Sal’s Khan Academy and YouTube Channel Help Children and Teachers Worldwide
Through the Khan Academy website and YouTube channel, the Sal and his team has delivered over 240 million lessons to hundreds of thousands of students and teachers worldwide, revolutionizing the method of education in many areas of the world.
Sal’s passion for revolutionizing the method of education has its roots in his desire to see every children receive proper education. This is the very reason why the Khan Academy’s services are free—there are millions of children around the world today who cannot afford to go to school. In addition to this, there are also thousands of schools today that have outdated teaching resources, which can seriously affect the knowledge that is being imparted to the students by their teachers.
Through Khan Academy, Sal has been able to reach multitudes of teachers and students and give them up to date resources on the topics in school that need to be discussed—all you need is a good internet connection and you can have access to the thousands of lessons that are available at the Khan Academy website or the YouTube channel.
Sal’s amazing devotion to revolutionizing education through the Internet has caused him to receive a great amount of international fame, even becoming known by the most prominent people in the world, such as Bill Gates, who invited Salman to speak at the TED conference, sharing the platform with many of the world’s talented speakers, such as former United States president Bill Clinton, British chef Jamie Oliver, Doctor Jane Goodall, famous British physicist Stephen Hawking, and many others.
Making it to Forbes’ 40 Under 40
Salman has been invited to sit for interviews in several internationally acclaimed television talk shows, such as “The Colbert Report” and “Charlie Rose,” where he was able to further promote his organization’s aims of helping the children across the world through education. Salman has received several awards for his philanthropic and entrepreneurial work, most notably his inclusion to TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and Forbes Magazine’s 40 Under 40, a list of businessmen under forty years old who is making a powerful mark in the business world.
Sal Khan’s Early Bio
It may quite surprise you to find out that this brilliant and talented entrepreneur came from humble origins and never actually had the desire to change the world until he was in his late twenties. Salman Khan was born in the suburbs of New Orleans, Louisiana on October 11, 1976 to a Bengali father and an Indian mother.
Both of his parents migrated to the United States to look for a better life: his father, who was from Barisal, Bangladesh, worked as a doctor in a local clinic; while his mother, who was from Kolkata, India, worked in different convenience stores. Unfortunately though, the income that Sal’s parents received was not enough for them. Because of this, Sal and his older sister grew up in a poor family, barely having enough in life.
When Sal was just two years old, his father left him and his sister and moved to Philadelphia. It was not easy for Sal’s mother, whose income was barely enough to feed her two children for one day. Because of this, she increased her workload and started doing odd jobs in convenience stores just so that she could bring something home to her children every day.
Sal grew up never intimately knowing his father. He only saw his father once when the latter visited him for an evening when Sal was 12, but other than that, he had no other memories of his dad. In fact, in an interview made with Sal years later, he recalled of his father:
“My dad moved to Philadelphia and was more of a notion than a person: I met him once for an evening when I was 12 and he passed away when I was 13. He never sent child support I think because he had no money, despite being a doctor. Within our means we lived well and there was always food on the table. I give my mom credit for that.”
In spite of growing up in a poor and barely enough environment, Sal was a brilliant and intelligent individual. His mother was able to enroll Sal in a public school, where he received free school lunches because of his family’s economic status being below the poverty line. He recalled in an interview:
“We lived at the poverty line and I was on free school lunches. My mother is always very embarrassed when I say that but I love that about this country: people don’t care where you come from.”
Sal’s economic plight did not stop him from being recognized in school for his intellect and brilliance. When he was nine years old, Sal was given the opportunity to be placed on the school’s talented and gifted programme, where he was able to further develop his knowledge and skills. He said in an interview made with him years later:
“Most of my really formative memories come from that programme—that’s where I learnt to play chess, where I learnt about the great artists…”
At a young age, Sal already had a desire to teach. He did not particularly know where he got this urging, but he always felt that he was drawn to a career in the educational industry as he was growing up. When he was in his elementary and high school years, Sal noticed how there were students in school who had so much potential in them yet never even tried to make something great out of themselves.
