Khan Espouses Education Reform

November 21, 2012

If you run in educational circles or you have recently been a student, you’ve likely heard of Khan Academy, the revolutionary website launched by Salman Khan in 2006 with the goal of providing students around the world with access to top-notch educational materials. To that end the MIT and Harvard Business grad populated his site with free video tutorials on nearly every academic subject, including such diverse topics as math, chemistry, art history, astrology, economics, and computer science, just to name a few. Today there are over 3,500 videos available to a global classroom thanks to Khan’s pioneering efforts. And now this enlightened scholar offers an audio book, ‘The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined’, to inform listeners about his ideas regarding education and how it can be spread if we’re simply willing to change our minds about the current methods of teaching.

No one wants to believe that higher education is something that only the privileged few can attain in this day and age, and yet, there are countries throughout the world in which it is nearly impossible for students to get beyond elementary or middle school (if they even make it that far). These kids are born into poverty with little opportunity to improve their circumstances. Even in so-called “civilized” countries there are plenty of students that will never advance past a high-school education because of poor grades or limited access to funds. So it seems that there is still a certain amount of privilege worked into the equation.

However, Khan has an entirely different idea about how technology may be used to enrich the learning experience and change the way we approach the process of schooling, as well as how classrooms in general could operate in order to help students learn at their current level rather than pushing them through the system based on seemingly arbitrary age requirements. In his estimation there is a lot we can do to combat the flaws in our current educational system, by which some students are locked out of learning, teachers are underpaid and underappreciated, and creativity is stifled in favor of standardized methodology.

His ideas start with tossing the antiquated notion of teaching that forces children to learn based not on their current ability or level of understanding, but their age. Instead he insists on letting students take the lead through a system that allows them to seek help when they need it and master a subject before moving on. In this way, the learning process becomes dynamic and interactive, engaging both students and teachers in a conversation rather than a 1-way lecture that may or may not be received. Further, he opines that busywork is unnecessary and that homework should be done in a supervised setting where students can get the help they need to understand lessons and gain mastery of subjects.

Khan’s ideas are anything but traditional, and perhaps his lack of an education degree contributed to his unique perspective on teaching. But that’s beside the point. With parents and educators keen to remark on the poor state of our current educational model, Khan has provided an alternative solution that better identifies with the fact that students learn at their own pace. Even listeners that don’t agree with everything he says will find a lot to mull over after hearing ‘The One World Schoolhouse’.

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