A Message From Sal:
Why Khan Academy

People may wonder: why do we need a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere?

Let's take a look at a few pieces of data that help explain the problem.

  • Two thirds of American 4th and 8th graders aren’t proficient in reading. The numbers are almost the same for math. 1
  • At the college level, 40–60% of US students are not able to do math or read beyond a middle-school level. 2
  • In Brazil, more than 50% of eight-year-old children aren’t proficient in math and reading, and only 7% of high-school students reach grade-level proficiency in math. 3
  • In India, 86% of second grade students can’t perform simple subtraction, and 46% of eighth graders can’t read a paragraph of text. 4
  • In Peru, 82% of eighth grade students can’t achieve math standards, and 85% of eighth graders can’t achieve communication standards. 5
  • And, with the COVID-19 crisis causing worldwide school closures, these gaps will only grow wider.

It's a complex problem, and we aren’t here to pretend there is one simple answer. But we do have a key part of the solution.

Kids need to master material before moving on to more complex concepts.

Why is mastery so important?

Let's take a simple example: students learn how to add fractions. If they pass a unit test with 70% of their answers correct, they move on to the next topic. They still have a 30% gap in understanding this material, though. This gap will make learning future concepts like algebra more difficult, and eventually impossible.

For well-resourced students, gaps can be addressed by hiring a tutor. For far too many students, however, this option isn’t available.

Khan Academy is the free, online tutor for the world. It is the teaching assistant or core supplemental resource that allows every teacher to address the diverse needs in a classroom of 30 to 40 students.


1 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): The Nation’s Report Card

2 National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) (2010): Beyond the Rhetoric: Improving College Readiness Through Coherent State Policy

3 Lemann Foundation annual reports 2019 and 2018

4 Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy, National Achievement Survey: https://mhrd.gov.in/nas; https://socialfinance.org.in/india-education-outcomes-fund-2/

5 National Census Assessment 2019, Ministry of Education Peru http://umc.minedu.gob.pe/resultadosnacionales2019/