The Pratham movement was launched in Mumbai in 1994. The initiative was taken jointly by Dr. Madhav Chavan & Ms. Farida Lambey, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and UNICEF. A national network of Pratham-like initiatives was set up to expand the programmes in different parts of the country. In 1999-2000 Pratham spread to other cities including Delhi, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Patna, Pune, Allahabad and Bangalore. Today, Pratham is an all India movement. Moreover, it is one of the largest non-profit organizations working in the primary education sector.
Pratham Delhi Education Initiative (PDEI) was launched by Mr. Vinod Khanna, a former member of Indian Foreign Service during the summer of 1999. Mr. Khanna was supported in his effort by Pratham Mumbai and a small group of volunteers from varied backgrounds in Delhi. The ICICI Ltd. and the HPS Foundation (a development support organization set up by HCL Perot Systems) extended generous support to this initiative.
First meeting of the newly constituted board of Pratham Delhi Trust was held on March 25, 2000 at Narula’s Hotel, Connaught Place. It was chaired by Mr. Vinod Khanna and was attended by Mr. Lalit Narula, Ms. Brinda Singh, Mr. Vinay Shankar, Mr. P.P Chauhan, Dr. Venita Kaul, Mr. B.G. Varghese; Ms. Ramni Narula was represented by Mr. Sandeep Bakshi. Ms. Manju Bharatram, Dr. R. Govinda and Mr. Shahid Mahdi had also given their consent to join the Trust and it was decided that all the Trustees shall reassemble on April 22, 2000 at the same place to sign the Trust deed. Thus, Mr. Vinod Khanna was designated as the first Managing Trustee and Mr. Lalit Narula the first Treasurer of Pratham Delhi Education Initiative Trust.
The first full Executive group consisting of Mr. Vishal Sehgal, Mr. Saurabh Johri, Ms. Maninder Kaur, Ms. Namita Gupta and Ms. Mary Biswas attended the third meeting of the PDEI Trust held for the first time at its registered office, provided by ICICI bank, at NBCC Place, Bhishma Pitamah Marg, New Delhi on September 26, 2000. The meeting was chaired by Prof. R. Govinda.
Reflections…. on the decade that passed…and way forward…
Pratham Delhi now has a decade long existence, formed as part of Pratham network, sharing the mission of "every child in school…and learning well". The strategy of Pratham Delhi to attain its goal evolved during these years in response to the then existing problems at the grass-root level. During the founding years, the key issues were:
- Almost a non-existent preschool structure in underprivileged communities.
- Significant proportions of children in 6-14 years age group were out of schools in underprivileged areas.
In other words, access was a very big factor both at preschool and at primary schooling level. Accordingly, the response of Pratham was to set up large scale community based preschool centers referred to as Balwadis for underprivileged children in 3-5 years age group. This has been the most consistent programme since the setting up of Pratham Delhi Trust. Since 2008-09, PDEI entered into partnership with the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of NCT Delhi to support preschool activities in the Anganwadi centers of its two project areas.
For the older age group, Pratham Delhi, set up “Bridge class” centers in communities for out of school children. These classes prepared the out of school children for age appropriate mainstreaming.
The magnitude and significance of the two issues reduced over the next few years, though differently, offering different kind of challenges. With reference to Pratham Delhi’s area of intervention (according to Basti Profile 2010) while now there are around 55% children in 3-5 years age group having access to preschool (starting from almost nil about 10 years back), this is far from being universal. Similarly, in 6-14 years age group, about 94% children are enrolled in a school which is again a significant improvement over the last few years. The change that has come about in terms of access can be attributed to several factors working concurrently. Thus, access to preschool, other than Pratham’s effort, is due to the downward extension of early childhood classes in local primary schools, initiative of parents- consciously or out of necessity, expansion of Anganwadi networks, etc. Similarly, reduction in out of school numbers can be attributed to the success of Sarva Shiksha Abiyan (SSA) and simultaneous effort of other non-government organizations as well.
Thus, the focus of Pratham during the last five years has shifted from out of school to in school and more particularly to the classrooms. Prior to that, Pratham Delhi, as part of its retention support strategy, entered the municipal schools and found huge gaps in the expected and actual learning level of children. This gap was manifested by the following facts:
Large proportion of children in different grades could not read a simple text of grade II difficulty level.
Large proportion of children in different grades could not recognize numbers or attain slightly higher level of mathematical competency.
In response to this situation, Pratham team developed a process of accelerated reading pedagogy. It was the immediate requirement in order to demonstrate to the parents of first generation school goers that children are indeed learning something in school before they lose confidence in school. From the child’s point of view, learning to read was an attempt to equip them with the basic skill to handle the regular class curriculum.
Accordingly, the accelerated reading pedagogy was applied on children, after assessment, following different means, in the course of last seven years, which were:
Pratham volunteers (referred to as Balsakhis) took separate sessions with identified children during school hours in school premises. In other words, she worked with children of different grades in a batch of about 20-25 children who could not read.
Pratham volunteers using the pedagogy, in community setting, in 3-4 months duration sessions as Learn to Read classes for 8-12 year old children or Balwachan for 5-7 year old children.
- Pratham training team conducted training of MCD school teachers on accelerated reading pedagogy and supported them in using the pedagogy with children who could not read.
As part of the evolution of the strategy to help children enrolled in MCD schools, Pratham Delhi re-launched the Library programme in Schools during the session 2008-09 broadly with the following objectives:
Improvement of reading level of children in MCD schools following distinct approach in case of Std I-II and Std III-V children, and
Increase the number of children accessing story books
With this intervention, there are about 80% children in Std V, 65% in IV and 40% in Std III who can read story fluently. Similarly, the numbers of children who access story books in schools are 1.7 lacs which are about 60% of the total enrolled children in these schools.
Besides, during the last 3 years, Pratham Delhi made next level of efforts to address the second part of its mission statement “…and learning well” with mixed amount of success. The programme designed for this purpose was in the nature of supplementary learning support in the community by setting up “Learning Labs”. The objective of these centers was to provide grade appropriate learning support to children who have attained basic literacy and numeracy. However, the biggest challenge to work on grade appropriate learning achievement is a very low baseline of children. The challenges faced in this intervention are twofold:
Achieving significantly better outcome where the average grade specific score at the baseline is not even close to 40%.
As against the need of having a high quality trained teacher to transact with children having such a low baseline score, the capacity of Pratham volunteer-teachers engaged in the delivery of educational services is not very high.
While Pratham Delhi has built its capacity to undertake grade specific curriculum and has set up a team for Content-Assessment and Training during last three years, still it has to go a long way in meeting the full requirement.
To sum up, the key challenges to be addressed by Pratham Delhi during 2011-12 are as follows:
Need to provide big push on the reading level of children in MCD schools using other possible resources. Existing approach of Pratham Delhi has proved to be insufficient primarily because one volunteer alone is not enough to reach out to all children who need reading support in School. Engaging MCD teachers in the activities of Pratham volunteers in the school has remained largely confined to few exceptions only.
There is a regular inflow of children moving to the next grade adding to the already existing backlog of children who are nowhere close to age appropriate learning level.
Use of Library as an effective tool in learning has been limited so far. The need is to redefine the purpose of the Library.
Means to increase the spread of preschool from the present 55% of the children in 3-5 year age group to next higher level with focus on early childhood education.
Bringing grade I and II children in early childhood education programme to introduce early literacy and numeracy.
Building the capacity of the community (particularly mothers) to play an active role in the functioning of School Management committee to be formed under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.