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Located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, according to Malay tradition, Singapore was originally named Singapura by a Sumatran prince after he encountered a strange animal that he took to be a lion.
This was considered to be good luck, and thus, "Singapura" (which means "City of the Lion") was founded. Once the hub of British power in Southeast Asia, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, but reverted to British rule after the war. Eighteen years later, Singapore achieved independence and merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. On August 9, 1965, Singapore was separated from Malaysia, becoming an independent republic, and the new country joined the United Nations on September 21 of that same year.
For most of the period since Singapore's independence, the country was governed under the political leadership of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who served from 1959 to 1990. High economic growth rates and rapid industrialization since earning independence have placed Singapore among the "Four Asian Tigers," along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Singapore is a hub for global foreign exchange and boasts one of the busiest ports in the world. Some of the main industries of this booming economy are electronics, chemical exports, financial services and tourism.
Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil. English is the language of instruction for most subjects. Singapore recognizes the importance of a diverse student population and, in 2007, inaugurated the "Singapore Education Awards" to acknowledge exceptional contributions by individuals and organizations in the field of international education.