Students and parents in India are outraged over an annual school examination paper that blamed women and feminism for poorly behaved children.
The exam question also drew reactions from the country’s opposition politician, tweeting their dissatisfaction while blaming the current administration in power.
A reading comprehension exercise in the class 10 examination held on Friday suggested that the “emancipation of women destroyed the parents’ authority over the children” and blamed indiscipline among teenagers on a “feminist revolt.”
The examination was for students of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) that is run by the federal government.
The reading comprehension passage also suggested that historically, the husband was the “master in his own house”, that “his wife gave him formal obedience” and that “children and servants were in this way taught to know their place.”
Once the question paper was made public, it attracted the wrath of the public as well as senior politicians belonging to the country’s opposition parties, who alleged the attitude of the school board was regressive.
Anita, a student from a school in Chennai city in southern India who was identified only by her first name, told The Hindu newspaper: “I cannot believe such a regressive and inappropriate passage was given to us. It’s very disappointing that the CBSE board could do this in a national-level examination in 2021.”
The reading passage was followed by a multiple-choice question in which students were asked to characterise the writer of the passage as either a writer who was a “male chauvinist pig” or someone who “takes a light-hearted approach to life.”
Many students, who were shocked to find the retrograde ideas expressed in the passage, chose “male chauvinist pig.” But this was not the correct answer, according to the CBSE’s answer key for the examination, said several media reports.
The correct answer, according to the school board, was “takes a light-hearted approach to life.”
Other options included “a disgruntled husband” or “has his family’s welfare at heart.”
Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the country’s opposition Indian National Congress party, tweeted: “Most #CBSE papers so far were too difficult and the comprehension passage in the English paper was downright disgusting.”
He added that it was “typical RSS-BJP ploys to crush the morale and future of the youth.”
He then encouraged children to “do your best. Hard work pays. Bigotry doesn’t.”
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, another Congress leader, tweeted: “Unbelievable! Are we really teaching children this drivel? Clearly, the BJP Government endorses these retrograde views on women, why else would they feature in the CBSE curriculum?”
On Monday, CBSE issued a clarification and said it was dropping the controversial passage and the accompanying questions on the “emancipation of the wife.”
The statement by CBSE said that the said passage was “not in accordance with the guidelines of the board with regard to the setting of question papers.”
The board also said it would award “full marks to the students for this passage”, irrespective of the answer they choose.
Jothimani, a Congress leader from Tamil Nadu had also written to CBSE Chairperson, Manoj Ahuja urging him to recall the paper and debrief it with students.
“Having such passages in a question paper would only normalise such regressive, misogynistic thought,” she wrote and suggested that a sensitisation session be held in every Class 10 classroom “to debrief why such regressive ideas must find no place in the 21st century.”
The CBSE was under fire for another question recently, this time for its Class 12 Sociology examination paper.
The paper carried a controversial question on the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which more than 1,000 Muslims were slaughtered.
The question read: “The unprecedented scale and spread of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 took place under which government?”
The options for the question were: “Congress”, “BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]”, “Democratic” and “Republican”.
After facing backlash over the question, the CBSE called the question “inappropriate” and promised “strict action” against those responsible. (Source: Independent UK)