A process not spoken of enough – conditioning – plays a rather large role in the formation of our identities, values, and ideologies. What a young person is repeatedly exposed to directly impacts their thoughts, and it is imperative that their education (primary and secondary) be sensitive, thoughtful, and nuanced. Additionally, as a country where misogyny is so widely prevalent, it becomes all the more important that educational institutes impart values that are in line with basic standards of equality and social justice.
‘It was only by accepting her husband’s sway that she could gain obedience from the young. The decision might be hers but the unpopularity was his, the more easily borne in that he might not be there. To precepts about subordination she has thus added the potent force of an example. Children and servants were in this way taught to know their place. In the twentieth century, children became fewer and the feminist revolt was the result.’— Comprehension passage, Grade 10 CBSE English Board exam
None of these basic standards were taken into account when the recent Grade 10 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) English Board exam included a comprehension passage that implied the inferiority of women to men in the sphere of running a home. The Indian Express explains, ‘Broadly, the passage suggests that children don’t obey their parents anymore because wives don’t obey their husbands, thereby losing authority over their progeny.’
This unacceptable point of view was posed casually as a 6-marker in an exam for teenagers. Rightfully, it received widespread backlash online as the ideology behind the passage became clear. When we hope for a better tomorrow, we must understand that it is today’s youth that is at the centre of it, and imparting such outdated and regressive ideas dissolves any ambition of moving toward an equal world.
Since the event, the CBSE has issued an official statement saying that the passage was ‘...not in accordance with guidelines of the board with regard to the setting of question papers’, and that all students who attempted it will receive full marks. Later on Twitter they stated, ‘CBSE is committed to equity and excellence in education and promotes inclusiveness and gender sensitivity… CBSE regrets this unfortunate incident and is setting up an expert committee to thoroughly review and strengthen the question paper setting process, to avoid such occurrences in the future.’
In a space where children must be nurtured into having broad mindsets that revolve around equality, inclusivity, kindness, and hope - India’s education system is massively lacking. This incident is one such example. Hopefully, it’ll be the last one.
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