GIS student’s amazing achievement

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A student who overcame incredible challenges to complete a pre-university course has been praised by his teachers.

Kyoungjun Lee, or Paul, studied for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Garden International School (GIS). He recently found out that despite several disabilities, including cerebral palsy, he had been awarded the Diploma.

Paul, who lives in Pattaya, said he was “relieved, excited and delighted” when finding out his grades.

For his examinations, GIS, which is based in Ban Chang near Pattaya, provided Paul with extra support, such as having a scribe to write down answers, larger examination papers and more time – all in line with IB rules.

Former GIS student Paul, who overcame the odds to gain the IB Diploma.Former GIS student Paul, who overcame the odds to gain the IB Diploma.

Paul said he wanted to take the IB course at GIS because he “wanted to prove to others that having a physical disability does not mean that I am also stupid.”

Paul, who is from Korea, has mild cerebral palsy which results in difficulties walking and also has trouble with finger movements, so writing is a challenge. He is also significantly dyslexic so reading textbooks was difficult.

The 20-year-old explained how this has made studying harder: “In basic terms, I have a great deal of problems in reading and writing.  Nearly all study, particularly at higher levels, is heavily dependent on both these skills.”

Throughout his school career, Paul has had help from several mentors, and he said this had been crucial.

“I have had excellent support from my mentors outside school. My first was a vital and valuable survival resource for about 10 years. When he died, I was deeply bereaved. I was fortunate to find another mentor for most of my IB course.”

As well as having a mentor, Paul was given considerable support from the GIS teachers. Paul said, “I was very well supported by GIS. I had a series of excellent scribes who wrote for me and helped me in reading, too.  My teachers were supportive and encouraged me. During the examinations, I had the support, cooperation and writing skills of many teachers to take my dictation without helping me to answer the questions. I thank all the staff, individually and collectively, for all the support and encouragement that they offered me.”

The IB course is the world’s leading pre-university course and Paul said to be awarded the Diploma was extremely difficult for any student. He also had some words of advice for students thinking about doing the course.

He added, “IB is challenging.  It is not based on teachers giving information or facts and the students having to learn it and then express it back again in exams. Philosophically, it is dependent on students learning to think for themselves and do lots of independent study.

“You need to have adequate support outside school as well as from teachers and fellow students. IB prepares you better for undergraduate and postgraduate studying and creates and develops skills for each of us to become life-long learners in a creative and rigorous way.”

Paul, who was also voted Student Council President during his time at GIS, now has a new goal – a university placement. He explained: “I want to study Psychology at the University of Queensland, Australia, or maybe another Australian university.”

Whichever university Paul attends, he is keen to give something back to his community and help others who face similar challenges. Paul said, “I am strongly drawn to doing something for disability rights.  After my first degree, I want to train as a counsellor so that I can help others to deal with the problems, pressures and prejudices faced by physical disabilities.  I also want to be an advocate for disability rights.”

Ian Fraser, IB Coordinator at GIS said, “Paul constantly impressed everyone at GIS with his determination, drive and effort. We have many wonderful students at GIS who achieve excellent results, but for Paul to gain the IB Diploma is remarkable. We are very proud to have been able to help Paul, and we wish him all the best for the future.”

GIS Principal Dr Stuart Tasker added, “Paul is a shining example of what can be achieved if you really want something.”

GIS, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has been offering the IB Diploma Programme since 1998. For more, visit www.gardenrayong.com.