Quality Education to every child is a must

Dr Madhav Chavan
Dr Rukmini Banerji

With a view that education facilities must reach as many children as possible and as quickly as possible Pratham Education Foundation started its mission to educate children on a large scale. Pratham was established as a Public Charitable Trust by the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, UNICEF, and several prominent citizens of the country in 1995 to provide education to children in the slums of Mumbai. Quality Education Quality Education Quality Education  Quality Education 

Over the years, their work has grown in scale and depth, with programs today in Early Childhood Education, Reading and Arithmetic, Secondary schooling for drop-outs, vocational training for youth and rapidly growing work using technology to achieve their objectives.

Pratham identifies gaps in existing systems and efforts, and develops and tests approaches that are low-cost, impactful and scalable to address these gaps. They believe their USP is to be able to provide the programs across segments that aim to imbibe these principles.

“Around the globe, the belief was that if you open a school, children will learn. But children are not learning. For example, in India, 97% of children are enrolled in school, but approximately 50% of children go to fifth grade and cannot read a second grade paragraph. The question to be asked is – Why? All human knowledge is stored in words and numbers. If we don’t have foundational skills all doors to acquiring wider knowledge are closed. And that is, I think, a global problem. In the Pratham program (Learning Camp), it takes 50 days for a child to learn to read. If that is possible, how long will it take for 100 million children to learn to read? Is the answer 50 times 100 million or are we talking about 50 days?” – Dr Madhav Chavan, Co-founder, Pratham Education Foundation

Quality Education to every child is a must

Different programs at PRATHAM

Pratham started with the objective of providing universal pre-school education to children in the slums of Mumbai. Soon it led to the Pratham network expanding to multiple cities across the country, and then to rural areas. As they grew, new gaps, new experiences were encountered and began to build new ideas to address some of these gaps.

“You have to agree that you have a problem, you have to agree that it can be solved, and you have to agree that every child in India, can learn,” states Dr Rukmini Banerji, CEO, Pratham Education Foundation. By 2005, in just 10 years of existence, they had expanded to more than 10 states, launched the ,Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) and developed specialized initiatives aiming to tackle key challenges in the Indian Education landscape. The years beyond saw continued growth and innovation, coupled with rigorous research and evaluations, to test impact and scalability of our innovations.

Today, Pratham programs operate in the following broad segments:


In Early Childhood Education, they work both directly through local teams on the ground and in partnership with government systems – both the ICDS (Anganwadis) and more recently school systems (pre-schools). In the primary education space, their approach is to improve children’s foundational skills in reading and arithmetic. At the core of the approach – known as Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) – is a methodology termed Combined Activities for Maximized Learning (CAMaL). CAMaL has evolved over years of experimentation of trying to help learn to read and do basic arithmetic in a short period of time. The TaRL approach has been adopted by governments in India and internationally, owing to the rigorous evidence over time showing the impact on student outcomes. In the secondary education space, they have developed an innovative program known as Second Chance to help women and girls who have dropped our of school prior to completing Grade 10, complete their secondary schooling.

Vocational Training

The vocational training program began in 2005 to give unemployed and underemployed youth an opportunity to gain employment. Today they provide individuals with employability skills needed to address India’s growing need for skilled manpower. The objective is to facilitate quality and holistic education by spreading awareness, building self-confidence and empowering youth with hands on skills to enable attainment of livelihoods and a way out of poverty. Some of the segments include hospitality, healthcare, automobile, electrical, beauty, and construction. Over the years, Pratham’s vocational training program has grown not only in scale but also in scope.

Using Technology

As early as 2004, Pratham had conducted various experiments in digital literacy and using technology to improve learning. While the Pratham Infotech Foundation (PIF) branched out over the years as an independent entity focused on e-education for all, experiments with using technology in unconventional ways continued at Pratham. They launched the Hybrid Learning program aimed at helping children use technology-based content available on tablets, combined with support on building a learning environment in communities, to help children learn by themselves. They also launched the PraDigi initiative aimed to provide access to quality, contextualised, digital content in Indian regional languages through a free app in 2018. Today, the technology initiatives continue to grow across our programming segments, aiming to enhance impact and address gaps that other interventions were unable to fill.

Vulnerable Children

Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children (PCVC) is the child rights and protection wing established with the objective of Every Child in School, Every Child Rights Protected. PCVC programs today span the spheres of Prevention of Child Labour & Exploitation, Rescue & Repatriation, Rehabilitation, Awareness & Advocacy and various special initiatives including campaigns and programs for children with special needs.

Research & Advocacy

Pratham’s ASER measures basic literacy and numeracy skills, revealing the unspoken problem that school enrolment does not automatically translate into learning. Despite India achieving 97% school enrollment poor attendance, oversized classes and antiquated teaching methods have led to a learning crisis. The data collected through ASER annually for over ten years has become an essential reference guide for Indian government, policymakers and civil society to inform decision making and strategy.

This idea of ‘evidence for action’ led to the formation of India’s ASER Centre in 2008, an independent unit within the Pratham network. Identifying and quantifying a problem is the first step in enabling action at the community level; the ASER Centre provides such knowledge by measuring, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of social sector programs.

  •  Founded by Dr Madhav Chavan and Farida Lambay
  •  Dr Rukmini Banerji, CEO
  •  Started in Mumbai
  •  Active in 23 states and union territories across the country
  •  Reached more than 50 million children over the years and 8 million in 2017-18
  •  Motto: “Every Child in School and Learning Well”


With no formal associations, Pratham works in collaboration with 15 state governments in India, and supports government and non-profits in various national and international contexts.

They have partnered with the Abdul Lateef Poverty Action lab at MIT (J-PAL) to conduct evaluations in India and work jointly to support partners in various African countries to adapt and apply TaRL approach.

International Recognitions:

  1. The Kravis Prize in Leadership (2010)
  2. The Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2011)
  3. WISE Prize for Education to Madhav Chavan (2012)
  4. The Global Journal named Pratham as one of the “Top 100 NGOs” in the world (2012) and (2013)
  5. Recognition by the Asia Society as Asia Game Changer (2014)
  6. BBVA Foundation ‘Frontiers of Knowledge’ Award (2014)
  7. Medal for Distinguished Service to Madhav Chavan, Teachers College, Columbia University (2017)
  8. Lui Che Woo 2018 Prize in the Positive Energy Category for eliminating illiteracy, Hong Kong (2018)

Quality Education to every child is a must



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