Literacy and Learning


Pratham’s works to have ‘every child in school and learning well’, focusing on foundational skills to build a strong base for future success.


100 million children cannot read or write at the age appropriate level.

Of the 26 million Indian children who enter first grade each year, half reach fifth grade being unable to read and write.

However, Pratham is working to change this with low-cost intensive courses improving reading, writing and basic arithmetic skills of children in the 3-14 years age group. Our work has gained widespread positive results as we work within communities.

How do we do help educate children?

We fill in the education gaps across India, from the urban slums to rural communities.

Our aim is to engage the community, not simply work alone. We ensure volunteers, families, teachers and government are all involved, creating a widespread network across the country. Our work is low-cost and easily replicated by Pratham-trained teachers. We now operate in 24 cities and 23 states and union territories.

Our programmes:

  • Read India

Read India is our flagship programme that helps provide basic reading, writing and mathematics skills to children aged 6-14 age group in intensive camps.  In the current phase, we group students according to level rather than grade to ensure each child receives the appropriate support. A significant number of children are struggling with foundational skills preventing them from thriving in higher grades and is reflected in their struggle in the world of work. In our camps, we see our students improve by 2 levels, on a scale of 4 levels, during their time with us and have reached 45 million children to date.

  • Early Childhood Education

We provide universal preschool access for toddlers making sure the basic foundations are available and provided at a good level, setting a child up for a positive education journey. In fact, Pratham initially started with a community based pre-school or Balwadi programme that was run by local young women for young children who lived in the area. Read more about out Balwadi proagramme here.

  • Libraries

This project involves the community in regular meetings to read, learn and take part in activities. Although a ‘library’ may not always have a room or fixed location, it will provide reading and activity materials, story cards for groups of children and an adult from the community will help. It is particularly key for rural communities and urban slums, where a wide range of reading material is not a possibility. With many parents being illiterate themselves, these ‘libraries’ will provide widespread support to children outside of the classroom. In 2016-17 there were 19,587 ‘libraries’ in 19 states with the numbers likely to increase in 2017-18.

  • Science Programmes

Our science programmes are designed to stimulate curiosity and help foster scientific minds throughout the community. The emphasis on theory learning in schools plus the lack of resources, has meant that experimental practice in scientific learning has been inhibited. Our science programmes to change this include:

-science activities conducted by locally trained youth

-‘mobile science van’ for more rural areas

-science exploratory centers which incorporate technology into the learning

-science parks.

Currently, we are reaching 302,711 with this program.

  • Technology Initiatives

We recognize the potential technology holds in the fight against illiteracy and integrate digital learning options into schools. We are now introducing PraDigi that will expand our digital opportunities further. This initiative brings tablets to villages and the PraDigi app provides activities and videos for children aged 3-14. Read more here about this exciting news.

Pratham’s impact can be seen in the life-changing success of one little girl.

Nancy is fortunate in having access to Pratham’s programmes to learn to read and write. Not everyone does, and even in fast-growing India, illiteracy is still a shocking fact of life. Of India’s 210 million children, nearly half are unable to read at the level they should be at.

After one learning camp of 6-8 weeks in 2015-16, we saw children who can read and write increase from 19% to 79%.

Children’s reading levels improved by 50% and their ability to recognize two- and three-digit numbers improved by 45%, only after 100 hours of instruction in a Pratham learning camp.

The figures of children who could solve basic arithmetic sums increased from 41% to 78%.

Our ‘Teaching at the Right Level’ (TaRL) Strategy has been found effective in Pratham teacher-led classrooms and learning camps run by community volunteers or government teachers by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, part of MIT’s Department of Economics.

This shows that short, intensive intervention does work.

You can join the movement, by donating here.