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CBSE can’t be seen as a vehicle of outdated and patriarchal ideas

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

This is the second time in recent weeks that the CBSE has been left scrambling for a response over question papers.

It is not surprising to find the “emancipated wife” — imagined as the arch-villain of the great Indian family, she whose wilful ways and refusal to sacrifice her desires can wreck homes and corrupt the adarsh parivar — in television serials, or cinema, or the nightmares of prospective fathers-in-law. But to encounter this stock character, dripping with misogyny and prejudice, in a CBSE board exam English question paper for Class X students is a disgrace. A passage meant to test the comprehension of the students blamed the lack of discipline in children on the “emancipation” of wives. “In bringing the man down from his pedestal the wife and the mother deprived herself, in fact, of the means of discipline,” it said. As if this sexist bilge was not enough, according to the CBSE, the right answer to the question — Is the writer “a male chauvinist pig/an arrogant person”; “a disgruntled husband”; or “has his family’s welfare at his heart” — is that he “takes a light hearted approach to life”. The joke was, thankfully, lost on students and parliamentarians alike. In the Lok Sabha, Congress president Sonia Gandhi objected to “such blatantly misogynist material finding its way into an important examination”. Though the government refused to make a statement in the House, the Ministry of Education has asked the CBSE for a detailed explanation. The CBSE has made the immensely welcome decision of dropping the passage and awarding all students full marks for the questions.

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