As of 2007, Singapore's total land area (consisting of the main Singapore island and some smaller islands around it) is about 600 square kilometres. Its population is about 4 million.
Singapore has a long history. Ancient Javan ruler Sang Nila Utama is said to have named the island "Singapura" (Malay for lion city) after he stepped ashore and encountered a lion. When Sir Stamford Raffles landed on the island in 1819, there was a small Malay settlement on the banks of the Singapore River. Raffles bought the island from the ruling Temenggong (chief) of the settlement in order to set up a trading port for the British East India Company. Soon Singapore thrived beyond Raffles' expectations and became an important port of call for ships traveling from Europe to China.
On 15 February 1942, Singapore was conquered by the Japanese in their World War II Malayan campaign after a short battle of just one week, The fall of Singapore was described by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the most disastrous British military defeat in history. After the British returned to the island in 1945, they were faced with demands for Singapore to be self-governed.
Singapore joined the federation of Malaysia as a member state in 1963, but differences between Singapore's ruling People's Action Party and Malaysia's UMNO forced Singapore to withdraw from the federation and declare independence just two years later, in 1965.
Singapore has well-developed land, air, and water transport infrastructure. Her seaport is the busiest in the world by volume, in close competition with the port of Hong Kong. There are two civilian airports, the larger Changi Airport and Seletar Airport, as well as a number of military air bases used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
The country has an extensive network of roads, including several expressways. The longest expressway is the Pan-Island Expressway, with a length of 42 kilometres. Most Singaporeans commute using public transport. The public transport network consists of a metro network, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), buses operated by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses, and taxis owned by several companies, the largest being ComfortDelgro.
Although Singapore has never been involved in any military conflict since independence, she maintains an army (the Singapore Armed Forces), a navy (Republic of Singapore Navy), and an air force (Republic of Singapore Air Force). All male Singaporean citizens and permanent residents are required to serve two years of national service when they reach 18 years of age.
Society and culture
There are four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Malay is also the national language for historical reasons. The national anthem is Majulah Singapura (Malay for "Onward Singapore"), written by Zubir Said.
The major racial groups have influenced each other's culture. An example of this influence is Singaporean English, which is English with words borrowed from other languages and dialects used by Singaporeans.
Singapore's education system consists of schooling at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Children start six years of primary school at the age of six. After passing the Primary School Leaving Examination in Primary Six, they can continue to four years of secondary school. In secondary school, students study different subjects and sit for different final-year examinations depending on which stream they have entered, which in turn depends on their learning ability. Most students will progress to either junior college for their pre-university education, or go to polytechnic for more skills-oriented courses.