The Founder of Khan Academy
Sal Khan (36), son of Indian and Bangladeshi immigrants, was
working as a financial analyst after earning degrees from MIT and
an MBA from Harvard. But now he devotes himself full-time to his
Khan Academy, a tutoring, mentoring and testing educational
website at khanacademy.org.
The website is offering its content
free to anyone with internet access willing to work through its
exercises and pithy videos and has millions of users all
across the world especially in the United States.
Using the internet to widen access
to education is not itself revolutionary. The success of iTunes U
applications from Apple and the rise of the massive open online
courses – nicknamed Moocs – at institutions such as Stanford
University show the appetite is there.
But the Khan Academy is different. Although it also carries
tutorials in arts, computing and science, its core remains
secondary school maths, in which it couples hand-holding video
instruction with online exercises, from basic addition and
multiplication to the farther reaches of algebra and calculus, The
Guardian said in its report.
There's no accredited
qualifications, just a self-paced course combined with
sophisticated software that charts progress and highlights
weaknesses, making it simple for a parent to use to help a child
with homework without knowing the finer points of algebra, it
Describing how Sal Khan started the
project which has now become his mission, The Guardian said, he
started remotely tutoring his cousin, Nadia, in Louisiana, who was
struggling with maths. Then the rest of the family heard there was
free tutoring," he says, and more relatives started taking part.
The demands got too much – until a friend suggested he could film
the tutorials, post them on YouTube and let the family members
view them whenever they chose.
The concept is simple. Watch a video
in which Khan explains the subject being learned, and then take
the online tests that follow. The software times answers as well
as noting missteps, offers encouragement for doing well or even
just persevering. Then, when satisfied you have mastered the
topic, it invites you to move on to a related topic.
"I started this out as a hobby," The Guardian quoted Khan as
telling to a packed theatre at the London School of Economics last
week, after the inevitable question about his academy's
The idea has become so popular that
even Bill Gates has confessed using Sal Khan's videos for his
"I've used Khan Academy with my
kids, and I'm amazed at the breadth of Sal's subject expertise and
his ability to make complicated topics understandable," Gates
wrote in tribute to Khan being named one of Time's 100 most
influential people of 2012.
Gates concluded, "He started by
posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be
Khan is no fan of traditional
education, which he derides as "lecture, homework, lecture,
homework". "The real problem is that the process is broken," he
tells his LSE audience, to nods of approval. "We identify the gaps
[in children's knowledge], then we ignore them."