Our Values

What We Value

Singapore is a multicultural society made up of different races, languages, and religions. Despite our cultural diversity, there are some important values that hold us together.

Knowing the values Singaporeans hold dear helps newcomers appreciate how locals interact with each other, how things get done, and the kind of society Singapore is. This in turn helps the newcomers to integrate more smoothly into local communities.

Singaporeans value harmony, and respect cultural diversity. Although there are many different cultures,  our shared heritage and our common destiny unites us.

We believe in meritocracy and opportunities for all, and value hard work and self-reliance as means to achieving better outcomes for ourselves and the country. We believe in being forward-looking, being prepared for the future and in continuously learning and upgrading our skills.

The foundation of our society is the family, where children and the elderly are taken care of. We cherish kinship bonds with extended family members.

The following core values are shared with our next generation as part of character and citizenship education in our schools:

  1. Respect

    As a society where people of different nationalities and races live and work in close proximity, we respect individuals’ space and views, accept that there are different beliefs and traditions, and uphold the law to maintain peace and order.

  2. Responsibility

    We take responsibility for our own well-being and our family’s welfare. Being responsible also means recognising our duty to the community, our country and the world, whether it is serving national service, volunteering in the community or doing our part for the global climate.

  3. Resilience

    When faced with adversity, both at the national and individual levels, we have the resilience and resolve to overcome them and emerge stronger. From fighting SARS in 2003, dealing with unemployment or personal setbacks, resilience helps us get back on our feet fast.

  4. Integrity

    We uphold ethical principles and voice out what is right. We have zero tolerance for corruption at all levels and believe in fair treatment of people based on meritocracy and equal opportunities for all.

  5. Care

    We encourage kindness and compassion in our communities. A caring society looks out for each other and is kind to its people, animals and our environment. In particular, we extend a helping hand to the less privileged among us.

  6. Harmony
    Singaporeans appreciate the harmony and peace in our society, where people with different traits and culture live, work and play in a common space. We hope to be a place where people treat each other with graciousness.
These values define the kind of society we aspire to create for current and future generations of Singaporeans, as well as many others who live and work among us.

National Symbols

When Singapore became self-governing in 1959, it was important as a young nation to unite our citizens together, regardless of race, language or religion. As Dr Toh Chin Chye, former Deputy Prime Minister of the newly formed government had said, “Although we were not really independent in 1959 but self-governing, it was necessary right from the beginning that we should rally enough different races together as a Singapore nation.”

The government then set about developing a national identity that would define us as one nation. These included a set of national symbols that is now recognised round the world and is synonymous with the values of Singapore.



Our National Symbols
National Flag

Created by a committee spearheaded by DPM Toh Chin Chye, the National Flag reflects the ideals, beliefs and values of our multicultural nation. It was unveiled for the first time, along with the National Anthem and Pledge, on 3 December 1959 at the installation of the first Malayan-born Head of State, Encik Yusof bin Ishak.

The Singapore flag is made up of two horizontal halves, red above white. Red symbolises universal brotherhood and the equality of man, and the white stands for purity and virtue. The five stars represent Singapore’s five core principles of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality, and the crescent moon reflects Singapore’s status as a young nation. As Singapore’s most visible symbol of statehood, the flag is to be treated with dignity and respect. More information on the flag and guidelines on usage can be found on the NHB website.

National Anthem

“Onward Singapore” is the English translation of Singapore’s National Anthem, “Majulah Singapura”. When deciding on the anthem, Dr Toh Chin Chye felt that as a musical expression of national identity, the anthem should be in Malay, as English is not an indigenous language of the region. The “Malay version of the national anthem would appeal to all races… it can be easily understood. And at the same time can be easily remembered…it must be brief, to the point; … and can be sung”.

