Ethical Issues in Service Learning: The Experience and the Experiment
Service Learning has emerged as an important pedagogical technique in higher educational institutions worldwide and naturally has given rise to certain critical questions regarding its practice. The American College in the past four years has successfully implemented Service Learning Program (hereafter SLP) and institutionalized it. The accumulated experience has brought certain ethical issues to the fore, both as a technique as well as praxis. The paper addresses some of the major ethical issues encountered by The American College and the new model that the institution is trying to evolve to take the program to a higher plane of action.
Limitations of the present model
As a pedagogical technique, SLP promises holistic understanding to students, not very dissimilar to Gandhian technique of ‘constructive program’ which envisaged ‘learning in a community context’ as its very core. Thus the philosophy of SLP is not something new to the South Asian context and in fact, has a very rich history to draw upon. Enough attention has already been paid by many practitioners to the differences between volunteerism and SLPs and so we can perhaps do well to concentrate more upon the limitations of SLP when it is only a part of an existing course. However one issue needs to be highlighted. SLP does ensure some ameliorative services but without any accountability to one of the important stakeholders, namely the community. Or in other words, the Service Learning programs do not grasp the idea of service adequately. ‘Service’ as a concept should differ considerably in SLP from ‘Service’ in ‘Volunteering’. While ‘service’ in volunteering can be episodic, ‘service’ in SLP should be based on sound philosophy, theory and research to serve both as an effective serving and learning tool. As a model it should address the question of engaging students on a short term in a community...
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