Keystone Academy, Beijing’s upcoming boarding school modeled on the top boarding schools of the US, will have its first academic year next fall. Dr. Edward Shanahan, whose long and illustrious career included positions as Dean of Dartmouth College and Headmaster of Choate Rosemary Hall, is now Keystone’s founding president, sat down with me a few months ago for an interview of jingkids Magazine’s June issue. The following features excerpts from a translated version of that article, in which Dr. Shanahan explains boarding school and what makes Keystone so unique.
The Boarding Experience
The boarding experience allows a child to be learning 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that both academically and socially the student is continually engaging with faculty and with other students. Outside of the classroom, faculty at Keystone will also live on every floor in the dormitories, so if a student has any questions about any of their assignments or any work they’re doing, they can turn to the faculty members for assistance. Students will have exposure to kids from different parts of China, certainly from Beijing, and different parts of the world.
And whether they realize it or not, our students are going to have a global experience as a result of not just studying with, but living with, having fun with, and watching TV with, students from different cultures. The friendships that are created in a boarding setting are often life-changing and they are forever friendships, whether it is with a faculty member or with a roommate or a housemate. During those formative years those relationships tend to endure in very special ways.
There’s no question that the level of preparation that a student gets in a boarding school pays enormous dividends for students when they go to American universities. They know how to deal with adjusting to a different, not only academic environment, but a social environment. They have experienced a level of appropriate freedom that they might not have if they’re at home and their parents are programming them to do their studies and go to this kind of help session and that kind of help session, but boarding school encourages children to develop self-motivation, an appropriate freedom, and that pays enormous dividends when those students arrive at American university and in effect hit the ground running
Maintaining Family Ties
We want students to have a boarding experience, but we want also for the boarding experience to enhance the relationship between parents and their children. Nowadays, it’s a lot easier for parents to remain engaged in their children’s life if they are boarders. You’ve got Skype, Facebook, the internet, and text messaging. So [there are many ways]for them to connect.
Most of our students, I would imagine, will come from the Beijing area, so it would be relatively easy for parents to visit on game days, and to come to the performing arts center, etc. We probably will not be inviting parents to drop in and stay around school in the middle of school days because that would be disruptive, or could be disruptive. But there will be a parents’ advisory committee that will help not only on the academic side but also on the residential side.
Keystone’s Educational Model
We want to capture the best of Chinese education. For example, there’s ample evidence that the Chinese approach to mathematics has some real benefits that we don’t capture in Western societies. So it’s trying to capture the best of that, the best of international education, and what’s going on in other countries around the world – which is why we’re doing the International Baccalaureate for middle years and high school, and the International Primary Curriculum for the Primary Years.
These are international curricula that are practiced at thousands of schools around the world and they’ve been around for 50 years. We also want to capture the best of the New England boarding school tradition. We want to capture these three threads, weave them together in a Chinese and English context and add the boarding component to support what’s going to happen in the classroom. This constellation of characteristics I think does not now exist in China and we hope it creates a very exciting new paradigm for Chinese education.
Click here to find out more information about Dr. Shanahan.
Photo courtesy Keystone Academy