Pratham, founded in 1994, is the largest non-governmental organization in India working directly to provide vulnerable children with quality education. The prize is awarded for its outstanding contributions to improving education of children in India and other countries in South Asia and Africa. Pratham has expanded the scope of education in resource constrained areas, from simple access to schooling to children’s actual learning. It has done so through two significant innovations: the creation of simple, accurate and reliable tools for communities to assess learning, and the application of a process that uses scientific evidence to develop new cost-effective programs that drastically improve learning levels.
The cornerstone of Pratham’s success is their ability to evaluate the learning needs of children through rapid assessment tools that can be used by non-specialists to accurately assess the literacy and numeracy level of every child. This empowers citizens, communities and states to both directly evaluate the performance of their educational system and tailor instruction towards the child’s actual learning level. Pratham has also pioneered the inclusion of rigorous evaluation methodologies such as randomized designs, generating robust evidence to guide the development and scaling-up of their programs. A prime example is Pratham’s partnership with state governments to implement the program ‘Read India’, which in 2009 alone reached 33 million children in 305,000 villages. The work of Pratham is a model of how evidence-based education policy and practices can be a powerful lever for social and economic development, especially in disadvantaged communities.