Singapore
by Dana Weiland

I had such a high response about Singapore, all it's beauty and places to see within Singapore. 

Although its history stretches back millennia, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British East India Company. After the Company's collapse in 1858, the islands came under direct British control as a crown colony known as the Straits Settlements.


Singapore has a total area of about 224.5 square miles. It includes one principal island and 58 islets. It is located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula at the end of the Straits of Malacca. A substantial amount of shipping passes through the Straits, which serves as a passage between the Indian and the Pacific oceans. Singapore is connected to Johore, a province of the Federation of Malaysia, by a half-mile long causeway. Its historic connections with Malaya account for a large part of its ethnic Malay population, its partial Malay culture, its investments in Malaya's tin, its service to Malaysia as a principal port for the latter's exports and imports in its (Singapore's) corporate sector, and its dependence on water and food supplies from Johore. Singapore's port facilities are crucial for the economic well-being of many nearby countries, notably Japan. Singapore is well connected by sea and air to most countries of the world.

Singapore is a modern, industrial nation that emerged from a century and a half of British colonial rule in 1965. Singapore decided to change from a free port marketing economy to a manufacturing and service industry economy. It soon advanced to become the regional hub of Southeast Asia in a number of fields, including economy, communications, and education. Since the 1980s, Singapore has aspired to be a global leader in specific areas, particularly in information technology. Its leadership has, since the 1960s, focused on education as a way of reaching their goals. Its citizens have placed a high priority on education and have demonstrated their readiness to invest heavily in education.

The Republic of Singapore's ambition to be the regional leader in education has been realized by the location of several prestigious institutions and organizations in the island nation. The Regional Language Center (RELC) offers education in many languages to students from the member countries of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). In 1970, the governments and universities in the region established the Regional Institute of Higher Education and Development (RIHED) in Singapore. The country also houses the Colombo Plan Staff College for Technical Education (CPSC), which offers technical training to 27 Colombo Plan countries.

Singapore's first census was taken in 1871. The 1990 census was the third since Singapore's independence. In 1995, Singapore conducted a mid-decade census, based on annual projections. In 1996, the total population was 3,044,300 people, of which 1,531,100 were males and an almost equal number (1,513,200) were females. The population belonged principally to three ethnic communities: Chinese about 78 percent, Malays about 14 percent, and Indians about 7 percent. The predominant Chinese population comes from almost all parts of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Although other Chinese languages are spoken, Mandarin Chinese has emerged as a common Chinese language for instructional and official purposes. The Malays, though predominantly from the Malay Peninsula, also include immigrants from the numerous Indonesian islands. The largest group of Indians is the Tamilspeaking peoples from South India. The official languages of Singapore for education are Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil, and English. The language most used for official and business purposes is English. The census figures included only regular citizens and those granted permanent residence in Singapore. The transient population of ships' crew and passengers, tourists, and those in transit is enormous, almost twice the number of its regular inhabitants.

Singapore's struggle since its independence has been to establish a balance between national integration with a common identity and the opportunity for the different ethnic groups to maintain their individual heritage. Education, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, is regarded in this context as an essential vehicle to achieve harmony and separate ethnic identities.

Before the founding of Singapore in 1819 as a free port by Sir Stamford Raffles, it was a fishing village with a population of barely 500. Within a year of its establishment as a free port, the population jumped to 5,000. Its growth continued exponentially and, in the process, attracted people from everywhere, particularly China, Malaya, and South India. Noting the potential strategic significance of Singapore in the region for East-West trade and shipping, Raffles reported to his superiors in England:

Our object is not territory but trade: a great commercial emporium and a fulcrum whence we may extend our influence politically as circumstances may hereafter require....One free port in these seas must eventually destroy the spell of Dutch monopoly; and what Malta is in the West, that may Singapore be in the East.

Following the liberal economic philosophy of Adam Smith, the free port status of Singapore offered facilities to shipping of all nations; this tradition has been maintained by Singapore. The status of a free port became the foundation of Singapore's prosperity. In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, along with two other British port acquisitions on the Malay Peninsula (Melaka [Malacca] and Penang) with Singapore as its capital. In 1867, the Straits Settlements were turned, like Hong Kong, into a "crown colony," which meant that it served special imperial interests and its progress towards self-government would be slower than in the colonies.

Known for his excellent administrative acumen, Raffles opened the first school, the Singapore Free School, in 1823, with its goal being to train clerks for the commercial houses of Singapore. The liberal Raffles wanted the school to admit students from the different ethnic communities on a basis of equality. The opening of the Free School was, however, delayed until 1834, because Raffles was recalled to England. When it opened, the school fulfilled Raffles' dream of providing education to everyone, without regard to religion or ethnic origins. However, the Chinese community stayed away from it, preferring to educate their children in the Chinese-language schools funded and managed by Chinese philanthropists. Such schools were patterned on the traditional schools in China, where the curriculum included the writing of Chinese characters, the use of the abacus in mathematics, and the study of Confucian literature. In 1840, the Singapore Free School was renamed the Singapore Institution Free School. In the year following its takeover by the Colonial Office in 1868, it was renamed the Raffles Institution.

Between 1819 and 1867, the brunt of the responsibility for primary and secondary education was assumed by missionaries: the London Missionary Society, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, and the French Society of Foreign Missions. Its graduates found ready employment in the growing city where commercial houses and government bureaucracy needed personnel with knowledge of English, local language, and mathematics for clerical and other subordinate positions. Although these were private schools, the government gave them financial support through a grants-in-aid program.

In 1867, when the Straits Settlements (including Singapore) were transferred from the jurisdiction of the India Office in London to that of the Colonial Office with the status of a "Crown Colony," Singapore received more attention. The government opened a number of "branch schools" in the three Straits Settlements of Singapore, Melaka, and Penang, offering a special three-year training in English language through Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. In 1885, special incentives were offered in the form of Queen's Scholarships to gifted students who had the potential for higher-level education in Britain. Following the decision to hold the Cambridge examinations in Singapore from 1891, some of the government schools switched to English as the language of instruction to improve the chances of its candidates who wanted to take these examinations.

From 1874, British interests in the Malay states increased because of the development of the tin mining industry. Labor for the tin mining was almost exclusively Chinese, which contributed to the growth of Singapore's "China town." After the introduction of the resident system in some Malay states and the establishment of the Federated Malay States (FMS) in 1895, Singapore governors doubled as Resident-General for the FMS, and Singapore emerged as the capital of the British interests in the Malay region.

Except for three and a half years of Japanese occupation during World War II, Singapore was, until 1965, under British rule. With the British decision to give Malaya independence in 1957, an internal self-government was also granted to Singapore two years later. In 1963, Singapore was included in the Federation of Malaysia. Friction developed between two ambitious leaders, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew, respectively Malaysia and Singapore, which led to Singapore quitting the Federation and establishing itself in August 1965 as a separate sovereign state. In the same year, Singapore joined the United Nations and was admitted as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In the following year, Singapore became a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Thanks to the dynamic leadership of Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister, Singapore has developed into a viable, stable, and prosperous nation. Lee was a brilliant barrister with socialist leanings whose party, the People's Action Party (PAP), claimed in the late 1950s to be socialist. Lee, nonetheless, favored entrepreneurship and international investment, which led to the phenomenal growth of Singapore's economy. At the same time, the government assumed responsibility in many social areas, including education and housing. Singapore has, since the 1970s, boasted the largest government-sponsored housing projects for its citizens. It also offers them, over a reasonable period of time, ownership of their tenements; more than 88 percent of the tenants in these housing colonies own their homes.




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