Education ventures thrive in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Education-related ventures are booming in Singapore, in both the domestic and international markets, as these companies win over parents and schools eager to give children exposure to the country's excellent education system.

This, in turn, has drawn a flood of money to Singapore, with investors keen on the education sector's growth potential. Startups are helping to fulfill the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's twin vision of a country that thrives on education and exports.

"Hello, how are you today?" says a headset-wearing elementary school student to her teacher, an employee of VivaLing, a language learning service. The two are conversing over the Internet.

The service resembles the online English conversation lessons that are catching on in Japan. Many such services are available but Bernard Golstein, CEO and co-founder of VivaLing, says his company is focused on children's education and has a business model that differs from its competitors.

VivaLing works hard to hold the attention of children, who get easily bored. In one lesson, a teacher wearing an eye patch and a pirate hat starts improvising, calling on children to go on a treasure hunt. For girls who like Disney, dresses are a teaching aid. VivaLing offers customized classes tailored to the individual interests of its young students.

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