Two subject experts identified as being responsible for controversial questions in the CBSE’s Class 10 and 12 Term 1 examinations have been dropped from paper-setting panels by the Board, The Indian Express has learned. The Board has also set up a committee, headed by former Controller of Examinations Pavnesh Kumar, to review its paper-setting process.
The Term 1 Board examinations, held in November-December 2020, had seen two major controversies. The first was over a multiple choice question in the Class 12 Sociology examination that said: “The unprecedented scale and spread of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 took place under which government?” The options offered to answer this question were: “Congress”, “BJP”, “Democratic” and “Republican”.
The second was over the Class 10 English examination, which featured a comprehension passage in one set of question papers that was criticised as being retrograde and offensive to women as it seemed to draw a link between “lack of parental authority in the home” and “the “emancipation of the wife”.
The closing paragraph of the controversial comprehension passage had read, “What people were slow to observe was that the emancipation of the wife destroyed the parent’s authority over the children. The mother did not exemplify the obedience upon which she still tried to insist… In bringing the man down from his pedestal the wife and the mother deprived herself, in fact, of the means of discipline.”
After the Sociology exam, the Board had put out a statement on Twitter saying the question was “in violation of the guidelines for external subject experts for setting question papers” and that it would “take strict action against the responsible persons”. After the English exam controversy, the Board put out a statement expressing regret over the “unfortunate incident”.
For every subject, the Board engages two panels to set question papers –one of paper setters and the other of moderators.
“We had been engaging the services of the two paper setters based on an agreement because of their expertise and experience. It was decided that we will no longer be utilising their services. They are accomplished at their work and will continue at their institutes. The questions were not ‘wrong’ but they were not in line with discipline,” said a CBSE official.
The question on the Gujarat riots had been picked from a paragraph in the NCERT’s Class 12 Sociology textbook, ‘Indian Society’.
After facing a barrage of criticism over the English comprehension passage, including in Lok Sabha, the Board had put out a statement that it would set up an expert committee to “thoroughly review and strengthen the question paper setting process, to avoid such occurrences in the future.”
“The committee will look at the process in its entirety and see what is required to be done. If you look at the present system, there are actually enough checks and balances but new situations are emerging and at times you have to prepare with new techniques of allocating the work,” said a member of the constituted committee.
A CBSE official said a review was required also because of the direction in which the Board wants to move in its examinations. “We will be seeing many questions not from textbooks in the future as we try to move away from testing rote learning. That calls for more clarity in guidelines to setters,” the official said.