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Voice of America: An Interview with Sal Khan at Khan Lab School

Friday, December 9, 2016

This story originally aired on Voice of America, the official external broadcasting institution of the United States.

Khan Academy's mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. True to its mission, and with the help of internet, it is reaching more than 100 million interested learners around the world annually.

Academy founder Salman Khan explains the very simple idea behind it:

"We could use technology to actually humanize what happens in the classroom."

A graduate of MIT and Harvard, Khan says he has always been fascinated by the notion of using software to help people learn and make learning more personalized, "where every student's allowed to work at their own pace."

He got a chance to experiment with the idea when his young cousin needed help with her seventh grade algebra.

"Over the phone, in about five or six weeks, just getting that personalized attention – I don't think there was anything special I did – she was able to learn and even get ahead of her class."

Khan says that was the point which got him hooked to the idea that we need to move away from the traditional academic model.

"There's many studies that show that personalized learning, personalized attention can help people learn much faster."

Khan Lab School, founded by Salman Khan, is an experimental school in Silicon Valley, California, that disrupts the conventional educational model. His Khan Academy, which offers free online education to anyone, anywhere, is reaching out to tens of millions of learners through its online lectures. Khan Academy's online lectures do that for the seekers around the globe. Every week, several interactive lectures are posted on various topics, including math, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, and others via YouTube videos. Khan Academy's YouTube channel has almost 3 million subscribers and more than 10 million learners visit these lectures every month; like Mark Halberstadt, a software engineer from Colorado who posted this thank you video for Khan Academy.

Khan also recalls a story of how a young girl from Afghanistan, whose town was taken over by the Taliban, had no school to go to – she taught herself through Khan Academy.

"She actually smuggled herself into Pakistan, to Karachi, to take the SAT because the SAT wasn't offered in Afghanistan. So when we hear stories like that, it's like something you would read in a science fiction book, but it's incredibly satisfying for our team here."

Khan comes from an immigrant background and plans to help Khan Academy reach countries where education is not free and is difficult to get. He plans to provide educational and economic opportunities to people under Khan Academy's 100&Change proposal for MacArthur Foundation. Through this program, Khan Academy would provide diplomas and accreditation with universities around the world to help recipients get jobs.