Women ‘available’ for less pay: UGC gender blunder sparks outrage

Teachers who have taken the exam earlier say the UGC is known to frame such questions.

Written by Aditi Vatsa | New Delhi | Published: July 2, 2013 5:43 am

Why do women make better primary school teachers?

If that question stumped many candidates who wrote the University Grants Commission’s National Eligibility Test on Sunday,one of the multiple-choice answers listed for the question has outraged many.

Because women “are available on lower salaries”,said one of the four possible answers.

About eight lakh candidates wrote the test across the country to qualify for junior research fellowships or university level teaching jobs. While some of them have called it “sexist”,teachers who have taken the exam earlier said they were not surprised as the UGC has been known to frame such questions.

The section on Teaching Aptitude,common to all candidates irrespective of their subject,had a question — number 44 in set ‘w’ of paper 1 — which reads: “At primary school stage,most teachers should be women because:”

It then lists four options for the candidates to choose from.

a. can teach children better than men.

b. know basic content better than men.

c. are available on lower salaries.

d. can deal with children with love and affection.

Other questions on teaching aptitude in the paper include: “India should switch to two-party system. Which of the following statements is strong?

I. Yes,it will lead to stability of the government;

II. No,it will limit choice for voters”.

Some candidates said they felt these seemingly absurd questions were not politically innocent.

Question 3 in the same set asks: “Choose the proper alternative given in the codes,to replace the question mark: Bee – Honey; Cow – Milk; Teacher – ? Options are intelligence,marks,lessons,wisdom.”

“The question is definitely very sexist and also by including questions such as these,stereotypes are being sustained,” said Bulbul Dhar James,head of the Centre for Women’s Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI).

It was not just the UGC but other institutions such as the NCERT were also propagating stereotypes,she said. “A teacher is always a woman and a soldier always a man in any textbook. Now it is up to the candidate to decide this gender dichotomy,” added James.

Teachers across the board have called this an “implied assumption of sexist nature”. “I wonder how a question like this could have been passed by the UGC?” asked Simi Malhotra,who also teaches at JMI.

Sanam Khanna,who teaches English at Delhi University’s Kamala Nehru College,said the “worse thing” is that the paradigm is not being questioned but reasons for stereotypes are being reinforced.

“The fact that such a question makes its way into a national exam speaks volumes about the mindset in which such a question paper was created. It is indicative of a deeper bureaucratic attitude towards teaching,” Khanna said.

Apoorva Gautam,a student at Delhi University’s Department of Sociology,called it bizarre.

“While the common section had such a question,the sociology section questioned these notions about gender. In a national level exam,questions with such options only reflect a deep sense of disrespect and lack of any idea of equality. It makes one doubt the ‘national agenda’ of women’s empowerment when such shameful assumptions are displayed through questions in an examination,” said Gautam.

The UGC’s deputy secretary,NET bureau,Surinder Singh,declined to comment saying the questions were framed by professors of concerned subjects and it was up to experts to take a call on this.

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