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Universal literacy was always our first and foremost goal.
No ordinary NGO.
Unlike most other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which tend to start small, Pratham began with grand ambitions and has taken off from there. Our work began in the slums of Mumbai in 1994 where we were established as a Public Charitable Trust in 1994 by the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, UNICEF and several prominent citizens of the country.
The source of our massive expansion and national impact.
Over the years, the Pratham network has expanded to almost every state in India. Today, our direct programs—including pre-schools, community libraries and remedial learning programs—reach hundreds of thousands of children every year. Central to this success has been a whole new way of approaching the education problem in India and a new way of implementing programs to create a national impact.
We started small, with preschool.
Pratham began by providing pre-school education to the children in the slums of Mumbai. Soon, the Pratham balwadis (pre-school classes) multiplied and their successful model was adopted in other locations.
Next came Balsakhi, or “bridge classes.”
While we were setting up balwadis, we came into contact with out-of-school children and in-school children who were lagging behind academically and at risk of dropping out. That led us to start providing remedial education through our Balsakhi program. These “bridge classes” conducted in the communities targeted out-of-school children and aimed at bringing them to a minimum learning level so they could transition into mainstream schools.
Pratham’s national breakthrough.
Between 1999 and 2001, we expanded our work to cover 19 cities with similar models. In addition, we began working with child labor through our outreach program. In 2000, Pratham was awarded the Global Development Network Award, sponsored by the World Bank and Government of Japan, and was named as one of the top three "most innovative development projects.”
Learn to Read—the program that changed everything.
The Learn to Read program was a major breakthrough for Pratham. It demonstrated learning can be improved in a short time span using a low cost model which could be replicated nationally. The first step in 2002 - 2003 was adopting an “area approach” that focused on improving the literacy of large community groups we called “bastis.” The second step was developing the Learn to Read accelerated program of learning, a method now capable of increasing children’s learning levels 84% in less than eight weeks.
Research provided the key to transforming a culture.
By 2005, we realized that not everyone in India and the world truly understood the state of illiteracy in India and its consequences. So we established The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) to quantify the problems of education in a manner that could lead to focused action. ASER is now a massive nationwide effort conducted annually. This voluntary survey reaches over 16,000 households and more than 700,000 children between October and November every year.
Read India—the response to a crisis in learning.
ASER 2005 and 2006 findings revealed that in spite of having been in school for over 2-5 years, a significant percentage of school children could not read, write or do basic arithmetic. To address this problem in January 2007, Pratham launched the Read India campaign to help all of India’s 6-14 year-olds learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. This grassroots program has successfully built on people’s initiative and government’s participation. The campaign is being implemented in 350 districts and across 19 states in the country. With the help of thousands of volunteers and the government school system, it has already reached 21 million children.
Become a part of Pratham’s historic success.
Pratham continues to reach more underprivileged kids in more places. And we’re adding innovative new programs like our computer aided literacy program, English program, Pratham Council for Vulnerable children and the Skilling Initiative.
Learn the many ways you can help here.
A History of Success
From its start in providing pre-school education to the children in the slums of Mumbai, Pratham has grown into the largest educational organization in India reaching 2.4 million children in 21 states. Central to this success has been a whole new way of approaching the education problem to create a national impact.
—– Mohamed Hamir
“I very strongly believe that if we are going to build a civil, competent, democratic society, you cannot do it without educating your society.”