Odyssey School was established by remodeling the space of a library belonging to SMOE, instead of occupying an independent space. While it would take too long to obtain actual school facilities, there was no need to hold substantial space, because only 40 students joined Odyssey School for the first year of operation. In 2016, the number of students increased to 90, when larger space needed. However, instead of constructing an independent school building, the decision was made to use part of the SMOE buildings for the educational space needed for Odyssey School.
Currently, Odyssey School is operated in a decentralized campus system, where two public institution buildings belonging to the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and two school spaces and one library space belonging to SMOE are used for the educational space. The greatest advantage of the Odyssey’s scattered campus, instead of locating in single independent space, is to bind the school with the regions where its facilities are located by using their infrastructure, not confined to the walls of a school building. For example, the library can be utilized as the infrastructure related to books, and the public institutes affiliated with SMG can provide an opportunity to cooperate with the NGOs or social enterprises partnered with the public institutes, which seek social innovation.
In addition, the independence of each program operator becomes strengthened, leading to stronger diversity, as though five smaller schools are operated inside Odyssey School. However, one downside is that the educational philosophy of Odyssey School cannot be realized through the school space. This is why consistent advocates exist for independent space that best embodies the educational philosophy of Odyssey School. Figure 2 shows the campus locations of Odyssey School.
The above table, Table 1, is part of the recruitment notice released after establishing Odyssey School. At the time, the operators were not confident about how many students would actually apply for Odyssey School. This was considered as a major risk to seek a new type of education for one year away from the conventional education system where 12-year schooling from grade 1 in elementary schools to senior year in high schools is continuous. Moreover, the freshman year in high schools is especially important when taking the university entrance exam, so students were difficult to determine whether taking a year off from a general high School, discovering themselves to design their futures.
However, despite the concerns, a large number of students applied in response to the recruitment notice. It revealed that many students were suffering from intense competition to absorb and retain extensive knowledge and obtain better grades than their classmates over the courses for 12 years just to be admitted to high-ranked universities. There were numerous students who did not understand why they needed to study so hard, who had lost their confidence as a result of being compared to other students, who wanted to study in their fields of interest rather than the given subjects, and who wanted to communicate with the world instead of being trapped inside classrooms and confined to the knowledge provided by textbooks. To the students, Odyssey School could be a place to experience a new type of education differentiated from the conventional type of education, following and unleashing their desires to learn extracted from their hearts.
Students who are admitted to Odyssey School through the process could be roughly categorized, as shown in Table 2.
The student population of Odyssey School has diverse characteristics rather than a single type. Students apply to Odyssey School, having their own concerns and goals. The diversity in the student population is a major force to achieve the educational goals of Odyssey School. The diversity is also observed in general Schools, but they are prioritized for effective learning where diversity is treated as a barrier for the class efficiency. In a classroom where interactions among classmates are not popular, students tend to be friendly with those who look similar to them and have plenty of room to hide.
At Odyssey School, on the other hand, all students, about 20, with 3 teachers must interact with each other, where they do everything together, engaging in the community activities and giving feedback to classmates as part of their everyday lives, so, the educational dynamism resulting from diversity is composed. Initially, some conflicts arise inevitably, because students are forced to interact with other students whom they do not like. However, the conflicts also act as a valuable asset to the Odyssey education.