Skoll Foundation


Khan Academy

Skoll Awardee(s): Sal Khan
Award Year: 2013
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Education

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“If you think about almost any issue in the world, and ask, what causes that, peel back the onion, the root cause of almost anything is a lack of education. What’s exciting right now is the opportunity to fundamentally rethink the educational model.”

Sub-Issues: Early Childhood to Primary Education, Secondary Education, Post-Secondary Education Although the United Nations and others have declared education to be a basic human right, it is a right denied to many. Half of children in many developing countries never see a school. In developed countries, educational systems at times seem broken, unable to deliver what students need.

The Skoll Awardee: Salman Khan was one of the few fortunate youth from his public school in a small town in Louisiana to land a spot at a world-class university. He earned three degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later attended Harvard Business School. He became a hedge fund manager, but found his true calling by tutoring his 12-year-old cousin Nadia in mathematics. His digital lesson plans and tutorials were popular with friends and family members, who kept requesting more. He uploaded a variety of lessons onto YouTube and soon had millions of followers studying with his free, easy-to-use lessons. He found this so rewarding that he quit his job in 2009 to dedicate himself to what became the Khan Academy. KA provides free, high quality education for anyone, anywhere – through online lessons available directly to independent learners, and through a “flipped classroom” model in schools (instead of lecturing, teachers are present in a classroom of independent learners to monitor progress and offer support). KA allows a student to learn at his or her own pace to truly master a subject, and concurrently collects massive datasets on student performance in order to structure learning models according to student outcomes. Sal Khan is recognized as a founder and champion of the digital education revolution. At the time of the Award, KA had grown to 5 million unique visitors per month, from almost every country in the world. Its 3,400 videos had been watched more than 190 million times, and students were completing more than 2 million exercises daily.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2013:

  • As of January 2014, more than 10 million users globally are subscribed to KA.
  • Its library of resources includes 5,000 online courses.
  • Online teacher tools support more than 15,000 classrooms using the site.
  • KA is assessing indicators of educational outcomes, including the number of students in KA classrooms who achieve proficiency or score higher than comparison classrooms. Initial small scale results indicate improved outcomes for KA students. Deeper research into long-term student outcomes is planned.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.