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Countries That Escaped From PovertyEradicating poverty from a country can be a difficult and daunting task, but it is not impossible. Some countries are able to develop solutions that bring their economy and their people out of disastrous living conditions. Here is a list of five countries that escaped from poverty and created a better future for their citizens.

5 Countries that Escaped From Poverty

  1. Ghana: In 1990, this small West African nation had a GDP per capita of $1,900 with a poverty rate of 52 percent. By 2018, their GDP had reached an all-time high of $4,211.85 and their poverty rate was cut to 21 percent. Their extreme poverty rate also dropped from 35.6 percent to 18.2 percent within the same time. How were they able to do this? The country focused on educating its citizens to be a well-educated workforce. This allowed them to industrialize and put people in charge that had the knowledge and resources to succeed. Agriculture was the main area of employment back in 1990, but with a diversification of the economy, they were able to boost other sectors to create more jobs. This included the manufacturing and exportation of technological goods and mining that helped them become one of the top producers in gold in the world.
  2. Norway: Having the highest standards of living in the world is not an easy feat. The GDP per capita of Norway as of 2018 is sitting at $8,1807.20, the highest in the country’s history. But they haven’t always had this success. Norway was once one of the poorest nations in the world. During the turn of the 20th century, the Northern European nation’s economy was reliant on agriculture and fishing industries. When these began to fail, hundreds of thousands of Norwegians began to leave the country to escape from poverty for economic opportunity elsewhere. It wasn’t until after World War II that Norway’s economy began to trend upward. The United States provided aid to the country that was ravaged by the fighting and they used the aid help kick start their battered economy. Once oil was discovered off their shores in the North Sea in the 1970s, their economy flourished and they have been consistently trending upwards ever since.
  3. Singapore: The small city-state of Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia in 1965. It was a rough start for the people and their economy. The country’s GDP per capita stood at $516 and more than 70 percent of the people lived in the slums with half of the population unable to read or write. Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister at the time and he installed reforms that were very successful for the people of Singapore and their economy. He began by revamping the education system and creating a workforce that was highly skilled and well trained. To bring in foreign investment, Singapore developed an attractive tax system that is one of the lowest in Asia. This would bring in shipping and manufacturing businesses to their shores. With the influx of money and a rise in the economy, they were able to improve the infrastructure and housing of the country that gave a boost to the standard of living. The country’s escape from poverty has been a success, as Singapore’s current GDP per capita is $57,714.30 as of 2017.
  4. Bolivia: Once regarded as one of the poorest nations in South America, landlocked Bolivia is now a rapidly growing economy. The country’s poverty rate plummeted from 59 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in 2015, while at the same time extreme poverty dropped from 38 percent to 18 percent. The recent success of Bolivia can be contributed to the policies of the current leader Evo Morales installed to fight poverty. He implemented price controls over the products being sold in Bolivia such as food and gasoline so the poor could properly afford these items. While this didn’t create jobs, it did increase spending and allowed the economy to grow. Morales also created a pension of $258 to go towards those aged 60 and up to allow the elderly to escape from poverty.
  5. South Korea: After years of Japanese occupation and the end of the Korean War, South Korea’s economy was suffering in the 1950s. South Korea was not an industrialized nation and the main focus of its economy was agriculture. In 1960, South Korea’s GDP per capita was $79, which changed once General Park Chung-hee took charge of the country. Chung-hee implemented a five-year plan in 1962 that industrialized South Korea, creating jobs for the people. Companies like Hyundai, Samsung and LG would receive economic incentives, such as tax breaks, to help grow their businesses. South Korea also took advantage of U.S. economic assistance in exchange for letting the United States military keep troops in the country. Today, South Korea is a thriving economy, and as of 2017, enjoys a GDP per capita of just under $30,000. In addition, the country now accounts for $56 billion of U.S. exports, indicating a strong return on the $5.6 billion of aid invested decades ago.

Being able to rid a country from the grips of poverty involves a certain level of risk and ingenuity. Whether it’s by using the resources in their country, receiving foreign aid from other countries or changing their economic system, these countries that escaped from poverty show it is possible.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

SingaporeAccording to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Singapore decreased 10 positions from last year in closing the gender gap. Singapore was ranked 65th out of 144 countries in economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival. Such standings indicate a need to bridge the gap and address the gender equality in Singapore.

Symbolically, the ascension of Singapore’s first female president may indicate a sign of improved broader access to politics for women; but this individual success brings Singapore only a little closer towards bridging the gender gap. The Ministry of Social and Family Development in Singapore remains committed to the protection of women’s rights and is taking steps to promote gender equality in Singapore.

