Singapore became an independent nation on 9 August 1965. The 1950s and 1960s were a time of communal tension and racial riots. Hence, there was a pressing need for the young nation to forge a common identity and sense of belonging among citizens of different races and religions.
"When we separated from Malaysia, we were trying to inculcate national consciousness that we are now independent from Malaya. So I thought we need to have something to gel the people together."
Oral history interview with Mr Ong Pang Boon
by the National Archives of Singapore, 2007.
In October 1965, Mr William Cheng, Principal Assistant Secretary of Administration of the Ministry of Education, mooted the idea of a pledge to inculcate national consciousness and patriotism in schools. The idea gained the support of then Minister for Education, Mr Ong Pang Boon, who gave the task of drafting the pledge to Mr Philip Liau, Advisor on Textbooks and Syllabuses, and Mr George Thomson, Director of the Political Study Centre.
Mr Ong sent the two drafts to the late Mr S. Rajaratnam, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, for his comments. After that, the draft underwent another round of revisions by Ministry officials as well as then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew before submission to the Cabinet for final approval.
From August 1966 onwards, students began reciting the National Pledge before the start of each school day. As not many schools then had open areas for morning assemblies, the Pledge was initially recited mainly in classrooms. Since then, the National Pledge has been recited during National Day occasions, the National Day Parade and school assemblies. The original English text was also translated into Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
According to the late Mr S. Rajaratnam, the Pledge emerged against the backdrop of a vital struggle to forge a sense of nationhood and build “a Singapore we are proud of”. He believed that language, race and religion were potentially divisive factors and used the Pledge to emphasise that these differences could be overcome if Singaporeans were united in their commitment to the country.
Reciting the National Pledge
Initially, the National Pledge was recited with the right hand raised above shoulders while one stands facing the National Flag. The current practice is to recite the Pledge with the right fist clenched at the heart.
This change came about in 1988 as the Ministry of Defence wanted to create a more uniform mode for taking the Pledge. The Pledge continues to be an integral part of Singaporean life and is recited by students during flag-raising and flag-lowering ceremonies as well as on important occasions such as the National Day Parade and National Day Observance Ceremonies.
The National Pledge in Singapore's Four Official Languages
We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.
Kami, warganegara Singapura,
sebagai rakyat yang bersatu padu,
tidak kira apa bangsa, bahasa, atau ugama,
berikrar untuk membina suatu masyarakat yang demokratik,
berdasarkan kepada keadilan dan persamaan untuk mencapai kebahagiaan,
kemakmuran dan kemajuan bagi negara Kami.
Click here for the Pledge in Tamil (pdf version).
Guidelines on the Use of the National Pledge
- The National Pledge is recited during school assemblies, SAF Day, the National Day Parade, and at National Day Observance Ceremonies.
- Individuals reciting the Pledge shall clench their right fists to the left side of their chests as a gesture to symbolise loyalty to the nation.
- The Pledge shall not be used for any commercial purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Reciting the Pledge
- Do we have to seek approval to recite the Pledge at our organisation’s National Day observance ceremony?
No. All organisations and schools are encouraged to recite the Pledge during occasions of national significance such as National Day observance ceremonies, school assemblies, National Day Parades, SAF Day, etc. Hence, you would not need to seek formal approval for this.
- Must the Pledge be recited either before or after the singing of the National Anthem?
The guidelines do not regulate when the Pledge should be recited. However, the Pledge is commonly recited after the singing of the National Anthem.
- Must the Pledge be recited before or after a flag-raising or flag-lowering ceremony? Can we not recite it?
It is not mandatory to recite the Pledge before or after a flag-raising or flag-lowering ceremony. However, it is encouraged as this adds to the significance of the ceremony.
- Can we recite the Pledge in any of the three other official languages (Chinese, Malay and Tamil) other than in English?
Yes. The Pledge may be recited in any of the four official languages.
- Can the Pledge be recited in the form of a rap or song?
The guidelines on the use of the Pledge do not specifically prohibit it from being recited as a rap or sung. The Pledge has also been previously used in the National Day song "We Are Singapore". Our main concern is that the Pledge (as with the other National Symbols) should be treated with dignity and respect at all times as it embodies some of our fundamental values as a nation.
- I would like to use the Pledge as part of my product design which will be sold commercially. Can I do so?
No. The Pledge cannot be used for any commercial purposes.