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Education ministry clarifies titles for female scientists in textbooks

2018/09/17 16:34:58

French-Polish scientist Marie Curie (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

Taipei, Sept. 17 (CNA) The Ministry of Education clarified Monday that a guideline adopted in the 12-year national natural sciences curriculum to promote gender equality mandates the use of female scientists' full names in textbooks even though they are better known by their husband's surname.

The ministry's curriculum review committee approved a set of guidelines for the curriculum a day earlier, including one stating that "in portrayals of major scientific discoveries, there should be provision of such information as gender, ethnicity or other background relevant to the scientists who have contributed to the findings."

This was interpreted in some media reports that Marie Curie, the well-known French-Polish scientist, would be referred to in Taiwanese textbooks as Maria Skłodowska-Curie, along with references to other female scientists commonly known in the rest of the world by their husband's surname.

Born in Warsaw, Poland as Maria Salomea Skłodowska, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903 and again honored with the laureate in chemistry in 1911, adopted her husband's last name and the French translation of her first to become known as Marie Curie.

She is referred to as Madame Curie in Taiwanese textbooks.

The media misinterpretation that Madame Curie would disappear from Taiwanese textbooks is because local reporters misunderstood the guideline, according to Tai Shu-fen (戴淑芬), deputy head of the ministry's K-12 Education Administration.

When the proposed guideline was discussed at the meeting, a suggestion was made by a committee member that the description of Madame Curie be changed to her maiden name in textbooks, Tai said.

However, there is no mention in the guidelines of how Madame Curie or other female scientists should be designated in textbooks.

The guidelines will become the principles the ministry's National Academy for Educational Research (NAER) will look at when it reviews textbooks, but whether the contents of the textbooks are in compliance with the guidelines, including how to address a female scientist, is a decision for the NAER, Tai said.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Shih Hsiu-chuan)