5 Organizations Working on Gender Equality in Singapore

In addition to government agencies, there are also several organizations working to promote gender equality in Singapore by providing livelihood, job opportunities and fighting for women’s issues. Here are five organizations currently working towards women’s rights and protection.

Aidha

Aidha is a Singapore-based NGO that helps women become financially independent. The mission of the charity is that “by helping one woman, it can help improve nine more lives.” Aidha also provides financial literacy programs, computer literacy programs and entrepreneurial skills for Singapore’s foreign domestic workers and low-income women.

The organization’s aim is to help women help themselves by launching their own businesses or helping them invest in items like livestock in their home countries to better protect them against the cycle of poverty.

Aidha’s workshops, clubs and courses help students become literate in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), manage income and boost their confidence and social capital.

Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT) is a program which focuses on empowering underprivileged Singaporean women through confidence-building, skills development and employment channeling. Aidha is working with DOT to develop a 10-session financial literacy program for its clients and deliver the first program this year.

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations (SCWO) was established in 1980 as the national coordinating body of women’s organizations in Singapore. SCWO has more than 50 member organizations, represents over 500,000 women and strives to unite women in Singapore to work toward ideals of ‘Equal Space, Equal Voice and Equal Worth.’

SCWO provides free legal clinics — with the support of volunteer lawyers from Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL) — for women residing in Singapore who face legal issues on personal matters, do not have legal advice or are unable to afford a lawyer.

One of their services includes providing shelter for women. SCWO’s Star Shelter opened in March 1999 and is a registered charity with IPC Status and the only secular crisis center in Singapore. Star Shelter provides a safe, temporary refuge for women and children who are victims of family violence, regardless of race, language, creed or religion. SCWO empowers victims to manage and take responsibility for their lives and assists them in rebuilding existences free of violence.

Apart from meals and lodging, Star Shelter also provides trauma/crisis counseling and case management. Through the “Rebuild” Program, SCWO provides a one-time financial aid to assist victims in paying for transport expenses while they look for employment; in addition, the program also offers a no-interest home loan.

Aware

Aware is an organization which works to remove all gender-based barriers and encourages gender equality in Singapore. Aware works in three ways:

  1. Research and advocacy
  2. Education and training
  3. Support services

AWARE believes in equal opportunity for both men and women in every field. AWARE is dedicated to removing gender-based barriers and providing a feminist perspective in the national dialogue.

The organization has effectively advocated against laws, public policies and mindsets that discriminate against women. AWARE’s support services provide crisis counseling, assistance in dealing with the authorities, and legal advice to women in need. We Can! is a popular campaign which works through Change Makers – individuals who commit to taking steps in their own lives to end violence.

The campaign aims to shake up social attitudes and beliefs that tolerate violence against women. They have conducted several workshops to this end, and forum theatre to reach out to people for support. The campaign has garnered 17,000 individuals and has worked with more than 96 organizations to fight for gender equality in Singapore.

 The Singapore Committee for UN Women

The Singapore Committee for UN Women is a self-funded, non-profit organization that works towards women’s empowerment and gender equality. The organization supports the general mission of UN Women by raising awareness and funding for Ending Violence Against Women, Economic Empowerment, and Governance and Leadership Programs in Singapore and the region. 

These campaigns include the SNOW (Say No to the Oppression of Women) Gala and Buy to Save fundraising events. In fact, 80 percent of the funds are dedicated towards local projects like Help Anna and Girls2Pioneers, while the remaining 20 percent is channeled towards supporting regional beneficiaries. The group’s HeForShe campaign works in favor of gender equality in Singapore and has around 10,000 commitments so far.

CRIB Society

The Singapore organization, CRIB Society (Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses), combines social responsibility and innovative business practices to work more from the top down with female entrepreneurs and business owners. The organization uses this structure to then help create opportunities and jobs for other women.

CRIB has a group of mentors and emerging entrepreneurs who support, inspire and assist each other, and offers seminars, mentorships, a ‘matching’ program that puts together potential co-founders for new businesses and an incubator program.

These five organizations help encourage gender equality in Singapore and provide support for women in every field including education, employment, shelter and housing. The future is limitless for where these empowered women will go next.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SingaporeSingapore is a highly developed nation with a thriving economy. This being said, human rights in Singapore still have a long way to go. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are still restricted by the government on the basis that they undermine national security and religious and racial harmony.

