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CBSE ‘drops’ controversial passage after Gandhis outrage over ‘blatantly misogynist’ paper

One set of the English question paper for Class 10 CBSE exams last week has sparked row for ‘promoting regressive notions about women’. Congress leaders have condemned the paper.

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New Delhi: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Monday “dropped” a controversial passage that appeared in a Class 10 examination last week, allegedly promoting regressive notions about women. The board has said it will award full marks to all students for passage No.1 for all sets of the question paper to ensure parity among them.

The move came hours after Congress president Sonia Gandhi raised an objection to the passage in the Lok Sabha, calling it “blatantly misogynist” and demanding an apology from the Ministry of Education.

“A passage in one set of the English Language and Literature paper of CBSE Class X first term examination held on 11 December 2021, is not in accordance with the guidelines of the board with regard to setting of question papers,” said Sanyam Bhardwaj, controller of examinations, CBSE.

“In this backdrop and on the basis of feedback received from stakeholders, the matter was referred to a committee of subject experts. As per their recommendation, it has been decided to drop the passage No.1 and its accompanying questions of the Question Paper Series JSK/1… To ensure uniformity and parity, full marks will also be awarded to students for passage No. 1 for all sets of the question paper Class X English language and Literature,” he added.

Speaking about the question in the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi had said: “The passage contains atrocious statements such as and I quote, ‘women gaining independence is the main reason for a wide variety of social and family problems’; ‘wives stopped obeying their husbands and that is the main reason children and servants are undisciplined’.”

“The entire passage is riddled with such condemnable ideas and the questions that follow are equally nonsensical,” Gandhi added.

“Sir, I add my voice to the concerns of students, parents, teachers and educationists. And I raise strong objections to such blatantly misogynist material finding its way into an important examination conducted by the CBSE. It reflects extremely poorly on the standards of education and testing and it goes against all norms and principles of a progressive and empowered society,” she added, addressing the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. 

“Sir, I urge the Ministry of Education and the CBSE to immediately withdraw this question, issue an apology and conduct a thorough review into this egregious lapse to ensure this is never, never repeated again. I also urge that the Ministry of Education must conduct a review on gender sensitivity standards of the curriculum and testing,” she concluded.

During the Lower House proceedings, the Opposition leaders shouted “shame, shame” as Gandhi spoke. 


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Congress protests and CBSE response

On Sunday, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also raised the issue, calling the passage “drivel”.

Party leader Rahul Gandhi too termed the paper “downright disgusting”. Taking to Twitter, he said: “Most #CBSE papers so far were too difficult and the comprehension passage in the English paper was downright disgusting. Typical RSS-BJP ploys to crush the morale and future of the youth. Kids, do your best. Hard work pays. Bigotry doesn’t.”

As the issue snowballed into a major row, the CBSE had earlier issued a statement saying the matter will be referred to experts for considered views.

“The passage in one set of the English paper of CBSE class 10 first term examination held yesterday has received mixed reactions from a few parents and students stating that ‘it seems to support regressive notions on family and allegedly promotes gender stereotyping’,” the central education body said.

“The matter will be referred to subject experts for considered views as per the pre-set procedures of the board. As regards the correct answer option and the answer key released by the board, it is clarified that if the experts opine that the passage elicits multiple interpretations, appropriate action will be taken to protect the interest of the students,” it said.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)


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