Lifetime Achievement in Education Leadership Award 2023-24: Damodar Prasad Goyal

EducationWorld November 2023 | Magazine Pictorial Essay
Damodar Goyal

Damodar Prasad Goyal receives award & citation from EW’s Dilip Thakore (left) & Dr. C. Raj Kumar, Vice Chancellor, OP Jindal Global University

A tireless crusader for the institutional autonomy of private schools, Damodar Prasad Goyal has been enlightening, empowering and litigating for the rights of self-financed education institutions for the past 40 years.

A commerce graduate of Rajasthan University, Damodar Goyal began his career in the foodgrains and gemstones trade with which he successfully persisted for three decades. However while serving the Shri Agrawal Shiksha Samiti (managing pre-primary to postgraduate institutions) as General Secretary and Senior Vice President, Goyal became aware that although they are supplementing the primary duty of the State by serving the cause of education, private educational institutions were being subjected to a steadily multiplying number of Central and state government laws, rules and regulations which hindered them from discharging their obligation to provide high quality education to their students. “Privately promoted schools have made a massive contribution to post-independence India’s modernisation and national development. It’s not well-known, but some of the greatest leaders of India’s freedom movement including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose among others, were educated in private schools and colleges. And currently 48 percent of all school-going children countrywide are in private schools. Therefore, I deplore government’s suspicious and step-motherly treatment of India’s 450,000 private schools,” says Goyal.

The harassment and discrimination suffered by private schools “promoted from private savings” prompted Mr. Goyal to empower, educate and unite private educational institutions. In 1997, he registered the Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan and the Rajasthan Private Aided Colleges Management Association. Since then, the Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan has grown to 140 CBSE-affiliated primary-secondaries and the Association of Aided Colleges to 74 institutions. Goyal believes that government – especially state governments — has done a great disservice to the majority of India’s children by neglecting orderly development of the country’s 1.10 million government schools while focusing their attention on regulating and controlling private schools.

Well-versed in the plethora of education laws, rules and regulations enacted by the Central and state governments to regulate and control private schools, Goyal has an impressive record of famous victories in courts of law. In 1993, in Shri Agrawal Shiksha Samiti vs State of Rajasthan, he won an unprecedented court order directing the Rajasthan state government to pay interest on delayed grants to aided colleges.

In 2012, in Society for Unaided Schools of Rajasthan vs. Union Government & Ors, he won a famous Supreme Court verdict exempting minority and boarding schools from complying with s.12 (1) (c) of the RTE Act, 2009. This provision of the Act mandates all private schools to provide free-of-charge to elementary (classes I-VIII) education to poor children in their neighbourhood. Similarly after his intervention, in 2007, a Central Board of Secondary Education directive to private schools to waive the tuition fees of one girl child per family was withdrawn, following a plea filed in the Delhi High Court. And in 2021, a directive to private schools to slash tuition fees during the Covid pandemic years was quashed by the Supreme Court.

“Private schools are critical for the advancement of K-12 education in India. They set benchmarks in infrastructure provision, curriculum and pedagogy innovation, and teacher training and development for government schools. Therefore, they need to be encouraged and enabled instead of being harassed and discouraged. This awareness has to permeate government and society,” says this indefatigable champion of private education.

For his determined support of private education institutions which provide better quality education to 48 percent of India’s school-going children and 70 percent of youth in higher education, the Board of Directors and Editors of EducationWorld are delighted to present the EducationWorld Lifetime Achievement in Education Leadership Award 2023-24 to Damodar Prasad Goyal, an indefatigable champion of quality education for all.

Also read: Eduleader Speaks: Damodar Goyal, President, Society for Unaided Private schools of Rajasthan

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