Keystone Academy is bringing an innovative concept of top-tier education to the Beijing academic world. Opening for the 2014-2015 school year, Keystone Academy will fuse elements of an American curriculum with Chinese education to provide a comprehensive, world-class bilingual education for Chinese and foreign students grades 1-12. The Keystone campus will be in the Shunyi district, and initial enrollment will be for students in grades 1-3 and 7-9. Keystone will provide full boarding for students grade 7 and older, recreating and improving upon the rigorous academic setting of the prestigious boarding schools on the East Coast of the US.
Spearheading the project is Keystone Academy President Edward Shanahan. Shanahan states that Keystone aims to be the choice for Chinese families who, to prepare their children for a global world, send their kids to famous boarding schools in the US. At Keystone, Chinese students will get the global education, but not spend their most formative years away from their mother country. “When kids are moving away for secondary school, they lose their connection with Chinese identity: politically, culturally, socially, and linguistically,” says Shanahan.
Though Chinese students will make up a projected 80 percent of the student body, Keystone’s education is also for expat families. “We want Keystone to be the American choice, for American families who want their kids to have a world-class Chinese pre-collegiate experience,” explains Shanahan. Keystone will also initiate exchange programs with US boarding schools. “We want to be a keystone between Western schools and Eastern schools, a place where they can interact,” Shanahan says.
Shanahan foresees that the curriculum will be a modified IB program. Classroom instruction will follow the Harkness Method, which challenges the traditional unquestionable authority of the teacher. The Harnkess Method encourages a conference-like class atmosphere instead of straight instruction, and according to Shanahan, “the teacher is there to be challenged by the students.” Shanahan stresses that teachers will hired with care so as to obtain “really outstanding people who are going to be committed to Keystone for a protracted period of time.”
Parents will play a large role in shaping Keystone. Shanahan recognizes that some parents may be reluctant to send their children to a brand new school, but at Keystone that could be an advantage. “Inaugural parents are going to play a lot bigger role in the academic lives and social lives of their kids” than they would at other international schools around Beijing. “We’re going to be inviting those parents to be partners with us in the first six to 10 years,” says Shanahan.
Another advantage Keystone will offer its students is the full boarding. While Shanahan acknowledges that sending a child to a boarding school can be an emotionally anguishing decision for parents, full boarding has considerable benefits. “The boarding experience imbues kid with that sense of the academy, the global perspective, different cultures, different values, how to resolve conflict constructively, and the creation of a community,” explains Shanahan, who was headmaster at the prestigious American boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall for 20 years.
Before Shanahan’s tenure at Choate Rosemary Hall, he was dean of college at Dartmouth and associate dean of the college and dean of students at Wesleyan University. He continues to serve as the executive director of the Eight Schools Association, a group of renowned New England boarding schools in the US. Joining Shanahan in spearheading the Keystone Academy is Founding Head of School Malcolm McKenzie. McKenzie is currently the head of school at Hotchkiss, a preparatory boarding school in Connecticut, and was principal of both the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales and the Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana.
Photo courtesy of Keystone Academy.