclusive and indeed, ideally should be working hand-in-hand for the national development.

In Singapore, the National Heritage Council strives to preserve the last relics of its nation-building past through renovations, funding and preventing commercialisation of its buildings. However, the young nation's lack of natural resources and land space is posing a perennial challenge to the longevity of many old historical buildings unprotected by law. With the staggeringly high real estate prices reflecting the increasing demand for living spaces and commercial estates from the burgeoning population within this small island-state, the preservation of the past does appear irrelevant and indeed more of a hindrance in the nation's path to future progress into a first-world state. Alas, as many old shophouses and "kampongs" vanish from the national landscape, the older generation to whom their significance holds nostalgia and historical importance, passes away with them, and they are replaced by national landmarks like the Esplanade and the Marina Bay Sands which have catapulted Singapore into global prominence.

In other countries where land is not a scarce commodity, it is still possible, and in fact something to be desired, to have old historical buildings standing proudly side-by-side with tall modern skyscrapers, landmarks of modern development. This juxtaposition not only enhances the landscape and preserves historical identity of the nation, it also promotes tourism in the country, which often brings in much needed revenue for the country's urban development. Case in point: London, Paris, Tokyo and many other major cities where tourists gravitate towards -- they all have this juxtaposition of cultural history and modern urbanisation in common. Indeed, history could be a use fool tool in promoting a country's socioeconomic development.

And besides, who is to say that a nation's progress could only be measured by markers of urbanisation, globalisation and the Human Development Index? These parameters measure only a country's economic development and fail to take into account that national progress also encompasses its national sovereignty, its people's ethical and moral compass as a nation, as well as the countries relationship with the environment and the rest of the world. History is the crux that empowers a nation in all these other aspects. For example, Ireland, a country with a history of struggle and resistance which still remains in the people's collective consciousness, topped the 2012 World "Good Country" Index, which measures not only a country's socioeconomic standing but also all the aforementioned parameters. Kenya, a developing country in the African continent, made it into the Top 10 list, showing that urban development of the landscape is not the only yardstick for national progress. Lastly, a country that remembers its history -- be it through reminders of the past like old historical buildings -- is a people who is better able to protect their national sovereignty and more aware of their civic responsibility to their country.

Thus, it is important to preserve monuments of the past if they serve to bring the way forward. History is not the antithesis to the future, and so should not be seen as by default standing in the way of progress.
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