At noon on Friday, March 26, in London, Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) CEO, Mr. Byon Jong-Il, will sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with North London Collegiate School (NLCS) to establish the first overseas campus in Jeju Global Education City. North London Collegiate School-Jeju will become the first partner school to open in the Global Education City, scheduled for September 2011. Friday's MoA signing in London is a major step in Jeju Global Education City's quest to become the education hub of Northeast Asia.
North London Collegiate School was established in 1850 by Frances Mary Buss, a pioneering campaigner for the endowment of girls' schools, and has consistently ranked as the UK's top International Baccalaureate school. The school has also repeatedly outperformed other prestigious IB schools in terms of Oxbridge success rates among its students. Bernice McCabe, the school's headmistress, stresses that NLCS does not encourage students to be competitive; "They are not ranked and there are no class positions or annual prize-givings," she says, "since things like that would just put too much pressure on them." McCabe believes that the school's stellar performance over the past couple of decades is largely attributable to its unique educational spirit of teaching students to "think on their feet, instead of relying on the teachers' input," and maintaining the school culture of "less spoon-feeding, more intellectual independence." This is what the Jeju Global Education City ultimately seeks; an entire city where learning is self-directed, engaging and encourages creativity. NLCS, which is girls' only in the U.K., will be a co-educational school in Jeju, serving up to 1,400 students.
As increasing numbers of Korean students choose schools outside of Korea to obtain a competitive edge, the NLCS education philosophy, coupled with the exclusive ambience of Jeju, should be welcomed by Korean parents as a refreshing, cost-effective alternative to overseas study. Several memorandums of understanding have been signed with other prestigious schools in Canada and the United States. The goal is for Jeju's 3.7-million-square- meter Education City to be the home for up to 12 elementary, middle and high schools, a university zone, residential and cultural facilities, as well as commercial amenities.
Jeju Global Education City is located within two hours, travel of 700 million people, "more than twice the population of the US and Canada combined," said project manager Christopher Bogden. For Korea, it will enable families that now send their children overseas to study English to keep their spending in the country, and to spend comparatively less. It will also provide access to the vast market of 90 million Chinese primary and secondary students, 210,000 of whom study abroad.
Byon Jong-il, chairman of the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC), which spearheads the Education City project, believes Jeju Island is the best choice for international education because of its unique nature, where local and foreign investors can enjoy tax and investment benefits, as well as Jeju's natural environment. With Mount Halla in the distance and surrounded by preserved natural forests, the site of the Education City is less than a five-minute drive from the picturesque southern coast. "The environment surrounding Jeju Global Education City offers an array of extra-curricular opportunities. Horseback riding, hiking, golf, sea kayaking and scuba diving are all available within a short distance," Byon said.
The Education City will be Korea's first fully-functional, self-sufficient English education city where English is the primary language, both inside and out of the classroom. Bogden said, "The intent is to educate all the children in these schools in English, to create an immersion environment for them, even when they're outside the classroom. The English language will fuse everything happening here, educationally, commercially and residentially." JDC chose Itami Jun, a famous Korean-Japanese architect, as the master architect for the city to ensure "it all works together synergistically with the environment." Jun, who has designed several site-specific projects for Jeju previously, said that to incorporate Jeju's natural beauty into a specifically functional space is of the most interest to him.
Plans are for the Global Education City to accommodate up to 9,000 students, from kindergarten through high school level, once the school zone is completed. Plans for the university zone envision 10 or more universities sharing a single campus. With the exception of classes in Korean language and Korean history, all instruction will be in English. Businesses that are invited to set up in the city must also use English in everyday commerce.