▲ With the signing of the agreement to establish an NLCS Jeju branch, parents are pondering the pros and cons of enrolling their children at the prestigious school or if sending them abroad is still the best answer. Photo courtesy JDC
How will a proposed billion dollar education facility affect the local community, local education or jobs? The Jeju Global Education City has made tangible progress by signing on England’s North London Collegiate School, and has promising memorandums of understanding with Canada’s Branksome Hall and St. Albans and St. Georges, both of the U.S. These are prestigious education service providers, with world class, and indeed, trendsetting programs and services. They will, like any business, need to weave themselves into, and interact with, the local community. In this issue we speak to local residents considering the school for their children. Next issue we address the hopes and concerns of Jeju teachers for the project.
Shin Jeong Soo and his wife, Yang Eun Joo have four children, three daughters aged 20, 16 and 14 and a 10 year old son. The couple is seriously weighing the options of sending their children to the JGEC. The children have already studied overseas, but their parents are committed to allowing them to stay in Korea, and particularly, on Jeju. “Jeju students show high, some of the highest, academic scores in Korea,” Shin said. “Jeju has a much better environment for children. They have more opportunities to do creative activities and relax compared to students who dwell in and by hectic city schedules. It’s a [conducive] environment to achieve more in school.”
The family, originally from Seoul, led a busy lifestyle and the children have previously gone to New Zealand and Canada to improve their English skills. That was before the JGEC project evolved. “The idea of sending our children to school in Jeju was immediately appealing for several reasons,” Yang said. “While the school tuition may be expensive, it’s still attractive when you add up the expenses of flights, and that our children’s overseas education may be incompatible with our Korean system. It’s also close to home. The experiences of younger children who go overseas may find their [Korean] identity influenced.” Shin and Yang went one step further and relocated their family to Jeju to “get away from the ‛SKY’ [Korea’s top three universities – Seoul, Korea and Yonsei] pressure. “They felt that a sense of enjoyment is beneficial to the education experiences of their children; right through university.
They were so interested in the JGEC option that they flew all the way to Seoul for a Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) presentation on the project. They both agreed that more information is needed for parents of prospective students: “People need a clear picture of what the curriculum will be, and have a consultation period up to two years before,” Shin said. “This gives time for parents to commit. There’s currently no such process, and so many parents have unanswered questions. The JDC’s question and answer section is minimal.”
Addressing such concerns, JGEC project manager Christopher Bogden said he realizes that parents will have many questions, but that, “it is premature to offer such specific curriculum information before the schools have begun the formal process of locating here. We would never want to provide curriculum information and then have to retract it.” The information can and should only be offered by the institutions themselves.
“They could at least provide a ‛model home’ example of the curriculum and this could attract parents who have their kids overseas now,” Shin said. “Parents may not be worried so much about the tuition costs, but about how effective the education will be compared to the cost.” If the JGEC attracts its target partners, such concerns should not be an issue. Bogden said, “These schools are the elite in their own countries, and Korean parents should realize these schools are second to none. This partner selection is key.”
When asked if the potential schools are familiar with Korean students, Bogden indicated that all are well-prepared. “These schools are familiar with the Korean education consumer and have had experience with Korean students, the family concerns and the caliber of the Korean students. The Koreans have a global reputation as being ‛number one’ students.” Bogden advised interested Korean parents to do their own homework and look up the school Web sites for information. “These school programs will be tailored to meet the Korean market, with the prerequisite Korean language and history courses, but parents should also realize that [the schools] are bringing their world class curriculums to Jeju. This means that students will benefit from the same academic and extra-curricular activities that make the overall experience so great.” Bogden said that students would be involved in extra-curricular activities, and not supplemental (private or academy) learning. “The schools will respond to the students as they would in their own home country.”
So, while many have a wait and see approach to how the Jeju Global Education City will evolve, it’s clear that more and more people are paying attention to the progress. Shin is optimistic. “Jeju has so much going for it if the schools can get started,” he said. “Then there will be positive change in Jeju if this synergy can be created.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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