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Singapore, officially referred to as the Republic of Singapore, is a city-state in Southeast Asia situated off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, some 85 miles north of the equator. An archipelago, Singapore is comprised of 63 islands, together accounting for roughly 247 square miles of geographic area. It is separated from Malaysia to the north by the Straits of Johor and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands to the south by the Singapore Strait. The country is a parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government, and since 1959, when it was granted internal self-government by the British, it has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP). Singapore is highly urbanized, despite the fact that over half of the country is covered in dense greenery, and its capital and largest city is Singapore.
As of the last census taken in 2011, Singapore had an estimated population of 5.1 million, of whom 63 percent, or roughly 3.25 million people are citizens. The remaining 37 percent of the population are either permanent residents or foreign workers. Of the Singapore citizens, 23 percent were born somewhere other than Singapore. From an ethnic standpoint, people of Chinese ancestry represent the largest ethnic group in the country at just over 74 percent. They are followed in order of prevalence by Malaysians (13.5%) and Indians (9%), with the remainder, or just over 3 percent being Eurasian or from other groups.
There are four official languages in Singapore: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is most commonly used in the affairs of the government, as well as in commerce, media, education and the courts. Public bodies conduct all their business in English and any non-English documents must first be translated into English before being submitted. Most Singaporeans are bilingual, fluent in English and one of the other official languages. The various official languages, in terms of literacy, are: English (80%), Mandarin Chinese (65%), Malay (17%) and Tamil (4%). There are many religious faiths practiced in the country, the largest of which is Buddhism, practiced by 33 percent of the population. Religious minorities include Christians (18%), Muslims (15%), Taoists (11%) and Hindus (5%), with 17 percent being non-religious.
Education in Singapore
Education in Singapore is overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Education and is free and compulsory through primary school. English is the language of instruction at all state-run schools and all subjects and exams are administered in English, save for the “Mother Tongue” language paper, which in Singapore refers to the student’s second language. The education system is divided between four distinct levels: primary education, secondary education, pre-university education and tertiary or higher education.
Primary education in Singapore begins at age 6 and spans 6 years. It is broken down into a four-year foundation course and a two-year orientation program, the latter of which prepares students for secondary school. There are four main subjects that make up the Singaporean curriculum: English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and Science.
Secondary school in Singapore spans four to five years depending on a student’s ability. At this level students can continue with their academic studies, in a track known as “Normal Secondary School,” or opt instead for the Technical track, in which they receive education and training in certain trades and career fields, usually with the goal of entering the workforce upon graduation. Those graduating from the academic program are free to enroll in Pre-university education, a 2-3 year program held at junior colleges that helps prepare students for university admission.
There are a number of universities in Singapore, including two major national universities, both of which are ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. There students can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in any number of academic and professional fields, particularly in the areas of mathematics and science where, according to student assessment data, Singaporean students consistently rank in the top 5 globally.
Map of Singapore