China: The Thread From Which Our Curriculum Is Woven

Keystone Academy is a Chinese school with an international program and a global flavor. We are honored to be located in Beijing, our capital city, a place of vibrant political, cultural, and historical significance. Our mission as a school is to bring together the best of three rich, deep educational traditions: the Chinese, the American, and the international. What we do inside and outside the classroom is like a brilliant cloth of three colors: however, it is the Chinese that is the main thread in this weave. We want all our students, Chinese and international, to be knowledgeable and proud of the powerful past and promising future of China. To achieve this, our Chinese Thread brings out the pattern, in every grade of the school, of the language, history, culture, and identity of China. Our focus on China and its contribution to the world allows our teachers and students to achieve a deep understanding of their own identity, of their world, and of the connections between the two. It imparts to students the critical thinking skills that will make them leaders in the world of global finance, politics, and culture. It inspires in them a love for learning, a respect for their own traditions and cultural differences, and a passion for high-level scholarship.

Contemporary instructional philosophy, reinforced by some recent research in neuroscience, indicates that integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum provides a powerful way to achieve deep, global learning. We have designed just this for the Keystone curriculum, consistently linking elements of Chinese language and cultural history through all the divisions and all the disciplines. We do this through coherent, methodical curriculum planning, through innovative teaching pedagogies, and through experiential learning opportunities for students in and outside the classroom, in the residential halls, and on the fields. The mere fact that all our students study the Chinese and English languages to a high level indicates our commitment to the significance of China in the world.

Keystone Academy Primary School uses the International Primary Curriculum as a structure to deliver integrated studies from Foundation Year through Grade Five, in a bilingual immersion context. The IPC curriculum approaches learning thematically: this facilitates the integration of Chinese cultural history and the Chinese National Curriculum objectives and standards in all domains. For each unit, there is the opportunity to compare China with other cultures in authentic and engaging ways. There are also clear links between the integrated units and the Keystone Five Shared Values that guide our school.The Chinese Thread is developed in subject specific courses, as well. In Primary School arts courses, students study ceramics, painting, and calligraphy in the context of Chinese artistic skills and traditions, and classes in music and dance reference Chinese performance arts.A robust program in wushu, and Chinese conceptions of health and wellbeing, serve as the cornerstone for Physical Education and Wellness courses.

The approach to the Chinese Thread is more focused in different disciplines in the Middle Years Programme. The Chinese National Curriculum is central to the Chinese Language and Literature course: students study the classics in literature and poetry, and become skilled in the reading and writing of Chinese. In the Middle Years Programme, the Chinese Thread is a curriculum specially designed to link World Civilization and Chinese Civilization in a Humanities-oriented program called China and the World. Students enroll in either the traditional Chinese Performing Arts or Chinese Visual Arts. By Grade Ten, students are prepared to engage in the Keystone Capstone Project. This involves independent research in a topic of Chinese cultural history that students identify as their own particular interest. They conduct research, produce a creative project, write an analytical essay, and present their product to a school audience. This kind of focused study and project-based learning at the conclusion of the Middle Years Programme gives students the opportunity to delve into Chinese culture while simultaneously preparing for the rigors of independent work required in Diploma.

In Grades Eleven and Twelve, students are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.The three core components of the Theory of Knowledge course, Creativity, Action, and Service, and the Extended Essay offer valuable opportunities for multiple expressions of the Chinese Thread.The Keystone TOK course is designed as a bilingual, bicultural class in which teachers and students work in both languages to explore deep philosophical questions, comparing different expressions of culture, language, and worldview.Practical and place-based experiences in service, action, and culture allow for real-life engagement with the Chinese Thread.Experiential learning and independent scholarship are key pedagogical devices for learning at this high level of high school study. Since all Keystone students are engaged in the these studies, the Chinese Thread becomes an important component in forging the identity of our Keystone graduates, helping them to define and appreciate the significance of Chinese culture, and helping them become ambassadors of the home culture as they prepare to move away to colleges, careers, and the world after school.

Our idea of a world school is one that brings the world in various ways to local people and communities. A world school is characterized by students who are curious, who are trained to ask critical questions, who reach judgments after weighing wide-ranging evidence, and who can move when appropriate from one knowledge or epistemological system to another. Diverse, blended pedagogical styles fuel such fluency.

We think a deep sense of public purpose and learning to serve should be systemic in a world school. Students and teachers should learn all the time from the world, but at the same time they should be learning for the world. The goal is to apply all this learning to change our world for the better and to address the great challenges of our time.

Above all, a world school should develop a positive instinct for difference, and a desire to learn from otherness. A world school’s goal should be to produce national and global citizens, comfortable in their local identity but also cosmopolitan and completely at ease with otherness. This is our ambition at Keystone Academy.

THREE POWERFUL LEARNING TRADITIONS