Why should the majority of teachers at the primary stage be women? Is it because they are available on lower salaries or is it because they can deal with children with love and affection?
This question, perpetuating all sorts of gender stereotypes, has been asked by none other than the University Grants Commission (UGC) of future lecturers in the National Eligibility Test (NET) that took place across the country on Sunday.
The multiple choice question was part of Paper I, which is common for all. It read, "At primary school stage, most teachers should be women because".
"The question was very absurd and perpetuates gender stereotypes. The paper was also full of other absurdities and many people have raised questions about the quality of the question paper," said Khaliq Parkar, a candidate who appeared for Sunday's test. His #netmustdie discussion topic on Facebook also generated a lot of interest.
UGC secretary Akhilesh Gupta did not respond to calls or messages.
The question not only raised hackles of various test takers from different parts of the country, it also motivated them to start a petition demanding an apology from UGC for the sexist question.
"This question was part of the teaching methodology section and just seemed really absurd. Does UGC think women are only about love and affection? Or do they think that they can teach better than men? Since when do professional capabilities rely on a person's sex?" said Madhumita De, an aspirant who signed the petition on www.petitions.hallabol.com, demanding an apology from the UGC.
The question has also sparked-off a debate among experts. "While the question does perpetuate gender stereotypes, it is also true that having women as teachers at the primary school level is desirable. We have evidence that people pull out the girl child from school if the teacher is male because of the fear of sexual harassment," said women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari.