Advancing comparative education across cultures — DICE alumnus Fu Po-wei (傅柏維)
This picture was taken at the Thailand-Myanmar border, which used to be rift with drug cartels and gang violence. Thanks to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth monarch of Thailand titled Rama IX who began a campaign encouraging local farmers to switch from poppy fields to cash crops, the region is now a peaceful tourist destination. Taiwan’s agricultural technicians played a key part in this economic transformation. Photo courtesy of Fu Po-wei
National Chi Nan University’s Department of International and Comparative Education (DICE) is a true cradle of global talent and mobility, and accredited scholar Fu Po-wei is proud to call it his academic home. He spent nine years here, after all, progressing from undergraduate to doctoral studies — all in comparative education — and capturing a research grant from the Ministry of Education during the process.
Fu admits that he was not the most studious freshman and often failed to even show up to class, but starting sophomore year, introduction to the field of comparative education piqued his interest and steadied his gaze. The methodological analysis of different educational policies, studied by country and presented in order of difficulty, found resonance with Fu, who began sharpening his analytical skills and sensibilities by comparing the details of each case study’s failures and successes.
Fu adds that the DICE community is extremely helpful and engaging, from providing research support to exchanging ideas; such feedback became the motivation to dig deeper, to learn more.
The pool of international students at DICE was another formative element that shaped Fu’s students years at NCNU. For example, he became study partners with several exchange students from China, and befriended a French language instructor working with the comparative education department. He took the instructor’s courses both at NCNU and at the university’s affiliated high school.
The scholar remembers his instructor friend’s behavioral analysis of students from different cultures. For example, French students are more motivated by an independent desire to learn while their Taiwanese counterparts are more driven to put in the hours, he says in their discussions on educational reforms that aim to celebrate differences amongst students. Fu has learned a lot about the educational and policy variances that set apart Taiwanese and French cultures this way.
Fu also spent a month abroad through an exchange program with Riverside School in India, where his internship experience reined in new insights on what shapes a child’s self-assurance. Creating an environment where conflicts are resolved through clear communications instead of negative feedback was key, he discovered. The director and instructors at Riverside successfully nurtured children with confident voices of their own.
Fu continued to pursue comparative education at NCNU upon returning from India and finishing his graduate degree. As a Ph.D student, he was the recipient of a semiannual NT$100,000 grant from the Ministry of Education’s Department of Higher Education. The esteemed endowment program is aimed at cultivating more doctoral talents with industry experience and interdisciplinary vision.
Fu’s postgraduate track required not only additional internship experience but also a dissertation with practical solutions for the host agency of the internship. In the end, his observant skills quickly identified the host school’s areas of challenge and his NCNU training helped deliver the answers. His dissertation subsequently won an award.
The journey that led to the award-winning paper started in February 2018, when he left Taiwan for northern Thailand, serving 22 months as a language instructor at Doi Chang Chinese School (萊掌光華中文學) in Chiang Rai.
The opportunity arose through a partnership with Chinese Rock Leadership (華人磐石領袖協會), a Taipei-based association bringing educational resources to rural regions across Asia. Fu arrives with considerable knowledge of teaching and interacting with students, immersing himself quickly to study his new pupils through their visceral reactions, communication patterns, and approach to learning.
Fu is also mindful of his own ways, frequently reviewing his teaching techniques and interpretation of classroom issues. He soon realizes that the school was too dependent upon textbook materials compiled by the Overseas Community Affairs Council of Taiwan, resulting in extracurricular activities being dominated by Han traditions such as Lunar New Year red envelopes and Mid-Autumn Festival moon cakes.
The student body however, is made up of 10% Han students, while 45% identify as Akha and another 45% as Lisu. Fu addresses this by incorporating Akha and Lisu cultures with the school’s curriculum, so that students can introduce the traditions and festivities of their culture to more people through Mandarin. The revised teaching materials and dissertation he produced was recognized by OCAC with an NT$50,000 prize.
To move between cultures, Fu says one needs first be more in tune with one’s own cultural patterns and assumptions before beginning observations and analysis. A handy thought experiment would be to step into the other person’s shoes and approach the issue from that cultural framework and set of values.
Upon graduating from NCNU with strong proficiency in English- and Hakka-language instruction, Fu became an adjunct assistant professor at National United University’s Institute of Hakka Language and Communication in Miaoli. He has since pioneered new linguistic and cultural courses on contemporary Hakka research, diversity, education, language learning, and new application of linguistics.
Drawing strength from his university days, Fu places emphasis on facilitating classroom engagement, having students read out loud and share passages, citing news and current events, and summarizing key points at each stage before progressing to the next chapter or issue. These tactics help promote students’ participatory and analytical skills.
From hardworking student to genuine educator, Fu has made comparative education his career and lifelong passion. NCNU is proud to count him among its alumni.
NCNU Department of International and Comparative Education (DICE)
Holds exchange programs with universities in:
- Japan, Spain, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, China, and Holland
Offers internships opportunities with Mandarin learning centers in:
- Vietnam, India, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Thailand, China, and Spain
Arranges for volunteer-based positions in:
- Indonesia, Vietnam, and India
NCNU also offers overseas opportunities through research grants, government scholarships, exchange programs, and other unique channels for achieving one’s dream to study and live abroad.
English text by Chao Min