A note on this page's publication date

The content we created for Pratham in March 2012 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about Pratham and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.

In 2011, we declared Pratham a "standout organization," which meant that we found it to be an outstanding opportunity to accomplish good but that we rated our top charities above it.

Published: March 2012

What do they do?

Pratham is a large, India-based organization that runs a wide variety of programs aiming to improve education for children in India.

Pratham's largest program is Read India, which provides basic reading and math lessons to millions of preschool- and primary-school-age children.1 In addition, they also run or sponsor:2

  • a research and evaluation unit (ASER) that conducts nationwide surveys of learning levels
  • vocational education programs for older (e.g. high school) children
  • rehabilitation programs for child laborers and vulnerable children.

In 2010-11, Pratham's total budget was approximately $14 million.3

Our previous review of Pratham, published in 2010, is available here.

Reason for the standout rating

We recommend Pratham as our top recommendation for developing-world education because:

  • GiveWell staff visited Pratham programs two times in Mumbai, India during the fall of 2010. We do not feel that these visits allowed us to evaluate the effectiveness of Pratham's programs, but we came away with a generally positive impression. For more, see our Fall 2010 India site visit notes.
  • Our impression is that Pratham has a strong reputation among people who are familiar with Indian educational organizations. Pratham has a strong reputation among respected international aid scholars such as researchers at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT.4 In addition, several representatives from other charities in India, told us (unsolicited) that they have the impression that Pratham is a strong organization.
  • There is limited evidence about what works in developing-world education. Programs that intuitively seem effective such as building schools, training teachers or providing textbooks do not have a strong track record of success. (For more on this cause, see our overview of developing-world education programs.) In a sector with limited evidence about what works, Pratham stands out for having subjected its programs to rigorous trials to determine which approaches are most effective. (For more on Pratham's commitment to evaluation, see the evaluation section of our July 2009 review.)

Despite the above, we are not confident in Pratham's overall impact. Nevertheless, for donors interested in the cause of developing-world education, we have found no organization stronger than Pratham.

Sources

  • 1.

    • Pratham, "Pratham Fact Sheet 2011"
    • Pratham, "Breakdown of Pratham's Spending"
  • 2.
    Shayak Banerjee, phone conversation with GiveWell, January 12, 2012.
  • 3.
    Pratham, "Breakdown of Pratham's Spending"
  • 4.

    Poor Economics, "What you can do."