Find out about the Kumon Japanese curriculum and content! You can find out the overall picture and the characteristics of the different levels of progress.


Japanese (language)

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Contrary to its high profile, not many people understand the specifics of the Kumon curriculum. While there are some features that are partially understood, such as calculation speed and anticipatory learning, some aspects of the overall picture are difficult to comprehend.

However, due to the breadth of the subject matter that Kumon deals with, it has an impact on your child's overall learning plan. Because of the high degree of influence, the importance of understanding and planning the whole picture is also very significant.

In this article, we will deal with the Kumon Japanese curriculum, which is particularly difficult to grasp as a whole due to the sheer volume of Kumon materials and the ambiguity of the units. Kumon Japanese is a large volume, but let's try to understand it one by one.

Checking the curriculum

In Kumon, each grade level is assigned a letter of the alphabet, and the materials are taught in order.

For the Japanese language covered in this article, the curriculum is divided into 31 levels from 8A to O (excluding the research course). It also covers a very wide range of ages, from three years old to university students.

Find out how the curriculum progresses

So how does Kumon proceed with these materials?

Basically, Kumon does not relate the actual grade to the progress of the material. If the understanding is fast enough, you can move ahead by any number of grades, and if there are areas that are unclear, you can go back several grades beyond the actual grade. This is called 'pre-emptive learning' and is one of the reasons why Kumon is attracting so much attention.

The level of difficulty of the content emphasises the basics and does not delve so deeply into each field that it can be used as an entrance examination for difficult schools in any of the junior high, high school and university entrance examinations. Instead, the basics are thoroughly repeated, so that students can acquire a very high level of skill, especially in terms of speed. In Japanese, Kumon is unique in that even when confronted with difficult texts, students are able to understand the main points quickly and accurately.

In Kumon, the curriculum is basically self-study, with students solving printouts at a set pace every day. Since there are no difficult problems that require thinking and application skills, even problems in new fields are solved on their own with the help of example problems. In most cases, students attend classes twice a week, but there are no lessons in the classroom; instead, they are expected to answer homework assignments and solve the day's worth of printouts.

Understanding the curriculum in more detail

So far we have looked at the big picture. Now let's take a closer look and see which materials and what kind of content are covered. In the text, Kumon Japanese is divided into eight stages, but if you would like to know more about the contents of the materials in more detail, please refer to the links to the explanatory text for each material.

8A: Encountering language through sounds and shapes

The first of the 8A materials is the very first one.

Newborn babies are not yet aware of language. They do not yet distinguish between noise and words, or letters and other visual information that has no meaning. From this point on, they gradually learn to recognise meaningful sounds, shapes and words.

Kumon approaches this through 'singing to them' and 'kanji cards'.

Many people may find it surprising that kanji are used before hiragana, but kanji have distinctive shapes and, unlike hiragana, are linked to concrete objects such as 'dog' and 'sky', making them more familiar concepts for babies than hiragana. Kanji learnt here may be forgotten by the time they reach primary schools, but it is an effective approach at this stage of character recognition.

Reading aloud becomes a theme in 7A to 5A

From 7A to 5A, reading aloud becomes the main focus.

After encountering the sounds and shapes of words in 8A, the next step is to link the 'shapes' of letters and the 'sounds' of pronunciation by reading aloud. For example, in the case of an apple, an illustration of an apple and the word 'apple' are written side by side, and the parent reads the word aloud to the child while pointing to the illustration and letters.

At this stage, comprehension often does not progress to the point where the letters can be read on their own. At the word level, they may have short-term memory, but when they get to the short sentences that appear around 5A, it may be a little tough to be able to read the sentences at this stage of the course material. However, as your child gradually understands the connection between the illustrations, letters and sentences, they will gradually build a foundation for understanding the words and sentences themselves.

If your child started Kumon at the age of three, he or she may find the first obstacle around 5A. However, in general, the material in this area is relatively easy to tackle because it is based on reading to children.

From 4A to 2A deals with hiragana.

Up to 5A, children have become familiar with the concept of words. From this point onwards, the concept of hiragana is dealt with.

