Pratham Education Foundation

Every Child Learning Well

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Project Summary

India has reached close to universal enrollment for elementary school age children. Yet, millions of children are failing to acquire even basic foundational skills like reading and arithmetic. Pratham's innovative and replicable approach "Teaching-at-the-Right Level" can change this situation in a short period of time as demonstrated by 15+ years of both internal and external evidence.Pratham follows a dual approach to address the challenge - a direct engagement model with children led by Pratham staff, aimed to ultimately lead to a partnership model led by governments. The goal is to catalyze significant changes in children's foundation skills and create sustainable systemic changes rooted in ownership of the solutions by the government. To meet that objective, Pratham will work towards establishing partnerships with governments at the district and state level along with creation of M&E systems to allow the system to take charge of the entire initiative.

Problem Statement

For the last decade, school enrollment figures have been at around 95% for children in the 6-14 age group. This is an impressive achievement for a country with a school-going population of close to 240 million children.However, as “schooling for all” becomes a reality, low learning levels continue to be reported year on year with huge numbers of children far below the level they are expected to be. All this seems to suggest that India’s school system is in a “big stuck”.Most school systems are organized by age-grade considerations; children enter formal schooling in Grade 1 and proceed by age and grade through subsequent stages. The pedagogical journey through school assumes a linear progression through the curriculum of each grade. As more data on learning outcomes from the primary school stage becomes available, it is becoming clear that many children do not acquire essential foundational skills like reading and arithmetic at the right time, early in primary years.Without this foundation, they get “left behind” as their cohorts proceed to higher grades and are “left out” as they fail to clear terminal examinations. The promise of “schooling for all” is not translating in reality into “learning for all”. School systems seem to move ahead with those who are “at the top of the class” increasingly excluding those who are academically weak or under-prepared.In such a scenario, in order to drive the necessary change, schools and families need to ensure that children acquire foundational skills in primary grades.

Solution Overview

In the current context in India, millions of children complete the elementary stage in school but due to low learning levels get increasingly excluded from the benefits of education and hence do not realize their full potential. Over the years, Pratham has evolved a low cost and effective approach called Teaching-at-the-Right level (TaRL) that enables children (especially 7 or 8 and above) to become fluent readers and learn basic arithmetic in a short period of 30 to 50 days. Children are grouped by their current learning levels rather than grade. Simple assessments are used to create groups and periodically measure progress. Starting from what children already know, a combination of appropriate activities and materials are used to help them to reach the level they need to reach. This approach has been evaluated by independent researchers and found to have one of the largest effect sizes rigorously measured in the education literature to date. Children’s progress can be measured periodically via simple assessments of reading and arithmetic. TaRL can help millions of children make meaningful progress in the school system and thus benefit from their years of being in school. With the acceptance of the learning crisis growing in India, the search for solutions is beginning. Large scale implementation of the TaRL approach, especially in the government school system, can transform learning pathways for millions of primary school age children across the country and make the public and private expenditure on school education much more effective.

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Project Funders

  • UBS Optimus Foundation 2014 - 2019
  • William and Flora Hewlett Foundation 2006 - 2016
  • Pratham USA 2000 - Ongoing

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