Review: The One World Schoolhouse

The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan, the founder of khanacademy.org

A review

The One World Schoolhouse is a documentary of the philosophy, thoughts, ideas and experiences of the founder of The Khan Academy – Salman Khan. A child born of immigrant parents from India and Bangladesh, Salman Khan is today renowned globally for his simple yet powerful website khanacademy.org which, through its video lectures, seeks to redesign and remodel the education system as we know today.

In this book, he speaks of his ideas about education in the present-day world, the role of schools, colleges, teachers, examination and even students and how a self-paced mode of delivering lectures at the crux can be the catalyst for a full revamp of education as we know it. Khan’s thought process is clear and it shines through as one moves from chapter to chapter. Khan makes the case for his idea, drawing into theory and the results from his efforts so far. He speaks of his own venture as well telling the story of how it began and grew stronger after almost dying a sudden death. The story of this entrepreneurial phase of the author makes for a pleasing read.

Personally, I found the book a superb read. At times, I felt a tinge of sorrow remembering my own schooldays, which were little different from those of the median student of the world, as Khan laments on the debilitating effects of such an education and draws the vision of a different world, as different from the present system as heaven from inferno. At other times, I almost felt a sense of envy, thinking why I could not conjure such a simple idea myself rather than this man! This, however, was in most part due to the lucid flow of logic which leaves one wondering why one oneself hadn’t come to similar conclusions earlier.

One grievance I have about the book, or rather the author’s ideas, is that he seemed to be not taking into consideration certain factors as he took his dream/ vision to the next level in the final part of the book. Namely, natural human behaviour and its dozen idiosyncrasies. To cite an example: while I am as firm a believer as any in the power of internet as an enabler of true democracy for the first time in human civilization, the factors that have hindered social mobility over the centuries would continue to remain a major challenge. If the rich and the privileged wish to construct artificial barriers, it would require sheer will from the collective society to overcome it and tools like technology would merely be tools awaiting proper use – rendered useless until such time that they are ignited by the same will (or law as it may).

Having said that, I end by wishing with all my heart that Salman Khan and The Khan Academy and others of their ilk prosper overcoming all odds, bringing in their rise a culture of worship of excellence over petty, infectious mediocrity and politicking.

Note: If you are interested in the idea behind khanacademy.org, you may also like to listen to this talk (on ted.com):

http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud.html

 

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