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History Background of Lee Kuan Yew: Family, Education, Early Life

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Lee Kuan Yew is known as the first Prime Minister of Singapore who demonstrated exemplary leadership and democratic practices. Moreover, Lee Kuan Yew was prominent for his international activities since he was a member of the International Council and the Foundation Chirac’s honor committee. He was the longest-serving prime minister in world history, making Singapore the most prosperous country in Southeast Asia. Not without a reason, Lee Kuan Yew is supposed to be the founding father of Singapore. His statesman’s activity helped to transform Singapore from a small port into a wealthy global hub. Consequently, this research paper intends to study the personality of Lee Kuan Yew as a political leader who demonstrated exemplary leadership and suggested the approach for solving collective goods issues.

The name Lee Kuan signifies ‘light and brightness’. He received it from his parents who had been English-educated. Moreover, the name has another meaning of ‘bringing glory to ancestors’. It means that his family respected and followed their traditions and customs. The political leader of Singapore had a wife and three children (Hong 546). It is evident that Lee Kuan Yew was a family man. His family was middle-class and educated becoming, his example for following. Both Lee Kuan Yew and his wife were the English language speakers. However, soon, Lee Kuan Yew learned Chinese and Japanese languages as they were necessary for his occupation in Singapore (Hong 546).

Lee Kuan Yew had the primary school education that inspired him to be brighter and more intelligent as compared to his classmates. Furthermore, he attended Raffles Institution where he had a proactive position. Lee Kuan Yew joined the Scouts, played chess, tennis, and cricket. Evidently, his enthusiasm for education only increased with time. Consequently, he obtained several scholarships. English and Economics were the most favorite subjects of his. As a result, he connected his political and international activities with them. After World War II, Lee Kuan Yew continued his studies in England, where he attended the London School of Economics. Furthermore, he read law at Fitzwilliam College (Skadian and Kong). Obviously, Lee Kuan Yew paid much attention to his education. Consequently, he was interested in improving the level of language knowledge learning in Singapore.

His early life was not less active than his political career. First, he was influenced by British culture. As a result, he moved to London to improve his knowledge of economics and English. Moreover, Lee Kuan Yew worked as a lawyer in Laycock and Ong. During World War II, Lee worked as a clerk in Shimoda. Management and leadership activity had always been close to him. Furthermore, Lee Kuan Yew ran his own business specializing in manufacturing stationery glue. One should say that his early life had become the driving force for his contribution to Singapore and starting his political career. Moreover, his early life drove him to improve the following areas in Singapore: infrastructure, defense, education, economy, social integration, and international relations.

Early Political Career

The early political career of Lee Kuan Yew is related to the formation of the People’s Action Party and his being in opposition. His first political experience was evident in his role as the election agent for John Laycock. Lee Kuan Yew formally entered politics when the Singapore Chinese Middle Schools Union launched non-violent and anti-colonial protests against the national service ordinance law. Consequently, Lee received the reputation of the left-wing lawyer who had entered the Singaporean politics with the help of the Communist Party of Malaya. Lee Kuan Yew believed that he did not enter politics because the Japanese had brought politics to him (Zakaria 109). The driving forces of his political activity were the Japanese occupying forces that were brutal and blind and encouraged him to work for freedom from foreign domination and servitude. Lee’s political philosophy developed under the influence of his early college days in England and exposition to the ideas of Fabian socialism. Thus, one could see that Lee Kuan Yew was talented and skillful as a lawyer. However, he was more interested in the anti-colonial movement and politics.


Analysis of Lee Kuan Yew from Individual, Domestic, Systemic, and Global Level

Lee Kuan Yew was a bright and exemplary personality who showed the lessons not only as a leader, political activist, and lawyer but also as an individual with his personal values and principles. First, Lee Kuan Yew had his ideals, remaining faithfully committed to them until his last breath. He followed not his ambitions but his heart and soul that strove for freedom of Singapore. Second, he was not afraid of changes, and he was risky and adventurous in his activity by increasing the GDP of Singapore and putting it in the first place as compared to the neighboring countries. Lee Kuan Yew was a tolerant personality who was also not power-hungry and self-serving. Moreover, he was rational and intelligent, which helped him to make strategic decisions. One should mention the exceptional mission of the person who had devoted his entire life to building his country. Lee Kuan Yew was a wise leader who was initiative and active in all his intentions. Furthermore, he admitted his mistakes and prevented them from happening until it was too late (Datta-Ray 20).

At the domestic level, Lee Kuan Yew engineered Singapore’s economy, making this country a hotspot known for tourism, rooftop bars, and efficient infrastructure. First, he brought the independence of Singapore from neighboring Malaysia. Second, Lee Kuan Yew transformed the country dramatically, making the airport and two casino-integrated resorts the world’s best ones. Moreover, he had implemented the initiative of building skyscrapers in the central business district, which turned Singapore into Manhattan and New York. Being a talented economic, Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore from a small town into a global financial destination. Despite the absence of natural resources in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew applied other ways to promote his country. The leader managed to strengthen the trading activity of the country to involve the foreign investments that helped to build a strong infrastructure. Moreover, he used the sound economic and financial policy to demonstrate the technological advancements and corruption-free environment. Another domestic achievement of Lee Kuan Yew was the progress in Singapore’s education, making it one of the exemplary ones in the world. Consequently, the success of Singapore was related to the domestic policy implemented by Lee Kuan Yew.

