Sarit Kapur says working in the education technology field reinforced his belief that teachers needed to have a holistic view of students to help them customize their education. That’s why he started his own Kumon Centre, Kumon of San Antonio-Bitters & 1604.
“They are individuals, and they all have their gifts,” Kapur says of his students. “If you really want to personalize instruction for every student, you need to understand them all. You need a big toolbox, because what works with one student will not work for another one.”
Over the last 12 years, he has worked with more than 3,000 students. Each one was different, Kapur says, and it’s up to the Instructor to see the whole student, beyond their grades.
“I liked the education field and always wanted to teach, but I ended up in education technology at Pearson, which makes textbooks and standardized testing,” says Kapur, who also tried to develop a sort of education exchange. His goal with the exchange startup was to integrate information about a student outside the classroom – such as whether they do ballet, karate or Kumon – into their school record so that teachers weren’t starting from scratch to learn about students every fall. School districts weren’t prepared for the cost of such a program, however. He eventually left Pearson, looking to do something that he found more personally rewarding.
Kapur knew firsthand how Kumon benefitted students of different abilities. “Both my kids did Kumon, and they benefitted differently,” he says. “My younger one is very academic. She is 17 and in college now. My older daughter learned perseverance and diligence, a strong work ethic. She now works with kids with autism.
“When kids come to Kumon, they learn more than math and reading skills. They also learn good study habits and life skills that help them in college and work later.”
Kapur has had his share of extremely successful students. One example is Harini Logan, the San Antonio teenager who won the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee. “She was with us for three to four years and was an extremely dedicated student. This was her fourth attempt at the spelling bee. She did not give up, and her parents were very supportive,” he says.
“Harini spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort working toward that goal. She had an intrinsic desire to do it and she was willing to put in the necessary time and effort to reach that goal.”
Working with a student who is struggling is very different from working with one who is gifted and motivated like Harini, but it can be just as rewarding to help them succeed, Kapur says. “When you see a student who is a nonreader, who is behind, be able to demonstrate that we can help them and fill gaps, that can be very satisfying.”
Now Kapur worries about those struggling students being ready to take the next step in their education. Working in education technology more than a decade ago, he was painfully aware of the data regarding how few high school graduates were ready for college. “Even then, we knew 60% of high school graduates were not ready for college, and the pandemic has made that worse,” Kapur says. “The important thing will be 10 years from now, when these kids are preparing to go to college. They may need remedial courses, which will bring down the national average of 50% graduating in six years. And that will add to college debt.”
Kapur sees Kumon’s personalized approach to learning as a solution to helping more students be successful. “You might have one third-grader working on a high school level, and another third grader working on a first-grade level. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You have to find a way to fit them all in.”