Education imparted only in the classroom may not help the learners to deal with complex problems which appear in the real life. When education takes place both in the classroom and beyond it gives the learners real opportunities to face the challenges of life pragmatically. In American schools and colleges a program named ‘Service Learning’ has been in vogue since the time of Abraham Lincoln in 1862. This service Learning is based on three theories. Firstly, pay back motivation. As the students read in the schools and colleges run by the state or community, they must have some responsibilities towards them. It is an opportunity for the students to give service to the society directly. Secondly it gives philanthropic motivation. Students clean the road, offices, surrounding environment and make the less conscious people aware of political and social responsibilities and they get self-satisfaction through these services. Thirdly, it reflects perfection of knowledge. Only bookish knowledge cannot give perfection to the students until and unless they learn something practically from the known society and surrounding environment. It helps them learn the society and people. Students learn leadership quality and the spirit of leadership quality and team-work is developed among them.
In 1862 the Federal Government of the USA contributed land property to many states so that they could develop a fund and with that fund students of schools and colleges would learn military techniques, the use of agricultural tools, arts along with their books. In 1944 president Roosvelt established ‘Civilian Conservative Core’. Through this program he utilized the students to enliven the parks of the country. In 1961 president Kenedy established ‘peace core’ and through it the educated Americans volunteers reached the American service to the whole developing world. In the same way president Johnson started ‘Volunteers In service to America’ in 1964. In 1990 president Bush Senior further strengthened it through forming ‘National Committee Service Act.’ Service-Learning found its full shape during President Bill Clinton in 1993. He passed the ‘National Community Service Trust Act’. Now many American educational institutions find ‘Service –Learning’ on its strong footing.
There are many poor and meritorious students in the secondary and higher secondary and in the tertiary levels in Bangladesh. They cannot continue their education or find it difficult to continue it due to poverty. The ministry of education in collaboration with big national and multi-national companies through government-public partnership approach and manage part time jobs for these students. Many poor students see the world as bleak and grim as chill penury bit them all around. I have seen their cry as an education manager when we distribute scholarship to the poor but meritorious students under ‘Medhabikash’ program of BRAC Education Program. If ‘service-learning’ can be introduced these poor students will get the opportunity to continue their studies with their own earned money. Definitely it will have a positive on the society.
Service learning is growing rapidly in the USA because of its having a powerful impact on young people and their development is a dynamic process, through which students personal and social growth is tightly interwoven into their academic and cognitive development. According to scholars Eyler and Giles (1999), “with the ‘service-learning’ model experience enhances understanding and understanding leads to more effective action.”
When students’ learning takes place beyond the classroom it becomes more positive, more meaningful and real to the participants. They get opportunity of involving themselves through cooperation rather than competitive experiences and can promote skills associated with teamwork and community involvement. It also addresses complex problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation. Students find opportunities to engage themselves in problem –solving activities and community challenges. Only abstract knowledge cannot make one fully educated.
It is a method of encouraging student learning and development through active participation in thoughtfully organized service and it meets the needs of a community. Educational institutions of all categories can introduce service –learning to unfold opportunities for the students to use what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. Practical applications of their knowledge find its active contribution to the society. Service-learning can involve a group a students, classroom or an entire institution. Students build character and become active participants as they work with others in the school and community to create service projects in areas such as education, public safety and the environment. “Service Learning’ combines community service with classroom instruction, focusing on critical, reflective thinking as well as personal and civic responsibility. “Service- learning programs involve students in activities address local need while developing their academic skills and commitment to their community.” (Source: www. Learnadnserve.gov./about/service learning/)
Service learning has a positive impact on student learning outcomes, civic engagement and retention rates. Young people can derive benefits in a variety of ways through this learning. As individuals, service-learning improves self-esteem and self-confidence and reduces involvement in risky behavior, young people develop an increased sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to community involvement gets enhanced through it. Service –learning can be applied across all subjects and grade levels. Students get opportunities to build their character and become active participants working with others in their educational institutions and community.
Writer: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, PACE and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]