▲ Victoria Prince, the first member of the Branksome Hall Asia Board; JDC chairman Byon Jong Il; Branksome Hall Board of Governors chairman Jim Christie; and principal Karen Murton after the signing. Photo courtesy Caley Taylor Photography
On July 7, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at its Toronto, Canada, campus, Branksome Hall became the second partner school to commit to opening at the Jeju Global Education City. The renowned private school is in good company, following the signing of a contract between JGEC and the North London Collegiate School on March 26. Negotiations are ongoing between JGEC and St. Albans School of Washington, D.C., and a similar agreement would make the Jeju city home to globally recognized institutions from the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
In an e-mail interview, Branksome Hall principal Karen Murton said the school was contacted by the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) more than a year ago and has been liaising with it for many months to the agreement.
“When we were approached by officials from the JDC, we were impressed with their passion for creating a world-class educational city on Jeju Island,” she said. “We were both intrigued and inspired by their dedication to finding the best partner schools and to making this project a success."
The school, to be called Branksome Hall Asia, is expected to open in September 2012 and will eventually cater to at least 1,000 students, ranging from junior kindergarten through to Grade 12. Branksome Hall was founded in 1903 as a girls’ school but is considering a co-educational program for lower grades at its Jeju campus. “What many people may not know is that, many years ago, Branksome Hall had boys in our Toronto kindergarten classes,” Murton said, “so educating young boys is not new to us.”
Both Branksome Hall and NLCS are Inter-national Baccalaureate schools, offering a globally respected program that is popular throughout Europe and now being offered in increasingly more US schools. As such, Murton said, Branksome Hall Asia’s “curriculum framework, course offerings and pedagogy will reflect that of an IB world school.” The campus will offer co-curricular activities including athletics, arts-based activities and programs, and a variety of clubs and societies. “We look forward to the opportunity to utilize the unique and beautiful natural environment of Jeju Island in terms of the school’s academic and co-curricular offerings,” Murton said.
Students at the Toronto school provide tutoring and mentoring to younger students at inner-city schools as well as taking part in community service programs overseas. Murton said such programs were “wonderful reciprocal learning opportunities.” “We anticipate that the students of BH Asia will participate in similar programs – both locally and internationally, as service is a key component of our school’s mission and vision,” she said. She also hoped to include Branksome Hall Asia students in the mother school’s exchange program, and, “of course,” add Canada to the list of host countries.
▲ Students at Branksome Hall. Photo courtesy Caley Taylor Photography
Murton said she felt “truly honored to be leading this historical initiative.” “We have been educating students from South Korea, including Jeju Island, for over 20 years,” she said. “I see Branksome Hall Asia as a way of forging international friendships and partnerships.”
Jim Christie, chairman of the Branksome Hall Board of Governors, echoed Murton’s sentiments and thanked JDC and the Korean government for their assistance and congratulated them on “being so visionary.” “I think this partnership will provide students in both Canada and Korea with an unbelievable opportunity to see and experience the world from a broader perspective,” he said. This will further enhance the educational experience for students at Branksome Hall and, ultimately, better prepare them for the global environment in which they will be operating upon graduation.
JDC chairman Byon Jong Il, who signed the agreement together with Murton and Christie at Branksome Hall, Canada, welcomed the school to the project. “With Jeju’s pristine natural environment and its ambitious vision for a free international city, Jeju Global Education City is the perfect place to take advantage of world-class educational programs without going abroad,” he said.
As of early 2008, more than 27,000 Korean elementary, middle and high school students went overseas to study, and it is hoped JGEC will both reduce the number of Koreans studying abroad and attract students from the neighboring countries of China, Japan and Taiwan.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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