Khan Academy, the Virtual School that Won the Princess of Asturias Award

Study from the living room at home, with personalized monitoring and without pressure of time or results. It seems a dream but it is what the American engineer and mathematician Salman Khan has achieved with his Khan Academy, the largest educational platform on the Internet in the world, awarded this year with the Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. This virtual academy teaches Mathematics, Science, Economics and Finance and Programming, and has 60 million students from 190 different countries. And, in case it seemed little, it’s free.

“Khan Academy has 20,000 videos and offers personalized itineraries in Mathematics, Science or Programming.”

His story was the result of chance. Salman Khan, an Indian mother and Bangladeshi father based in New Orleans (United States), worked as a financial analyst and helped her cousin Nadia with her math homework. As she lived far away, they communicated by telephone and through some computer tool. Given the success of the format, in 2006 the American began to post videos on YouTube with his lessons, and soon he got a good number of followers. In 2008 he decided to quit his job and turn to his virtual academy.

How does this system of distance learning work? Khan has more than 20,000 videos available in 30 different languages. In addition, it offers exercises, with personalized pedagogical itineraries and follow-up of the advances in real time. Follow the concept of “inverted class”, leaving for home the study of theory and the most practical part for classes, which last between ten and twenty minutes, which is the time estimated by the American that the concentration of the apprentice lasts.

Khan does not understand prejudice. Its lessons are aimed at students of different ages, from the most basic level to the pre-university level, and, above all, origins and economic environments. “It is possible that a girl from a village in Africa has the potential to discover a cure for cancer,” says the mathematician, whose ambition to break social barriers and bring education to everyone has been key to the decision of the jury of the Princesa 2019 Awards. His academy also has the Heinz Prize for Human Condition and among its sponsors are Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Google and Disney.

Khan believes in a very concrete education model. In his book «The one world schoolhouse. Education reimagined »the mathematician unravels the pillars of his successful format, based on the empowerment of the student beyond its economic and social limits.

Among them, Khan emphasizes the need to learn from fun, since what is learned through coercion is retained worse; the importance of stimulating the student and encouraging curiosity, and the elimination of time in the classroom, because, according to the American, being faster does not mean being smarter.

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