This is part of a three part series on school-based community service in Singapore. The first part deals with broad concepts of community service in Singapore (here, April 20, 2012); the second touches on the Community Involvement Programme (here, April 23, 2012); the third highlights Service-Learning, and the other concerns (here, April 25, 2012). Because this series revolves exclusively around recommendations, do read this document (here) to get a brief idea of what school-based community service in Singapore encompasses.
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SL: a gap to fill? Service learning can be quite a challenging focus, and therefore requires additional investments in manpower and resources. The pool of information has been progressively expanding as stakeholders gather more experience over the years, but there is the worry that present capacities may be woefully inadequate. Students do need a degree of guidance and advice to help them get off the starting blocks, and this would not be possible if they are not empowered with the fundamentals first.
– There might be a limited number of mentors available within a single education institution, and it might not be fair to expect a regular teacher to manage a large number of projects. Help can come from a few channels, for instance: former students, who may be interested to assist their juniors, or community partners with the relevant experience. I also like the idea of employing retirees (taking advantage of the ageing population in Singapore), so that they can be trained as SL coaches or mentors for schoolchildren.
– Economies of scale can be built up between neighbouring schools, with students encouraged to cooperate in endeavours that may be slightly similar in their nature, execution or objectives. Consultation can be provided by teachers or specialised educators who could review the management abilities of the participating students, as well as to monitor their progress throughout a period of time.
Lengthening engagement. Throughout their time in school, students may be compelled to be present for community service events with a plethora of associations, without developing a true appreciation for what the organisation does. The non-profits interviewed reaffirmed the importance of long-term partnerships, “to have a good relationship with schools”, because the commitment of volunteers and ambassadors can be extremely valuable.
– In the starting phases, schools and educators could expose their students to a variety of options of volunteerism; however, as they gain more experience, they could think about involving themselves with the organisations and the respective causes for a longer period of time. More can be gained from these long-term partnerships, and this level of fulfilment can be sustainably extended even after they have left their schools.
– “Limited actions very quickly dissipate in[to] thin air[,] and leave no long lasting effect”.
– With SL, the main committee has the liberty to continue with their project within the school environment specifically when they get support from their juniors. Because the exploration of social change often requires sustained commitment and engagement, we can then take advantage of this human capital to increase the longevity of service projects.
A CIP and SL catalogue or resource package / portal. There could be a collaborative catalogue or resource package to serve a few purposes: first, to explain the concept of CIP and SL to students who might still be feeling their way around (at the moment, based on a cursory scan, there are too many sites or handouts that do not furnish a complete picture for their target audiences); second, potentially match-make NPOs or NGOs with interested students aspiring to do more; and third, gather like-minded individuals with similar projects or initiatives.
– I don’t fancy the idea of competitions between competing groups, because I feel that it distracts from the main purposes or objectives of community service. I am, of course, speaking on hindsight with a fair bit of experience, because on multiple occasions (and I have been guilty too). I observed that many groups sought to “glam up” their submissions and presentations, rather than being more receptive to other promising ideas or undertakings. The focus was on winning, rather than taking it as a learning-sharing experience.
– “Some of these road-shows for community service should be conducted more often for the public, to also inform the schools of their presence”.
– The relevant agencies and administrations could consider the organisation of better-coordinated nationwide conventions and conferences that are premised upon the sharing of ideas (for teachers and students), or the brainstorming of methodologies for the implementation of community service in schools. It has always been a joy to hear about an assortment of worthy SL efforts, and to seek inspiration from their achievements. Furthermore, school participation can be incentivised with invitations given to grant providers, who could be on-site to dispense applications or advice to projects seeking to expand their outreaches or plans.
It would be great if there would be collaboration between school administrators, educators and a variety of non-profits, for them to come together annually to discuss about local needs, and how these concerns can be communicated to students.
– There should be collective gathering of stakeholders before the commencement of activities, with representatives from the schools and non-profits engaging in prior discussions and arrangements, so that they “can better prepare … the students to carry out their SL under suitable and appropriate conditions[,] to facilitate [the students’] learning and experience”.
– This portal could take the form of a website, with information concerning school-based CIP or intriguing SL projects. Writers could showcase volunteerism through articles and features.
– I would love to see more inter-school cooperation (here), because SL provides tremendous opportunities for students from different education backgrounds to interact and perform. I had the privilege of participating in a Leadership Development Programme (LDP) organised by the MOE in 2007, and I believe that it could certainly be expanded to include a larger number of interested students across the education landscape.