Saturday, November 03, 2007

A father's chronicle (Disappointed)

For those who have read most of my post on this series, you might have notice that seldom do I write much about my disappointment. Well, perhaps today is one of those "seldom".

Yes, today is a special day. We have been waiting for 1 year. Since last year. Hard work. Tears, and at times frustration coupled with disappointment. It is an understatement that today should be the highlight of the year. A glimpse of success. But how disapointed I must be with Kumons' Advance Student Honoury Roll (ASHR) ceremony today.

Perhaps, it is my second and therefore I have something to compare against. However, as you will read from the rest of my blog for today you will see that my disappointment is not unfounded (especially those who have attended it last year).

Last year, Theophilus walked into the reception area with much gusto. There were two rows of Kumons staff clapping to welcome his arrival. He went around taking photos. He queued excited and in anticipation with me to get into the hall. We sat together waiting for his turn to get to the stage to receive his Kumon's Star trophy - personalized with his name on it and the year! Food was not an issue (we don't stay to eat and minger anyway).

This year? None of those happened. In fact, it was quite opposite. We walked in unnoticed (by the way, we even made the effort to walk a bigger round to enter through the main entrance - Theophilus was REALLY expecting the usual fanfare welcome). His anticipation of welcomed with clapping of hands was replaced with staffs busy - busy talking among themselves. I am not trying to be whinny here - but it is really true - there are so many Kumons staff standing around talking among themselves. They could have helped out to make this day a special day for the children. They are not. They are not enthusaistic. It was a sad sight.

Yes, there is still photo taking session. Those Kumon's board which the children like to stand and pose against. And to my horror - the photos taken (I gave 4 chances - 2 for Theophilus and 2 for Gracia) were taken in very bad way. Certainly not taken in a way that meets the Kumons philosophy of perfection. If I have a scanner here tonight, I would have proved it to Mr. William Tan (MD of Kumons). It is utter disappointing! How could they do this? The staffs just want to go for mass production - quickly, next child. Quick next child. Quick next child. No sense of personalization. This has gone to be very cold.

This year, no parent is allowed to sit together with his/her child. The ushers were not in the best of tone.

"Parents, please move in and filled all the seats..."

Well, reading that does not reveal anything. Hearing it will give you the creeps. Are they talking to me?! Commanding me?! Or simply ordering?! The words can be so right that you cannot fault them - yet you do get the feeling that they are rushing this whole event (perhaps for the afternoon session?).

I tried to hide my disappointment from Theophilus.

William made the usual speech. He cut his hair (as he did every year). He congradulated the kids for doing well. The number of pupils who gotten Gold award this year have increased together with the population of children joining the programme....

As a parent of child who is going through the programme, I must say that Theophilus have benefited from it. But not today. It is so in-personal. Even the trophy!

Nope. It is not a Kumons Star Trophy this year (which came in a nice box last year). Nope, it is not metallic (even Theophilus was bored when trying to "polish" the gold). It is plastic. Yes, it is tall. Nope, there is NO name on the trophy. Every single of them. The same. Every single one of them. THE SAME!!! Are they making cookies? Are they paying me lips-serivce when they say that every child is unique? What have they shown today really makes me doubt their ability to put words into action. They have moved into commercialization from education. I really wished William were to read what I wrote here tonight and apologize to the many parents and children who attended this ceremony. This might be an oversight. But what an oversight!

This is utterly disappointing! They made no effort in this aspect (i.e. the trophy) to make it special for these children. Is it due to cost cutting? It is due to lack of time? Is it due to the large number of children getting the award that by having a personalized name and year on the trophy cost so much? What is the reason of such cold treatment? What is the reason for such patronization? Is this really a ceremony to celebrate those who have put in the effort to mantain the high standard? Or another opportunity to sell "the completer" marketing effort?

I am not enthusaistic about next year. I don't know how to use today as a catalyst to propel him to go for next year's ASHR ceremony. In fact, I could not honestly do it. With such level of personalization? I rather he forget about the ceremony. Leave the trophy to them. I could reward him with a better one. When the heart is not there, the gift is cold and tasteless.

I know the objection to what I have written is "But Kumons has given your child a much better reward. He is now an independent learner...." Try raising a kid for yourself and see how you stomach those words. It tastes bitter to me. Hollow and patronizing. This is my boy. He felt it. I felt it.

I really don't wish that Kumons will turn from education to commercialization. No doubt they are into the business of making money through education. But don't do it without sensitivity to your customers!

Nope. I don't look forward to the next ASHR ceremony. It is a great disappointment. A let down to say the least. Perhaps, the center's award ceremony might be better. That is the last chance of using such event as a support to him during those "tough" moments of learning and training.

Yes, I am utterly disappointed with today's ASHR ceremony.

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