Encik Zubir Said, the composer, adapted an official song that he created for the City Council of Singapore to become the National Anthem. It was first played on 3 December 1959 along with the launch of the National Flag and Anthem.
The English lyrics are as follows:
Come, fellow Singaporeans
Let us progress towards happiness together
May our noble aspirations bring
Singapore success
Come, let us unite
In a new spirit
Let our voices soar as one
Onward Singapore
Onward Singapore

National Pledge

Singapore became an independent nation in 1965, when racial tensions were rife. There was a pressing need for Singapore to forge a common identity and sense of belonging among citizens of different races and religions. The Education Ministry of the fledgling government decided on a pledge that could be recited in schools to inculcate patriotism among students. Thus the pledge came into being.

Mr S. Rajaratnam, then Foreign Minister, reviewed the final drafts of the pledge. His stance was that the National Pledge should emphasise a united commitment by Singaporeans to build a nation that stands strong and proud, despite our differences in language, race and religion.

National Coat of Arms

The State Crest or National Coat of Arms symbolises Singapore’s status as a self-governing and independent state. It is formed by a shield emblazoned with a white crescent moon and five white stars against a red background.

Like the National Flag, red stands for universal brotherhood and the equality of man, while white signifies everlasting purity and virtue. The five stars represent democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. The lion on the left embodies Singapore while the tiger represents Singapore’s historical ties with Malaysia. The banner below the shield is inscribed with Singapore’s motto, “Majulah Singapura”.

Only government bodies may display the State Crest within their premises and like the Flag, it must be treated with dignity and respect.

Lion Head Symbol

The Lion Head was introduced in 1986 as an alternative national symbol of Singapore, in keeping with its historical persona as a lion city.

The Lion Head symbolises courage, strength, excellence, and resilience in the face of challenges. Similar to the Flag, it is in solid red against a white background. The lion mane’s five partings represent the same ideals embodied in the five stars of the national flag – democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. The mane symbolises the nation’s single-minded resolve to rise to any challenges and overcome any obstacles.

National Flower

Do you know why our national flower is an orchid?

Singapore has long been associated with orchids, thanks to pioneering hybridisation work on orchids at the Singapore Botanic gardens. In 1981, a hybrid orchid was deliberately chosen, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, in keeping with multiracial Singapore. We are the only nation in the world to have a hybrid as its national flower.

Among several varieties of Vanda Miss Joaquim, the variety “Agnes” was chosen for its vibrant colours, hardiness and resilience – qualities that are synonymous with the Singapore spirit.

What is Total Defence?

Defending Singapore is not the job of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) alone. Threats and challenges can emerge in different forms and harm the peace, prosperity and harmony we enjoy today

Innocent-looking civilians can disguise terrorist intentions. Travellers may unknowingly carry diseases. An insensitive deed or word can, directly or indirectly, spark off social tension. What began as a domestic economic problem elsewhere can turn into a global economic crisis that hits us, too. Natural disasters, climate change, scarcity of energy, water and food, piracy, illegal immigration, self-radicalisation, cyber-crime and information campaigns aimed at undermining the unity and resolve of our people are other examples of the wide range of threats we face today.

Everyone living in Singapore must play a part to keep Singapore safe. Our collective efforts and resolve make up the total defence needed to protect our country.

This was why Total Defence was launched in 1984 and commemorated each year on 15 February to mark the anniversary of the British’s surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. It is a reminder that no one owes Singapore a living and we must take it upon ourselves to keep our nation strong and sovereign.

Every small act counts - whether it is being vigilant against suspicious activities, respecting and accepting people of different ethnic backgrounds, taking care of our environment, showing support for our National Servicemen on duty at home or abroad, or simply looking out for one another. This is the essence of Total Defence - that when we each play our part, we help to strengthen the nation as well as ourselves.

How you can play a part

There are five pillars of Total Defence. You can play a part in one or more areas.

