The long journey for the North London Collegiate School (NLCS) to open the first branch institution within the Jeju Global Education City began on March 26, 2010, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement with the Jeju Free International City Development Center. Now, with the school in its second semester, Principal Peter Daly is reflecting on NLCS Jeju’s first few months and says that its success has been “beyond expectations.”
The first semester “was very very successful,” Daly told The Weekly last week from a meeting room in the NLCS Jeju campus. “We settled in much much quicker than we though we would [and the] student’s got used to the boarding life very very quickly.”
Though the school was new and composed of mainly Korean students unaccustomed to Western teaching methods, the first semester all but avoided the anticipated growing pains.
“Everybody got used to everyone else in what are very challenging circumstances really: a brand new school; 437 new students, many of them never come into an international school before; 65 teachers, many of them never have been in Korea.”
But it’s working.
“I knew this would be a challenge ... and if I could look back a year ago and think where we are now, like the parents, I’m ecstatic.”
▲ NLCS Jeju Principal Peter Daly wants his students “to have tried themselves out” by the time they graduate from his school. Photo courtesy NLCS Jeju
Daly said that both the faculty and the students and their families have been “accommodating each others needs and wants and requirements,” respectful of the differences in culture, and that though the teaching style may at first be foreign to the students, they have shown their teachers trust and understanding.
This bridge was made possible because NLCS Jeju is not simply a school that churns out good grades but encourages its students to experience aspects of themselves that they may not have otherwise discovered. Daly said that by the time they graduate he wants his students “to have tried themselves out.”
One of the emphases at NLCS Jeju is for the students to take responsibility of their own education, inside and outside of the classroom.
Like most schools they offer extra curricular activities, but based on the enthusiasm of its students and staff, what started off as 30 different programs comprised of sport, art, and nature outings has ballooned to around a hundred.
There’s taekwondo, all sorts of dance, music, theatre, SCUBA diving, robotics, even polo, utilizing all of Jeju as a living classroom. But the extra curricular activities are not only to improve their skills and widen their set of interests and experiences but also to help instill within the students a sense of community and a responsibility towards our fellow man through community service at the local orphanage, old people’s homes, and hospices.
“Not all but some [of our students are quite privileged] and they have to understand that with privilege comes the responsibility and the requirement to give back to others who aren’t so well off, and that’s part of the learning,” said Daly.
Last December the elementary students held a hot chocolate and cookie drive and raised over 450,000 won to buy Christmas toys, games, and other useful items for a local orphanage. They wrapped the gifts and then delivered them to the children.
“The orphanage is quite an eye opener to them,” said Daly.
From community service to all the other extra curricular activities the students do, Daly says it is “creating independence, skills, [and gives the students] a sense of their own identity the fact that they are achieving in something they probably didn’t even know they could do. I think they are actually finding talents and skills they weren’t aware that they had.”
On the success of the first semester, Daly looks to continue improving the school. “One of the things that will slightly change is that we have got a number of overseas trips … planned,” he said.
During the second semester NLCS Jeju students will have the opportunity to visit England, China, and Vietnam.
Senior students, who have been studying Shakespeare as part of their English course, will visit Stratford and London for what is being called “10 plays in 10 days.” Along with experiencing some of the Bard’s work through performance they are being offered the rare opportunity to “acknowledge the understanding of theatre in London and how big it is and how big of an issue it is,” said Daly.
Though very impressive, what Daly has on the docket for next year trumps most overseas trips imaginable.
“Looking forward, we’ve got an American trip planned” to coincide with the US presidential election. “We’ve got a group of students following the Obama campaign ... They will be on the campaign trail so they’ll be following them around and seeing some of the things that he does but mostly working from the central office.”
And it’s not just the NLCS Jeju principal who is excited by the school, but the students as well. Alexis Im, 15, said, “I think the education is really special. It requires a lot of creativity and also the art teacher encourages [us] a lot [saying] ‘You are an artist so be creative, don’t fear.’”
“I think [the teachers] are more personal,” she said. “It feels like it is learning alone in the class because the teacher pays attention to every single person.”
For David Lee, 17, NLCS Jeju has encouraged him to form a rock band which, according to some of his fellow classmates, has made him famous having performed at several music nights. Also, Lee had previously attended a boarding school in the UK, and his parents were only able to visit him twice a year. Now they visit “like twice a month,” Lee said. “They sometimes just visit in the middle of school days.”
Ultimately, Daly has several goals for his school and its students. By the end of NLCS Jeju’s first school year he wants his students to look back and question “‘what have I learned? What have I become? Have I become a person that is more reflective about myself, if I’ve become a person who has actually achieved some aims and ambitions that maybe [I] didn’t realize [I] had.”
For Daly, he wants to see his students challenged and intellectually courageous. He wants them to make lasting relationships with fellow students and to endeavour outside of their comfort zones.
“I want to see students at the end who are smiling and happy and who are contented,” said Daly.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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