|▲ Left, JDC Edu-City Dept. Director Lee Sungho. Above, a sunny day at the NLCS Jeju campus. Photo courtesy NLCS Jeju
The successful grand openings last year of both the prestigious North London Collegiate School (NLCS) and the Korea International School (KIS) within the Jeju Global Education City (JGEC) has been a driving force in gaining international attention for this ambition city from other acclaimed international schools.
On Jan. 17 members of the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) signed an MOU with Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Massachusetts, US. During their trip in the states, the JDC signed another MOU with The Perkiomen School on Jan 18. These MOUs could potentially lead to the openings of Wilbraham and Monson Academy and The Perkiomen School branches within the JGEC.
On Jan. 10 representatives from Cheshire Academy — the 10th oldest school in the US and founded in 1794 — came to speak with Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) Director Byon Jong Il and expressed a willingness to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
This announcement followed the MOU signing on Dec. 27 between the JDC and Shattuck St. Mary’s School in the US state of Minnesota. This brings the total of signed MOUs to four (King’s Rochester, St. Mary’s), with potentially more on the way.
According to JDC Edu-City Dept. Director Lee Shawn Sungho, the JDC is currently in talks with an additional six other prestigious schools, mainly from the US, and are working towards inking more MOUs.
Originally, the plan was to have 12 individual international schools within the JGEC, but this is currently being revised seeing that most schools, like NLCS, plan to open elementary, middle, and high schools within a single building occupying two to three allotted spots. The number of international schools currently being discussed to open within the JGEC is six.
Due to the educational climate in Korea, Lee said that 18,000 Korean students currently study abroad which causes families to experience socioeconomic pressures. The JGEC was established to provide Korean children an international education without having to leave their home country.
Director Lee said that during the initial stages of the JGEC and prior to the opening of NLCS — the first school to open within the the English education city — it was difficult to gain the ears of some of the international schools, but “now it has changed … and it is easy to talk with them.”
|▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Free International City Development Center
Along with the increased attention from potential international private schools, the JDC is working on attracting international universities to set up shop within the education city.
This University Zone will allow high school graduates from all over the world to study specialized fields taught by renown institutions that open branches in the JGEC. According to Lee, the tuition costs to attend these schools within the University Zone will be similar to that of the university’s namesake but without the student having to relocate overseas to attend the mother school.
The idea, said Lee, is that it will not simply be a university, but one made up of specific colleagues from several acclaimed higher-learning institutions. Though Lee would not divulged which universities the JDC are currently in talks with, he did say that they are “very famous.”
When the germination of this University Zone first took place, Lee said they took the idea to several specialists and professors like Jeju’s own Moon Un In, “a famous [Yongsae] professor in education and politics.”
The specialists and professors “all agree that it is impossible to invite one university for this zone. They talked about inviting several international colleges,” said Lee.
The reason for the University Zone, Lee continued, is that with the creation of the JGEC, Jeju will be educating students to, upon graduation, attend international universities. With the establishment of this University Zone, these high school graduates can earn international accreditation from Ivy League schools in the comfort of their own country.
Another advantage of the University Zone, Lee said, is that they plan to pair particular specialized courses within the university with complimentary corporations.
Lee continued that this will be a bonus for the university’s graduates seeing that right now this particular demographic is finding it difficult to secure employment in Korea. The plan is to invite specific university programs that correspond with businesses on the island, like culinary arts with luxury hotels or software development with Daum. This will enable JGEC’s university graduates to have potential employment with reputable companies right out of the gate.
Another possibility is if they attract an education program, then once students graduate from a JGEC high school, they can attend an international university on Jeju for education and then teach within the education city.
“If we establish six [JGEC] schools, we will need about 1,000 teachers. If we have the education college [in the University Zone] the graduating students” can teach at those schools, Lee said.
While still early in the conceptual phase, to achieve this ambitious endeavour they will have to amend the law which prohibits for-profit universities in Korea. Lee said they need to speak with the Korea prime minister and the Jeju governor to have the law changed.
Though the JGEC is planing to have all schools operating by 2014, Lee said that the University Zone, which is set within roughly 250,000 square meters, to open sometime after 2015.
With the JGEC concluding its first semester to rave reviews, they are garnering international attention and looking for other ways in which to prepare the youth of Korea to be tomorrow’s world leaders.