To sir, with love: A letter that touched Sal Khan’s heart

  • Rozelle Laha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 30, 2016 20:01 IST
Salman Khan (right) at the launch of Khan Academy’s free online tutorials in Hindi in India. (Central Square Foundation)

Financial-analyst-turned-educator Salman Khan, lovingly called ‘Sal’ by a legion of young admirers, did not know how popular his video tutorials would get to be when he started coaching his cousin Nadia online and over the phone... That is until letters started pouring in from all around the world to thank him for the mathematics-made-easy lessons he had recorded and uploaded for Nadia. “These letters convinced me to quit my job, set up Khan Academy as a not-for-profit initiative, and work on it full-time,” Sal Khan told Hindustan Times in a recent interview.

One letter, he says, made him rethink his teaching methods. “I received a message from a student named Manhar in New York City. When he was struggling in school with his teachers doubting his ability to graduate, he took support from Khan Academy to fill the gaps in his learning and race ahead. Eventually, he earned an internship at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and a full scholarship.”

Read: Khan Academy launches Hindi math tutorials in India

Manhar, in the note that touched Khan’s heart, had written: “When I was in middle school, I was constantly made fun of and was told by my teachers that I would end up dropping out of high school. They thought I was incapable and put me in classes that didn’t allow me to reach my full potential. I always tried to find my source of inspiration and a way to reach my full potential. I always found myself turning to Khan Academy… I learned so much and went from being a student who couldn’t ever add numbers or read properly, to graduating second in class…

“I really felt Khan Academy’s impact on me when I was well prepared when I interned for NASA in New York City… I dealt with principles in Quantum Mechanics that I had learned from Khan Academy… Also, I want to say that even being chosen for the internship at NASA is because of Khan Academy… A lot of my stats that made me competitive in this process were due to the education I received at Khan Academy. Moreover, I received three scholarships that gave me a full ride to Hunter College in New York. These scholarships were extremely competitive and were again due to my education at Khan Academy. I just wanted to express my success and how Khan Academy changed my life.”

Read: Tata Trusts to support Khan Academy for free online education

Salman Khan’s Academy was in the news when he launched Hindi math tutorials in India in December last year. “India, with one of the largest education systems in the world, has always been a priority for Khan Academy. There is a strong opportunity to help and empower both students and teachers in classroom and out-of-classroom settings. We believe that we can help address that opportunity. In the past three years, we have seen a growth of 45% plus year on year in video lessons served to Indian users. This growth has come on our English platform and our main users have been in the big cities,” Khan says.

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