The Central Board of Secondary Education has come under public scrutiny over a controversial passage featured in one of the sets of English papers of CBSE class 10 held on Sunday, December 12, 2021.
The closing para of the comprehension passage read, “What people were slow to observe was that the emancipation of the wife destroyed the parent’s authority over the children. The mother did not exemplify the obedience upon which she still tried to insist… In bringing the man down from his pedestal the wife and the mother deprived herself, in fact, of the means of discipline.”
The whole episode has shaken the hornet's nest. Views are streaming in on social media platforms from Indians far and wide. Many are pointing out that this episode reinforces a patriarchal society, gives way to regressive ideas, and is downright misogynist. As a fact, The passage, the lines seem to draw a link between lack of parental authority over children and emancipation of women.
Post this, CBSE has apologized for this incident. They have announced that they have decided to drop the passage, and full marks would be awarded to the students for subsequent questions. The Board also said that it would review its question paper-setting process.
According to a report, the Ministry of Education has written to the CBSE, seeking a detailed explanation immediately. “The CBSE has been asked to respond on an urgent basis,” an official said.
CitySpidey spoke to members of the community to know about their views on the subject.
Swati Agarwal, an author and mother of a child from class 10th, from Noida says, “If you look around traditional families who may be very well off, several times women have no say in family matters. Children learn what they see around them. Now does it guarantee that a kid in such a household would be obedient? In fact, working mothers make children understand the importance of hard work.”
“We do not stand by these values nor does the school where I am sending my child. I don’t know who is setting such question papers. Why is CBSE not reevaluating its papers? It was such an important exam. This is a big blunder. ”, she added.
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Alka Sinha, a writer from Dwarka says, “When an educational institution sets a question, they need to think what message or what idea are they trying to provoke in student’s minds. When they talk about lack of parental authority, are they saying children have no right to have individual ideas and dreams? And when they say children are becoming undisciplined because the lady is stepping out to work, it makes for a very one-sided patriarchal argument. Asking such questions then means drawing a teenage mind in a conservative direction which is wrong.”
Hardeep Singh (49) working in the IT sector says “It is not the right to describe child care solely as the responsibility of mothers. Moreover, in today’s world, financial contribution from women helps in household expenditure.”
Aprajita Gautam, President of Delhi Parents Association, says, “After reading this passage, a thought came to my mind, is CBSE the right authority for our children? Earlier, CBSE also made a mistake in the question paper where they mentioned very objectionable issues such as riots and the answer sheet had mistakes. Do the officials of CBSE justify their positions? Apparently, conservative people have filled the upper positions in CBSE. At that point, there should be a neutral body. There shouldn’t be individual choices. Giving full marks to the children is not the only solution. This passage gave the wrong message to the children. An inquiry must be conducted soon.”
Shazil Hussain, a Noida-based journalist says, “It is utterly shocking to see the promotion of such regressive ideas by an established board in 2021. I am sad that people have still not gotten over this mentality.”
Sukhpal Singh Toor, President of NCR Parents Association says, “CBSE is a very respected authority and they claim that they are one of the oldest and largest boards. According to them, it was done by external agencies. However, they haven’t fixed the accountability. Students and their parents have raised their voices from the very first day, however, in the beginning, they denied it. It should not be repeated and action should be taken on the concerned person.”
Shipra Lamba, a psychologist from Bangalore says, “On one side, the authorities have introduced women to NDA, and on the other hand some authorities included a passage which may deliberately or accidentally regress this prospering nation of its growth. The times have changed. Many men and women are learning and trying their best to support each other financially and emotionally. The presence of such an atrocious passage in an exam which is an important part of our educational system is very disappointing and heartbreaking for women who are trying hard to make their families proud and support their husbands. Are just women responsible for the discipline or the indiscipline of their children?”
She adds that there is a need to encourage an environment where the sons and daughters of this nation can work together to create a more balanced, educated, open-minded, and happier nation.
As highlighted by community members, CBSE has dropped the passage and promised to award full marks to students who attempted that question but why did such a paragraph appear in the first place, what damage has been done by publishing it, and what steps have been taken to prevent this in future are questions worth pondering upon.