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Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the Equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 704.0 km² (272 sq mi), it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and the smallest country in Southeast Asia. Despite its small size, Singapore has a population of slightly over 5.6 million people, of which over half were born locally.

The British East India Company established a trading post on the island in 1819. The main settlement up to that point was a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived around the coast, rivers and smaller islands. The British used Singapore as a strategic trading post along the spice route. It became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire. Winston Churchill called it "Britain's greatest defeat" when it was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. Singapore reverted to British rule in 1945. In 1963, it merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. Less than two years later it split from the federation and became an independent republic on August 9, 1965. Singapore joined the United Nations on September 21 that same year.

Since independence, Singapore's standard of living has increased. A state-led industrialization drive, aided by foreign direct investment has created a modern economy based on electronics manufacturing, petrochemicals, tourism and financial services alongside the traditional entrepôt trade. Singapore is the 3rd wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. The small nation has a foreign reserve of S$222 billion (US$147 billion).

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A giant Singapore flag suspended from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a National Day Parade rehearsal on 29 July 2006.
"Majulah Singapura" ("Onward Singapore") is the national anthem of Singapore. Composed by Zubir Said in 1958 as a theme song for official functions of the City Council of Singapore, the song was selected in 1959 as the island's anthem when it attained self-government. Upon full independence in 1965, "Majulah Singapura" was formally adopted as Singapore's national anthem. By law the anthem may only be sung with its original Malay lyrics, although there exist authorized translations of the lyrics of the anthem in Singapore's three other official languages: English, Mandarin and Tamil.

Originally composed in the key of G major, in 2001 the national anthem was officially relaunched in the lower key of F major as this was said to allow for a "grander and more inspiring arrangement". The national anthem is regularly performed or sung in schools and armed forces camps at ceremonies held at the beginning and/or the end of each day, during which the national flag is also raised and lowered and the national pledge is taken.

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Henderson Waves
Credit: Yeo Kok Leong (20 February 2009)

Henderson Waves, a 274-metre (900-foot) long pedestrian bridge connecting Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. At 36 metres (120 feet) above Henderson Road, it is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore.

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Selected Biography

Gan Eng Seng (Chinese: 颜永成; Pinyin: Yan Yongcheng; 1844—1899) was one of the early Chinese pioneers of Singapore known for his generosity to many charitable causes during the era of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and Singapore. Some of his most recognised contributions known were the setting up of Gan Eng Seng School, the Thong Chai Medical Institution, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the Ee Hoe Hean Club.

Gan was of Hokkien Chinese descent, born and educated in Melaka, and the eldest son of five in his family. His forefathers emigrated from Fujian Province, China to Malaya. Owing to poor circumstances, he probably had an elementary school education in which he learnt to read and write in simple English and keep accounts. After his father's death, sixteen year old Gan was involved in the nutmeg business on a very small scale. Later, he was taken on as an apprentice by Messrs. Guthrie and Company. Gan was diligent and capable, and his ability won him the recognition and keen interest of Thomas Scott, one of the partners in the company. Scott was one of the early British pioneers responsible for developing Tanjung Pagar and the port of Singapore.

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Did You Know

Photo of the Concourse
  • ... that to prepare for future examinations, Singapore students use the ten year series to practice on past years' examination papers, some of which date back to before they were born?

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The National University of Singapore
Credit: Sengkang (November 2006)

The National University of Singapore (Abbreviation: NUS; Chinese: 新加坡国立大学; pinyin: Xīnjiāpō Guólì Dàxué; Abbreviated 国大; Malay: Universiti Kebangsaan Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் தேசியப் பல்கலைக்கழகம் ) is Singapore's oldest university. It is the largest university in the country in terms of student enrollment and curriculum offered.

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