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Marketplace

Mexico’s Carlos Slim funds Khan Academy in Spanish

Jeff Tyler Jan 15, 2013
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The world’s richest man wants to give everyone in Latin America something for free. That is, an education. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is paying to translate thousands of online educational videos into Spanish.

The Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization that makes free educational videos. The Carlos Slim Foundation will cover the cost to translate them into Spanish.

There are currently more than 3,000 English-language videos focusing primarily on math and science. But that could change.

“One of the things that Carlos Slim and the Foundation is interested in is bringing that to more diverse fields, including more vocational type of fields in Mexico and more job-related fields,” says Shantanu Sinha, president of the Khan Academy.

This comes at a time when Mexico’s government is debating how to reform the educational system. As it stands, the country does a good job of teaching literacy. But it’s not so great in terms of turning out a workforce ready to compete on the global stage.

“It’s particularly difficult when you get outside of major metropolitan areas to get an outstanding education that would take you to a top college and maybe to an international graduate program,” says Andrew Selee, who’s with the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Mexico’s educational shortcomings have an impact on the U.S.

“The search for good educational facilities is one of the primary motivating factors in driving Mexicans to illegally attempt to enter the United States,” says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Translating online videos into Spanish has the potential to democratize education.

“Most young people, particularly ambitious young people, who are looking to further their education, do find ways of getting some sort of Internet connection for at least part of the day,” says Selee.

But connecting poor kids to the web remains a hurdle. To that end, the Carlos Slim Foundation is spending $315 million to expand access to the Internet in Mexico.

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