Over a decade ago, while working as a hedge fund analyst, Salman "Sal" Khan tutored his cousin and other family members in math, hoping to advance their progress in school. He could not have imagined then that those tutoring sessions and a small video channel on YouTube would eventually become the Khan Academy—a non-profit online learning platform that covers a wide spectrum of academic subjects for millions of people worldwide. Khan Academy currently reaches over 37 million registered students in 190 countries, and features a library of over 10,000 video lessons in more than 36 languages.
Addressing Knowledge Gaps
Khan spoke about the evolution and purpose of Khan Academy as part of the World Bank's Development Economics Vice Presidency (DEC) lecture series. With the help of philanthropic organizations, he launched the Khan Academy on a mission to bring free education to anyone, anywhere. He had realized that the growing popularity and impact of his YouTube tutorials showed there was an incredible opportunity to internationalize lessons, provide tools for teachers, and form a network of content specialists from around the world to customize local learning.
Khan touched on the mastery-based learning process promoted by Khan Academy, wherein a student’s progression depends on his/her proficiency in a subject. Often, students “hit a wall” in learning—they master 70 or 80 percent of the subject matter, but they have weaknesses in other areas that are never fully addressed. Khan Academy serves almost as a private tutor, by offering a broad curriculum and the latest in technological tools to allow students to complete their knowledge gaps at their own pace.
The Power of Accessible Education
Education distinguishes between the haves and have-nots, and Khan feels that we can do better, with Khan Academy being one step. As an example, he said a girl in a Mongolian orphanage described how she was able to access the platform to study math and science. The girl now helps to create content for Khan Academy in the Mongolian language. Khan says, "It will be an exciting next 20 to 30 years because together we have a chance on taking this education, to make it a fundamental human right."
The World Bank modeled its Open Learning Campus on the educational principles and pedagogical methods of the Khan Academy and other successful digital learning platforms. The Open Learning Campus aims to bring cutting-edge, practice-based development learning in easily accessible formats to partners, practitioners, policymakers, staff, and interested citizens—for anyone, anywhere learning as well.
Sheila Jagannathan, Program Manager, Open Learning Campus