▲ Branksome Hall Asia's new campus comes with common educational facilities like a gymnasium and cafeteria, and some not-so-common like a hockey rink, a black box theatre, and two sound recording studios. Photos by The Jeju Weekly
With only days until Branksome Hall Asia holds its Opening Ceremony on Oct. 29, Principal Glen Radojkovich gave the The Jeju Weekly an exclusive tour of his school’s 82,000 square-meter campus.
As part of the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC)’s Jeju Global Education City (JGEC), initiated by the Roh Moo Hyun administration to prevent students going abroad to earn an international education, talks between Toronto, Canada’s prestigious all girls school began two and a half years ago.
After much deliberation, signing of MOAs and MOUs, and over a year of construction, the school opened for its first semester this past Oct. 15, welcoming a total of 320 students.
Radojkovich said the student breakdown is roughly 70 percent Korean, with 30 percent Korean students who were previously studying abroad, and about 20 international students.
After last year’s North London Collegiate School and Korea International School, Branksome Hall Asia is the third international school to open within the JGEC, located in Daejeong, Seogwipo City. In total the education city is expected to be home to seven schools and a university.
“I couldn’t be happier to be honest,” Radojkovich told The Weekly over lunch in Branksome Hall Asia’s cafeteria about the opening of his school as at least a hundred students loudly chattered and tucked into their meals.
With any new school he said there are “so many little things that need to be ironed out,” particularly in the beginning, but he has been truly impressed with “how seamlessly the staff and students have come together and how positive everyone has been.”
He continued that they were fortunate to have facilities that are “second to none,” but he emphasized that their goal is to ensure that “the quality of education that goes on within the school is what we are known for.”
With its mother school’s history going back over a hundred years, Branksome Hall Asia has the benefit of being “a clean slate, a blank canvas.” This allows for the school to take the best aspects of the Canadian school and implement it here, Radojkovich said, while introducing new advancements within the foundation of the school’s educational philosophy.
During the tour it became apparent that the implementation of cutting-edge technology, and its utilization, was one of the new advancements Radojkovich was talking about.
While walking through the massive campus evidence of technology being at the foundation of the school was everywhere.
The classrooms are equipped with large touch screen televisions and video cameras for students to review lectures at leisure from their dorms. The design and technology studios have 3D printers and other machines that he said are not available in Korea and had to be purchased from elsewhere. Even the swimming pool has a Jumbotron to review instant replay of heats.
This is in line with the schools 3-1 policy which sees that all students have a cell phone, an iPad, and a laptop. As Radojkovich emphasized, the school teaches the importance of these devices, how to use them, and more importantly, how to use them properly. The school even has its own social networking site to keep parents up to date on events, while also used to instruct the students to properly establish and maintain their digital reputations.
Designed by Singaporean architect Phan Pit Li, the campus includes a Wellness Center that houses the cafeteria, the Olympic Aquatic Center, a hockey rink, a huge gymnasium with floor to ceiling windows, two yoga studios, an exercise room, and other recreational facilities.
From there we jettisoned via golf cart to the Learning Pods, which are three cylinder shaped buildings that house the elementary, middle, and high school departments. The entire campus is connected through underground tunnels so during bad weather students can go from one area of the school to the other without being exposed to the elements. The only part of the campus not connected to the underground tunnel is the Wellness Center.
Within the pods, the three floors are where the students take most of their classes. Running within the center of each pod from ceiling to floor is what Radojkovich called a rain catcher, a large essentially hollow tube that distributes the collected rainwater throughout the campus. The rain catcher also works as a focal point within the pods and, especially for the younger students, acts as a communal space where parents can mingle while waiting for their children.
Some of the facilities one does not usually see in grade school are Branksome Hall Asia’s two sound studios, one for music, the other for film; a black box theatre, which is essentially an amorphous space; tennis courts; and a screen golf driving range with putting green.
Though only having opened for classes three days before The Weekly’s visit, the students seemed already accustomed to their new campus and routine.
At the end of the hour and a half tour through the sprawling campus, Radojkovich reiterated that though the facilities are quite impressive, they would be nothing without students.
“The exciting thing for me is seeing the campus come to life with kids. It’s been building for quite some time, buildings that we’ve been working in, loving them … once the students have arrived, that is what it’s all about. … Ensuring that the kids are happy and safe.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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