MUMBAI — Tata Trusts Dec. 6 announced it will be supporting U.S.-based non-profit Khan Academy to provide free online education to Indians through one of the biggest open-access online platforms.

Tata Trusts chairman Ratan Tata did not specify the aggregate value of resources which will be granted to Khan Academy during the five-year partnership by Tata Trusts, which control 66 percent of the shares of Tata Sons, the holding company of the over $100 billion group.

Tata said the promise of free access to quality education is a "new era" and a "compelling opportunity" with a potential to multiply literacy rates which attracted the Trusts towards making the commitment.

"What the Khan Academy has created is a concept which provides free education and knowledge to anybody, anywhere. Therefore, for me, as an Indian and as a citizen on this planet, it's a great privilege. I look at this as a great opportunity where we will do something to create a difference for generations," Tata told reporters.

The hedge fund analyst-turned-founder of Khan Academy, Indian American Salman Khan, said that Indian students already use the academy's content, but it is now in the process of creating specialized content in English and Hindi for the benefit of India.

He said Tata Trusts has been supporting education for over a century now, which involves giving grants, providing scholarships for students going abroad for studies, etc.

The concept brought in by Khan Academy is "refreshingly different" and will make a "tremendous difference" in India by turning illiterates into literates.

Stating that his ideas were called "delusional" when he first spoke of having top quality content and giving it for free and without subjecting the children to advertisements, Khan, who was present on the occasion, said times have changed now and there is a sense of appreciation.

The Indian content will be mapped to the standards set by the National Council of Education Research and Training, and work around subtitling and translation of video tutorials has already started, Khan said.

He added that it will play a complementary role to the existing education system.

Khan said content will also be produced in regional languages soon, but it will stick to math and science.

When asked about the potential difficulties for operating in a low and expensive bandwidth country like India, Tata said the demand for connectivity will make the exponential connectivity possible, while Khan said that the trends of broadband adoption are positive.

He said the two were introduced to each other by an Italy-based friend, while Khan said once the talks started, it was very easy connecting up with the Tatas.

The tie-up with Tata Trusts comes days after the Khan Academy announced an entry into India and a partnership with Central Square Foundation.

Khan said the not-for-profits are needed where markets have failed and education and healthcare among the sectors where a room has been made for play by the non-profits. 

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