The words and sentences we have learned so far have meanings. Whether it is 'apple' or 'today is sunny', words and sentences have meaning and can be illustrated and experienced in real life.

However, the hiragana themselves, such as 'a' and 'ka', basically have no meaning. At least in the teaching materials, hiragana is treated as phonetic characters. Since they have no concrete meaning, they are more difficult for young children to understand.

A further major topic is that in addition to reading, writing is now included in the teaching materials.

If you read aloud, your child can go through the material passively to a certain extent. It is the same as a picture book, so there is no need to study at a desk. However, 'writing' is different. If they don't move their hands on their own, they won't be able to finish the printouts, and without a desk, they won't be able to write the words.

Children who learn this area of material will often have not yet entered primary school. They naturally have no study habits and may find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time due to their age. It can be said that the burden on parents is greatest in this area.

Learning basic grammar in A to C

The A materials are just at the first grade level of primary schools.

Katakana, kanji and grammar questions are also introduced from A. From B, reading comprehension questions are also introduced. It is around this time that the study-like learning begins.

Reading comprehension focuses on narrative texts rather than critical texts. This is because the narrative form, based on events and conversations, is more natural to understand than the logical form of writing. However, narrative texts do not have a set pattern in terms of setting and story development, so the level of understanding of the material depends on the extent to which they have read picture books.

From D to F, the sentences are perceived as a cohesive whole.

From the D material, students move on to the stage where they understand not short sentences but multiple sentences and the relationships between paragraphs.

From D, students read the connections between sentences and paragraphs, and are asked what they want to say as a whole.

From an adult's point of view, being able to read a text means understanding the whole content, but in reality, there are many things that need to be learnt before understanding the whole content. The most important thing is to understand the connections between the D to F materials, and if the students do not have sufficient skills in this area, they may seem to be able to read the text, but when they listen to it in detail, they actually do not understand the content at all.

This makes it easy for both the child and the parent to be at the mercy of a situation where the child seems to be reading but is not. The child may be confused by the fact that he or she understands the meaning of a single sentence but cannot solve the problem, and the parent may be upset that the child has not read the text as well as he or she would like.

However, the ability to read connections is developed in the course of doing the material.

Often, people listen attentively to lessons and take good notes, but for some reason do not score well on tests. These are the children who are good at simple memorisation, but have difficulty with written and applied questions, and at a certain stage they lose track of the content of the class. The main reason for this phenomenon is the inability to understand the connections. In this sense, it can be said that the D to F materials deal with highly important content.

Kanji also continues to cover all the kanji learnt at each grade level. It is in this area that you will benefit the most from Kanji.

Summarising modern Japanese from G to I

Kumon Japanese reaches a break in the study of modern Japanese with the I materials, as the J to L materials cover ancient and Chinese texts, and modern Japanese appears once more from the M materials onwards, but once there, ancient and Chinese texts are mixed up and reading modern Japanese itself is not the subject. The texts covered are also based on the reading of the original texts.

The texts covered include books that even adults would find challenging if they wanted to read the original texts.

I personally think that the goal of Kumon Japanese should be the final material, but if I were to set another goal in the middle, I would set it as the completion of this I material, because once you complete the I material, you will be able to read almost any book. If you can read books, you can learn almost any subject on your own, not just Japanese.

Those who aim to take the junior high school entrance examination often aim to complete the F materials by the end of grade 4, as completing the F materials will complete the elementary level Kumon Japanese materials. However, for junior high school entrance examinations, completing the F materials will have only a limited effect. This is because, in the junior high school entrance examinations, the problems tend to be more difficult in terms of thinking and reading comprehension than in terms of knowledge, because they do not cover the range of junior high school. For example, even if factorisation cannot be tested in junior high school entrance examinations, there is no limit to the difficulty of the sentences.

Therefore, the Japanese language skills required for junior high school entrance examinations tend to be well above the primary schools level. If you can set your goals in Kumon Japanese before the F materials, it will be easier to obtain good results.

Old and Chinese literature appears in J to L.

