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Many people have set up learning hubs in various disciplines. In fact, learning today is extremely accessible because huge resources are available at literally no cost.
I mentioned Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) in the last blog. It is such a resource that it deserves separate presentation.
Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2008 by Salman Khan. The objective was to create a set of online tools that help educate students. Khan Academy produces short lessons in the form of videos. Their website includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. All resources are available for free to users of website and app.
Salman Khan hails from Bangladesh. He holds three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. Sal Khan, as he is usually called, was working as a hedge fund analyst when he started using online tools to tutor his cousins in Bangladesh in 2005. Soon, other children also joined to learn from his classes. He then decided to make videos and put on YouTube for general audience.
Positive responses prompted Khan to quit his job in 2009, to focus full-time on creating educational tutorials (then released under the name Khan Academy). Khan Lab School, a school founded by Sal Khan and associated with Khan Academy, opened on September 15, 2014, in Mountain View, California. In June 2017, Khan Academy officially launched the Financial Literacy Video Series for college graduates, job seekers and young professionals.
Khan Academy is nonprofit organization, mostly funded by donations coming from philanthropic organizations. In 2010, Google donated $2 million for creating new courses and translating content into other languages, as part of their Project 10100 program. In 2013, Carlos Slim from the Carlos Slim Foundation in Mexico, made a donation for creating Spanish versions of videos. In 2015, AT&T contributed $2.25 million to Khan Academy for mobile versions of the content accessible through apps. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $1.5 million to Khan Academy.
Khan Academy’s website aims to provide a personalized learning experience, mainly built on the videos which are hosted on YouTube. The website is meant to be used as a supplement to its videos, because it includes other features such as progress tracking, practice exercises, and teaching tools. The material can also be accessed through mobile applications.
The videos display a recording of drawings on an electronic blackboard, which are similar to the style of a teacher giving a lecture. The narrator describes each drawing and how they relate to the material being taught. Furthermore, throughout the lessons, you can earn badges and energy points, which can be displayed on your profile. Non-profit groups have distributed offline versions of the videos to rural areas in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Videos range from all subjects covered in school and for all grades from kindergarten up through high school. The Khan Academy website also hosts content from educational YouTube channels and organizations such as Crash Course and the Museum of Modern Art. It also provides online courses for preparing for standardized tests, including the SAT, AP Chemistry, Praxis Core and MCAT and released LSAT preparation lessons in 2018.
Since 2015, Khan Academy has been the official SAT practicing website. According to reports, studying for the SAT for 20 hours on Khan Academy is associated with a 115-point average score increase. Many book exercises select questions from the Khan Academy site to be published.
In 2018, Khan Academy created an application called Khan Academy Kids. It is for young two-year-old to six-year-old children to learn basic skills (primarily mathematics and language arts) before progressing to grade school.
Khan Academy videos have been translated into several languages, with close to 20,000 subtitle translations available. These translations are mainly volunteer-driven with help from international partnerships. The Khan Academy platform is fully available in English (en), Bangla (bn), Bulgarian (bg), Chinese (zh), French (fr), German (de), Georgian (ka), Norwegian (nb), Polish (pl) Portuguese (pt), Spanish (es), Serbian (sr), Turkish (tr) and Uzbek (uz), and partially available in 28 other languages.
According to a report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, global spending on education is $3.9 trillion, or 5.6% of planetary GDP. America spends the most–about $1.3 trillion a year–yet the U.S. ranks 25th out of the 34 OECD countries in mathematics, 17th in science and 14th in reading. And, as in so many other areas of American life, those averages obscure a deeper divide: The U.S. is the only developed country to have high proportions of both top and bottom performers. About a fifth of American 15-year-olds do not have basic competence in science; 23% can’t use math in daily life.
We can draw inferences for Pakistan based on our education system which is fraught with low budget allocation, greed, unqualified teachers and pathetic syllabi.
“Sal is the world’s first superstar teacher,” says Yuri Milner, the Russian physicist turned venture capitalist who was an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Groupon .
Beyond admirers like Milner, Khan’s meteoric success has attracted the financial support of a bevy of high-profile, socially minded backers, including Ann Doerr, the wife of billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr; Bill Gates; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; NewSchools Venture Fund, whose CEO is the former president of the California State Board of Education; and Google, whose chairman, Eric Schmidt, serves on the academy’s board. In total Khan has raised $16.5 million, with assurances of more to come.
“The numbers get really crazy when you look at the impact per dollar,” says Khan. “We have a $7 million operating budget, and we are reaching, over the course of a year, about 10 million students in a meaningful way. If you put any reasonable value on it, say $10 a year–and keep in mind we serve most students better than tutoring–and you are looking at, what, a 1,000% return?”
People like Sal Khan and Institutions like Khan Academy are a great source of inspiration which should lead to more such efforts.