A case for community service in the education system

Photo: Orchid Chakma

Before starting off, the distinction between community service and volunteering must be made – as the two are often used interchangeably. As the name suggests, volunteering is done on a purely voluntary basis, while community service may either be performed voluntarily or by virtue of a compulsory part of the system. Both, however, are unpaid work where the main goal is to improve the community.

In certain countries, it is common practice for students to do community service for a set amount of time in order to graduate high school. The ones who don't have a strict requirement still incorporate service-learning in their curricula and strongly encourage students to participate. The service projects are regulated and managed by the school administration as well as clubs. Sometimes, initiatives taken by particular students are carried out as well.

Given our curriculum's passive approach to education, community service would not only be an excellent addition to our education system but it would also benefit local communities in desperate need of help. While volunteering organisations have mushroomed in recent years in the country, their effectiveness and accountability leaves much to be desired.

Non-profit projects abroad have the option to log the number of hours worked on a project. Such a practice functions as a device of self-accountability and a quantifiable way of demonstrating the impact an individual has on that particular venture. This is a feature that local community service projects lack in our country.

For students who are unable to devote a lot of time to non-academic activities, they can partake in projects that only require them to participate once. Good examples include raising money for a local charity or organising a food drive for the underprivileged.

Service-learning seeks to combine volunteering and formal learning. The process aims to emulate traditional methods of education. It urges students to apply what they have learned in classrooms and implement them in the real world. It is believed that there is a positive correlation between social learning and children's social development. After all, it gives them a productive outlet to spend their time on something that makes a difference.

Of course, projects like this require considerable resources and planning from the school's part, but the pay-off is worth it. Community service offers a wide range of benefits – not just for the community, but for the people who give back as well. Lots of students use this as an opportunity to gain hands-on work experience, especially in a field they're interested in.

In addition, volunteering has been linked to a boost in mental health, according to a study in the Journal of Happiness Studies. It decreases the risk of social isolation in vulnerable youth and helps them to connect with their community. Fostering civic engagement from a young age will instill social responsibility in the future generation.

While it may currently not be feasible for every school to carry out service projects, making students aware of such opportunities around them might go a long way to increase participation amongst the youth in volunteering and community service projects.

Ziba Mahdi is your resident pessimist. Cheer her up at [email protected]


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