Khan Academy

Education is the solution to almost everything. But, how do we make a quality education accessible to all? One solution is to provide free educational software on the internet. This is the vision of Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Afghanistan’s public school system and most Afghan families don’t have computers. Nor can they afford access to the internet. Even if they could, the Khan Academy videos are in English. Solution: Provide translated educational videos and material offline.

Gerard Van Steyn, a TIE volunteer, stepped up over a year ago to take on this challenge. Gerard, assisted by Will Goldie and Nabi Tawakali, is making it possible for TIE to provide computer libraries. Whatever videos we produce will be provided to others for free, provided they do the same.

How important could this become? A headmaster of a school in Afghanistan, after reviewing one of our Dari math videos, said “This is better than a teacher. Teachers don’t like to repeat themselves.” A headmaster of another school told Nabi and I,”there are teachers in this school who became teachers because they were someone’s relative.”.

Computer libraries will enable students to learn on their own time and at their own speed. In addition, students will no longer be subject to the limitations of their teachers.

At my request, Gerard wrote a summary of the project and its progress:

Gerard, yet another passionate TIE volunteer.

It seems like so long ago, and at the same time, just like yesterday. A little over a year ago, I sat down with Budd and Nabi to ask about how to get involved in helping Trust in Education. Research and several discussions later my project evolved into a plan to provide not just better, but a world-class education for the children of Afghanistan!
Many of you may be familiar with Khan Academy (KA) through your children and local schools. KA provides a wide variety of free elementary through college level educational lessons that are so good, students and teachers throughout the world now use them.

A year ago, it seemed straightforward enough: translate KA lessons into Dari so students throughout Afghanistan, for the first time, can have access to the best in education! The hardest part has been finding capable translators. Translating English into Dari is anything but simple. Afghans who are proficient in English and math are very difficult to find and the math videos become increasingly complex.

The good news is that one year later, and after many substandard translations and continued refinement of the process, we finally are running! A couple of weeks ago, Trust in Education passed the milestone of over 100 world class math lessons translated to Dari, and we are on track for about 50 more each month! These lessons are being published to the web so anyone (with internet access) can use them. Check it out, and brush up on your Dari while you are at it:

Absolute Value 1
Absolute Value 1

The official Dari website is now KhanAcademyDari under YouTube, however, since we have exceeded 100 translated lessons, Khan Academy will soon build a better website for us!

Some may be thinking, why all this discussion of websites, when there’s no electricity, let alone internet, in most of Afghanistan?  Trust in Education is funding and managing a parallel effort to provide educational lessons offline, so they can be used in areas without internet. Our Alpha (first) rollout, which happened last fall and is in use now, installed over 2000 Khan Academy lessons (most in English), and Dari language versions of Wikipedia, English lessons, science and humorous videos on TIE funded Pi computers. These are being used in several TIE funded winter classes. They are hugely popular and are over-subscribed!

We and they have only just begun

Our Beta rollout, which will occur in April 2015, should include over 250 KA math and science lessons translated to Dari and thousands of other lessons and rich educational material. We will also be introducing touch screen tablets loaded with all of this content. These tablets will be used in computer classes and will be lent out to families, so children and parents can learn at home at their own pace. Someday, we hope to provide such tablets, likely charged by small solar packs, to children in rural schools that don’t have electricity or access to the internet. Clearly this will be a game changer that will finally give every girl and boy the full opportunity to learn!

How can you help? Join our “YouTube Scavenger Hunt” for fun and educational videos that don’t need translation to be added to our computer libraries: Computer Library YouTube Videos.

For More Information

Khan Academy produces free world class educational lessons on a wide variety of subjects. KA currently has over 5,000 lessons, from kindergarten through college. I also highly encourage you to watch this entertaining TED talk on child driven learning. It presents intriguing findings on the ability of underprivileged children to quickly and independently learn even very technical subjects in another language.

Sugata Mitra's new experiments in self-teaching
Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

What’s missing from Gerard’s report is how challenging it has been to be where we are today. Gerard has devoted hundreds of hours to this project. He’s relentless.

This has the potential of becoming the greatest contribution Trust in Education will ever make to education in Afghanistan! Our hope is that we will serve as a catalyst causing others to weigh in. There are thousands of educational videos that need to be translated.