- Toronto sister school visit was semester’s “icing on the cake,” says principal
|Principal Glen Radojkovich, center, said the exchange was “the icing on the cake” to a successful first few months. Photo courtesy Branksome Hall Asia|
Branksome Hall Asia (BHA) bade farewell to 31 Canadian students March 27 after a successful exchange trip, the first of its kind in Korea. The students from Toronto spent two weeks in classes at BHA, visiting tourist sites and spending time with students from their sister school in Jeju Global Education City (JGEC) in Daejeong-eup.
BHA was established on Oct. 15, 2012, and Principal Glen Radojkovich described the successful exchange as “the icing on the cake” after a successful semester, as the students broke up for the easter holidays.
The JGEC now hosts three international schools, NLCS, KIS and BHA, with St Johnsbury and more soon to follow. The project has attracted some criticism due to the high percentage of Koreans enrolled, prompting some parents to question its international education brand. Radojkovich believes such exchanges are crucial to challenge this perception.
“The exchange is of strategic benefit, ensuring a North American and an Asian connection...The students were able to explore both the country and the classroom to get an understanding of the culture,” he said.
Such was the success of the exchange that there are plans to extend the program to eight weeks in the future.
“We didn’t anticipate how quickly they’d become friends - it was instantaneous,” said Radojkovich.
|Exchange students got a taste of classroom life at BHA. Photo courtesy Branksome Hall Asia|
The Canadian students echoed Radojkovich’s sentiments. At the closing ceremony, student Briana Wilson said, “As we say goodbye, we are deeply grateful...we share the same values and aspirations.” Fellow student, Kate MacMillan, said, “I didn’t expect to bond so well.”
The girls The Weekly met all spoke of the success of the trip and how they enjoyed visiting Jeju’s tourist sites, along with its other attractions.
“The shopping was amazing,” MacMillan said.
The visiting students expressed their keenness to return the hospitality and show the BHA students the delights of Canada, such as maple syrup and pancakes. Radojkovich felt it was the Continued on page 5 Continued from page 1 shared identity of Branksome that helped overcome any cultural barriers.
“We expected it to take more time, but they were already Branksome girls so they had that group connection. We will continue this program when [BHA] students visit Canada for three weeks... [and] they will stay connected elec-tronically,” said Radojkovich.
BHA is the first international school in Korea to introduce such an exchange program. Kevin Byun, Operating Director of Haewul Academic Foundation, managing North London Collegiate School (NLCS) and BHA at the JGEC, said, “It is a valuable asset in the [BHA] curriculum... it is a pioneering plan among international schools.”
Byun described the program as “top notch” and said it will become a compulsory part of the curriculum in the near future, currently being optional. Byun went on to praise the BHA education product: “when people see the facilities, their jaws drop...and the hardware should be matched by the quality of education.”
Reflecting on BHA as part of an expanding JGEC, Byun recognized that “the pie is limited” and schools will have to market themselves as independent institutions with unique attributes to stand out from the crowd of acronyms at JGEC.
“Korean parents’ passion for education is even stronger than religious conviction... [and to appeal to them] we need to focus on what makes [BHA] unique and differentiates us ,” said Byun.
Around 13.5 percent of NLCS students are currently non-Korean, as are 16 percent of BHA students. Byun recognizes this is a statistic that needs to be addressed - despite it exceeding expectations - if schools are to market themselves as truly international. Accordingly, he is currently “narrowing down targets” to increase international enrolment.
In the meantime, there is no better publicity than word of mouth and one student overheard at the closing ceremony of the exchange program had this to say: “it was amazing.”
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