At the systemic level, Lee Kuan Yew provided the decision-making processes to the following concerns: social issues, the economy, and national security. First, he demonstrated the rational and systemic approach to the development of infrastructure. He developed the international airport, ensuring the possibility to handle bigger aircraft and cargo there. Second, his important step was in the development Housing Board to deal with the cramped and unhygienic living conditions of many people and fight the infectious diseases provoked by the low standards of living in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew implemented public housing as the population of Singapore increased. Moreover, the leader showed a systemic approach to defense policy because building the defense system was the basement for the stability and peace in Singapore. Moreover, stability presupposed the development of Singapore’s economy and attracting foreign investments. Consequently, the investors set up factories that benefitted the country’s economy. The quality of education was also miserable as it varied in standards and approaches (Millet 15). As a result, Lee Kuan Yew increased the level of literacy of Singaporeans, providing all people with the learning beyond primary level and treating all language streams equally. He established Malay as a national language and paid attention to the studying of Technical subjects, Science, and Mathematics.

At the global level, Lee Kuan Yew established international relations with other countries, attracting more foreign investors and making Singapore the country of the global scale. First, the leader borrowed the model for sustainable urban innovation in the USA. In other words, recognizing outstanding international initiatives was the step to achieving Singapore’s excellence not only at the domestic level but also at the global one. Global organizations and practices contributed to urban projects, policies, and initiatives that encouraged the growth of innovation, good governance, and foresight. Second, Lee Kuan Yew borrowed the international practices basing his choice on the following aspects: the quality of life, sustainability, vibrancy, and livability. One should say that those components had become the essential instruments of the success of Singapore in the talented hands of Lee Kuan Yew. The success of that leader was that he was observant and democratic. Moreover, borrowing international practices was his way of operating in the economy and politics (Josey 30).

Lee Kuan Yew’s Approach for Solving Collective Goods Issues

Without a doubt, the post-war period was traumatic and critical for Singapore.

Consequently, public housing was Lee Kuan Yew’s approach to solving collective goods issues. First, it helped to address the problems with the poor living conditions and diseases. Second, it was the solution to the dilemma of the population growth in the post-war period. The results of his approach are evident currently like 90% of Singaporeans have their homes and more than 80% of residents live in the government-built residential units (Kwang, Fernandez, and Tan 40). Therefore, Lee Kuan Yew’s approaches to solving collective goods issues and other social dilemmas were proper. It is evident that the leader has managed to transform Singapore from a Third World to the First World Country. Lee Kuan Yew turned the country with poor sanitation, slums, and racially-segregated squatter settlements into the innovative urban destination with many skyscrapers, business centers, hotels, and restaurants (Lee et al. 37). The public housing system was a new approach to social policy. However, it helped to solve the problems with unemployment and the lack of buildings.

SWOT Analysis of Lee Kuan Yew

Like any other leader, Lee Kuan Yew had leadership with such features as strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that distinguished him from other managers.


  1. Power of education background,
  2. Knowledge of Chinese, Japanese, and English languages,
  3. Experience as a lawyer,
  4. Political career,
  5. The implementation of legislative and economic incentives,
  6. Exemplary leadership,
  7. Using prevention as a way of avoiding possible issues,
  8. The incorporation of public housing and improving the education system (Ang 26).

These strengths prove that Lee Kuan Yew was a talented and skillful leader who had managed to achieve success in the politics and the economy of Singapore. Moreover, they reveal Lee Kuan Yew as an exceptional personality had who found recognition because of his self-education and professional growth.



  1. Lack of flexibility,
  2. The implementation of an autocratic government regime,
  3. Using the tough legislative system,
  4. The inability to change laws (Ho 20).

These weak points prove that any leader has some drawbacks. However, one should say that they do not diminish the significance of Lee Kuan Yew for Singapore and its current position in the world.


  1. Establishing international relations with other countries,
  2. Gaining Singapore’s independence,
  3. Improving the living conditions of the residents,
  4. Using the innovation and urbanization as the driving forces of growth,
  5. Providing the lessons to the African countries (Ho 40).

These opportunities reinforce the thought that Lee Kuan Yew could bring more benefits if he were the leader of Singapore. Moreover, they underline the importance of this leader for the current reputation and the image of the country in the world.


  1. The prevention of democracy development,
  2. 2The accusation of interfering with the private lives of citizens,
  3. Banning of documentary movies,
  4. The hard approach in the decision-making process,
  5. Influence on public opinion,
  6. Ignoring polling (Ang 38).

These points prove that Lee Kuan Yew did not follow the democratic principles in full measure as he believed that they could prevent the growth and development of the country. Lee Kuan Yew had an autocratic style that was effective in that state of affairs. However, currently, he could fail as a leader and a manager. Moreover, he did not listen to other people’s thoughts, supposing that he was always right.

Call to Action

In conclusion, one should say that the history of the political activity of Lee Kuan Yew remains the lesson for contemporary leaders. They should be life-long learners, copy the greatest ideas, and must be more pragmatic while implementing them. For example, Lee Kuan Yew demonstrated the principle for the attraction of foreign investors, making Singapore as safe as possible and eliminating corruption. Moreover, it is necessary for a leader to set his course of action and avoid popularization. Thus, Lee Kuan Yew controlled the community spirit that could be oppressed by the information from mass media. However, it does not mean that leaders should be autocratic. Furthermore, leaders should be rational and intelligent to persuade the community of their skills and abilities. Moreover, it is necessary to stay inside the circle of competence to avoid losing one’s authority and image. Lee Kuan Yew teaches that the most efficient leader is a feared leader.

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