education | March 18, 2013

Master Concepts Before Moving On: Education Speaker Salman Khan

"Instead of holding fixed how long you have to learn something, when you learn it, and the variable component being how well you learn it—we should do it the other way around," education speaker Salman Khan says in a recent college keynote at University of California Berkeley. "The variable component should be when you get to learn something and how you get to learn it (essentially at your own pace, in your own time). And what's fixed is that you expect a high level of mastery of all of those things you were working on." In the speech, Khan chronicles his revolutionary Khan Academy's incredible journey from a series of videos and software tools designed to tutor his cousins, to a multi-million user base of virtual students who rely on his instructional videos to help them fill in the gaps in their education. One of the reasons why Khan's videos are so popular is his unique lesson design.

Instead of rushing students through the subject matter, he allows viewers to take their time and really sink their teeth into the material they are learning. He has turned the traditional model of education on its head—putting the emphasis on total comprehension rather than on the speed by which the students get through the material. Initially, as he told the audience at the presentation, he envisioned his work to exist solely outside of the traditional school system. While the bulk of users are still working on their own to fill in the missing parts of their education, the Khan Academy's principles have slowly been making their way into the formal education system as well.

You can't expect a student to be successful if they don't have the proper foundation from the beginning, he says. Even the gifted students who are getting A's have gaps in their knowledge. If you allow every student to take their time and not be rushed, they become more successful. And, he adds, it's not delusional to think that every student everywhere should have that same opportunity. "There's no reason why it can't happen, why over the next 10, 20,30 years something as scarce, but as important, as education stops being viewed as a luxury, or something that only a few people have, into really a human right...something that people just expect for everyone." With the number of users on his site growing every day, numerous big-name supporters jumping on board, and the growing popularity of his new book The One World School House, it's possible that Khan's dream is closer to reality than ever.

Up Next

social change | March 17, 2013