Singapore officially the Republic of Singapore, and often referred to as the Lion City, the Garden City, and the Red Dot, is a leading global city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It lies at the southernmost tip of continental Asia, one degree (137 km; 85 mi) north of the equator, and is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to the north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to the south. Singapore's territory consists of the diamond-shaped main island (commonly referred to as Singapore Island and Pulau Ujong in Malay) and more than 60 significantly smaller islets. Since the 1960s, ongoing land reclamation have increased Singapore's land area, which is highly urbanised, by at least 20%.
Singapore is a global commerce, transportation and financial hub, ranked as the "Easiest place to do business" for nine consecutive years by the World Bank. It is the world's top meeting city (UIA) and Asia's top convention city since 2002 (ICCA). Globally, it is the "City with the best investment potential" (BERI), 2nd most competitive country, 3rd-largest foreign exchange centre, 4th-largest financial centre and one of the top two busiest container ports since the 1990s. Singapore's best known global brands include Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Changi Airport, both amongst the most-awarded in their industry; SIA is also rated by Fortune surveys as Asia's "most admired company". For the past decade, Singapore has been the only Asian country with the top AAA sovereign rating from all major credit rating agencies, including S&P, Moody's and Fitch.
The nation's core principles are meritocracy, multiculturalism and secularism. It is noted for its effective, pragmatic and incorrupt governance and civil service, which together with its rapid development policies, is widely cited as the "Singapore model". Gallup polls shows 84% of its residents expressed confidence in the national government, one of the highest ratings in the world.
Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People's Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. One of the five founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat, and a member of the East Asia Summit, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth of Nations. Singapore has significant influence on global affairs relative to its size, leading some analysts to classify it as a middle power. It is ranked as Asia's most influential city and 4th in the world by Forbes.
Singapore has one of the lowest rates of drug use in the world. Culturally, the use of illicit drugs is viewed as highly undesirable by Singaporeans, unlike in many European societies. Singaporeans' disapproval towards drug use has resulted in laws that impose the mandatory death sentence for certain serious drug trafficking offenses. Singapore also has a low rate of alcohol consumption per capita and low levels of violent crime, and one of the lowest intentional homicide rate globally. The average alcohol consumption rate is only 2 litres annually per adult, one of the lowest in the world.
Foreigners make up 42% of the population, and have a strong influence on Singaporean culture. The Economist Intelligence Unit, in its 2013 "Where-to-be-born Index", ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and sixth overall in the world.
Since Singapore is a small island with a high population density, the number of private cars on the road is restricted so as to curb pollution and congestion. Car buyers must pay for duties one-and-a-half times the vehicle's market value, and bid for a Singaporean Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which allows the car to run on the road for a decade. The cost of the Singaporean certificate of entitlement alone would buy a Porsche Boxster in the United States. Car prices are generally significantly higher in Singapore than in other English-speaking countries. As with most Commonwealth countries, vehicles on the road and people walking on the streets keep to the left.
Singaporean residents also travel by foot, bicycles, bus, taxis and train (MRT or LRT). Two companies run the public bus and train transport system—SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation. There are six taxi companies, who together put out over 28,000 taxis on the road. Taxis are a popular form of public transport as the fares are relatively cheap compared to many other developed countries.
Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen: Af ) with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F). Relative humidity averages around 79% in the morning and 73% in the afternoon. April and May are the hottest months, with the wetter monsoon season from November to January. From July to October, there is often haze caused by bush fires in neighbouring Indonesia, usually from the island of Sumatra. Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time (DST), it follows the GMT+8 time zone, one hour ahead of the typical zone for its geographical location.
Education for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels is mostly supported by the state. All institutions, private and public, must be registered with the Ministry of Education. English is the language of instruction in all public schools, and all subjects are taught and examined in English except for the "mother tongue" language paper. While the term "mother tongue" in general refers to the first language internationally, in Singapore's education system, it is used to refer to the second language, as English is the first language. Students who have been abroad for a while, or who struggle with their "Mother Tongue" language, are allowed to take a simpler syllabus or drop the subject.
