Service is simply the act of doing something for another person. Service has been such an important yet ignored part of human existence. The main purpose of this paper is to discuss the importance of service as a practice in society. Areas that will be discussed include; society, basic reasons or purpose for service, educational application of service-learning and the impact or significance it brings about in the education system and society at large. A brief but controversial topic centred on service learning will also be highlighted.
Society is the accumulation of people that are living together in an organised community. They are kept together by virtue of human beings created to be social creatures. For example, 'The Mayans as a society had a belief in the existence of a creator.' The statement points to another important aspect of society; culture, i.e. the way of life of a people. This is the fabric that knits society together. Because it is believed that a society cannot be formed if people have varying beliefs or values.
Service and Society rhyme in the first syllable. Does this mean that they cannot be separated?? The most credible answer is that without service, society would not survive. Service is what keeps a society going by; provision of primary needs (food, shelter, and clothing) and more recently, education/schooling comes as an act of service. My educated guess is that education, essentially, is meant to fight ignorance (lack/absence of knowledge). It's described as, the worst enemy/bondage to mankind (Apostle Gino Jennings). Especially, willful ignorance.
Reasons for Service in Society
To Provide Basic Needs
Architects build houses for people to dwell in (shelter) while the teachers inculcate their knowledge into learners in school (education) farmers work in their farms so that they can produce food to sustain themselves and others. It's clear that without these acts of service, society would be non-existent, especially in regards to the latter need.
To Create Profit for the Service Provider
Unfortunately or not, service in contemporary society has become an avenue for making a profit. In fact, the service industry in value ranges from a half to as much as three quarters in the GDP of some countries around the world. In 2013, 79% of the GDP for the UK came from the service industry. This defeats the original purpose of service; to give without expecting anything in return.
However, in the current world, the best survival strategy for survival is to adapt and evolve with the world. If the world has come to the point of placing price tags on basic services, it calls for the majority of the people to conform for survival. A value chain was created when the world changed from barter trade (exchange of goods for goods) to money systems. This means that money is now the medium of exchange or value. Thus monetary value fell on both goods and services.
The Former proved to have more cons than pros to work with. For example, some goods were indivisible (live animals). Which means valuable transaction had to be terminated in case expectations did not match. Often some goods for exchange were also tedious to carry (heavy), unlike money.
To acquire theoretical and practical skills and knowledge that will help scholars excel in their various professional fields.
This reason is in line with the overall aim of this paper, service-learning. For example, a student who is pursuing a course in say, criminology or environmental science, might engage in service learning through taking part in activities like; community policing or voluntary clean up or tree planting exercises.
We have now had a glimpse of what service looks like in the society of today and the whole world at large. It should be clear that the Service has evolved. It would be prudent to move on and carry out an in-depth analysis of Service Learning, including the controversial issue(s) that concern it.
Concept of Service Learning
Service-learning is an uncommon tool of learning. It is mostly used in countries like; the USA where education is advanced. By definition, it's a form of learning where; students are actively involved in a variety of activities and experiences that are of benefit to others and the society while also helping them achieve their curricular or academic objectives. A unique benefit of this system of learning is that; it helps students to apply theoretical knowledge in practical activities. As the saying goes, 'Experience is the best teacher.' It also creates a sense of civic responsibility among the students as future citizens.
Service-learning possesses six qualities that make it that much more effective or a valuable supplement to conventional learning. They are; Integration, Reflection, Contextualisation, Reciprocity, Life-long durability and Strength-based Integration entails the interconnection that forms when one uses theoretical information to deal with practical situations, i.e. the students are able to get an understanding of real-life situations, not only as learners but community members. As such, they are able to grow at not only academic but interpersonal levels.
Reflection is about thinking things over. It is a key component of service-learning. Almost like drawing a conclusion and formulating the recommendations of a report. It involves taking time as a learner to form assumptions, beliefs and conclusions about a given experience or action so as to get a deeper understanding and decide the impact or meaning it will or may have on future situations.
Contextualization implies that students are able to connect theoretical knowledge in an isolated classroom environment with that which resides in the context of a community. This creates a valuable exposure to complex, dynamic and unpredictable real-life situations outside the four walls of a classroom. It essentially helps students to create an open-minded attitude and also to think outside the box, i.e. be proactive, not reactive to situations. They are able to meet professionals and community experts who will provide mentorship and coaching.