Singapore’s Media Development Agency (MDA) requires all online news sources to register themselves and subjects them to regulation by the government. They are prohibited from receiving any foreign funding, and the government also limits the circulation of any foreign news sources in the country. This is supposedly so that the organization can maintain religious and racial harmony and national security.

In 2009, Singapore passed the Public Order Act, which requires a police permit for all group assembly in public. While this is similar to the policy in the United States, where one must apply for a protest permit, the grounds for denial of the permit in Singapore are very broad. There are far more applications that are denied than accepted, severely limiting the right to free assembly. Singapore does have a “Speakers’ Corner” which is open for rallies and protests—as long as they don’t touch on racial or religious issues, and as long as they are only Singaporean citizens; foreigners need a police permit to participate.

In 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong sued an activist and blogger for defamation. The blogger, Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, was fired from the private hospital he worked at, and the courts ended up ruling against him. This was an open denial of free speech on the part of the Singaporean government.

Even as recently as May 2017, Singapore has continued to limit freedom of speech. Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong’s nephew, Li Shengwu, made criticisms of the country’s leadership in a private Facebook post. Since then the government has been pushing him to sign an apology letter and to admit to contempt of court, but Mr. Shengwu refused and continued to point out the human rights violations the Singaporean government was committing.

Singapore has committed a number of other human rights violations, but these are very basic rights its citizens lack. Much reform is needed to make Singapore a more equal and free nation, but activists and citizens are hopeful for change in the future. As unfortunate as it is that certain human rights in Singapore are often denied, most countries started with many human rights violations before realizing the importance of granting their citizens these rights. Singapore is hopefully on its way to doing so as well.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Education in Singapore Good
Education in Singapore has been receiving a lot of praise. When Singapore gained independence from the British, it was a low skill labor-driven market. However, over a period of 50 years, the government managed to create an incredibly advanced education system, where graduates went on into highly skilled jobs. How did this happen?

A Success Story: Education in Singapore

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rated Singapore as having the best education system in the world. OECD director Andreas Schleicher says that students in Singapore are especially proficient in math and the sciences. In English, the average Singaporean 15-year-old student is 10 months ahead of students in western countries and is 20 months ahead in math. Singaporean students also score among the best in the world on international exams.

Education in Singapore is superior because the classes are focused on teaching the students specific problem solving skills and subjects. The classroom is highly scripted and the curriculum is focused on teaching students practical skills that will help them solve problems in the real world. Exams are extremely important and classes are tightly oriented around them.

Authorities in Singapore are also constantly trying to reevaluate and improve the education system. Recently, many students have reported rising levels of overstress and psychological problems brought on by academic rigor. In response, Singapore has stopped listing the top-scoring student on the national exam in order to ease some of the pressure students may feel. The country has also incorporated a strategy called Teach Less, Learn More, which encourages teachers to focus on the quality of education, not the quantity.

Another reason the education in Singapore is so excellent is simply the Singaporean culture. Parents play a crucial role in their child’s education. The “talent myth,” which states that some kids are naturally smarter than others, is non-existent in Singapore. A local newspaper, The Straits, reported that 70 percent of parents sign their children up for extra classes outside of their regular school hours. In local bookstores, over half of the store is dedicated to educational material.

The education system in Singapore is, in many ways, superior to the education system in the Western world. This is largely due to the country’s culture and first-rate educational leadership. Singapore has a lot to teach the rest of the world; if other countries would adopt some of Singapore’s strategies, there would surely be improvement in education around the globe.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax

Photo: Google

Singapore's Poverty SolutionSingapore’s poverty solution is KidStart, a pilot program now authorized as a permanent action to give children from low income families equal opportunities. KidStart will also develop early intervention programs for at-risk youth and adults.

KidStart is a three-year pilot program that launched in 2016. The program encourages early childhood education and supports families earning less than $2,500 a month with the additional skills and resources to develop their children’s potential. KidStart monitors children’s academic attendance and progress, and it also holds parenting workshops for parents.

While the nation’s Gini index shrank slightly from 2015 to 2016, 0.463 to 0.458, developing countries still struggle against poverty. The Singapore government plans to adopt KidStart as a permanent program to alleviate poverty and help families know the signs of financial struggle. Last year, nearly half of the applications for short-to-medium-term aid were granted, and some had higher cash quantum or the aid extended if the recipients could not find jobs.

KidStart, among several other actions, is Singapore’s poverty solution. The nation also plans to address inequality and family dysfunction.

Singapore Children’s Society lead social worker Gracia Goh believes that preventative work “requires moral courage to invest resources before a social problem gets worse, or even starts.”