The modern Japanese language has come to an end with the I material, and from this point onwards, the ancient and Chinese literature will be the subject matter.

There are several times when you may wonder whether to quit Kumon. One is when the child's life becomes busy with higher education or examinations and there is no longer time to continue Kumon. Another is when the parents lose the meaning of continuing Kumon.

And from J material to L material is the section where parents find it difficult to find meaning in Kumon.

This is because the old and Chinese texts do not appear in the high school entrance examinations. The age at which students reach this vicinity of the Kumon materials should generally be during junior high school. Although high school entrance examinations are inevitable unless you are in an integrated junior or senior high school, ancient Chinese and Chinese literature basically do not appear in high school entrance examination questions. It is undeniable that it is difficult to find meaning in studying for university entrance exams when the high school entrance exam is right in front of you.

However, when looking ahead to the university entrance examinations, it is a tremendous advantage to be able to read ancient and Chinese texts, even if only vaguely, at the stage before full-fledged exam studies begin. This is because, even at national universities, the amount of text and the level of difficulty of the reading comprehension questions in ancient and Chinese texts are not that much of a barrier when compared to modern texts. It cannot be said that you can acquire a sufficient amount of knowledge in terms of grammar and vocabulary for the examinations only from the Kumon, but once you have consolidated that knowledge, you can use the ancient and Chinese literature as a source of points at almost all university levels.

The further in advance you invest, the harder it will be to get a return on your investment. There may come a time when you will have to think about how you should face the J materials and beyond.

Learning critical thinking from M to O

The final Kumon Japanese material is the O material. To put it in a larger context, the M to O materials are the climax of Kumon Japanese.

Up to I, students develop the ability to understand modern texts quickly and accurately; from J to L, the texts change to ancient and Chinese texts, but the aim remains the same: to understand the content.

From the M materials, however, the aim is to think from the premise of understanding the text.

A major trend in Japanese education is away from cramming and towards emphasising the ability to think for oneself. This has been the trend since the Yutori education. Although the negative aspects of Yutori education itself were often highlighted, there has not been a reversion to cramming education after its completion, but a shift towards education that develops thinking skills in a better way.

The 'ability to think for oneself', which in our parents' generation was perhaps even a hindrance, is now becoming a standard requirement, like reporting and communication skills. In the world of examinations, which may seem useless in the real world, learning at Kumon will also lead to the cultivation of the basic ability to survive in society.

It takes more than a few years to complete the curriculum

We have looked at the contents and position of each material in broad terms. We have hardly touched on the detailed contents, but I think that the volume was still quite large.

This volume is the most important feature of Kumon. The range of ages covered is extremely wide.

For example, let's say you start with A I. Each alphabet is allocated 200 prints, so you have to go through 4800 prints to finish all the materials. Moreover, you have to answer all the questions correctly on each print at a certain rate before you can move on to the next material. Since there are at least three repetitions, you will not reach the final Kumon material unless you have solved more than 10,000 printouts, no matter how smoothly your learning progresses.

And in Kumon, Japanese is the material with the largest number of letters in the alphabet. Japanese has 31 alphabets from 8A to O. Compared to arithmetic, which has 22, and English, which has 23, the amount of learning is extremely large. Naturally, the learning period is also longer, and it may be necessary to consider a span of five or ten years.

What section of the child's upbringing will Kumon be incorporated into? This should be considered as early as possible.

Understanding the curriculum to get an edge in your strategy

In this article, we have discussed the Kumon Japanese language curriculum. We have outlined which Kumon covers a very wide range of subjects, from pre-school to university entrance exams, and what kind of content is covered in which materials.

What do we mean by the wide range of topics covered? Kumon is not limited to individual examinations, such as junior high school examinations. Kumon is not limited to individual examinations, such as junior high school or high school examinations, but can have an impact on all of your child's examinations.

And despite the fact that Kumon has a huge impact on overall learning, very few people understand the whole picture when they enrol their children in Kumon. However, this means that if you have the right understanding and strategy, you will be able to stand out from the rest in terms of examination strategies.

We hope that this text and this blog will help you to achieve this.