Like the good old Social Studies textbooks (see A Pictorial Gallery of Singapore in 1980), the old Secondary School Geography textbooks, first published by the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS) in 1982, also contain a large variety of old photos portraying Singapore of the early eighties.
CDIS was established in 1979 to provide textbooks for Primary and Secondary levels of Singapore’s education system, replacing the old textbook schemes by the Ministry of Education (MOE) (1970-1978) and its former Education Publication Bureau (EPB) (1965-1969). In 1996, CDIS was officially ceased, after the new Curriculum Planning and Development Division took over the role to prepare the syllabuses and authorize the quality and prices of textbooks.
Its Part 1 (for Secondary One students) mainly touches on Singapore’s rural and urban landscapes, urban renewal and conservation, as well as Singapore’s residential, industrial and agricultural developments. Through the photo gallery, one can easily notice the large changes of Singapore in the past three decades.
Central Business District and Global City
The Central Business District (CBD) has always been Singapore’s centre of commercial activities, such as banking, insurance and wholesaling. As the volume of trade grew, the CBD expanded along the waterfront facing Collyer Quay and Clifford Pier, and it became known as the Golden Shoe in the eighties and nineties (today, the name Golden Shoe was seldom used, except of the double-storey hawker centre at Market Street).
Over the years, the Central Area was expanded to include City Hall and the Orchard vicinities. Many shopping malls were also built along a stretch of Beach Road that later became known as the Golden Mile.
As the CBD continued to change and progress, there was a need to utilise the lands effectively. More urban renewal projects were launched to demolished the old buildings, replacing them with office towers and other skyscrapers. Parts of the coastal waters were also filled to enable the further expansion of the CBD.
In the eighties, Singapore became the world’s second largest port after the Netherlands’ Rotterdam. Between the sixties and eighties, Singapore’s trade grew so rapidly that by 1981, there were six gateways (Keppel Wharves, Container Terminal, Telok Ayer Wharves, Pasir Panjang Wharves, Sembawang Wharves and Jurong Port) to the Port of Singapore.
In the late seventies, Singapore’s major imports and exports included telecommunication equipment, fabrics, ships and boats, electronic valves and crude rubber. But the largest imported and exported products were the crude petroleum and refined petroleum products that generated more than $10 billion in annual trade.
The growth as the centre of air travel was essential as Singapore thrived to become a global city. In 1981, the new Changi Airport was officially opened after six years of construction, replacing the former Paya Lebar International Airport which had became over-congested by the seventies.
Singapore’s third international airport (after Kallang and Paya Lebar airports) was mostly built on reclaimed lands. The location was chosen to be away from the populated areas in order to avoid the issues of noise pollution and traffic congestion. Domestic travelling was made convenient as new highways such as the East Coast Parkway (ECP) and Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) were linked to the airport; the travel time between the city and the airport was only twenty minutes.
Residential Development and New Towns
One of the maps used in the textbook displays the locations of the housing estates in Singapore in 1982. Newer housing estates such as Choa Chu Kang, Bishan, Pasir Ris, Sengkang and Punggol were not listed as they have not yet slated for modern residential development.
By 1980, almost 358,000 flats were built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to accommodate 75% of the 2.5 million residents in Singapore.
In 1982, many villages still existed in areas such as Lim Chu Kang, Yio Chu Kang and Punggol. Fast forward 30 years, all kampongs on mainland Singapore had vanished with the exception of Kampong Lorong Buangkok, which is increasingly threatened by urban development in its surroundings in recent years.
The old shophouses, on the other hand, have better fates. Although many could not escape demolition during the urban renewal projects carried out in the sixties and seventies, a large number of shophouses have been retained and restored, especially at designated areas in Geylang, Tanjong Pagar, Little India and Joo Chiat.
In the sixties, public housing districts, such as Queenstown, Redhill, Tiong Bahru and Farrer Park, were mostly located near the Central Area. By the early seventies, there was a need to build new housing estates in the outer regions that were 10km away from the city. The housing estates were developed into full-fledged new towns that contained flats, a variety of public amenities and flatted factories.
Ang Mo Kio, Bedok and Clementi were the three earliest new towns to be developed in Singapore. By 1982, six more new towns were planned and developed. They were Woodlands, Yishun, Tampines, Hougang, Jurong East and Jurong West.
Each new town came with a town centre that acted as its commercial, social and transport centre. The new towns were divided into several neighbourhoods that consisted of residential precincts, small malls, retails shops and eating houses. A mature neighbourhood would also featured schools, markets and hawker centres.
Agriculture in Singapore
In the early eighties, the main agricultural activities in Singapore were pig and poultry rearing, vegetable farming and flowers cultivation. In 1980, the four activities generated more than $500 million in revenue. The total land area that was devoted to agriculture, however, was small. At 90 square km, it stood only 14.5% of Singapore’s total land area.
More than 1 million pigs were sent to the abattoir in 1980, and the total output from the poultry farms was 32 million chickens and 550 million eggs. The large output ensured Singapore was more than self-sufficient in pork, poultry and eggs.
The pollution caused by the pig waste, however, led to the government’s policy to phase out the pig farms in the mid-eighties. By 1988, all of the pig farms in Singapore were shut down. Poultry farms were allowed to continue, but most were downsized and generally confined to Lim Chu Kang areas.
Published: 13 September 2014
Updated: 18 September 2014