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Don't call pupils 'genius', it's not gender-neutral: Cambridge

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Cambridge University academics are being told to avoid using words like "genius", "flair" and "brilliance" when assessing students' work because they are associated with men and "carry assumptions of gender inequality", according to a varsity lecturer.

Lucy Delap, a lecturer in British history at Cambridge University, said that History tutors are discouraged from using these terms as some of them, in particular genius, have a "very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male"


"Some women are fine with that, but others might find it hard to see themselves in those categories," she was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

Delap, who specialises in gender history, said that one of the reasons why men get more first class degrees at Oxford and Cambridge than women is because female students struggle with the "male dominated environment".

Examples include reading lists which are dominated by male academics and portraits hanging on college walls which are either of men or by men, she said.

Academics are told to stick closely to the mark scheme when marking History essays, which assesses students' ability to answer the questions, analytic skills and breadth of knowledge.

"We want to use language that is transparent," Delap said.

"We're rewriting our first two years of our History degree to create a wider set of paper choices, to make assessment criteria clearer, and to really try and root out the unhelpful and very vague talk of 'genius', of 'brilliance', of 'flair' which carries assumptions of gender inequality and also of class and ethnicity," she said.

Cambridge University's History Faculty runs confidence building workshops in the run up to exams, as it is thought that one reason why male and privately educated students are more likely to get first class degree is due to increased self-assurance.

Earlier this week, it emerged that Oxford University's History Faculty is to allow students to sit exams at home in an attempt to close the gender gap.

The university was criticised for the "insulting" decision, with a leading academic warning that the decision implies women are the "weaker sex".

From the start of the next academic year, the department will change its exam system to replace one of the five final- year exams with a "take-home" paper.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, June 13 2017. 16:57 IST
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