March 23, 2013

Lachlan McDowell

There is a noticeable growing trend in our generation. Being tutored. I’m not even sure that tutoring is the right word, since tutoring suggests that these children being tutored need help. In fact usually these students are ahead of the class and doing work two or three years ahead of what they would be doing in class. I guess the best way to describe this phenomenon is extracurricular learning.

The growing popularity of programs like Kumon or Vinsara is definitely notable. These programs take place after class, any number of days a week, it varies from program to program, for up to two to three hours, attributing extra homework as well. Within my class the ratio of children who have attended at least one year of an extracurricular learning program, versus those who haven’t, is around one to one.

I have no issue with these programs personally, but I have noticed how some of these children are being put into extracurricular learning programs are so young, as young as three, and the argument has been put forth by many that this sort of program turns these children into drones.

I was hoping to outline this whole evolving trend, but since I have never been a part of one of these programs, I can’t offer an interesting or in depth look at them. Instead I found two friends, who I will call J and M, who have both participated in Kumon, one of these programs and one of the most well-known. J chose to participate for around seven years, starting in prep, and M chose to leave as soon as he had the chance, after one year of attendance.

I asked both of them several questions. The interview went as follows.

So, why did you choose to attend these programs in the first place?                                                                          

J-I saw it like an investment for the future, my parents got me involved in the first place.                                                      

M-My parents made me do it in the first place

Why did you choose to stay in (or leave) the program?                                                                                                       

J- I chose to stay because it kept me ahead of the class, and when comes to the time of VCE, it will really make a difference

M-I chose to leave because it was a chore, and for every mathematics topic they covered, they ignored another. The worst part was that it was pressured and stressful, and everyone was obsessing over their marks. Also, the more time you spend there the longer the work sheets get, and the more effort you have to put in, and the more other extracurricular activities you have to quit.

What would you say was the best part of the program?                                                                                               

J-The way you learn so much new stuff and you make some friends that I still keep up with.                                 

M– The way that at least for a while, you end up ahead of the class, and it can be fun in the early levels.

What would you say is the worst part of the program?                                                                                                    

J– The way that everyone can get really stressed, plus the homework gets a bit much.                                 

M– The way that everything can get really pressured towards the end of it.

What would you say to people who aren’t sure whether to join the program or not?                                           

J– Give it a shot for a term or so, it will help you see whether you are able to keep up with the whole program.                                                                                                                                                                                           

M– If you have two or three hours of spare time, and you find classes really boring because they’re too easy, and enjoy worksheet after worksheet, they give it a try.

Would you say that the actual program has any problems?                                                                                   

J– It is pretty good in my opinion, just a little unbalanced at some levels.                                                             

M– They don’t cover much except mathematics, along with how stressful it can get when you get a lot of homework.

What are your thoughts on how some programs are taking in children at ages as you as three?                                             

J– I say it is good to get ahead of the pack as young as you can.                                                                                        

M– This can’t be good for any children this young, it is too much pressure, kids should be kids.

What would your impression of the program be, on the whole?                                                                                

J– A program that helps kids get a bit of help for classes, if they need it, or a way to get ahead of the pack, if they’re able to.                                                                                                                                                                            

M– A program that helps parents who want to live success through their children, no matter what it does to them, psychologically, socially or academically 

What would you say about how these programs are getting more popular?                                                      

J-That’s fine, it’s good that parents are realizing there kids need a head start                                                           

M-That can’t be good, parents are getting paranoid about their child’s future.

Do you have any other comments that you want out there?                                                                                          

J-Yes, I really found that Kumon and some of other programs out there are all seen as more stressful than they are, they can be a bit of fun and they get you ahead of the pack and gives you a bit of an edge in class.                                                                                                                                                                                                      

M- These programs would be gone if we had a better school system, and less scared parents who believe that unless there child is pumped full of information they won’t do well. I don’t think this level pressure is healthy, it ruins a child’s childhood.

Both J and M were grateful for the interview.

A survey of 50 secondary school students, from the ages of 12-18, showed that 68% were opposed to the idea of programs such as Kumon or Vinsara. The survey also showed that out of this 68% against extracurricular learning programs, 90% of these people had not participated in one of these programs. Of the full survey 18% did neither oppose or support the idea of such programs, and the remaining 14% had a positive attitude towards said programs.

My view on the matter of extracurricular learning is that people should be allowed to pursue such programs of their own merit, and should not be forced into it by their families or guardians. It is a legitimate option, and if you wish to pursue it, then please follow these links to Kumon and Vinsara.

Lachlan McDowell

, , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply