Rukmini Banerji

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Organizations & people

working to improve education systems
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Rukmini Banerji is CEO of Pratham, a civil society organization headquartered in Mumbai, India.[1]

How their work relates to education systems

Banerji's career has largely focused on measuring and strengthening foundational skills among primary school aged children. At Pratham, she led research and assessment activities, such as the well-known Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) effort, from 2005 to 2014.[1] ASER is the largest citizen-led survey in India and the country’s only annual source of data on children’s learning outcomes, measuring basic literacy and numeracy among rural children regardless of their enrolment status.[2] Evidence collected through the survey has drawn into sharp relief the reality of the global learning crisis, the fact that while the majority of children around the world attend school, a large proportion of them are not learning. Through Pratham, Banerji has used ASER data to advocate for the realignment of education systems to focus on learning outcomes rather than enrolment outcomes. In fact, India's 2020 National Education Policy, published by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, states:

“We are currently in a learning crisis: a large proportion of students currently in elementary school…have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy, i.e., the ability to read and comprehend basic text and the ability to carry out basic addition and subtraction with Indian numerals.”[3]

The impact of ASER in India has led to the replication of the survey in 13 more countries around the world, along with the establishment of the PAL Network—a south-south partnership of organizations working to measure learning levels among children in their respective countries.

Banerji also has extensive field experience in program design and implementation in both rural and urban areas. She has been thoroughly involved in Pratham's iterative work to innovate, test, and iterate effective pedagogical methods focused on teaching children foundational skills. Pratham's best known intervention, Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), works by dividing children (generally in Grades 3 to 5) into groups based on learning needs rather than age or grade; dedicating time to basic skills rather than focusing solely on the curriculum; and regularly assessing student performance, rather than relying only on end-of-year examinations.[4] Since 2001, J-PAL-affiliated researchers have rigorously tested the theory of change underlying Pratham’s TaRL approach. Through 6 randomised evaluations in India, as well as a growing body of research in Africa, they find that when TaRL is successfully implemented, learning outcomes improve.[4]

Brief biography

Banerji has worked at Pratham since 1996 and became CEO in July 2015.

Banerji completed her BA at St. Stephen’s College and attended the Delhi School of Economics (DSE). She was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and earned her PhD at the University of Chicago.[5]

In 2008, Banerji was awarded the Maulana Abul Kalam Shiksha Puraskar by the Government of Bihar, India. She was the first recipient of this award. Originally from Bihar, she is now based between New Delhi and Pune. She writes frequently on education in both Hindi and English dailies in India and enjoys writing books and stories for children.

Banerji is also a member of the RISE Intellectual Leadership Team.[5]

Key publications related to education systems

  • Banerji, R. 2015. How Do Systems Respond to Disruptive Pedagogic Innovations? RISE Working Paper Series. 15/002.
  • Banerjee, A., Banerji, R., Berry, J., Duflo, E., Kannan, H., Mukerji, S., Shotland, M., & Walton, M. (2017). From Proof of Concept to Scalable Policies: Challenges and Solutions, with an Application. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(4), 73–102.
  • Banerji, R. 2020. Learning “Loss” and Learning “Gain” in Primary School Years: What Do We Know from India That Can Help Us Think Forward in the COVID-19 Crisis?. RISE Insight Series. 2020/019.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 People, Dr. Rukmini Banerji. Pratham Education Foundation.
  2. "Bold Philanthropy in India: Insights from Eight Social Change Initiatives". 2018. The Bridgespan Group.
  3. National Education Policy 2020. Ministry of Human Resource Development. Government of India.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Home. Teaching at the Right Level.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Rukmini Banerji." RISE Programme [official website]. Accessed 2021-08-09.