The government hopes that implementing programs such as KidStart will prevent social issues from becoming ingrained in the country’s framework. Preventive actions are the first step to progress and strengthening existing ideals.

According to Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, “For certain family circumstances, we know it is challenging, and the probability of perhaps poorer outcomes for children as they grow up will be higher. So we want to make sure we intervene.”

Mr. Tan wants to expand KidStart beyond its five locations before the pilot ends. Last year, the program helped 1,000 disadvantaged children up to six years of age, and it will reach increasingly more as the government adopts KidStart and it expands to new locations. As Singapore’s poverty solution, KidStart will not only help children, but at-risk youths, adults and families struggling financially.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

Off the tip of southern Malaysia lies the small city-state Singapore. This sovereign island exists as a successful global finance, commerce and trade hub despite its lack of natural resources. A tropical nation, Singapore boasts one of the highest life expectancies and a generally efficient health system. Nevertheless, there are several widespread diseases in Singapore that need to be further addressed. Here are some common diseases in Singapore.

Although Singapore is highly developed and technologically advanced, its citizens often face significant health issues because of the nation’s proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries that produce an immense amount of air pollution. Singapore is the third-most densely populated country in the world, so communicable diseases like the flu and the common cold often run rampant due to close quarters.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
HFMD, which presents with blisters and rashes on hands, feet and face, spreads quickly through small communities, transmitted through bodily fluids. Because it spreads through touch, it is especially prevalent among children.

In the first three weeks of 2017, there were 1,700 reported cases of HFMD, a significant increase from the 1,500 reported in 2016. Singaporeans have focused efforts to improve hygiene in low-income areas in order to prevent spread. There has been an incredible flow of information from the Ministry of Health to citizens to equip them, especially those with children, with the necessary tools to break HFMD’s chain of transmission. For example, there are lists provided with schools that have over 10 cases of HMFD within a short period of time so that parents can know to take their children away from school. Singapore has been more diligent with closing schools when there are several cases in the area to prevent rapid transmission.

Cardiovascular Diseases
Singapore, unlike many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, generally suffers from the same health concerns as Europe and North America. Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death globally. In Singapore, they place the highest burden on life by a large margin due to the high rate of mortality. Ischemic heart disease, which involves narrowing arteries, is particularly devastating as it prevents sufficient levels of oxygen and blood from reaching the heart. Cardiovascular diseases led to almost a third of all deaths in the country, accounting for about 15 deaths per day in 2014.

Many Singaporeans suffer from cardiovascular diseases as a result of an unbalanced lifestyle combined with poor diet. Singapore, as a highly advanced nation, is prone to Westernization, which often involves an increased amount of fast food. Much of the threat of these diseases are preventable through lifestyle changes. More exercise and better nutrition are key to avoiding these common diseases in Singapore.

Diabetes
Another noncommunicable disease that severely affects Singapore is diabetes. This illness prevents the body from properly reacting to or creating insulin, which balances blood sugar levels. According the World Health Organization , the number of adults who have diabetes has quadrupled over the last 35 years due to “‘the way people eat, move and live.’” Around the world, particularly in developed nations, people have been indulging in high-calorie foods while leading more sedentary lifestyles, leading to widespread Type 2 Diabetes and other illnesses associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, Singapore currently has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations, with 10.53 percent of Singaporeans between 20 and 79 having diabetes. The number of Singaporeans with diabetes has been increasing with time. Only 4.7 percent had diabetes in 1984. The number rose to nine percent by 2004.

While lifestyle does play a significant role in diabetes, genetics must be considered as well. The vice president of the Diabetic Society of Singapore said that “we actually have a much higher percentage of body fat as compared with our Western counterparts.” Obesity can lead to insulin-resistance and causes diabetes, and these increased levels of body fat can also increase the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.

In April 2016, Singapore’s Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong vowed to battle diabetes. Furthermore, as a result of this increase of illnesses associated with unhealthy lifestyles, like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, Singaporeans, especially younger generations, have begun to alter their lifestyles by increasing exercise and controlling their diets to prevent common diseases in Singapore.

Akhil Reddy
Photo: Flickr

Water Singapore
Singapore’s Public Utility Board (PUB) believes that it has an innovative answer as to how to improve water quality in Singapore.

PUB is responsible for the collection, production, distribution and reclamation of water in Singapore. For a country that, for a large amount of its lifetime, relied on importing water from Malaysia to moderate its water scarcity, water quality in Singapore is an important issue. Hence, the PUB’s mission to “ensure an efficient, adequate and sustainable supply of water” is quite a big deal.

