The Branksome Hall Asia campus in Seogwipo, Jeju Island (BHA)
Sitting on the rocky volcanic coastline of southern Jeju Island is Branksome Hall Asia, an International Baccalaureate school.
The school, Jeju‘s only all International Baccalaureate school, is the first international school in Korea to be named an International School of the Year by ISC Research in 2021.
Founded in 2012, Branksome Hall Asia, is a sister school to Branksome Hall, a 119-year-old independent girls school in Toronto, Canada. Like its sister school, the independent boarding school offers all three IB programs for students aged between 3 and 19.
According to Michael Schreider, Branksome Hall Asia’s deputy principal, the school is dedicated to providing an elite learning experience.
Michael Schreider, Branksome Hall Asia deputy principal (BHA)
Its students have achieved some of the best results of all international schools, earning an overall class average of 38 points -- which makes it one of the top 50 international school worldwide, according to Branksome Hall Asia.
The students’ high academic performance has helped students gain admission to highly respected universities in the world, including the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and London School of Economics.
According to the school, most of its students pursue university education in the US (50 percent), UK (20 percent), Canada (20 percent), and other parts of the world. Many of the students, around 40 percent, go on to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
To help students achieve their best academic outcomes, the school offers a wide range of subjects, different ways of learning and various curricular activities. Through encouraging students to participate in a variety of activities, the school guides students to find their true passions and potential and develop a strong sense of self, according to Schreider.
The goal is to provide students with opportunities so that they can build confidence and a feeling of success as a learner, so they can try their best to aim even higher.
The school puts a strong emphasis on student autonomy and empowerment, and it is what sets the school apart from other schools with traditional competition-with-friends models, Schreider noted.
Schreider said many students may come from “different walks of life academically,” but they leave with similar yet outstanding results, under the wings of Branksome Hall Asia.
To support this end, the school makes great effort to secure quality teaching staff from around the globe. The school said its teachers have received regular training from the IB, and more than 60 percent of the teachers have master’s degrees and beyond. Some come from teaching universities.
High academic achievement is, however, not all that matters in the school, Schreider said.
“What is notable about the school’s success, however, is that all have been achieved within the school’s philosophy” that emphasizes collaboration over competition, he said.
Branksome Hall Asia students (BHA)
Nurturing individuals who are not only competitive but also collaborative is the end goal, according to Schreider. Schreider said the school aims “to foster future leaders that derive better solutions to the world’s real problems collaboratively, and shape a better world together.”
At Branksome Hall Asia, students themselves have also developed their own motto -- “I Shine When You Shine” -- to highlight the importance of working together, Schreider said.
Branksome Hall Asia’s boarding program, in particular, is also designed to help students develop the ability to collaborate and build healthy relationships with others. The school’s boarding program allow students to join a community of friends, peers, seniors and teachers. Teachers and staff members are also dedicated to the well-being of each student and encourage them to form lasting relationships among their peers.
Branksome Hall Asia offers a full and five-day boarding program for students from fifth to 12th grade. Those students in the boarding program are assigned to a group of 10 students and a Boarding Don, a staff member who looks after students. They do a wide range of activities together, from homework to weekend outings and dinners.
Boarding Dons, who come from diverse backgrounds, help students build cultural sensitivity and diversity. The boarding staff also arrange many hands-on activities such as craft and cooking classes during the weekends to help students from different backgrounds mingle.
To encourage cultural diversity within the school, the school also offers Branksome Hall Asia’s International Merit Scholarships to some non-Korean students. The school said there were many scholarship students coming from different countries around the globe, including the US, Hong Kong, China, Germany and Zimbabwe.
“Their contribution to the school community is invaluable,” Schreider said.
Another benefit of the boarding school program is that the school can become a great setting for students to develop a sense of independence and become responsible for their own actions, according to Schreider. As students navigate through their daily lives to fulfill their academic and extracurricular requirements -- away from home and their parents -- they naturally learn to become more self-reliant.
“One of the many advantages of the boarding experience at Branksome Hall Asia is that the students can become independent learners and leaders,” Schreider said.
Students go through a structured schedule throughout the week. There are many activities that students are required to or given the option to participate in. Through the rigorous and structured programs and schedules, students naturally acquire self-management skills and time management skills, as well.
“Living in boarding houses, our students learn to make everyday decisions on their own,” Schreider said.
“As they become independent learners, it is easier for them to think critically on their own and lead their lives. This also helps them build confidence and gives them a true sense of ownership of their lives,” he added.
Branksome Hall Asia also has world-class facilities that students can use for their academic projects and extracurricular activities. The school is equipped with powerful tools that can be used in STEM education, including 3D printers, CAD-CAM routers and laser cutters. In addition, the school has fitness amenities, including an Olympic-size swimming pool and ice rink in addition to a gym, art studio and library.
To support emotional well-being, the school also provides a variety of services to registered students, along with counselors and teachers dedicated to offering mental health programs.