▲ Jeju Global Education City has come in for criticism but its problems are shared with other international schools in Korea. Photo courtesyJeju Global Education City
Jeju Global Education City (JGEC) in Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo City, has been hit with more criticism for the low percentage of international students attending its schools. North London Collegiate School Jeju (NLCS Jeju) and Branksome Hall Asia (BHA) report that below 10 percent of their students are non-Korean at the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) project which opened in 2011.
Park Sang-eun of the ruling New Frontier Party was reported in The Korea Times Oct. 28 as criticizing JGEC for its low rate of foreign enrolment. From a total of 735 students, only 66 at NLCS Jeju are international, coming from eight foreign countries. The remainder are from Korea, with 302 students from Seoul and 108 from Gyeonggi Province. BHA Asia is similarly criticized for having just 46 international students and 490 Korean students.
JGEC is one of the flagship projects of JDC across Jeju Island and three schools currently operate at the site: KIS Jeju (Korean); NLCS Jeju (British); and BHA (Canadian). In close partnership with its mother school in London, NLCS Jeju was the first private international school to open its doors in in Sept. 2011, while BHA Asia followed in Oct. 2012 in partnership with its Toronto sister school. KIS Jeju, also opening in Sept. 2011, is Korean-owned.
The schools are no strangers to criticism, with locals having complained of a lack of opportunities for local students, high dropout rates and unfair benefits going to staff and their children, all of which JDC have refuted. In the latest spat, the international credentials and quality of the schools have been called into question. Glen Radojkovich, principal of BHA, says despite over 90 percent of students being Korean, the education on offer is of an international standard.
“It is not uncommon for international schools to have host nation students as the majority of students represented and is to be expected in a new school. At BHA we have the additional benefit of having over 40 Branksome Hall Canada students living and learning on campus as part of our exchange for a period of the year,” he said.
Radojkovich, not concerned about the current student demographics, says the education at BHA speaks for itself and the school is actively recruiting in Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Singapore and Russia, “to name but a few.” The annual growth reflects the school’s long-term targets: “It takes time to grow a reputation nationally and then internationally; we were always aware of this.”
Lawmaker Park claims, however, that regulations should be tightened and a quota set in place for domestic students. He feels families are being shortchanged in paying for a less-than-international experience: “I agree with the importance of international schools for nurturing global talent, but their high tuition, which amounts to twice an average employee’s yearly salary, is complete nonsense.”
While NLCS Jeju and BHA have around 90 percent Korean students, for KIS Jeju the rate is as high as 97 percent, according to Joongang Daily. The Jeju Weekly also confirmed that the JGEC schools do in fact lag behind their mainland competitors in foreign student numbers.
KIS Jeju’s partner school, KIS Pangyo, in Gangwon Province, reports that 20 percent of its students are international, which reflects Busan International Foreign School, 17 percent, and Asia Pacific International School, Seoul, at 20 percent.
The standout school in the nation is Chadwick International in Songdo, Incheon. Joongang Daily reports it is alone in setting a 30 percent quota for Korean students, although this is to rise to 40 percent from 2014. Korean lawmakers have called for a similar quota at all international schools.
These figures, while showing the JGEC institutes have work to do, also indicate that schools across the country similarly struggle to attract non-Korean students. In fact, even schools in large and cosmo-politan overseas schools in Tokyo, Taipei and Beijing report that domestic students are comfortably in the majority.
The schools at the JGEC will be looking to improve annually, aware that the young project has only just entered its second year. The Jeju schools, however, do not seem overly concerned about current enrolment rates, in line with their initial projections.
Above all else, parents want to know whether schools will guarantee entry to prestigious universities. Officials and faculty at the JGEC are confident that once their results become known uncertainty around their project will evaporate. In a recent interview with The Jeju Weekly, NLCS Head Peter Daly said his school’s results will do the talking.
“[W]hen our results are out at the end of this year we are going to be overwhelmed ... our students will get into some of the best universities in the world.”
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