The US-based Khan Academy has entered into a strategic not-for-profit partnership with the Tata Trusts, promoted by the $108 Bn Tata Group to leverage technology to provide free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere in India. Details of the investment remained undisclosed.
Founded by Salman Khan, a former hedge fund analyst in the US, the academy seeks to disrupt the traditional model of tutoring in India. The multi-million dollar partnership will look at hiring Indian teachers and teach in Indian languages through videos that are mapped to the Indian education system, especially NCERT textbooks. Consequently, the collaboration will adapt and build upon Khan Academy’s existing resources and tools to serve the specific needs of the Indian learner.
Ratan Tata stated, “We want to multiply literacy many times over. The Khan Academy partnership will enable us to deliver education free of cost to anyone and at anytime and at any place, with just the help of a connected device. Even at Tata Group, where we spend close to 5% of our earnings on philanthropy, we have realised that the traditional methods of giving for education such as scholarships and funding for overseas education need to change.”
The five-year partnership will be divided into two phases, with the first two years focussing on designing a robust set of educational resources in sync with the needs of middle- and low-income students in urban environments. The next phase will see diversification into other content areas, including offering classes in regional languages such as Marathi, Tamil and Bangla. The academy had recently launched a Hindi portal for students in India.
As per Khan, the aim of the Academy is not to compete with traditional forms of classroom education, but to complement them.The academy aims to create content that has not date value or geographical boundaries and is good for both online and offline access and on low-cost devices.
The partnership’s current focus would be on product and software development, content localisation and creation, and adoption and awareness. The partnership will start with building a team in India led by Sandeep Bapna. The startup aims to make a significant difference to the low student learning levels in India.
Studies such as the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) have demonstrated that nearly 75% of children in Class V are unable to do simple division. Additionally, India also faces an acute shortage of qualified and competent teachers and needs to fulfil the requirement of 1.2 Mn qualified teachers across the country. The academy aims to address these issues through various public and private partnerships to empower and equip students, families and teachers and by providing free of charge world-class education for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The website sees over 20 Mn visits on a monthly basis and 70% of its traffic comes from the USA. The video tutorials on the website has been used by many including Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corp. Other supporters include Google, The Broad Foundation, the Skoll Foundation and the O’Sullivan Foundation. In India, it is supported by Central Square Foundation, a venture philanthropy promoted by Ashish Dhawan, co-founder of ChrysCapital. The company will rely on philanthropists for revenues, following the same model as in the US. Now with Tata coming on board, it seems it is on a solid footing in India as far as revenues are concerned.
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