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Enhancing Reading and Learning Outcomes in Indian Schools

The Project: Pre-Texts

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University aims to roll out a pedagogical intervention in school education in India. The project starts with a pilot in Pune, and will likely be scaled across a large number of schools.


About School Education in India

The Indian school system is one of the largest in the world, encompassing over 1.5 million schools, almost 10 million teachers and 265 million children annually. Offering quality education becomes especially challenging when you look at the sheer size of the school education sector, combined with a diverse set of state-wise policies and cultures.

How can one enhance the quality of teaching at such scales?



The Idea of Pre-Texts

Pre-Texts is a pedagogical acupuncture.

It offers high quality, low-cost, basic and advanced education. It has been successfully implemented in Latin America and Africa, where disadvantaged kids are being empowered with a newfound interest in reading and learning.

Pre-Texts is a program that engages learners in close reading and approaches challenging texts creatively in order to interpret and master them.

To stimulate a more holistic approach to learning (cognitive, emotional, and social), Pre-Texts trains educators to facilitate art-making practices using texts that students find difficult or uninteresting.

Pre-Texts begins with an oral reading while students, for instance, make individual book covers for their personal editions of the text. After making book covers and displaying them, each student asks a question of the text, aloud in contrast to conventional classrooms where teacher ask questions of students. Students ask the questions, becoming investigators who scrutinize a text.

This introductory activity (listening, drawing, reading, asking, and answering) ends, as do all Pre-Texts activities, with a moment to reflect on “What did we do?”

The project employs Pre-Texts in a pilot school in India and evaluates how a new, scalable pedagogical intervention can improve learning outcomes in Indian schools.

Pre-Texts is a program with a simple approach, one that focuses on ‘training the trainers’, adapts to a broad range of curricula and to cultural preferences. On the one hand the protocol uses required texts; and on the other, participants determine their own creative activities.

Pre-Texts combines cognitive learning with creativity and socio-emotional development.


Research Design

For the purposes of excavating preliminary insights from the pilot, we will choose a school and train its teachers for grades I-V, since lower, formative grades will best achieve the desired impact (another school will act as control). Given the nature of pedagogical intervention and its desired impact, we will adopt a mixed-method approach in the impact evaluation, which includes baseline estimate studies and compare these with the post-intervention assessment done at the end of the term.

The learning outcomes indicators will be drawn from government stipulated rubrics, which are widely adopted in such studies.

In addition, we will also study a child’s cognitive capacities, their willingness to be proactive, engage in co-curricular pursuits, and explore an ecosystem that expands their curiosity and encourages them to learn about themselves and the world.

The study will also rely on a series of focus groups and semi-structured interviews with children, teachers and parents to determine possible developments in affective/conative faculties of the children. We will record videos of ‘pedagogy in action’ and observations about children’s interests and reading-based activities.




Harvard University has partnered with the Cultural Agents Initiative in the US for this project.


Principal Investigators

Prof Doris Sommer, Ira Jewell Williams, Jr., Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies, and Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative, Harvard University.


Research and Coordination

Omkar Sathe, CPC Analytics


Current Openings

Pre-texts: Project Consultant