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Keystone: New Model of Education for China and the World

July, 2013
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More and more Chinese are sending their children to America to study in the Middle and High-school years. Some are even choosing to send their children in the Elementary school years. This trend indicates that Chinese parents prefer an overseas education for their children at an early age. And when parents make the decision to send their child abroad to study they believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. However, while the financial investment of sending a child abroad is significant, the emotional costs of separating parent and child too soon are perhaps more substantial. Although technology allows for rapid communication, extended periods of time living apart does not allow the parent or the child opportunity for intimate involvement in and understanding of each other’s lives. The challenges of maintaining a healthy family relationship increase during the Middle and High-school years, which are a critical period of development and maturation for children. Additionally, if a child studies abroad too young there exists the risk of assimilation in the local culture at the expense of the child’s familiarity and understanding of their own Chinese language and culture, which is a valuable asset in today’s competitive, global society.

Recognizing the challenge that Chinese parents face to find a suitable education for their children, Keystone Academy aspires to bring the best of American-style boarding and International education principles to China. The Academy hopes to combine these principles with the best practices and traditions of Chinese history, culture and education to create a new model of education. Members of Keystone Academy’s Leadership Team, Founding President, Dr. Edward Shanahan, Founding Headmaster, Mr. Malcolm McKenzie, Head of Middle School, Mr. Michael Yi, Head of Primary School, Ms. Mary Jew, and Dean of Admission, Ms. Rachael Beare, met with parents on March 13 and 14 at the Hong Kong Jockey Club to elaborate on Keystone’s vision and school programs.

International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and Bilingual Immersion
Keystone Academy will use the IPC curriculum for its Primary years. Ms. Mary Jew, an educator who has more than 25 years of experience in the California public school system and extensive education management experience, explained the IPC curriculum to parents. She said that the IPC has an appreciation for international education principles, and evidence suggests that the IPC curriculum has been successful in more than 1500 public and international schools worldwide. With regards to language acquisition, Ms. Jew stated, “Bilingual immersion education focuses on using language as a tool for learning, as a way to study other subjects, rather than as an end goal. Students will not be studying English on its own; they will be using English to study subjects like geography or science. This is the difference between language immersion and studying in a dual language program.” She said that bilingual immersion education has been around in Canada and the US for more than 40 years, and that the IPC curriculum is widely accepted as a useful program with the flexibility to accommodate bilingual immersion. Ms. Jew said that Keystone’s Primary year classes will combine culture and language, because the two cannot be separated. She hopes that students will cultivate a passion for learning and curiosity for exploring the world around them.

International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP) and Comprehensive Development
Keystone Academy will use the IBMYP and proprietary curriculum based on its own education principles and student development for its Middle School years. Head of Middle School Mr. Michael Yi, formerly Assistant Principal of Curriculum at A.P. Giannini Middle School and Assistant Principal of Administration and Pupil Services at Lowell High School, both of which have been California Distinguished Schools and/or US National Blue Ribbon Schools for years, told parents that he believes that middle school students’ tendency to be impulsive, get into fights and not listen is a natural part of the growth and maturation process. These behaviors are, in part, a result of students seeking equality and fairness amongst their peers. Unfortunately, Mr. Yi said, adults don’t recognize this, and therefore lose precious opportunities to communicate with children. At times, adults will take measures to arrange and interfere with a child’s development. Though well intentioned, these actions end up suppressing a child’s desire to proactively seek his/her own interests. One of the most important traits middle school students should naturally possess and thrive, curiosity, has been concealed by unnecessary burden forced upon them. The inquiry based MYP program encourages students to strive for excellence and take action, explore the world around them, and use their own methods to solve problems. Keystone’s Middle Years program will help students seize opportunities and face challenges in these critical years of forming their personality, explained Mr. Yi. The program will help to provide meaning for students during a key stage of their development.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) and University Preparation
Headmaster Mr. McKenzie explained the last section of the International Baccalaureate program to parents: The 2-year Diploma Program. Mr. McKenzie’s strong understanding of the DP program comes from his experience as Headmaster for the United World College in Wales, one of the first schools in the world to use the IBDP and promote international understanding. Mr. McKenzie believes that the DP Program, which started in the 60’s, is the best pre-University program in the world. He continued by saying that the best American universities rate the IB Diploma highly and frequently give students who do well in the diploma advanced credit when they join as freshmen. Students need to complete 6 areas of study for the program, including: Literature, Foreign Languages, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics, Fine Arts, and Individuals and Societies. In addition, candidates must complete other requirements, including: the Theory of Knowledge course, the Extended Essay and elements of Creativity, Action, and Service, explained Mr. McKenzie. He further explained that the DP program cultivates students’ international perspective, critical thinking, compassion, social responsibility, and their ability to learn and communicate in multi-cultural environments. Mr. McKenzie believes that the program is transformational because it is has both traditional and innovative components. He stated that teachers and students appreciate that the program has both breadth and depth. In addition to the DP program, Keystone will offer a College Advisory Department to help students with the College application process. During the High School boarding years College advisors will work with each student and their families as they prepare for University abroad, said Mr. McKenzie.

