|Mino Tanabe, President|
|Products||Kumon Math and Kumon Native Language (varies by country)|
|Subsidiaries||Kumon América do Sul Instituto de Educação Ltda. Kumon Azin & Oceania Pte. Ltd.|
Kumon was founded by Toru Kumon, a Japanese educator, in 1958, opening the first Kumon Math Centre in Moriguchi City, Osaka. Its opening time varies on location. Prior to creating Kumon franchises, Kumon had a job teaching at Kochi Municipal High School and Tosa Junior/Senior High School. Inspired by teaching his own son, Takeshi, Kumon developed a curriculum focused on rote memorization.
Kumon initially grew slowly, only gaining 63,000 students over its first 16 years. However, in 1974 Kumon published a book titled The Secret of Kumon Math, leading to a doubling of its size in the next two years. Kumon opened their first United States locations in 1983, and by 1985, Kumon reached 1.4 million students.
Kumon soon added more educational subjects, leading them to change their name from Kumon Institute of Mathematics to Kumon Institute of Education. At this point, the first Kumon Logo was created. In 1985, Kumon's success lead to an increase in enrollments.
Kumon attracted national attention in the United States after implementation at Sumiton Elementary School, in Sumiton, Alabama. It became the first American school to integrate the Kumon Math Method into the regular K–4 mathematics curriculum. Sumiton has continued to use the Kumon program through 2001, and has influenced other schools to also adopt the Kumon method in their curriculum.
Kumon produced Baby Kumon in Japan in 2012, a tutoring program targeted for children between 1–2 years old. Baby Kumon hasn’t been utilized in most Kumon Centres in other countries outside Japan. In North America, Kumon began a "Junior Kumon" program in 2001, targeted at children aged 2–5 years old.
Kumon method of learning
Kumon is an independent program, where instructors and assistants tailor instruction for individual students.
Each student is given an initial assessment of his or her abilities, called the Kumon Diagnostic Test. Each test has a range of 20–60 questions. Based on the results and the student's study skills, a Kumon Instructor will create an individualized-study plan.
Students commonly begin Kumon at an 'easy starting point' to build study habits, concentration and a strong understanding of the fundamental topics. As students progress, Kumon Instructors plan for students to study at a difficulty level that aims to challenge students so they remain motivated but not so difficult as to discourage them. The study plan is regularly updated by the Kumon Instructor to match the ability of each student. Students advance to the next level after they complete a mastery test based on speed and accuracy. Students do not pass or fail the mastery test, but are given chances to practice and retake the exam until they have demonstrated a sound understanding of the material.
Kumon has two core programs, the Kumon Math and Kumon Native Language Program. There are also Kumon Japanese and Kumon Kokugo courses for Japanese language speakers and a Pencil Skills Program for younger students.
All Kumon programs are pencil and worksheet based. The worksheets increase in difficulty in small increments. It is recommended that students study for 15–30 minutes for five days of the week with the other two study days being completed when students visit their local Kumon Center.
Instructors and assistants
Kumon is a franchise model with Kumon Education Centers run by a senior Instructor and a team of Center Assistants. All Kumon Instructors are qualified and trained in the teaching of the Kumon method and are supported by Kumon office staff. Kumon Instructors are considered experts in the Kumon curriculum, observing students’ study habits and individualizing the programs to suit a student's ability. Kumon Assistants are trained by Kumon Instructors.
As a high school mathematics teacher, Mr. Kumon understood that an understanding of calculus was essential for Japanese university entrance exams so in writing worksheets for his son, Mr. Kumon focused on all the topics needed for a strong understanding of calculus starting from the basics of counting. Kumon students do not use calculators and solve all problems using mental calculation. Kumon tutoring is in a group of 6 students to one tutor. A student is known as a Kumon Completer once they reach the final level of the Kumon Math or Kumon Native Language program.
The Kumon Native Language Programs are designed to expose students to a broad range of texts and develop the skill of reading comprehension. A number of Kumon Centres also use audio CDs to help students with pronunciation. (Note: Levels vary slightly by country) Kumon is also beginning to develop non-Native language programs more extensively. For example, in Spain, Mexico, and the South American countries that have Kumon Math programs, they will be adding English as a second language over the coming year.
Reception and criticism
According to some experts, the Kumon method is not very useful to students. Several professional educators and psychologists have spoken out against the rote memorization technique that Kumon implements, especially at younger ages. University of California professor Alison Gopnik commented that the preschool enrichment programs are at best "useless", while Temple University psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek claims that using such techniques "does not give your child a leg up on anything".
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