Parents and social media users also criticized the Indian Central Council for Secondary Education (CBSE), which later apologized for the issue and said it would be removed from the newspaper without penalty for students.
The controversial passage was part of the English language and literature exam given to 10th grade students (typically 15 to 16 years old) over the weekend, according to the CBSE.
Shortly after the exams, photos of the questions began to circulate on social media. A passage from a picture reading comprehension section describes how women can only “obtain obedience from the young” by giving their husbands “formal obedience.”
Another passage concluded that “the emancipation of women destroys the authority of parents over children.”
The controversial text immediately fueled the anger of parents and other Internet users, who demanded an explanation from the educational authorities. Politicians quickly got involved, and many demanded an investigation and a formal apology from the board.
” Incredible ! Are we really teaching this drivel to children? Tweeted Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of the Indian National Congress Party, the country’s main opposition party.
Sonia Gandhi, the president of the party, raised the issue during a session of parliament on Monday, calling the passage “atrocious”.
“I raise strong objections to such blatantly misogynistic material,” she said. “It reflects extremely poorly the standards of education and testing, and it goes against all the standards and principles of a progressive and self-reliant society.”
Soon after, she and other members of the opposition left the parliamentary session in protest.
On Monday afternoon, the CBSE issued a statement announcing that the passage in question did not meet “council guidelines.”
In a separate statement that evening, the council added it was “committed to equity and excellence in education” and “regrets this unfortunate incident”. The board would set up an expert committee to review and strengthen the question-setting process in the future, he said.
Exam questions are written by “testers” appointed by the president of the CBSE and must have a graduate degree in the academic subject for which they are writing. The questions are then reviewed and approved by moderators, also appointed by the President of the CBSE.
Despite the council’s swift 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 scrutiny; earlier this month, the board apologized and removed another passage about the 2002 Gujarat riots from its social studies exam for addressing issues that “could hurt people’s feelings about the basis of social and political choices “.