Posted : 2010-08-11 18:54
Updated : 2010-08-11 18:54

Jeju takes aim at Asian education hub

A computer-generated bird’s eye view of “Jeju Global Education City.” The Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) plans to set up 12 kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools along with overseas university campuses as well as an Enlgish education center in the town.
/Courtesy of JDC

Global Education City to be alternative for Korean students seeking to study abroad

By Kang Shin-who

SEOGWIPO, Jeju Island ― Korea has seen large amount of hard-earned dollars flow out of the country, with many students and workers heading overseas for education, particularly English learning.

With a few foreign students coming here to study, the nation has been posting a huge deficit in education payment over the years. In January alone, Korea recorded a deficit of $470 million.

In an attempt to encourage students to study here and slash the amount of money spent abroad for education, Korea’s biggest island is preparing an alternative place where children don’t need to part with their parents for English learning, “Jeju Global Education City.”

The state-administered Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) says Jeju will be reborn as an Asian hub for global education with the ambitious plan. “This project is aimed to draw Korean children aspiring to learn English abroad and we will further attract students from neighboring Asian countries,” JDC Chariman Byon Jong-il said.

Under the $1.7-billion won project, a total of 12 kindergartens elementary and secondary schools for 9,000 students will be built by 2015 in the 3,794,000 square-meter “city,” along with an English education center, residential and commercial facilities. The town, located in Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo City, is designed to accommodate about 23,000 residents and 5,800 households.

The English-speaking schools in the area will be free from any restrictions of school management in curricula, student recruitment, and finance, as they will be subject to Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Law.

International schools in other regions are not allowed to enroll more than half of Korean students, but those in the island are able to fill up the entire admission quota with Korean students.

In addition, the island is appealing to international school operators with its natural environment, which has World Heritage sites designated by UNESCO.

JDC officials said schools are able to conduct a variety of extra-curricular activities such as horse riding, hiking, golf, sea kayaking and scuba diving. A renowned Korean-Japanese architect, Itami Jun, is in charge of designing the city.

As a first step, JDC plans to open two private international schools and a public school next year. The North London Collegiate School (NLCS), Britain’s top-class institute, is the first among them and it broke ground last Thursday for the construction of its first-ever oversea campus, aiming to open in September next year.

For the first year, it will recruit a total of 568 students; 96 for the 5th grade, 66 each for 7th grade boy and girl students, 80 each for 9th grade boy and girl students and 180 for the 11th grade. The British school will maintain a student-teacher ratio of 10 to 1.

NLCS Chairwoman Helen Stone told reporters during the ground-breaking ceremony that the school will come up with admission guidelines in 2-3 weeks, adding that they will use various methods in recruiting students, including interview sessions.

Regarding concerns over likely fierce competition among parents and students, the first principal of the NLCS-Jeju, Peter Daly, told The Korea Times that he is aware of the education fever of Korean parents and hagwon (private cram schools) culture on the sideline of the media conference. He also noted the school will not allow students on exchange for donation.

JDC officials said tuition fees could be high for the quality education at the school, but they are devising a method to reduce it to offer scholarships to children from underprivileged families.

According to them, NLCS will be free from any financial problems and focus on only teaching students and recruiting teachers and JDC will take up all financial matters.

JDC is talking with other overseas schools for its project. They are Branksome Hall in Toronto, Canada and two American schools; St Alban’s School in Washington DC; and St George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Along with elementary and secondary schools, the JDC will invite overseas universities to set up their campuses in the special town and the English education center will be used to train Korean English teachers and other employees who need to speak English for business.
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