Sep 09, 2021

International Literacy Day 2021


On this International Literacy Day, the importance of building fundamental learning skills has never been more apparent. As children here in the US start another school year, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in places like India, schools remain closed. Two recent Pratham-related articles shine a light on the current state of education in India and remind us how incredibly vital our shared mission is for millions of children.

A recent article in the BBC calls attention to the dire situation of children who have been out of school for 18 months. Not surprisingly, those from impoverished, uneducated families have been hit hardest: “Affluent private schools and their students switched to online classes seamlessly, but government-run schools have struggled. And their students—often with no laptops or smartphones and patchy access to the internet—have fallen behind.”

In an opinion piece for the Economic Times, Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee and Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji succinctly lay out the challenges facing India’s educators as well as a plan for putting the needs of the child above the curriculum. According to the article, the pre-existing inequality in the classroom “has been accentuated by the pandemic. Moreover, the children who were already behind, and are now even further behind, may find the classroom even more frustrating. This will reinforce their tendency to not participate with learning in school and strengthen the urge to not attend and eventually drop out.”

When Indian schools eventually reopen, addressing the vast differences in students’ learning levels will be essential. Further compounding the issue is India’s education policy of advancing students to the next grade regardless of ability. Pratham’s pioneering TaRL (Teaching at the Right Level) method, which groups children by their level rather than their grade, offers a viable solution. Multiple randomized controlled trials have shown that TaRL increases learning gains in a short period of time.

At the moment, Indian schools face an uncertain future. But for the Banerjee and Banerji, the goal is clear: “Focus on where children are today, and help them to move to where we want them to be tomorrow.”

Learn more about Pratham programs.