Learning Camps and Libraries for primary school age children
 
What
Read India, Pratham's flagship program, was first introduced in 2007 with the objective of improving the reading, writing and basic arithmetic skills of children in the 6-14 age group. The program has evolved over time in response to internal learnings and external evaluations. In the current phase of Read India, the objective is to ensure basic learning outcomes in language and mathematics. Children are grouped by level rather than by grade and teaching-learning activities are carried out in intensive short bursts of activity called Learning Camps. The instructional approach is called CAMaL (Combined Activities for Maximised Learning and is sometimes also referred to as TaRL (Teaching at the Right Level).
 
Why
In the last few decades, India has made impressive progress towards universalizing primary education, and enrolment of children in schools has been well over 95% for well over ten years.

However, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) and other data on learning outcomes clearly shows that although children are enrolled in school, large proportions are not acquiring even foundational skills like basic reading and math on time. Substantial proportion of children are struggling with foundational skills even after five or more years of schooling. Without these capabilities, students are not able to cope with what is expected of them in different grades. This learning deficit accumulates and grows over time, culminating in children not being able to continue with their education after the elementary stage is over. Neither are they equipped to deal with the demands of the world of work.
 
How
Over the years, Pratham has worked to develop an instructional approach (often called CAMaL or teaching-at-the-right-level) in which children are grouped by learning level rather than by grade. By using methods and materials for each group and by utilizing a combination of activities, children, especially those in Grade 3 and above, are able to make significant progress in basic reading, understanding and arithmetic in a short period of time. A set of simple assessment tasks starts the process of group work and instruction and similar assessments are carried out periodically to track children's progress. Depending on the baseline levels of children, a camp cycle could comprise three or four camps conducted in short bursts of six to ten days each, for a total of up to 30 to 50 days of activities. Students graduate to higher ability level groups over the course of the intervention. The aim is to move majority of students up to the highest ability group by the end of the intervention so that they are able to read basic texts with understanding, have confidence to do basic arithmetic operations and are able to express themselves effectively both orally and in writing.

Although the Learning Camps focus intensively on children in Grade 3 to 5, Pratham team members who are conducting Learning Camps also spend time with children in Grade 1 and 2 in same school during the camp period, playing games and doing fun activities.

Evidence from external evaluations of Pratham's learning camp model indicate that large improvements in reading and arithmetic can be achieved with these short, intensive periods of teaching-learning. By the time the camp cycle is completed (i.e. 30 to 50 days later) more than 75% of these camps have more than 70% reading and doing basic maths. These figures are based on work done in close to 5000 schools across 20 states in the last two years. The Learning Camps also serve as demonstration areas to showcase the Pratham methodology to others. These direct demonstrations contribute to the spread of Pratham's teaching-learning approach through government and other partners.

Acquiring foundational competencies such as reading, number recognition and basic operations is crucial to the learning process, it is also important to be able to cope with comprehension and understanding of different types of texts and solve problems of a varied nature. Therefore, in regions where the basic levels of learning are relatively higher, Learning Camps aim to take children towards these higher goals.

All Learning Camps are followed by "library" activities – in which groups of children in communities meet periodically outside of school, to do activities on their own. The Pratham "library" is designed to enable children to work. Children's groups are organized in their neighbourhoods (mohallas, gallis, hamlets) and they are helped by mothers, siblings and others. This "library" activity is meant to sustain and strengthen the learning gains from the Learning Camps and encourage children to continue to read, learn, to experiment and be curious and build involvement and engagement of families and communities members in children's learning.
   
 
Reach and Scale
 
Between 2007 and 2008 the Read India campaign reached out to more than 30 million children, with support from volunteers at the community level. In 2010, to focus on demonstrating and generating evidence on the impact of Read India on children's learning, the intervention was scaled down considerably. From 2013 onwards, the model was further refined based on the data of previous years and the Learning Camp model was adopted, with interventions implemented in short intensive bursts. In 2015-16 and 2016-17, Learning Camps were conducted in approximately 5000 government primary schools in 18 states across India reaching close to 3 lakh children.
 
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Reports and Documents
 
Pratham's models for
learning improvement
Pratham's approach to
Teaching and Learning
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Metrics and measurement of
Read India Camps
Read India Report 2015-16
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Evaluations
 
Abhijit Banerjee, Rukmini Banerji, James Berry, Esther Duflo, Harini Kannan, Shobhini Mukherji, Marc Shotland, Michael Walton From Proof of Concept to Scalable Policies: Challenges and Solutions, with an Application. NBER Working Paper 22931. Issued in December 2016.

Abhijit Banerjee, Rukmini Banerji, Esther Duflo, James Berry, Harini Kannan, Shobhini Mukherji, Marc Shotland, and Michael Walton. "Mainstreaming an Effective Intervention: Evidence from Randomized Evaluations of "Teaching at the Right Level" in India". NBER Working Paper No. 22746. October 2016.
 
Studies and Papers
 
Rukmini Banerji and Madhav Chavan "Improving literacy and math instruction at scale in India's primary schools: The case of Pratham's Read India program". Journal of Educational Change. 17(4), 433-475. November 2016.

Rukmini Banerji. An Intervention improves student reading. Phi Beta Kappan. Vol 95 no. 6. pages 74-75. March 2014 Kappanmagazine.org
 
Harshad Learning Camp film
 
CAMaL methodology film
 
Nancy's Footsteps
 
Library
 
What
 
Pratham's "Library" program actually comprises of groups of children in the community who come together periodically to read, to learn, to do activities, to explore and to have fun. The aim of this program is to create an environment where parents, siblings and others in the community can support their children's learning.
 
Why
Pratham's vision is to have "every child in school and learning well". While tremendous progress has been made in India to reach the goal of "every child in school", there is still a long way to go to achieve "every child learning well". Most children in rural communities or urban slums do not have any reading or activity material at home other than their textbooks.

Often parents are not very literate and neither are neighbours, so children cannot access much learning support outside of school or in the family. For Pratham's dream of "every child learning well" to become a reality, it is essential that there is larger and more widespread support for children learning in families, in communities and in society. Pratham's community based "library" initiative is one way in which a wider cross-section of people can engage with children and learning.
 
How
 
Pratham's "libraries" are based in communities. The library may or may not have a room, or a fixed location or a cupboard of books. But they will always have reading and activity materials, story cards and activities for groups of children and an adult from the community who helps. Such Pratham "libraries" can be found in urban slums and rural communities.

Activities are conducted, and wherever possible books are exchanged, under a tree in the village, in a school yard, in a public space or in someone's verandah or courtyard or house. Some libraries are stationary, while others are mobile. Children work in groups to do activities and projects and participate in performances and events. They often take the help of parents, neighbours or siblings and friends.

No matter where the library is, there are some key elements that can be found in all Pratham libraries:
 
  • New material and assignments are given to the groups at periodic intervals.
  • Children's groups usually organized in mohallas or gallis (or dhaani/pada/tola/hamlet)
  • The group comes together to do activities periodically (usually one week or more each month)
  • Children mostly do activities on their own in groups helped by mothers and others.
  • An older person (sibling, mother, other) usually gets the library material and "watches" over the group.
  • From time to time there are "events" conducted in the village by library groups.
 
Reach and Scale
 
In 2016-17, there were 19,587 "libraries" in 19 states. This number is likely to grow in 2017-18.
 
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Pratham Library Program