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Monday, August 16, 2010

From the Ground Up

Aug. 16 (Jeju Weekly) A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Aug. 4 at the site of North London Collegiate School Jeju — the first foreign school that will open in Jeju Global Education City. NLCS signed the contract for its Jeju campus in March, on the 160th anniversary of its founding. The prestigious girls-only institution has consistently been ranked the U.K.’s top International Baccalaureate School.

The education city is a government-led national project overseen by the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC), which is affiliated with the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. Vice Minister Kwon Do Youp spoke at the ceremony of the importance of JGEC to Korea in economic, educational and social terms. Every year Korean families spend more than $1 billion to educate students abroad, draining capital from the country and creating social problems by separating families for long periods of time. It is hoped that JGEC will not only allow local students to study at an international level within Korea, but that it will draw foreign students from Japan, China and elsewhere.

Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min and National Assemblyman Kim Woo Nam were among the many dignitaries present at the ceremony. Helen Stone, chairwoman of NLCS; Claire Froomberg, director of NLCS Enterprises; and Peter Daly, headmaster designate of NLCS Jeju represented the U.K. school. Representatives of Canada’s Branksome Hall, which plans to open its Jeju campus in September 2012, also attended.

The London school is girls-only but NLCS Jeju will include boys, although classes will be mainly single gender between the ages of 10 to 16. The school aims to cater to 1,400 students, with 568 places available in its inaugural 2011 academic year. Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities will be an integral part of the school program and student exchanges are planned between the London and Jeju campuses. Both Korean national and NLCS diplomas will be awarded, allowing students the option of continuing their studies in Korea or abroad.

Planned facilities include a performing arts center, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, dining hall and student residences.

In her speech, Stone spoke of her own education at NLCS and said it gave her the confidence to pursue a career in civil engineering, a highly unusual choice for a young woman at the time.

In an interview the following day, Stone said she first came to Jeju in October 2008 on an exploratory visit and was excited to be involved in the JGEC project.

“We were very impressed indeed with the presentations that Jeju made to us,” she said. “They described the concept of the Global Education City and we just felt that this was something that we would like to be involved with. It sounded incredibly ambitious but the more we looked into the project, the more realistic it became. We did various explorations and had a lot of discussions in London and looked carefully at the project but we felt convinced that this was the place we would like to come to, so here we are at this stage having done our ground-breaking ceremony and construction is underway.”

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