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Khan Academy- The power of a simple idea

31 October 2010 No Comment

Now that you started reading this post, let me begin by asking you some quick questions:

  • What is the Focus and Directrix of a parabola? (Yes you did study this in school)
  • How about the Calvin cycle of photosynthesis?
  • Quick – what’s the first law of thermodynamics?

Hang on – if you think I am about to take you on a  ‘Are you smarter than a 5th grader’ journey- No I am not. Nor am I going to demonstrate my knowledge on elementary science and maths. To tell you the truth, I have no clue on the answers myself.

So why am I asking these questions in the first place?

To begin with, these might not be life impacting concerns for most school survivors (/adults), but if you’ve been there through those schooling years, you will probably appreciate the importance of knowing the answers to these questions.  Likewise, if you are an adult who wants to refresh your memory on certain concepts (like I love to go back to refreshing Statistics and mathematics fundamentals from time to time), getting  an easily available resource would be huge.

Then again, in today’s “must-have-expensive-private-tuition-otherwise-my-kid/I am- screwed” world, where nothing except crass entertainment (and perhaps ample opinions) is free, enter Khan Academy.

And these are just of the two reasons why you should visit

Just imagine if you could get good quality education- at your own pace- at the time that you want to.

This one line perhaps explains the concept of this virtual repository of education-well enough- but more in this video:

I first came to know about this while flipping through the Fortune  Magazine on iPAD- a few months ago. Since then, it has been talked about- and even Bill Gates has encouraged and endorsed the academy, and probably Gates Foundation will support the work at Khan Academy.

Salman Khan (or Sal Khan- as he is popularly known), the one man faculty and founder of the academy, is a Harvard MBA and former hedge fund manager. He has created about 1600+ videos since 2006 – short snippets of about 15 mins each on topics covering maths, science, economics, and other subjects. Goes a long way in demonstrating what perseverance- along with talent and passion can achieve.

Online video has been used for education since long- but the unique content, the quality, the approach and the consistency – all of these make for a great story for the Khan Academy.

Now that success has been demonstrated, what we’d like to see is the spread of the concept- across countries- and across languages. I sincerely believe in video’s real power will come to the forefront when local, vernacular content is created- making the internet a truly ubiquitous phenomenon. When the kids in the villages get world class education, and family resources do not constrain kids/adults from getting good education. In many countries, infrastructure could be  the constraint, but at least the content will not be.

Think about it.