"More than 50,000 Korean children leave for English-speaking countries annually and nearly five trillion won is consumed for their English education,” said Park Chul-hee, Manager of Edu-City Department, Jeju Development Center.
Jeju is at the center of an effort to stem the tide of young Korean students leaving the country to pursue an education abroad. Korea's first full-time, English Education City is now under construction in Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo, Jeju with a target completion date of 2015, at an estimated cost of 1.2 billion USD.
"More than 50,000 Korean children leave for English-speaking countries annually and nearly five trillion won is consumed for their English education,” said Park Chul-hee, the Jeju Development Center official in charge of the project. “This type of city will help reduce the spending and let children learn English without living apart from their family, which has caused many social problems,"
Twelve schools will serve elementary through high school students The new city will cover an area of 4.5 square kilometers and will include 12 schools: four elementary schools, five middle schools, and three international high schools. It will be able to accommodate about 9,000 students and teachers and feature a language immersion curriculum.
Three of the schools (one elementary, one middle, and one high school) will open in March 2011 as a pilot project. This is part of a series of large development projects initiated by the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) in an effort to turn the island into an education hub in Asia, both as a future industry, and to bolster the local economy.
"We believe the Education City will serve as an essential and strong growth engine that will lead balanced national development and be a pivotal move to position Jeju as an international city," Park said.
The idea of creating the town came as a way to slow the exodus of young Koreans leaving to study in foreign countries, thereby minimizing social and economic side effects such as the "lonely father" phenomenon and the burden on the international balance of payments due to a rapid increase in money transfers stemming from early study abroad. Korean mothers often accompany one or more child abroad, thus separating the family, sometimes for years.
Teachers will be from English-speaking countries The curriculum will meet international standards, but the schools will have discretion regarding the specific curriculum and textbooks employed as well as operational matters involving the admission procedures and scheduling.
Teachers from English-speaking countries will teach all subjects in English, except for those courses offered on Korean language and Korean history. Korean students will obtain the same academic background and credentials that they would in the regular school system.
With the all-English curriculum, the Education City could also meet the educational needs of international students from English-speaking countries. There is currently no school on Jeju that can accommodate them. The policies, rules, and regulations on the qualifications, establishment, admission procedures, and facilities were transferred to the Jeju government in order to facilitate the smooth administration of those schools.
To create an ideal English-immersion environment, the project operator is considering inviting retired teachers from English-speaking countries or running teacher exchange programs. In an effort to attract renowned foreign education institutes, the local government has also eased regulations, to help foreign investors take benefits generated here out of the country.
The project garnered highly positive responses from parents and students. According to JDC, a survey showed that 45,000 teenagers would enroll in English-only schools on the island rather than schools overseas. While the project is aimed at keeping Korean students in Korea, there is also a potential to serve the Southeast Asian overseas education market. The number of international schools in Thailand, China and Singapore, has grown by 100, 91 and 40 respectively over the last 10 years. The Jeju Global Education City could provide these students with an English education closer to home.
Education City will offer total English immersion While the focus is on education, the site will be an entire city based on English. An Educational Culture and Art Center will enable students to use English for extra-curricular activities such as sports, arts and culture. It is modeled after the Chautauqua Institution in New York, which features performances and exhibits by artists from around the world.
Plans include a shopping mall and hospital, and arts and culture facilities and a continuing education program. Images of English speaking countries will be featured throughout the city, and business names and street signs will be in English.
For students from all over Korea and perhaps the rest of Asia, Jeju is bringing the English-speaking world to them.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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