Too many people lack the skills and credentials to participate meaningfully in the global economy. This is caused by problems at every stage of our education pipeline, from inadequate school access to low graduation rates. The United Nations estimates that 263 million children, including half of all refugee children, are not in school. In the United States alone, 55% of college students never earn a diploma. These challenges will be exacerbated in the near term by the global refugee crisis and in the long term by automation as new industries are created and old jobs made obsolete.
For many of the millions shut out of the modern economy, like girls in oppressive societies, laid-off workers, refugees, and prisoners, traditional routes to employment are out of reach. Cost, time constraints, and social barriers limit access. Even those with degrees are often underemployed, as curricula are disconnected from employers’ needs. Online learning materials are becoming widely accessible, but they are not yet connected directly to economic empowerment.
There have been many attempts to address aspects of this problem, but the solutions are often piecemeal, hard to scale, expensive, or locale-specific.
Solving this problem is imperative for millions who want a better life for themselves and their families; for employers, who need an increasingly skilled entry-level workforce; for educational institutions, who want to help more people achieve their potential; and for society at large, as disenfranchisement and underemployment breed discontent, instability, and extremism.
We plan to develop internationally-recognized diplomas that provide direct access to economic and educational opportunities. To support this, we will create free content and tools to help people earn our diplomas at their own pace, regardless of their incoming skills.
An Afghan girl forbidden by the Taliban from attending school will now be able to study on her mobile phone, gain admission to a top university, and become a physicist. A father in Detroit who dropped out of high school will demonstrate his skills and work ethic to earn an entry-level job that supports his family. A school leader in Kenya will use these resources to ensure her students receive a rigorous education with international relevance.
Khan Academy is already used by more than 100 million people around the world every year. These diplomas will connect current and future Khan Academy learners, including those in underserved communities and war-torn regions, to real economic opportunities.
We will develop the diplomas in close partnership with educational institutions and employers to ensure relevance. In addition to academic skills, we will recognize metacognitive skills, like perseverance, not measured by traditional degrees. Unlike other offerings, we will track job placement and performance to measure the efficacy of the diplomas and continuously improve them. Tools will enable teachers and mentors to track learners’ progress and provide support. The initial release will be available in several major languages.
Together, we can unlock the potential of hundreds of millions of people for generations to come.