KKCS was founded in 1916 by the Chinese Merchants Association (the On Leong Merchants Association) to establish an educational institution to help maintain Chinese heritage among overseas Chinese. The school is the oldest one of its kind in Boston and one of the longest-running Chinese schools on the East Coast. The School became a non-profit in 1981 in order to ensure the sustainability of the School as a community resource. Through its long and distinguished history, KKCS has provided Chinese language and cultural education, academic support, and recreational programs for more than 20,000 children of Chinese immigrants in the Boston/Greater Boston/Eastern Massachusetts region. Operating after school, on Saturdays and Sundays, and during the summer, KKCS fills a critical need for quality out-of-school programming for age 5 to 17 from Kindergarten through Grade 9 for Chinese language education and from Grade 1 to Grade 12 for English and Math each year. The history of KKCS can be divided into three stages as following:
First Stage: 1910s-1950s
The Kwong Kow Chinese School traces its roots back to 1916 when it was organized by the On Leong Merchants Association and located at 2 Tyler St as a weekday evening Chinese school. At first, the school registered with the Guangdong provincial government, and its name at the time was spelled "Quong Kow," roughly meaning "Chinese Universal School". Just years before the Japanese invasion of China, the school officially registered with the Nationalist government in Nanjing and was influenced by Dr. Sun Yat-sen's "Three People's Principles” that advocate “nationalism, democracy, and improvement of people's livelihoods". In 1931, the school moved to 20 Oxford Street. From then on, the school expanded to Saturday morning program and began to hold graduation ceremonies. In the 1930s, it was a very active place for learning Chinese language and Chinese culture. However, through the 1940s to 1950s, because of the cold war between the East and the West, the class was cut to two hours and the school could not maintain the same quality as before.
Second Stage: 1960s to 2006
From the 1960s to 1980s, the school had experienced a "renaissance." In the 1960s, the school officially renamed as “Kwong Kow Chinese School”. Moved to 90 Tyler Street in 1976, KKCS was registered as a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation in 1981. At the time, the Board began to make investment to renovate classrooms, and organize more extra-curricular activities such as a dance troupe. Kwong Kow has gone also from holding classes only after regular school hours, to holding classes seven days a week. Another change is that the school began teaching students the Toisanese dialect when it opened. Then, in the 1960s, it switched to Cantonese, and in 2006 started to offer Mandarin. The school had expanded to serve 600-700 students each year, offering Chinese music, martial arts, painting, dance, Chinese, English, math and business.
Third Stage: 2007-Present
Through ten years capital campaign from 1997, the school moved into its first permanent home at 87 Tyler Street in October, 2007. The six-storey building is named the Chinese Community Education Center (CCEC) with Asian American Civic Association (AACA) and KKCS as two condominium owners. With 16,892 sq. ft, the new building has been equipped by high technology to have a multi-function performing arts center, computer lab, library, dance studio, and 12 classrooms, proving the first class facilities to students from the Greater Boston areas.
Currently, the school has a full-time Principal and 33 part time teachers. All the teachers are highly educated and fully dedicated to the school’s mission. Instead mainly from Cantonese families for a long history, student demographics today have become more diverse, including not only immigrant students from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Philippine, but also native students of Chinese American, adopted children from China, and students from White, Black, and Hispanic family background. Aiming at having high quality education in today’s globalization era, KKCS has been transforming its curriculum from a traditional way to a more dynamic, holistic, and standard-based approach. KKCS initiated to organize its students to take the first “Young Learner Chinese Test” (YCT) in Massachusetts in March, 2010. It also collaborated with Newton Learning Center to create “G-Age English and Math Program” to have MAC, ISEE, and SAT I & SAT II tutoring classes at weekend. While the School is famous for Chinese drum and dulcimer bands, it cooperated with the Ip Piano School to hold the violin class and add Western music education to its curriculum in 2009.
As one of the pioneer Chinese schools in the nation, KKCS has been playing a very important role in promoting Chinese language and Chinese culture, preparing immigrant children to participate fully in mainstream society, and to have access to a broad spectrum of resources and opportunities, as well as attempting to become a bridge to build cultural understanding for students in today’s era of intercultural, cross-cultural and transcultural learning.