The term 'Strength-based' implies that the students do not look at what the community or society lacks. A community cannot be built from the outside-in, i.e. knowing the strengths that a community possesses and working with 'what we have.' A shift in mindset is created where the 'deficit-mentality' is replaced with an 'abundance or strength mentality.' Thus students learn a valuable lesson; capitalise on the strengths while working to improve the weaknesses.' As Nathaniel Branden Once said, 'Self-acceptance is the first step towards change.'
Reciprocity is a symbiotic relationship. Everyone that is involved gains from the other. The tutors benefit by the fact that students have a deeper understanding of the learning material. The student by investing their time, talent and intellectual capital are able to create a deep understanding of course/study material and societal issues. The community is able to accomplish its goals through the added effort from the students.
Life-Long Durability, this is about the creation of strong experiences that will stick in the minds, especially, of the students. They get a meaningful and influential experience that lasts. The students are thus able to solve problems, value the sense of community and create valuable self-awareness. Service-learning is such a useful tool and also determines career paths, i.e. a student might discover hidden talents, e.g. public speaking, community policing etc. It also creates a sense of civic responsibilities from a young age.
Social capital is also created. Social Capital is about the networking of student's with established professionals in the fields that they have interest in. It is a little known but high-value tool that helps to novices or newbies to find their niche in a complex business environment. During Service learning in the society students meet with established experts and professionals in various fields who provide valuable help and advice. This comes in the form of; provision of employment, creation of business ideas and professional advice for start-up/new entrepreneurs.
Skills and Competencies
Service-learning is also valuable in developing skills among the students; some of the skills that students create and benefit from include;
This is about the ability to respond to a problem (a situation presenting unwanted conditions or results). They are taught various maxims to handle a real-life situation, e.g. panic and indecision are two enemies towards finding a solution. 'Complaining has no value, and you do something to solve a problem instead of sitting there, feeling as if you are not in control.'(Gary Vaynerchuk)
Arguably, the most important skill a student or young entrepreneur could ever have at hand. Values like; empathy, social awareness, integrity, conflict management is created and these, in turn, help the student to have the ability to have positive interactions with people who make up the society and in the long run; the market, expert systems, employers or employees of the career that a student is looking forward to venturing into.
Going hand in hand with problem-solving skills. The student is able to reflect on their experiences and thus form that is able to create conclusions or even come up with concepts. They are able to observe how things are in real-life through service to the community at various levels. By questioning why things happen in a certain way and not another, they can improve their ability to 'not' see things as they are.
It's not a surprise that through observation and asking questions that the greatest laws of physics were made. For example; Isaac Newton questioned why an apple would fall down from a tree and not fall upwards or float in the air. Thus the law of gravity was discovered.
A story is told of a young man, Moses (not real name) in a certain African Country. He is a student of the 2nd best university in his country. A very clever student. Problem is his university is slack in giving real-life experiences, i.e. service-learning to the students. He feels that something is wrong about the education system. He feels like all he has done in his four-year Strategic Management course is to sit and listen to lectures, read notes, do assignments and exams repeat. From one semester to the next.
The main problem is not with the student(s). It is with the management of the University. Dare anyone try to air complaints of an incompetent style of learning, he or she will end up in the university senate. The 'senate' is infamous for sending students for suspension up to 1,000 academic days for such, 'misconduct.' Certainly, any student no matter their status or stature, for that matter, would refrain from causing 'tumults' concerning the incompleteness of the university education style. The consequences are just not worth the risk.
Management at the university at best takes students on what is known as; Industrial Attachment before they enter their final year (4th Year). The attachment, eight times out of 10, is not effective for service learning among the students. At least, according to Moses, who feels that the university neglects some education needs of the students. It only provides a letter and a lecturer(industrial assessor) and leaves oblivious students 'shooting in the dark' hoping they get attached to any organisation that will take them in. That's right, any.
The result is that most, if not all, of the students, do not get a chance to serve and learn in organisations that offer facilities that match their field of study. Moses ends up being 'fixed' in an inventory department of a county government office. A...
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