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Ryan Carters takes home lessons from Khan Academy in Silicon Valley for Australian non-profit Batting for Change
When Sydney Sixers wicketkeeper Ryan Carters first watched a TED Talk by Khan Academy founder Sal Khan, Carters’ own non-profit education organisation, Batting for Change was in its infancy. Inspired by Khan’s vision – to make high quality online education free for anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world – Carters found himself captivated by one particular idea: the capacity for Khan’s model to disrupt the way disadvantaged students could access education in cricket playing countries, including India and Sri Lanka. It was no surprise then, that when Carters came across the chance to spend a month-long internship at the Khan Academy headquarters in Silicon Valley, it was an opportunity he seized with both gloves.
Batting for Change is a fundraising initiative between the LBW Trust, which provides tertiary education scholarships to students in disadvantaged cricket-playing countries, and the Sydney Sixers. The concept involves donors pledging an amount to the charity for every six hit by the Sydney Sixers during the Big Bash League, with all donations going to the LBW Trust. Last summer, the charity raised almost $150,000 to support the education of 600 disadvantaged women in India and Sri Lanka.
Carters, whose passion for education and desire for change belie his 25 years, made his way to Silicon Valley in May, knowing that Khan Academy had recently opened its first international office in New Delhi – where Batting for Change conducts the majority of its overseas work.
Speaking to Indian Link about his own experiences in India, Carters is delighted with the personal and professional progress of students in the charity’s college in Mumbai.
“You can really see the difference between girls who have just arrived at the college, versus those who have been there for two or three years, versus those who have graduated and now work in offices,” Carters says. “They develop in a holistic character sense through the confidence that learning brings to them, and they learn to see themselves as valuable part of society. They learn to have their own ideas, communicate and express themselves. That there are options in life outside of getting married and having lots of children. That’s what is exciting about education – there are less tangible benefits as well as the more obvious benefits such as degree and employment prospects.”
Carters’ experience in Silicon Valley was, above all else, an invaluable learning opportunity. “I wondered what we can learn at Batting for Change, as a small new charity, from Khan Academy’s example, when they are a high powered, well-funded Silicon Valley outfit that have gone from zero to 100 employees in a few years and have over 30 million users worldwide now,” he says. “It’s about building a movement and helping people think differently about education.”
Carters spent his month at the Khan Academy headquarters working on two particular projects. The first involved promoting the ‘Summer of Code’ currently taking place in Idaho, encouraging school students to take up the opportunity to learn programming in their summer breaks and consequently avoid the learning loss characteristic of the long American summer holidays. The second project was a general task of analysing Khan Academy’s role in the upcoming computer science generation.
However, Carters remained wary of limiting his horizons.
“I was working on projects, but I was constantly keeping my eyes open to see how Khan Academy thinks about what it does. They’re very good at thinking about what impact they want to have, exploring options about how to go about that impact, and executing the plan and making adjustments when they have to,” Carters says.
He continues, “I look forward to speaking to the women at the college in Mumbai to see what they can do in terms of online education and whether Khan Academy is an option. Technology [in education] is game changing. If you create the right tools, it is scalable at almost zero marginal cost – you can get billions of people logging on and accessing education created by some of the best minds in the world.”
Of course, Carters acknowledges physical education environments continue to have indispensable benefits. At the Mumbai college, for instance, women are offered free lunch on a daily basis, and doctors are on site twice weekly – breaking down the inherent barriers which can often prevent young Indian women from visiting GPs.
The fundamental factor which underpins Carters’ motivation – and his success – is his genuine passion for human connection. “I’ve visited our projects and met nearly all of the women we’re supporting, but you can still fall into the trap here in Australia that all those women are simply a number in a far away place,” he says.
“I try to constantly remember those really beautiful conversations and those testimonials from my face-to-face conversations because that just takes it to a whole new level of impact. I really believe that if we could take every Australian and transport them to a situation like that, even for one day every year, people would think really differently about these big global issues and how they can solve them.”
For more information about Batting for Change, visit https://battingforchange.com.au/