Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Kumon Way

I have heard of it. I’ve read about it in the newspapers. I googled for it. But what is it actually? Yes, I know it has to do with learning, the Japanese way. But what is it exactly.

It says it is learning on your own. It says it builds character. More importantly, what attracts most is that those who went through the Kumon way turn out to be smart students.

I had more of the Kumon way when three little boys in my household, who are cousins, ( read : grand children) enrolled at their Kumon Centres, 2 in Kota Damansara located nearby and 1 at Melawati.

Our two boys, Norm in Std 4 while the brother Kimi in Std 2 are in Kota Damansara. They have heard about Kumon through their friends in school who are already in it. They came full of anticipation. They started on Thursday April 29, 2010 and subsequently on every Thursdays and Tuesdays for 45 mins . Their cousin, Nabil a 4 year- old had started about I month earlier in Melawati.

What and how is the Kumon way, then. Simply put, the Kumon way is solely about establishing a habit at a tender age which they would endure for life. That’s all. That’s all there is to it.

Following a briefing and a discussion with the ‘Principal’ of the centre I picked up some pointers about how they go about it.

1. Mental Strength:
Mental strength is emphasized right from day one. We used to call it mental sums. Maths worksheets are completed without finger counting and are programmed step by step. In time students would just breeze through without batting an eye-lid.
2. Concentration:
Students are expected to be disciplined in concentration. Kimi remarked that in Kumon class it is just like in the library. Every one focused in what they are doing.
3. Personal Pace:
A student works at his own pace, guided by the teacher. There is no element of force, stress, persuasion. Those attending can be of different levels at the same class but they do their own thing.
4. Programmed for each day:
Homework is set out for each day. Friday’s homework is for Friday’s, time started and time finished to be noted. Saturday's Sunday's or Monday's are not to be done on Fridays either. (You cannot eat Sat's Sun's Mon's dinner all on Fri) Students are trained to discipline their scheduling, by not leaving everything to be left for last minute cramming, neither to lump and finish everything before-hand.
5. Propensity To Study:
The end result is that the propensity to study is at a high level. The student looks forward to attend class. When at home they naturally open up to do their homework at the specific time without promptings. I’ve observed this happening within these few days of May for the two little boys. It augurs well in moulding characters and good habits. Somehow they are well motivated.

As often said there’s no end to education, how true it is for Kumon. Apparently a student can continue to come to classes when in higher Forms, even at University level, just so they feel happy and at ease by force of habit to be in the same environment.

All of the above were narrated to me of what to expect the Kumon way. The secret is in the programmed work sheets expended in class as well as for their homework. It is a tested way. (though I wonder how or are there worksheets for those at higher Forms and at the University level in view of different disciplines and specialities) This I need to get clarification just to satisfy my curiousity.

At this juncture, my only expectation is that the kids ( read: grand children) can be moulded into well adjusted individuals in their formative years with and through the Kumon way – a tested way.


norzah said...

Akhi Kk, I've always been intrigued by the kind of child development that Kumon was adopting whenever I passed by the company's office in Taman Melawati. You've given me some insight into the approach taken - a programmed learning approach with no tension and allowing children to move at their own pace with strict adherence to spatio-temporal dimension - something I've read about before. I think the key is no forced learning. Children are indeed subjected to so much filling-in-the empty-can kind of learning nowadays. I'm not surprised if the Kumon way becomes as popular as it is effective.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
In terms of time and space it is well balanced. Hopefully they (read: grandchildren) can find their own calling early in life and work on them. Those in Kumon are highly motivated and are able to decide what they should aim for while others move aimlessly.

Al-Manar said...

I feel so left behind in this backwater, not knowing about this Kumon Way. New ways are being introduced to children at such a tender age. What chance have the rural children got to compete with those in the city? I just hope somewhere the disadvantaged draw their strength from some other natural ways.

kaykuala said...

Pak Cik,
It may mean that the rural children who misssed the boat would have to open the opportunity to their next generation. In my case it is the 3rd generation, our grandchildren. There must be certain ways opportunities are extended to rural children, for one Al-Manar is already doing it now.

I’m fascinated on how those from the East Coast who excelled in the RMC. On the sports field they were the ones who ran the fastest, jumped the highest, who shined in most aspects and still could become Engineers, Drs and Accountants later in life. Maybe rural life had toughened them and realizing their rural deprivations must have pushed them that extra mile (there were those who did not make it, though)

Percentage wise, things remaining equal, those from rural schools ( from all states) did better eventually. It is just a matter of opportunities and the competitive spirit, I think.

norzah said...

Rural children just need the opportunity to study and perform, Kk. As late starters the door to progress is often closed before they had a chance to start. Hence giving them a headstart is important as al-Manar is doing. I'd have never got a tertiary education if there was no scholarship from Form 1.Once a rural student has the opportunity he can surely do better than the city kids who are spoilt by so many distractions.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
What rural children lost out is a net loss individually as well as to the nation.
Just think if they could maximise their hidden talents there could have been an Einstein or a Mozart that we missed out from the crowd.
If we are to translate this to a failed state like the Palestine, we really never know what talent or genius that are lost and never realising it.