Political tensions between higher education institution jeopardizes opportunities for future international students
The imprecise evaluation of GEC (Global Education City) by the JEO (Jeju Education Office) is heating political tensions between the JDC (Jeju Development Center) and the JEO. The current topic of discussion is whether or not the GEC needs another international school. As JDC manages the overall operation in the GEC, the JDC has been continuously requesting the JEO's approval to construct a new international school since 2019.
Despite this effort, the JEO has continued to reject the JDC’s proposals to build new international schools in the area due to the city being underpopulated with international students. However, the JDC’s annual report on the statistics and evaluation of the GEC over the past three years has spotlighted that all four of the schools currently in the area will soon reach maximum capacity.
“The GEC has grown remarkably in terms of student enrollment rate, college entrance performance, and quality of education," the chairman of the JDC, Moon Dae-rim, said, "As the recruitment rate is expected to be 100% within the next year or two, it is urgent to invite new schools.”
The interview that Mr. Moon had with media channels in October claims that because the GEC is popular, the swift rise in the number of potential international students will soon become a concern because those students will not be able to get a chance to enroll, leaving many students without an option.
Meanwhile, the JEO’s comments on the GEC are radically different from the JDC’s annual report evaluations. "Quality management is more important than new attractions," superintendent of the JEO, Lee Seokmoon, said. "The number of international students predicted when designing the city has decreased by 75%, and the estimated population has also decreased significantly due to the decline in fertility rates. We need to discuss using school sites in English education cities for public purposes."
These adverse evaluations of the GEC came from the JEO’s superintendent office only four months before the JDC’s annual report in the same year. The current assessment of the GEC is widely contrasting between the two parties. Regardless of how political education institutions evaluate the GEC, what is vital when questioning the need for another international school in the GEC is to collect opinions from the GEC schools directly.
“International schools will reach their capacities as the JDC mentioned,” Director of Human Resources in KISJ, Ms. Cave said. “To continuously grow creative minds and global leaders, I do believe that it is time for another international school soon, considering new schools’ construction and growing periods.”
Considering that Ms. Cave can perceive statistics from international schools directly with new students and faculty enrollment rates compared to the schools’ capacities, it's framed that international schools and the JDC share relatively the same datasets. The GEC’s overpopulated conditions aren’t necessarily recognizable by percentages and numbers; it is obvious from the traffic itself.
“The comment from the JEO’s office is questionable,” KISJ Junior, Jiwun Kim, said. “See how many hagwons and more restaurants are built every day; it is telling conflicting stories.”
Over the past decade, the GEC has gone through endless development to emerge into a reputable academic community. These educational and hospitality businesses have emerged for a reason. There are restaurants, including big franchises, joining the GEC as they see a business opportunity given the growing popularity of this city.
Most claims and evidence are siding with the JDC’s vision. The combination of the JDC’s statistical reports, testimonies, and commentaries in the GEC local school population themselves spotlight the questionable nature of the superintendent of the JEO's comment to the extent that it may need fact-checking before public statements.
“We take leaders in various fields, creating great minds, urging critical thinking skills which differs from Korean public schools as they focus more on test-taking abilities, different from real-life application skills,” Ms. Cave said. It is undoubtedly encouraging for the GEC to hear that the increasing population means more leaders are taking the global initiative making the city more novel everyday. Yet, John Kim, a current junior in KISJ who has attended this school since its opening, introduces a new perspective to this community. While the GEC waits for the JDC and the JEO's political tension to be resolved, the GEC can also consider this concern part of a deliberate reflection.
“My concern is not about adding international schools, [but] the quality, and passion of new students these schools are taking,” John continued, “As my years in KISJ continued, I saw international schools focusing more on expansion rather than accepting students who are genuinely interested and talented in becoming global leaders... some students who joined this community lately have blurry interest in our school’s mission, and it is a concern if this number of students increases overtime with more schools."
Benny Hwang is a senior at Korea International School, Jeju Campus, with a passion for policy and people. He intends to attend university in the United States, where he will major in international relations and public policy.