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Who is Salman Khan?

You may be familiar with Khan Academy, but how much do you know about its founder?

Personally, I'd barely even heard his name before, and was a little confused when a Google search for 'Salman Khan' brought up pictures of a Bollywood actor. 'Impressive guy!', I thought. Turns out the actor and the educator are actually two distinct people. But despite not having starred in 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', I would still say Sal Khan is a pretty Impressive Guy.

With three degrees from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and an MBA from Harvard University, Khan is hardly short of qualifications. After (finally) leaving college, he started work as a hedge fund analyst and began to tutor his cousin Nadia over video calls. His family were so impressed by how much his tutoring helped that more cousins started begging him to help them as well. Khan was a busy guy though and didn't have time to help everyone, so instead he decided to film his lessons and post them to YouTube for the rest of the family. Clearly he did something right because his channel absolutely exploded with subscribers, and in 2008 he decided to quit his job and focus on running, what was now called, Khan Academy.

Khan was determined to keep the academy as a non-profit platform (in line with his mission to provide free, quality education to anyone who wants it) and had to put everything on the line to achieve. It all paid off.

Khan Academy now has over 30 million users and has totally disrupted the education industry by showing how effective online learning and home schooling can be when done right. The platform now offers thousands of free videos on everything from GCSE Maths to SAT Prep and is entirely funded by philanthropy. During lockdown, the website saw a 300% increase in users as it proved to be a lifeline for students struggling with online school.

Online education used to be a fairly unconventional idea, but thanks to the pandemic it's become a huge talking point across the world. Home-based learning has made us hyper-aware of the many issues with the current classroom model, and schools are trying to figure out a better way to keep kids engaged and make sure they're getting the support they need, both online and in the classroom. In an interview about where he thinks education is headed, Khan said,

“I imagine the school of the future being one, two or three classrooms with mixed age groups working at their own pace, tutoring each other and with teachers mentoring them. In real life, that is how people learn. The teachers and students are on the same side, not on different sides of the equation”.

Through the success of Khan Academy he's shown that the problem right now is not that education is online, it's more that moving online has shown us the problems with education.

As impressive as it is, Khan Academy is only the beginning. Thanks to the platform's success, Khan has been able to write a book ('The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined) and even start his own school in Silicon Valley. He recently received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Harvard, and has been named as a major inspiration for the creation of the website Coursera (one of the first MOOC platforms). In less than 15 years, Sal Khan has gone from filming videos in his bedroom to leading a global education movement. If all this doesn't make him an Impressive Guy, then I don't know what would.

Want to know more about online learning options? Read our article on Top Tips for Online Learning and our interview with Heather Rhodes, Principal of Harrow Online.


Article written by Amena Boyd, 18th June 2021


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