Clarion call of hope
Reviewed by Pooja Dadwal
The One World Schoolhouse. Education Reimagined
by Salman Khan
Paperback. Hachette India. Pages 259. Rs 399

Salman Khan is not a writer. And he shouldn't even be adjudged as one. What he is, is an educator and the founder of Khan Academy. And that too not necessarily in that order. Khan's first book, the ambitiously titled The One World Schoolhouse, makes for an interesting exposition on the past, present, and future of education. Quite frankly, the dichotomy and the schisms in education are for all to see, and if not see, then at least feel, realise, and understand at some level. But how many of us have it in us to marry a predominantly rigid enterprise with the liveliness of technology and attempt at changing the game? Not many, I guess.

In the opening pages itself, Khan, without mincing words, talks about what he finds wrong/missing in today's education model. He unabashedly advocates 'self-paced learning' and 'mastering the basics', something he has tried and tested in his endeavours through his not-for-profit organisation.

The present-day education model is a human construct; hence it is fallible, changeable, and, more importantly, malleable, he opines. Khan sees the possibility of changing or, if not that, then at least adapting it to the changing times. In the pursuit of providing everyone the best education, he does impress upon the readers, his understanding of the pandemonium the world would be subjected to, if each and every student were allowed to study as, when, and what she or he so desired. But between championing his thoughts on how education should be, no doubt sharpened over the years having spent taking the Academy to where it now stands, and acting as the devil's advocate on existing theories on the field, he manages to make an impressive, strong, and sturdy case for his beliefs.

The book not only provides an account of how Khan ventured into creating Khan Academy-initially for the purpose of tutoring his cousin(s) and later, once the idea generated a colossal amount of interest from students and parents across the world (including Bill Gates), for 'providing a high quality education for anyone, anywhere'-but also manages to string together a succinct and cogent statement on the 'system' of education. Khan lays bare every aspect and every tangent of the school system, as most of us know or/and have known it to be. But, in this battle of musts and must-not's and have and have-not's there is no clear winner; because for that to emerge a paradigm shift in all sectors and fields would be required.

Can the proposed model revamp the whole education model? Quite frankly, no. Not because it hasn't been thought of, but because the revolution, if at all it is to come, has to come one student at a time.

This is a book that educates, informs, discusses, at times even skirts around pertinent issues, and at others even comes clean with its drawbacks. But during the process, it shows you a sliver of hope for the future. For the future of education is the future of the world.