Below are common questions that parents asked and their respective answers from the Q&A session:

What are Keystone’s standards for admissions? What is the admission process?
Dean of Admission Ms. Rachael Beare explained to parents what the Admission team is looking for in an applicant. She stated that the Keystone student is one who is ready to engage in a very rigorous academic program whether it’s in the Elementary, Middle or High School years. Students will also be self-motivated and enthusiastic learners and bring their own talents and unique ways of thinking about ideas. Keystone wants students who are not the same, so that the different ideas and perspectives each student brings can inform each other and create a more interesting dynamic. The Academy hopes to admit students who will become the Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg of China – individuals who were able to contribute to society new ideas, ideas that no one has thought of before, said Ms. Beare.

Within the limitations of the application process itself, it is the Admission team’s goal to get to know the students as well as it can – to get to know his/her talents, passions, and their unique way of looking at things. The process will be designed to draw these characteristics out as much as possible, explained Ms. Beare. For the elementary years there will be three main components, including: a formal assessment to see how well prepared students are for a rigorous program, a group observation opportunity to measure how students interact in a group and how they handle learning things together and a parent interview, said Ms. Beare.

For older students school records will become an important part of the application process. These students will also have an assessment, informal and formal writing samples, and student and parent interviews, said Ms. Beare. She further explained that at the end of the process the admission team hopes that it will have a sense of what each student has to bring and contribute to Keystone, how they will engage in the community, and grow in their time at the school.

How can you ensure the quality of students admitted?
The enrollment plan that we have in place is very purposeful and careful in terms of the size of the classes as we grow, said Dean of Admission Ms. Beare. The Academy will carefully manage the growth of each grade, and class sizes. This is why Keystone is not planning to open Grades 1-3, and 6-9 all at once with fully enrolled classes. In this way Keystone can be sure that we’re bringing in students who are the right students for the school, and realize a natural growth process, explained Ms. Beare.

How will you recruit teachers? How will you assess your teachers?
Keystone’s teachers will come from very good schools in the United States, in China, in some other countries, and from the international school network around the world, said Mr. McKenzie. Keystone Academy is already receiving many resumes for teaching positions, much more than we are able to sift through at the moment. Mr. McKenzie stated that Keystone will most certainly have a rigorous and robust form of teacher evaluation in order to ensure that the quality we want is maintained. The Academy will have a strict teacher evaluation system, though the school hasn’t worked out exactly what that is going to be yet because we (Leadership Team) come from different backgrounds, and different experiences. The Leadership Team will work on this within the course of the next year, said Mr. McKenzie.

How many students are in each class?
Elementary school grade classes will not exceed 20 students. Middle and high school grades classes will not exceed 15 students.

International School faculty often changes. How can you solve this problem?
Keystone Academy will sign contracts with teachers up to 5 years to ensure that the faculty is stable. Although Keystone Academy cannot prevent faculty from leaving, proper measures (such as these) will be put in place to ensure stability in the Leadership Team and faculty. Teacher training will also be implemented so that new teachers are able to adapt quickly to the school’s environment and assume the responsibilities that the school demands.

What is the ratio of Chinese to English studies in the Primary School Years?
Certain subject matters will be taught in Chinese and certain ones will be taught in English. This model allows the student opportunity to learn the language through content. The percentage of Chinese and English that Keystone will use will be determined by the characteristics that define the Beijing community. For example, in Hong Kong, schools might implement a 70/30 program: For the first 3 years, 70% of the day is in Putonghua and 30% in English. This is because in Hong Kong, outside of school, students are mostly exposed to a Cantonese environment and there is little opportunity to use Putonghua.

Besides Years 1-3 and 6-9 is there a possibility that Keystone will open other Grades?
A significant amount of time and planning has been put into Keystone. Keystone was originally set to open in 2013. Founding President, Dr. Edward Shanahan and Headmaster, Mr. Malcolm McKenzie, agreed that one more year was needed to allow sufficient time for preparation, so the opening date was moved to 2014. The Leadership team (set to arrive in July) will be in Beijing working with its Chinese colleagues one full year before the school opens. This allows for careful planning and a certain amount of flexibility. If Keystone gets a strong response from parents to open additional grades, there is potential for the Academy to accommodate that need. Keystone strongly values its cooperation with parents and believes that parents are its biggest supporters. At the same time, the Academy has a lot to learn from parents.

What are the challenges of implementing a Bilingual Immersion Program? How will Keystone deal with these challenges?
Keystone strongly believes that what happens in the classroom is a critical factor that determines the success of a child’s education. Therefore the challenge of recruiting and identifying the most qualified and experienced teachers is a priority for the Academy. During the recruitment process, Keystone will maintain certain expectations and standards for its teachers to ensure it has the best people for the position. At the same time, Keystone will support staff to help them adapt to a new environment with new expectations. Keystone is confident that Ms. Jew, Head of Primary School, is capable of finding the most qualified people to implement the Academy’s Bilingual Immersion Program. As Head of The ISF Academy in Hong Kong’s Bilingual Immersion Program, Ms. Jew has seen the program grow from 300 to 900 students.

What kind of student body will Keystone have?
Keystone students will come from public schools across China and international schools. The composition of students will be similar to elite-boarding schools in the US; where approximately 75 – 80% of the students are locals, with the remaining coming from other countries. Keystone’s Leadership team has a lot of experience working with these student compositions and believes that a diverse student body promotes understanding and respect between different cultures. The Academy will implement a strict admission process with high expectations for the family and student. Additionally, Keystone will offer a scholarship plan to allow opportunities for talented students to study at the school.

 

 

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