After LS furore, CBSE ‘regrets’ misogynistic exam question

Question dropped after Sonia raises issue, Opposition MPs stage walkout

The Central Board of Secondary Education has expressed “regret” for including a misogynistic reading comprehension exercise in its Class 10 English examination, and vowed to review its paper setting processes.

Soon after the issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday, followed by a walkout by Opposition MPs, the CBSE said the question would be dropped and all students granted full marks for that section.

One of the question paper sets for the examination held on Friday included a passage which appeared to blame a “feminist revolt” for indiscipline among teenagers, stating that the “emancipation of the wife destroyed the parents’ authority over the children, contrasting it to the past when wives obeyed their husbands and “children and servants were taught to know their place”.

Students, parents and politicians had expressed outrage over the passage, demanding an apology from the Board, a review of gender sensitivity standards, and a classroom debrief to sensitise students to the problematic nature of the content.

Just minutes after a number of Opposition parties escalated the issue further by walking out of the Lok Sabha, the CBSE issued a statement acknowledging that the passage was “not in accordance with the guidelines of the Board with regard to the setting of question papers”.

On the basis of a subject expert committee’s review, it was decided to drop the question, and award full marks for all students for passage no. 1, regardless of which question paper set they received.

Later in the evening, facing criticism for its failure to apologise, the Board went a step further to say: “CBSE regrets this unfortunate incident and is setting up an expert committee to thoroughly review and strengthen the question paper setting processes, to avoid such occurrences in the future.”

Last week, the Board said a question in a Class 12 Sociology paper on anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat under a BJP government in 2002 also violated its guidelines for external setters of question papers.

The Board also reiterated its commitment to gender equality in the face of accusations of stereotyping and misogyny. “CBSE is committed to excellence and equity in education and promotes inclusiveness and gender sensitivity,” it said.

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