  1. Military Defence is about keeping Singapore secure

    We need a strong Military Defence to defend ourselves when attacked or to deter foreign intervention and prevent ourselves from being attacked. The SAF is a conscript armed force, depending on not only its Regulars but also the commitment of its National Servicemen with the support of their families and employers.

    If you are a serviceman, you can put Military Defence into action by keeping fit, taking your training seriously and staying operationally ready. By being supportive of those who are doing their National Service or in-camp training (ICT), the public can also encourage our National Servicemen and boost their morale. Women can contribute directly to Military Defence by joining the SAF, or serving with the SAF Volunteer Corps.    

  2. Civil Defence means taking care of our family, friends, and people around us in times of crisis

    When a crisis or disaster strikes, it is the community’s ability to pitch in, stay vigilant, be effective first responders and help one another regardless of race, religion, or self-interest during a national emergency that enables us to bounce back from the crisis as one people, confident and strong.

    During times of crisis or disaster, resources will be strained and we will need everyone to pitch in. You can put Civil Defence into action by learning what to do in an emergency before it happens.

    You can participate in Emergency Preparedness exercises and workshops, learn basic preparedness skills, know how to operate a fire extinguisher or an automated external defibrillator (AED), and get trained in life-saving skills such as first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). As the threat of global terrorism is real and security personnel cannot be everywhere all the time, you can also play your part by being on the lookout for suspicious persons or activities around you.

  3. Economic Defence is having a strong and resilient economy

    A strong and resilient economy will be able to sustain Singapore through economic challenges and national emergencies, such as a global downturn or a terrorist attack that cripples our economic infrastructure and shakes investor confidence in Singapore.

    To prepare for national emergencies, the government and businesses work together to put in place contingency measures to keep offices and factories running even after National Servicemen and equipment have been mobilised, and to maintain national stockpiles of essential items to keep the economy going. We should also take steps to enhance our country's defences against cyber-attacks so that our critical infrastructure and data remain secure.

    You can put Economic Defence into action through retraining and upgrading, and by keeping up with new technologies and new ways of doing things. This helps us remain employable as the economy changes. Saving up for a rainy day and adopting environment-friendly practices are other ways to protect ourselves and our future generations. You can also contribute by adopting good cyber-security practices like securing your internet-connected devices and networks.

  4. Social Defence is about living harmoniously and looking out for one another

    Singapore’s social stability and peace is the result of people of all nationalities, races and religions living together in harmony and looking out for one another beyond self-interest. We know what could happen if we allow extremist ideologies and racial prejudice and discrimination to endanger social cohesion and harmony. Our communities need to build understanding and trust to ensure that we remain united, strong and resilient in times of national challenges.

    You can put Social Defence into action by being sensitive to and respectful of other races in Singapore, and learning more about their traditions, cultures, religions, and heritage. Befriend fellow citizens from other communities, and building strong bonds with them over common Singaporean experiences. Show greater consideration and understanding to new citizens, helping them understand our way of life, and sharing with them different practices of different groups here. You can also contribute by looking out for and helping the less fortunate and underprivileged among us.  

  5. Psychological Defence means being a resilient people

    While being prepared is the key to Total Defence, it is always the fighting spirit, the will, and the resilience of Singaporeans that determine whether or not our nation will overcome a crisis. When each Singaporean is proud of our country and willing to stand up to defend what is ours, and is resolved and determined to overcome any crisis together, we can be assured of a secure future, regardless of the challenge.

    Putting Psychological Defence into action involves understanding Singapore’s history and principles that have helped Singapore succeed, strengthening our national identity, countering divisive fake news, and persevering in the face of threats and pressures. You can stay informed and updated on current affairs concerning Singapore via reliable sources, use social media discerningly and responsibly, and stand up against mistruths that undermine Singapore’s interests.

As one people, we have weathered the SARS outbreak, economic crises, haze and diplomatic tensions. We have worked hard to be where we are today. Let us stay united and each play our part in Total Defence to keep Singapore special.     

Last updated on 05 April 2021