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American-style Boarding School to Open in Beijing

August, 2012
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img_4503What Does the ‘School of the Future’ Look Like? On August 4th, an education salon on this topic was held at the Beijing-Hong Kong Jockey Club House. Three renowned educators, Dr. Edward Shanahan, Executive Director of America’s “Eight Schools Association” and former president of Choate Rosemary Hall; Mr. Malcolm H. McKenzie, President of Hotchkiss, also a member of the “Eight Schools Association,” and Mr. Liu Changming, Principal of Beijing No. 4 Middle School, sat down with students, parents and educators to discuss the future of education and the possibilities of another type of education in China. The event was organized by Keystone Academy, an American-style boarding school to be opened in Beijing in September 2014.

Dr. Shanahan, now the president of Keystone Academy, introduced the new school to the audience with a slideshow of the future campus, the school mission and the types of education to be offered.

Keystone is essentially a Chinese private school for Chinese families, with up to 80 per cent of the students from Chinese families and the rest from international families. The school is committed to providing a world‐class education to prepare students, grades 1 through 12, for life as well as for admission to the finest colleges and universities in the United States and globally.

keystone-campusThe idea behind Keystone, according to Dr. Shanahan, is to have an alternative approach to the traditional way for Chinese students to prepare for Western universities. The traditional way requires Chinese families to send their children away to America, for example, to attend junior middle school for 3 years, then high school for another 4 years before entering university. The children have to leave their home, their native language and culture for those very formative years, which is a heavy price for both the families and the children to pay.

The founders of Keystone envision a new model, where children can stay home for the first 6 years of their formal education, then board on campus during middle school and high school. The boarding school is modeled on the New England boarding school – students live in a dormitory and live with faculty, experience learning in the classroom and in the dormitory as well as on the playing fields.

“Keystone will have the look and feel of an American boarding school, with a very homey environment. Students are surrounded by the faculty all the time. Faculty will be part of students’ lives and students will be part of the faculty’s family lives all the time. Therefore, far more attention will be paid to not only the students’ academic life but also social life – are they practicing the values that are important to the school such as generosity, understanding, respect, compassion and cooperation?

“Keystone students will come from not just Beijing, but also from across China and all over the world. Students will be learning from each other. The kind of learning that happens as a result of boarding is a fusion of academic learning, but also social learning, character learning and leadership learning,” says Dr. Shanahan.

Keystone favors small class sizes, and inquiry-based and interactive teaching and learning will be the dominant approach. With a maximum of 15 students in each class, the teacher is not simply professing, but asking questions and facilitating conversations with students to find the right answers.

The school is going to offer the IB curriculum, with some possible adjustments for early years education; and for the high school, the school may also offer the Advanced Placement program. All the Keystone students will have dual-language immersion, taking classes in Chinese and English, with more English as the students grow older. Besides this, a strong emphasis will be placed through the whole curriculum on Chinese culture and history and also the Chinese language.

The Keystone campus is located in the Shunyi area of Beijing, and construction work has already started. The purpose-built campus will feature primary, middle school, high school buildings, 2 dormitories, an athletics complex including 3 basketball courts, squash court, fitness center, dance studio, and swimming pool, and a world-class performing arts center with 830 seats…

“We should have all the staff hired by July 2013. We hope to welcome our first group of students in September 2014, and our first class of graduates in 2018,” says the president.


img_46582Edward Shanahan is the Founding President of Keystone Academy. Dr. Shanahan has served secondary and post secondary education in New England for over 40 years, first as Associate Dean of the College and Dean of Students at Wesleyan University from 1972 to 1981; then as Dean of the College at Dartmouth from 1981 to 1991; after that as Headmaster of Choate Rosemary Hall from 1991 to 2011. In addition, he has served as Chair of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE), and later as president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and also as the Executive Director of the Eight Schools Association (ESA), a consortium of distinguished New England boarding schools.


Malcolm H. McKenzie is the Founding Head of School of Keystone Academy. McKenzie grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and studied at the university of Cape Town, Oxford, and Lancaster. At Oxford, he was a Rhodes Scholar. McKenzie has been a Head of School for 20 years, and has directed both Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana and the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales. He has been at Hotchkiss since 2007, and will complete six years as Head of Hotchkiss before moving to Beijing to lead the opening of Keystone Academy. Malcolm is a highly experienced, hands-on, international educator who still finds time to write extensively about education and to attend conferences. He is also a 400-meter hurdle runner and author of The Changing Face of International Education, published in 2011.

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