Row over regressive question in CBSE English paper

Passage blames ‘feminist revolt’ for teenage indiscipline

Updated - December 13, 2021 09:52 am IST

Published - December 12, 2021 10:27 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Shiksha Sadan which houses the CBSE at Rouse Avenue in New Delhi. File

The Shiksha Sadan which houses the CBSE at Rouse Avenue in New Delhi. File

Students, parents and national politicians have expressed outrage at the content of a reading comprehension passage in a Central Board of Secondary Education’s Class 10 English examination, held on Friday.

When Anita (name changed) read the English question paper of her Class 10 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) examination on Friday, she was shocked by the contents of the passage selected for a reading comprehension exercise.

“What people were slow to observe was that the emancipation of the wife destroyed the parents authority over the children… In bringing the man down from his pedestal the wife and mother deprived herself, in fact, of the means of discipline,” read the conclusion of the passage, which appeared to blame indiscipline among teenagers on a “feminist revolt”. In contrast, it described a past era when a husband was “master in his own house”, his wife “gave him formal obedience” and “children and servants were in this way taught to know their place”.

“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,” said Anita, a student of a wellknown Chennai school.

In what many students felt added insult to injury, a multiple choice question following the passage asked them to characterise the writer. While many offended students said they selected “a male chauvinist pig” as the most appropriate response, the correct answer according to CBSE’s answer key is that the writer “takes a light-hearted approach to life”. Other options included that the writer was “a disgruntled husband” or “has his family’s welfare at heart”.

Responding to The Hindu ’s queries, a CBSE spokesperson said the passage had received “mixed reactions” and added that the “matter will be referred to subject experts for considered views as per the preset procedures of the Board.” Regarding the answer key, the spokesperson only said that “if the experts opine that the passage elicits multiple interpretations, appropriate action will be taken to protect the interest of the students.”

As news of the offensive passage became public, Congress leaders joined students in their outrage on Saturday.

“Unbelievable! Are we really teaching children this drivel?” said Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in a tweet. “Clearly the BJP Government endorses these retrograde views on women, why else would they feature in the CBSE curriculum?” she added, tagging the Board and the Prime Minister.

Tamil Nadu Congress MP Jothimani wrote 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, urging that a sensitisation session be held in every Class 10 CBSE classroom “to debrief why such regressive ideas must find no place in the 21st century.”

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