Improving literacy and math instruction at scale in India’s primary schools: The case of Pratham’s Read India program


Pratham’s “Read India” initiative is a large-scale intervention to improve basic learning and arithmetic among children in primary school. It was started almost 10 years ago and has evolved considerably over time. Currently, this initiative uses two strategies. The first strategy is to work directly with village communities and local schools to improve children’s learning. “Learning camps” are organized in the local school or community for a period of 6–10 days at a time. Local village volunteers help to teach children who are organized in groups by their level of learning. These camps—intensive bursts of focused instruction—are repeated several times during the year. This model which has been rigourously evaluated shows that children’s learning levels improve significantly. The second strategy is to work with the government. This approach is used when school systems want to partner or collaborate with Pratham for improving basic learning. The key element here too is grouping children and teaching them from their level rather than by their grade. This approach also shows promising results. Independent evaluations and randomized control trials conducted on both models have indicated significant impact. Moving between the present set of conditions in India and past lessons, this case describes a decade-long journey of efforts to change teaching and learning at the ground level as well the efforts to bring about significant shifts in priority at the system level. The “Read India” case presented here contributes knowledge on strategies under which effective pedagogy can be brought to scale. It also discusses challenges of transforming instructional change in a context of low initial capacity at the school and system levels, where attention to rapid expansion of access to school had kept aside for a long time critical questions about teaching quality and learning outcomes. A second contribution of “Read India” to current knowledge on large-scale educational change relates to the role non-government actors such as Pratham can play in bringing effective pedagogy to scale to improve student learning.

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Banerji, R., Chavan, M. Improving literacy and math instruction at scale in India’s primary schools: The case of Pratham’s Read India program. J Educ Change 17, 453–475 (2016).

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  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • India
  • Large scale instructional improvement