Economics Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther
Duflo’s Bihar connection
Abhijit Banerjee and his wife Esther Duflo, the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics, came to Bihar in 2010 in connection with the impact assessment of the nationwide ‘Read India’ campaign, launched by Pratham to ensure that all children in India are able to read fluently and do basic math confidently.
Esther Duflo, left, and Abhijit Banerjee, the winners of 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics, following a news conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.(AP)
Ford Foundation international professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Abhijit Banerjee and his wife Esther Duflo, who are among the three honoured with this year’s Nobel Prize in economics, have a Bihar connection.
The couple came to Bihar in 2010 in connection with the impact assessment of the nationwide ‘Read India’ campaign, launched by Pratham to ensure that all children in India are able to read fluently and do basic math confidently.
Pratham, an educational NGO, has produced an Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) since 2005, which has amply demonstrated the challenges in terms of learning outcomes of children..
It was in January 2010 that Banerjee and Dufflo participated in the Research and Policy Design - the first J-PAL Bihar Development Conference in Patna. Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi was also present at the function. At the function, Banerjee said that it was important to engage with people at the helm of affairs to ensure policy interventions to bring about much-needed change for poverty alleviation.
He also referred to the summer camp intervention in Bettiah to help children catch up to have knowledge commensurate with the class they studied in. “Learning outcomes can be improved if it is first accepted and an effective programme evolved to tackle it,” he added.
Banerjee was also involved with ‘Read India’ activities organised in 3 blocks in West Champaran district in Bihar. He also wrote the research paper with Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji on ‘Read India - Every Child in School and Learning Well Helping Primary School Students in India Acquire Basic Reading and Math Skills’.
“This impact evaluation study is interesting for a variety of reasons. It attempts to understand the effects of large scale efforts like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Read India. Second, the partnership for the study and the interventions involves a university (MIT), state government of Bihar and an NGO. Working effectively within a three way partnership has its own challenges but as this study indicates, effective partnerships are possible,” said the paper in its concluding remark.
Pratham CEO Banerji said that Abhijit Banerjee had evaluated the summer camps programme run by Pratham in coordination with the Bihar government as well as the ‘Read India’. “He found the summer camps very effective. He was also receptive to feedback to make changes in accordance with local needs to ensure optimum benefit to the target groups for tackling poverty,” she added.