12 Jeju Int’l Schools to Accept 10,000 Students
Island Seeks to Reverse the Tide of Students Going Abroad From 2011
Jeju Island is changing. It used to be the most favored honeymoon destination for Koreans and then turned into a haven for foreign tourists.
Now, it is striving to be Korea's leading international hub where people, goods and capital move freely, and the maximum convenience for corporate activities is guaranteed. That's where the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) comes in.
JDC is a state-run firm under the wing of the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. Since the establishment in 2002, the center has been successfully proceeding with a long-term development plan, with its activities backed by the Special Act on Jeju Free International City.
Currently the plan for the international city is composed of six core projects, and in the heart of this big picture is Global Education City, an ambitious project to develop Jeju into a worldly acclaimed place for English education.
The project aims to draw students planning to study abroad to the island, offering cheaper tuition, easy access and better education. The plan will also contribute to fostering the education industry, as well as improving national competitiveness, the Jeju provincial government predicts.
Jeju basks in a huge advantage in attracting Asian students with its location.
The current population of East Asia _ Korea, China and Japan _ and ASEAN countries, accounts for 34 percent of the total world population. Jeju is located within a two-hour flight from five major Asian cities _ Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, which means Jeju has a strong edge in securing a huge market base.
While all schools in Korea are subject to regulations by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, international schools in Jeju will be guaranteed discretion in choosing their curriculum, textbooks, admission procedures and credit hours.
This commitment to deregulation is expected to help get prestigious foreign private schools to set up branches in Jeju, the JDC says. The company also hopes the advanced curriculum and teaching methods, especially for English-language education, will eventually set a new standard nationwide.
To establish a viable school-operating system, the JDC is currently discussing cooperation with public schools in New York State in the United States, which will include student and teacher exchange programs.
Surging demand for a better English education will give a huge opportunity for success to Jeju, according to the JDC.
Last year, a total of 124,000 people took the TOEFL test, making Korea the country with the biggest number of applicants of the English proficiency test. Also, total expenses spent on major tests such as TOEFL and TOEIC are estimated to have exceeded 700 billion won ($551.2 million) annually.
According to a report from the Korean Educational Development Institute, in 2006 the number of students going abroad to study totaled 436,000, up 160 percent from 2001, and minors accounted for 20,000 of them, a 260-percent jump over the period.
Circumstances are similar in many other Asian countries. For the last 10 years, the number of international schools has risen by 100 in Thailand and 91 in China. Currently about 210,000 preteen and early teen students are flying to other countries to study each year.
In Korea, however, the slumping economy makes it tougher to travel outside the country for a better education. With the strong dollar and weak won continuing amid the ongoing economic crisis, households now have a bigger burden in sending their children overseas to study. Still, a recent research says up to 910,000 children are willing to study abroad.
The education-related deficit in the international balance snowballed to $3.4 billion in 2005, over 2.5 times more than 2000. Consequently, the building of the education city will also be helpful in improving the national economy, as well as Korea's education environment, the JDC said.
The center is now gearing up efforts for intensive marketing and promotion, targeting to top schools worldwide.
This first bore fruit in April, when it inked a memorandum of understanding for a school establishment with the North London Collegiate School, a U.K.-based selective independent day school for girls. Jeju is also purportedly in talks with another U.K. school, King's College School, in setting up a branch.
Also following an investor relations meeting in Singapore on April 28, two renowned schools there, the Raffles Institution and International School of Singapore, showed deep interest in the Jeju project and agreed to keep discussing further cooperation.
Jeju aims to eventually achieve true globalization in education through this project. Following the establishment of the education city, in which it seeks to absorb at least 20 percent of domestic demand for early overseas studies, Jeju expects to take a further step in the second phase of attracting foreign universities and students by 2020.
In the end, the attraction of Jeju Island will make it possible to attract more foreign schools and students as planned, JDC Chairman Byun Jong-il said.
``The majority of foreign investors have said so far that the most attractive aspect of Jeju is its beautiful landscape as well as the geographical location as a central spot in East Asia,'' Byun said. ``Jeju has a beautiful, clean and natural environment. As cities worldwide grow bigger and more modern, the value of the island will increase more in the future.''