The organization’s solution came the form of a project called the “Four National Taps,” comprised of imported water from Malaysia, local catchment, NEWater and desalinated water.

Understanding how these “taps” work is essential to understanding why the water quality in Singapore is now reported to be very good. The local catchment tap involves the collection of rainwater running through more than 8,000 kilometers (or 4,970.97 miles) of waterways to one of the 17 reservoirs located around the country.

Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater. Singapore’s two desalination plants alone allow PUB to meet 25% of the nation’s water need. The NEWater tap includes the use of advanced technologies to treat used water so it may be used for drinking and industrial use– essentially recycling water. This tap has been proven to be both cost-effective and efficient and is used to supply 30% of the nation’s water demand; by 2060 it is expected to meet 55% of the nation’s demand.

The NEWater tap includes the use of advanced technologies to treat used water so it may be used for drinking and industrial use, essentially recycling water. This tap has been proven to be both cost-effective and efficient and is used to supply 30% of the nation’s water demand; by 2060 it is expected to meet 55% of the nation’s demand.

PUB takes water quality in Singapore very seriously, claiming that Singapore’s tap water is now “well within the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines and U.S. Environmental Public Health (Quality of Piped Drinking Water) Regulations.”

The drive for Singapore to have and maintain high-quality water is further illustrated through its initiation of several community-focused programs to educate citizens on the importance of the conversation and appreciation of water. Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stated: “Although we can be confident of meeting our water needs, let us remember that every drop of water is precious. Do continue to practice good water-saving habits and avoid unnecessary consumption. We can make every drop count.”

Obinna Ikechukwu Iwuji

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Singapore
In recent history, Singapore has had a complicated relationship with refugees. Having been burned once before, Singapore now routinely turns away refugees with the intention of turning the responsibility over to a third party. But should they be doing more to help? Here to help you decide are ten facts about refugees in Singapore:

  1. Following the Vietnam war, refugees known as “Vietnamese boat people” came flooding out of their country to Southeast Asia looking for a safe haven. With this refugee crisis in mind, the Singapore government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agreed on a policy that would provide refugees with international protection. Singapore was to be a kind of limbo by temporarily housing refugees in a transit camp while the UNHCR planned for a more permanent resettlement.
  2. However, the number of refugees continuously arriving proved to be too great, and after a 1989 conference on Indochinese refugees in which committee members decided to enact a new policy called the Comprehensive Plan of Action, Singapore’s transit camp suffered greatly. With a new refugee screening policy in place, Singapore continued to accept new entrants, but the entrants were now not guaranteed resettlement, even temporarily.
  3. Singapore’s transit camp was now a place for rejected asylum seekers to gather, many of whom refused to leave voluntarily. The threat of repatriation caused many refugees to protest the UNHCR, go on hunger strike, or even attempt suicide. Singapore government officials, feeling betrayed by resettlement countries and embittered by the whole experience, closed the camp in 1996 and promised that refugees would no longer be allowed in Singapore, even if another country pledged to take them in.
  4. For many years, Singapore held firm to this policy, stopping refugees at coastlines and, instead of taking them in, providing them with food, water and fuel before sending them away.
  5. However, Singapore’s refugee policy has been slowly softening in recent years. In 2009, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, addressed the problem of Rohingyas searching for, and being unable to find, a haven after fleeing from Burma. A senior minister of state for foreign affairs clarified that Singapore could not accept asylum seekers, but would offer humanitarian aid so that they could depart for another country.
  6. Apart from Singapore’s unpleasant experience with refugees in the past, the government gives one other reason for refusing to accept new entrants into the country: space. Singapore is the second smallest country in Asia and also one of the most densely populated. Refugees would certainly put an extra strain on the country’s infrastructure.
  7. A lack of space cannot be reason alone to reject refugees, as Singapore actually plans to increase its population from approximately 5.5 million to up to 6.9 million by the year 2030. In 2013, Singapore’s Population White Paper projected this growth, arguing that the country’s land area has grown by 23 percent since 1965 and that increasingly stable investments into infrastructure facilities and land capacity make this population growth sustainable.
  8. As of right now, refugees in Singapore are completely unwelcome, joining one of many Southeast Asian countries that refuse to do so.
  9. It may be, though, that Singapore is finally healing from its past experiences with refugees. In 2016, the UNCHR launched a new campaign to appeal to governments around the world to join the fight to end statelessness, with a special chapter dedicated to Advocates for Refugees in Singapore (the AFR-SG).
  10. Singapore is still a long way away from changing its policy on accepting refugees, but with the continued efforts of the UNCHR, the AFR-SG and anybody who takes the time to help, it is possible to move toward finding a home for the millions of people still left stateless.

– Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Education Systems
Though no perfect educational system exists, many countries could learn from the following five countries to improve their own education systems, resulting in better math and science skills.

    1. The Netherlands: What makes the Netherlands’ school system work is that it offers different classes for students with different learning interests. Instead of just going straight to college after high school, students can choose to go to a pre-university course. The country also requires students to learn a second language, so that students can prepare to communicate with the outside world. The school system is also not so stressful on children. Unlike countries such as the United States, the Netherlands gives homework sparingly, and the school days are even shorter, with children being able to go home for lunch break and having a half-day on Wednesdays.
    2. Singapore: Although Singapore’s education has been known to be stressful for students, there are effective methods within this education system. Singapore became an independent country in the 1960s, so the country wanted to prove itself by expanding education. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment scores, Singapore has some of the best results in reading, math and science. Students are given equal opportunity and teachers are from the top five percent of graduates.
    3. Barbados: Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, estimated at 98 percent. The country has one of the oldest and most effective education systems in the eastern Caribbean. While providing a good number of schools, Barbados’s government also created the Skills Training Programme to prepare students for careers in mechanics, electronics, plumbing and other technical occupations.
    4. Luxembourg: Luxembourg has special trilingual education programs that can be beneficial to students who wish to communicate abroad. Almost everyone in Luxembourg is trilingual, with fluency in French, German and Letzeburgesch. Teachers are also paid the highest salaries out of any country.
    5. Finland: Like the Netherlands, Finland does not give much homework to its students, and along with Singapore and South Korea, has top scores in reading, math and science. However, standardized testing is not too demanding. Students are given more time for a break in between studies, with 15 minutes of play for every 45 minutes of class. Education is also free for everyone, including Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate programs.                   

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Singapore's economic success
In 1965, Singapore was ousted from Malaysia and began its journey as an independent society. Singapore’s per capita income was $500, and although the country was not extremely poor, malnutrition was prevalent. However, the per capita today stands at an impressive $55,000 — the largest increase for any newly independent nation. In many ways, Singapore’s economic success can be attributed to the young nation’s leadership.

Singapore’s First Prime Minister

Lee Kuan Yew served as Singapore’s first prime minister from 1965 until 1990. It was his firm autocratic leadership that took Singapore from rags to riches. Lee believed the test to determine the effectiveness of a political system is whether it improves the standard of living for most of its people.

According to Lee’s definition of an effective political system, Singapore is the epitome of precisely that, but this effectiveness comes at the expense of democracy.

While Singapore tops the charts in competitive economies and in the prevention of corruption and graft, it scores in the bottom half of societies concerning democratic participation and personal liberties.

It is unusual for Westerners to hear that an autocratic government performs more effectively and efficiently than a democratic one; however, history and empirical data show that Lee’s leadership led to a society that produced more wealth per capita, better health and more security for a majority of its citizens over other societies.

Other empirical data shows that Singapore reduced its infant mortality rate faster than any other society in the world. The infant mortality rate went from 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1965 to an astounding 2.2 deaths per 1,000 births in 2013 — a lower mortality rate than the U.S. Additionally, these children go on to receive an education that was ranked best in the world in 2015 in math and science.

Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty.

Singapore’s economic success is not only accredited to the work of Lee. Goh Keng Swee, an architect, and S. Rajaratnam, Singapore’s philosophical insight, also contributed to the success of the country. All three implemented a set of ground rules that Singapore has thrived on: Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty.

Meritocracy upholds that the best citizens should be chosen to run the country, not those in the ruling class. Pragmatism means to copy the best practices that have been utilized by other societies and apply and adapt them to Singapore. Honesty is essential to combat corruption, the downfall of many societies.

Many look down on Singapore because it is viewed as a benevolent and refined dictatorship, but it holds free elections every five years. The population in Singapore is one of the best educated in the world, and the citizens continue to vote for the “un-free” society that it is. Not only do inhabitants choose to continue to live in Singapore, but also people from the Americas and parts of Europe choose to move there.

One can argue that Singapore has made a tremendous comeback, and has become of the best success stories in history; however, it is debatable whether its dictatorship is the best approach to maintaining a successful society. As of today, it appears that Singapore is one of the best places to be born and live.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr