A murmur broke out in the middle of a mathematics class in a south Delhi Government school on Friday. After a few minutes, a student went up to the teacher and said that the students wanted to pray for the gangrape victim who is fighting for her life at Safdarjung Hospital.
"I have been teaching for over 20 years but I have not seen students come up and raise their voice against an issue like rape before. For the first time I felt that things are changing," said the teacher at the school.
In 2005, when the National Curriculum Framework assembled to discuss what the NCERT textbooks would look like one thing was clear.
"We wanted to make sure that students are made aware of the socio-cultural realities in the country from a young age. As a result, the class 5 text book for mathematics has the story of a women's cooperative for fisherwomen and that of a young girl who sells junk. Social reality, which includes discussions about gender and exclusion, is now part of every school textbook," said Anita Rampal, dean, faculty of education, Delhi University.
For a number of youth, gender sensitivity, it seems, is a value not taught at home. A curriculum and teachers, who can instill these values, thus become all the more important.
"Education does not function in a vacuum. Popular culture has started using such sexist and brutal language that it is impossible to change a students' mindset with books alone. How did we get to a place where the country's leading actor, Aamir Khan, trivialises rape by punning on it in 3 Idiots' seemingly entertaining 'balatkaar speech'? This type of cinema is enough to wipe out anything we may teach in school," said renowned educationist Krishna Kumar, former chairperson of NCERT.
Item songs and pop songs, in fact, have become more derogatory in the recent times with rappers like Honey Singh singing songs about being a rapist.