Literacy for all; Policy and research; Foundational learning; Early childhood education; Monitoring, evaluation and assessment
Rukmini has dedicated her professional life to understanding gaps in education and working to close them. Trained as an economist in India, UK, and US, she joined Pratham Education Foundation in 1996. In 2015, after a decade of leading the organization’s research and assessment work, she became Pratham’s CEO.
In 2005, Rukmini and her team launched a game-changing survey in India: the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). Every year, with the support of a highly engaged volunteer network, ASER assesses 600,000 children over 100 days—mostly in rural districts. It shows that despite spending several years in school, many children still struggle to read or do basic arithmetic. ASER has proven so useful that since its launch, 15 other countries have adopted its methods—such as Kenya and Pakistan.
Learning is cumulative. Without foundational literacy and numeracy skills, it is difficult for a child to make meaningful progress in school. Following Pratham’s ‘Teaching at the Right Level’ (TaRL) approach, teachers assess and group children by their level of learning—not their age or grade. Then students are given activities and materials appropriate to their level that help them quickly progress to the next level.
Any individual school or community can use TaRL, but Rukmini emphasizes that government partnerships are key if we want to see progress on a large scale. As such, the Pratham team works closely with a number of districts and local governments across India. And as with ASER, TaRL is now spreading into regions across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.