Education takes place in three stages: primary, secondary, and pre-university education. Only the primary level is compulsory. Students begin with six years of primary school, which is made up of a four-year foundation course and a two-year orientation stage. The curriculum is focused on the development of English, the mother tongue, mathematics, and science. Secondary school lasts from four to five years, and is divided between Special, Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) streams in each school, depending on a student's ability level. The basic coursework breakdown is the same as in the primary level, although classes are much more specialized. Pre-university education takes place over two to three years at senior schools, mostly called Junior Colleges.
Some schools have a degree of freedom in their curriculum and are known as autonomous schools. These exist from the secondary education level and up.
National examinations are standardised across all schools, with a test taken after each stage. After the first six years of education, students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which determines their placement at secondary school. At the end of the secondary stage, GCE "O"-Level exams are taken; at the end of the following pre-university stage, the GCE "A"-Level exams are taken. Of all non-student Singaporeans aged 15 and above, 18% have no education qualifications at all while 45% have the PSLE as their highest qualification; 15% have the GCE 'O' Level as their highest qualification and 14% have a degree.
Singaporean students consistently rank in the top five in the world in the two major international assessments of mathematics and science knowledge:
• Singaporean students were ranked first in the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, and have been ranked in the top three every year since 1995.
• Singaporean students were also ranked in the top five in the world in terms of mathematics, science, and reading in the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).The country's two main public universities—the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University—are among the top 50 in the world.
Singaporean cuisine is diverse and contains elements derived from several ethnic groups, as a result of its history as a seaport with a large immigrant population. Influences include the cuisines of the native Malays and the largest ethnic group, the Chinese, as well as Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan, and Western traditions (particularly English and Portuguese-influenced Eurasian, known as Kristang). Influences from other regions such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Middle East are also present.
In Singapore, food is viewed as crucial to national identity and a unifying cultural thread. Singaporean literature declares eating a national pastime and food a national obsession. Food is a frequent topic of conversation among Singaporeans. Religious dietary strictures do exist; Muslims do not eat pork and Hindus do not eat beef, and there is also a significant group of vegetarians. People from different communities often eat together, while being mindful of each other's culture and choosing food that is acceptable for all.'
Other than Singaporean cuisine, it is also common in Singapore to find restaurants specialising in cuisine from a great variety of countries around the world.
Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. English is the common language, and is the language of business, government, and the medium of instruction in schools. Public bodies in Singapore, such as the Singapore Public Service, (which includes the Singapore Civil Service and other agencies), conduct their businesses in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Malay, Chinese or Tamil typically have to be translated into English to be accepted for submission. The Constitution of Singapore and all laws are written in English, and interpreters are required if one wishes to address the Singaporean Courts in a language other than English. However, English is the native tongue for only one-third of all Singaporeans, with roughly a third of all Singaporean Chinese, a quarter of all Singaporean Malays and half of all Singaporean Indians speaking it as their native tongue. Twenty percent of Singaporeans cannot read or write in English.
Many, but not all, Singaporeans are bilingual in English and another official language, with vastly varying degrees of fluency. The official languages ranked in terms of literacy amongst Singaporeans are English (80% literacy), Mandarin (65% literacy), Malay (17% literacy), and Tamil (4% literacy). Singapore English is based on British English, and forms of English spoken in Singapore range from Standard Singapore English to a pidgin known as "Singlish". Singlish is heavily discouraged by the government.
Mandarin is the language that is spoken as the native tongue by the greatest number of Singaporeans, half of them. Singaporean Mandarin is the most common version of Chinese in the country, with 1.2 million using it as their home language. Nearly half a million speak other varieties of Chinese, mainly Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese, as their home language, although the use of these is declining in favour of Mandarin and English.
Malay was chosen as a national language by the Singaporean government after independence from Britain in the 1960s to avoid friction with Singapore's neighbours—Malaysia and Indonesia—which are Malay-speaking. It has a symbolic, rather than functional purpose. It is used in the national anthem "Majulah Singapura", in citations of Singaporean orders and decorations, and in military commands. Today, in general, Malay is spoken within the Singaporean Malay community, with only 17% of all Singaporeans literate in Malay and only 12% using it as their native language. Around 100,000, or 3%, of Singaporeans speak Tamil as their native language. Tamil has official status in Singapore and there have been no attempts to discourage the use of other Indian languages.