They were contented to simply memorize the lessons and pass their exams, not really aiming to be amazing in any way. He stated that he saw a mix of students: there a few of his classmates that were ‘fresh out of jail,’ while the others were bound for top universities. Sal did not think much of it back then, as his aim was to get a good paying job to help his mother and his older sister.
Attending MIT and Harvard
After graduating from high school, Sal went and applied for a scholarship to the University of New Orleans. He successfully won a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at the university, Sal was credited by his professors as one of their top and most brilliant students. Sal majored in multiple subjects and took them relatively with ease. He was, however, a bit confused during his senior year. For three months, Sal shifted from pre-law to pre-med then back again to pre-law.
After doing some thinking about what he really wanted, Sal decided that he wanted to become a computer science professor; however, after hearing from a friend that the technology industry was the best route to take for undergraduates, Sal shifted his interests from teaching to working in the technology industry.
He graduated from MIT with four degrees: a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, another in electrical engineering, and bachelor and master’s degrees in computer science. Sal predicted that he would be working for a large company in the Silicon Valley and work up the ladder, eventually becoming a tech entrepreneur. This led him to work for Oracle, a well-known technology company.
Although Sal spent a lot of his time working and studying, this did not make him a total nerd. During his free time, he would go out with his friends and play music, which was one of Sal’s passions. In fact, during his young adult years he was a lead singer in a heavy metal band that was comprised of him and his former classmates. Later on in his career, Sal decided to continue pursuing his studies, and applied at Harvard Business School, where he received his master’s degree in business administration. After graduating, Sal took up a job as a hedge fund analyst. He said of his job:
“It was a good intellectual job with good compensation and a good lifestyle. I had it in my mind that if I made enough money I could retire early and start a school. My dream was – and still is – to have a small Hogwarts kind of school, where I could be surrounded by really neat kids and other faculty members and just play: build robots, do whatever. I want a school where you have the ability to flex your creativity without sacrificing academic rigour.”
A Natural Teacher
In 2004, while Sal was living in Boston, he received a message from his cousin Nadia who was asking him to tutor her for her studies in Mathematics. Nadia was living in New Orleans, so Sal informed her that he would be tutoring her through the Internet. Sal used Yahoo’s doodle notepad to teach Nadia her Math lessons. This proved to be very effective, and soon enough Sal became popular to Nadia’s friends due to her improvement in school.
The Birth of YouTube-Hosted Khan Academy
Eventually, Sal received more tutoring requests from many other people, which prompted him to back off for a bit because of the time it would take to tutor each one. Right there and then, he came up with an idea of putting his tutorials into a video, and created a YouTube account so he can upload the videos there. This was in 2006, and Sal named his YouTube account the “Khan Academy.”
Sal Does Khan Academy Full-Time
Sal’s idea of posting video tutorials became a hit online, as his videos started garnering multiple views—first by the hundreds, then by the thousands! Through social media sharing, Sal’s video tutorials became more and more popular as more viewers went in to see his videos. In fact, in one of the feedback he received from his cousins, Sal discovered that they preferred to see him on video than in person.
While pondering upon this thought, Sal realized two reasons as to why people reacted positively to his videos. First of all, when a person is trying to struggle with understanding a particular new concept, the last thing that they would want to see is an adult breathing down their neck, asking them if they understood properly. Second, his video tutorials enabled discrete learning and constant playback, helping the person viewing them to become more at ease while learning. It was because of the flexibility that was being provided by the videos in terms of learning that caused the viewers to love Sal’s video tutorials.
As his YouTube account became more and more popular, Sal began to spend more time with it. It was not that he really planned for it to become his career; it was just that he was so drawn to his passion for teaching that he did not mind spending time putting videos together. Eventually, Sal came to a point that he had to choose between his job as a hedge fund analyst and his career as an online tutor. He knew that if he left his job, he would be undertaking a huge risk of becoming financially unstable, thus leaving him poor and broke. However, for some reason, Sal felt so surely about focusing his efforts on the Khan Academy.
