By Swati Gupta and Jessie Yeung, CNN
Secondary school students in India will receive full marks for a national exam question criticized as ‘grossly misogynistic’ by the country’s opposition party.
Parents and social media users also blasted India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which later apologized for the question and said it would be removed from the newspaper without penalty to students.
The controversial passage was part of the English Language and Literature exam given to Year 10 students (usually aged 15 to 16) over the weekend, according to CBSE.
Shortly after the exams, photos of the questions started circulating on social media. A passage from an illustrated reading comprehension section describes how wives could “obtain obedience from the young” only by giving her husband “formal obedience”.
Another passage concluded that “the emancipation of women has destroyed the authority of parents over children”.
The controversial text immediately angered parents and other Internet users, who demanded explanations from educational authorities. Politicians soon got involved, with many calling for an investigation and a formal apology from the council.
“Amazing! Are we really teaching kids this drivel?” tweeted Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of the Indian National Congress party, the country’s main opposition party.
Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the party, raised the issue during a session of parliament on Monday, calling the passage “excruciating”.
“I have strong objections to such blatantly misogynistic material,” she said. “It reflects education and testing standards extremely poorly, and it goes against all the norms and principles of a progressive and self-reliant society.”
Soon after, she and other opposition members walked out of the parliamentary session in protest.
On Monday afternoon, the CBSE issued a statement announcing that the passage in question did not meet “board guidelines”.
In a separate statement that evening, the council added that it was “committed to equity and excellence in education” and that it “regrets this unfortunate incident”. The board would set up a committee of experts to review and strengthen the question-setting process going forward, he said.
Examination questions are written by “testers” appointed by the CBSE President and must hold an advanced degree in the subject for which they are writing. Questions are then reviewed and approved by moderators, also appointed by the CBSE President.
Despite the council’s quick response, some social media users argued that the damage had already been done, as students across the country had already been exposed to misogynistic ideas and concepts.
This is not the first time that national exams have come under public fire; earlier this month, the council apologized and removed another passage on the 2002 Gujarat riots from its social studies exam for addressing issues that “could harm people’s feelings depending on choices social and political”.
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