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Education hub in Singapore

If you've ever felt tired of a long commute to school, meet John LaVacca. Every six weeks for two years, the American executive would fly from Australia to Singapore for a week of classes.

If you've ever felt tired of a long commute to school, meet John LaVacca. Every six weeks for two years, the American executive would fly from Australia to Singapore for a week of classes at the Asia campus of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

LaVacca, an Asia-Pacific manager at International Business Machines Corp (IBM) based in Melbourne, was not put off by the nine-hour flight, often spending the time cramming for exams. "It made the flight pass very quickly," the 44-year-old says.

Singapore's government is pouring millions of dollars into creating an education hub in Asia, hoping to transform both its economy and identity. Luring more visitors like LaVacca is a big part of that strategy.

The government expects education services to generate about 5 percent of gross domestic product -- the total value of the economy -- in the next decade, up from 3.6 percent now.

It has forecast a tripling in the number of foreign students here to 150,000 by 2012, as a growing middle class in parts of Asia look for schools outside the United States and Europe for their higher education needs, along with business executives. (来源:

"This growing education market in Asia is a major economic opportunity for us," Trade Minister George Yeo said in a recent speech.

About 22,000 new jobs will come from local and foreign institutions in the next 10 years, he estimated -- a figure that nearly matches the 26,000 jobs lost in the June quarter as the economy toiled near recession.


The University of Chicago, whose Asia campus sits in a restored 121-year-old traditional Chinese estate, is just one of a growing field of offshore institutions in Singapore.

Others include France's INSEAD, Johns Hopkins, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (news - web sites), Stanford University and Technische Universiteit Eindhoven of the Netherlands.

For Singapore's policymakers, the aim is to grab a larger slice of the international education market, worth an estimated $2.2 trillion, according to a government report.

With no natural resources, the trade-reliant country hopes to develop sectors such as education, health care and biomedical sciences as the manufacturers at the heart of its economy come under threat from lower-cost factories in China.

By promoting official bilingualism for decades -- English and Mandarin Chinese -- Singapore has already carved out a unique role in Southeast Asia as a hub for multinational firms, capitalizing on its educated work force and language skills.

It also has a leg up as a traditionally popular education destination for thousands of Southeast Asian students; most of LaVacca's classmates are drawn from the region. "These students helped to provide a local and broader Asian context to the materials studied," he said.

The government hopes to broaden the mix of international students by diversifying its range of courses -- from art and design to business and engineering -- and by marketing Singapore as a safe, cosmopolitan society.
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