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Kerala Schools Now Drop Terms Sir, Madam, Students to Address Faculty as Teacher

Kerala school students will no longer call faculty members sir or madam. Instead, schools across the state will use a gender-neutral term ‘teacher’. In a bid to create awareness about gender equality, Senior Basic School in Olassery, Palakkad district of Kerala, has asked its students not to address their teachers as sir or madam anymore. Instead, the students have been directed to address the teaching faculty as just ‘teacher’ since December 1, 2021.

The Olassery-based school has around 300 students, along with nine female and eight male teaching staff. According to the school principal, H. Venugopalan, the idea to address the faculty as teachers, instead of sir and madam was put forth by one of the staff members, Sanjeev Kumar. And later it also got approval from the staff council.

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Venugopalan told The Telegraph that the teacher was inspired by social activist Boban Mattumantha’s campaign who advocates for gender-neutral titles for government officials. He has been voicing out his opinion that people should do away with the practice of calling them, sir and madam. Following in the footsteps of the activist, Sanjeev proposed the idea and got support from his fellow teachers as well as the staff council.

The school also got inspired by a nearby panchayat, who had in September last year banned the use of ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. The Mathur panchayat had even dropped the colonial salutations and had encouraged citizens to “demand” and not “humbly request” in order to avail any services from the panchayat.

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Interestingly, it is not the first step taken towards gender-neutrality. Recently, several schools in the state have adopted gender-neutral uniforms for their students. The initiative for the same was taken by the Balussery Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode district. It was the first school to implement the unisex uniform.

A dozen schools in Kerala have shifted to the new gender-neutral uniforms, while many others are likely to follow suit gradually. Extending support to the decision, Kerala Education Minister V Shivankutty said that the state government is working towards providing education without any gender bias.

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