ASER Centre was established in January 2008 as a specialized, independent unit within the Pratham network, in order to institutionalize and strengthen the design and process of ASER and ASER-like initiatives. It works towards providing answers to a key question: Are social sector programs leading to desired outcomes? In other words, is public expenditure effectively leading towards stated goals?
In the social sectors regulation and monitoring at the central level is neither possible nor sufficient. Metrics and mechanisms have to be generated to see if the allocated resources are adequate, whether they are being applied well and how outlays are translating into outcomes. Given constraints of time and resources, the architecture of the mechanism must be simple; the design - scientific; results generated must be rapid, locally useful and allow aggregation to district and state levels as needed.
While internal evaluation and self-regulation by the government are clearly important for program implementation, independent assessment by citizens is critical to ensure transparency and accountability.
Currently, independent, timely data on outcomes, especially at the district level are not available. In addition, outside of urban India there is an enormous shortage of people able to design, implement, and understand the nuts and bolts of assessment. ASER Centre was established to fill these critical gaps in a variety of ways.