The first day

Do you remember your first day in kindergarten? I do not have memories of my own of this day but my mother has told me hers. I am the eldest child and as a result my mother was apprehensive when the day came for her to leave me for the very first time in foreign care. Kindergarten in Singapore is not a playgroup but rather a pre-school. Children learn how to read and write in Kindergarten. I even attended Mandarin lessons as a second language. Unfortunately I was not allowed to continue it in primary school.

Where was I? Oh yes, kindergarten! My mother put me in my uniform, packed my school bag and walked me to the kindergarten. As we approached the building, she saw children freaking out to varying degrees. Some were hanging onto their family members refusing to enter the classroom. Others were crying their hearts out. Some even ran away and were caught and carried back to the classroom. My mom couldn’t bear the thought of seeing me crying. (Actually she admitted that she felt like crying herself.) However I surprised her by taking my school bag from her hands at the entrance and entered the classroom willingly. She still couldn’t bear leaving me alone and peeked through the window to see how I was coping. She said that when I saw that I waved at her; waved at her to go away that is. 🙂

Tomorrow I have another first day ahead of me. On the one hand, I am really excited and looking forward to starting a new job in a new company. I will pack my back tonight, pick out the clothes to wear tomorrow and check out the train schedule. Things I imagine little Irene might have done the day before she went to kindergarten for the first time too; except for checking for the train schedule. J

But there is a part of me that is feeling apprehensive, and afraid. So many ‘What Ifs’ fleet through my mind. I wonder if little Irene was afraid that day too? Did her joy to learn outweigh her fear being left alone, being with strangers or to fail? Maybe I am thinking too much about it. After all my instinct says that it was the right decision to take on this job and that it is exactly the kind of work I enjoyed.

What are your experiences on your first day at a new job?

A simple idea led to free education for all

I watched another TED video by Adam Savage. You know the guy from Myth Buster; not the one in the beret, the other one. He was talking about how simple ideas have led to profound scientific discoveries. Do you know how Eratosthenes’ calculated the Earth’s circumference without the help of powerful computers? Do you know how Hippolyte Fizeau measured the speed of light using a toothed wheel, a light source and a mirror? This informative video is 7:32 minutes long and holds the answers to these questions. I would encourage you to watch it. Basically Adam’s message is that by only using our senses and minds we can come up with simple ideas to make the world a better place.

Do you believe in coincidences? Or do you believe somehow everything that happens is meant to happen that way. Either way on the same day I came across another interesting video of the CBS news show 60 Minutes. The title of the show was “Khan Academy: The future of education?” The video portrayed how a simple idea is revolutionising education and the role of teachers worldwide.

Who is behind Khan Academy?


Sal Kahn has 3 degrees from MIT and an MBA from Havard Business School. He started his career as a hedge fund analyst. He did not have a sudden vision to provide free education to all. In fact it started out as a simple idea to help his cousin, who was struggling with Mathematics in school. Since she did not live nearby, he decided to tutor her over the internet. Later when other relatives and friends approached him for his tutorials, he decided to post them on YouTube. This was when he discovered the real demand for the kind of tutorials he was producing. In 2009 he decided to quit his job and pursue a fulltime career producing tutorial videos for his YouTube channel.

In 2010 Bill Gates revealed in an interview that his children were learning using the tutorials on Khan Academy. Later with his financial support, Sal Kahn was able to make Khan Academy even bigger. There is a new platform to host the videos and he has employees, working on continually improving Khan Academy. It is still a non-profit organisation and is dependent on the goodwill of others to donate or volunteer to translate the videos into other languages.

To being with I am really impressed by the simplicity of his idea and how he has been able to help numerous students all over the world with it. I watched a couple of videos on algebra to judge for myself, why his tutorial style is widely appreciated. I have to say that had I seen these videos when I was in secondary school, I would not have failed my math exams. He explains the sense behind a topic, something I had missed in school.

How is Khan Academy revolutionising the world of education?
For starters, there are a couple of schools in America, which are testing out a new teaching model in collaboration with Khan Academy. Students are expected to go through the tutorials on a particular topic at home. The following day, students solve exercises on this topic in the classroom. The teacher can track real time how the students are progressing, how fast they complete a task and who is having problems. The teacher can then focus on helping those who require assistance. In other words, the learning takes place at home and the homework is done at school. The role of the teacher is more of mentor and coach.

Furthermore Khan Academy helps students from poor families, who can’t afford a private tutor, or families where the parents are not able to help with their homework. The child can learn at his or her own phase by repeatedly learning a lesson as often as required. If the child still does not understand the topic, the teacher is there to help the following day.

Even adults can benefit from Khan Academy. They can refresh their memories on a certain topic to help their children with schoolwork. It could help those, who dropped out of school, to possibly finish school and improve their academic qualifications. As a result, they could have better careers.

In conclusion, Khan Academy shows how it is possible to tremendously help others with little effort. I am sure that Khan Academy has the potential to help millions of children and even adults all over the world.

Related Articles

  1. http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf
  2. http://www.khanacademy.org/

Thank You Teachers!

During my secondary school years I hated mathematics. Math was a nightmare for me. Somehow I could not memorise formulas or the rules to solve algebra equations. In the following four years, none of my math teachers could find a way for me to see the sense in what I was supposed to learn. Just before my GCE ‘O’ Level examinations, I was put in a special class together with others, who were in danger of failing the Math final examination too. Continue reading

Algorithms Led Me To Panda

Today’s blog is inspired by Huffington Post’s Best of TED 2011 list. The 18 TED Talks on the list are portrayed as ideas worth spreading in 2012. Talk #18 is by Kevin Slavin and is titled How Algorithms Shape Our World. Here goes – I am doing my part in spreading these ideas to the four corners of the earth and beyond, if aliens have found a way to infiltrate the internet. Continue reading

The abstract nature of written language

Written language is usually viewed as being more precise than spoken language – one supposedly has time to deliberate the choice of words. This is usually not the case in verbal communications. Sometimes the words come out before one has thought them through. However today I experienced an incident which reminded me once more of the abstract nature of the written language. Continue reading