He had this deep sense of desire to help the people who were visiting his channel and were viewing his videos. And so, in 2009, after doing some thinking, Sal finally resigned from his job and dedicated his entire life to managing his YouTube account. With the help of his longtime friend Josh Gefner, Sal officially started developing the Khan Academy to reach out to more people internationally.
Getting Financial Support from Philanthropists
It was not an easy task at first, and Sal had to struggle with his finances. He did not have a house, and because he did not have a job, he also could not get a mortgage. He was running Khan Academy on his own budget, which consisted of a measly 5,000 dollars a month. And though his life became really stressful because of all the things that he was going through, Sal did not allow himself to be overtaken by the obstacles and remained steadily in the course, somehow realizing that everything was going to be better.
One day, Sal received a cheque by mail worth 10,000 dollars. It was from Ann Doerr (the wife of the famous capitalist, John Doerr), and when Sal came to thank Ann in a lunch she invited him to, Ann promised Sal an additional 100,000 dollars by cheque after she learned of the hard life Sal was having.
It did not stop there. Soon enough, Sal’s sponsors grew in number, which greatly surprised and excited him and his family. One of these supporters was the internationally famous technology tycoon, Bill Gates, who revealed to the public that he and his children were huge fans of the Khan Academy, and that he was going to give the foundation a grant worth 1.5 million dollars. Sometime later, he gave another four million to the foundation, and said of Sal, “It was a good day his wife let him quit his job.” Google, the world’s largest search engine, also awarded the Khan Academy an amount of two million dollars.
Things began to fall into place in Sal’s life, which empowered him to further continue his passion in building the Khan Academy. He spent the money that he received from numerous sponsors in improving the technology and equipment, and started to hire people to work with him in expanding the foundation’s reach. The Khan Academy became a huge success, and as of currently is one of the largest educational resource sites in the world.
Khan Academy Featured in Colbert Report, 60 Minutes, TED, and Many Others
Sal’s success in running the Khan Academy threw him into the spotlight of fame. In 2011, he was invited for an interview at The Colbert Report, a critically acclaimed television talk show. Afterwards, he received another offer to appear in an interview with Charlie Rose. Sal has been featured in the PBS News Hour, CNN, 60 Minutes, and the National Public Radio, and was praised for his undying efforts in promoting education through the internet. That same year, Sal was invited personally by Bill Gates to speak at the TED conference, where he shared of his beliefs regarding the importance of revolutionizing education to make it friendlier and more enticing to the students.
Sal Writes a Book
Sal authored a book called "The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined," where, according to Amazon, Sal "presents his radical vision for the future of education, as well as his own remarkable story, for the first time. In these pages, you will discover, among other things:
How both students and teachers are being bound by a broken top-down model invented in Prussia two centuries ago
Why technology will make classrooms more human and teachers more important
How and why we can afford to pay educators the same as other professionals
How we can bring creativity and true human interactivity back to learning
Why we should be very optimistic about the future of learning."
Happily Living with Wife and Two Kids
Sal’s success in his career is also mirrored in his personal life. While studying at MIT, Sal met Umaima Marvi, who was studying medicine at that time. After they graduated, they went ahead to work in their respective fields, seeing each other from time to time. They established a mutual relationship that eventually grew into a romantic relationship, and decided to get married some time before Sal left his job as a hedge fund analyst.
Sal greatly praises his wife Umaima for being there for him all the time, especially during the trying moments, when Sal decided to focus on the Khan Academy. In fact, it was in 2009, while Sal and Umaima were struggling with their lives and finances, that they were expecting their first child. They eventually got through the challenges, and now live happily with their son and daughter in Mountain View, California.
Sal’s career has been marked with numerous obstacles and challenges which would probably have caused him to quit several times had it not been for his strong sense of persistence and optimism. He strongly emphasizes on rising from failure, encouraging people to see it as a second opportunity in life and not as an end in itself. He inspires many of us to believe that no matter how bad the situation may be, or whether or not you came from the right family, it is up to you to determine whether or not you will succeed in life.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- The Khan Academy
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Received the Microsoft Tech Award for Education (Khan Academy)
- 2010: Included in the 40 under 40 list by Forbes Magazine
- 2012: Included in the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine