USHA: Diaspora Youth in Academic Bridging Programmes

By Benjamin Wood

Salman Khan did something amazing. What started as a simple idea to help tutor family members has turned into a large, non-profit organization. Around the time that CFFN was starting, so was the Khan Academy, an educational foundation driven to create a “free, virtual school where anyone can learn anything.”

In the past five years, Khan Academy has created and distributed 2,500 10-minute videos of pre-university topics that are presented in a simple way that’s like having a personal tutor or teacher right beside you. The videos are presented like a virtual chalkboard designed to be the simplest, easiest way for someone to follow along, focusing on problems and the methods to solve them. While math was the original focus, Khan Academy has branched off to include physics, chemistry, computer science, critical thinking, history and finance. Ultimately, the organization wishes to have videos on all scholastic topics.

Khan Academy’s results so far have been staggering. The videos have received over 67 million views on YouTube. Salman Khan and the Academy have received numerous awards, been featured on television, in print, at TED… Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are fully behind Khan Academy, and Google is pouring millions of dollars to help translate the videos into some of the world’s most common languages.

Unfortunately, Nepali is not one of those languages. It’s for that reason that CFFN is going to utilise the successful model that Khan Academy has developed to reach out to students in Nepal and Nepali students abroad. We plan to create or translate Khan Academy videos in the Nepali language and make them available online and produce physical media copies for libraries, schools, and community centres. Each video would focus on one particular concept and can be viewed in isolation from other videos. Not only are the videos useful in isolation, they are also treated as a piece of the bigger puzzle. To create these videos, we plan to follow the Nepali curriculum so that the videos build upon each other and reflect what students in Nepal are seeing in school.

Students would be able to use the videos to help solidify the understanding of concepts as to not fall behind in school, to study and review material, to prepare for tests and SLC, and to reach ahead to stay challenged. All students, regardless of which school they are attending, whether in major cities or off in distant communities, will have access to the same quality lessons. Any children who don’t have access to school or quality materials will be able to keep up with their peers on their own time to equalize learning and the opportunities that follow. This video learning library will help to fill learning gaps that exist in Nepal today. They can help prepare students for tertiary studies, and especially for the Open University of Nepal, where it will be possible for anyone to apply, even if they do not have the secondary credentials that are currently required by every other tertiary institution.

We are planning to start with grades 9 and 10 mathematics topics, and have them available in English and Nepali. This will have the biggest immediate impact as students prepare for the national SLC exam, the most important exam in the Nepali education system. Over half of the grade 10 students who take the exam do not pass. It is our goal to give all Nepali students the ability to achieve a higher division or distinction. By preparing the videos in both English and Nepali languages, it is possible to further students’ abilities to learn, speak, and understand both languages.

Prashanta Dhakal creating a video on solving equations

As this project grows, it may be possible to cover all topics in the Nepali curriculum at every grade level. Our specific focus on the Nepali curriculum will help make this project relevant and useful to students in Nepal. We are not trying to copy everything that Khan Academy has done, or trying to do it better. Rather, we would like to walk alongside Salman Khan, achieving the same goals of making a quality education freely available to all.

We have tested the technology that will allow this to happen, and are currently in the midst of creating the first videos. In order to be successful, we will require the help of youth Diaspora everywhere to provide input, devise lesson plans, create and edit videos, and distribute them where they are needed.

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