“Service learning” requirements often cause students to focus on social service hours at the expense of meaningful learning, educational experts said.
Service hours are an important component of the complicated formulas used for determining high-school admissions under the Ministry of Education’s 12-year national education program, which encourages students to put in a minimum service requirement.
At an education conference in Taipei last week, experts said the service requirement was necessary to ensure that students become aware of social issues and what they can do to help.
“If schools did not lead, most students would not have an opportunity to be involved in social service until at least college,” Taiwan Service-Learning Association founder Huang Yu (黃浴) said.
Huang criticized the ministry’s implementation of the requirement for encouraging students to focus exclusively on “service hours” rather than on meaningful learning.
Even though proactive engagement is necessary for students to learn from their service experiences, the current system does not require students to engage in the learning process by investigating and thinking through their service, she said, adding that some form of grading should ultimately be introduced. The current system takes into account only the number of hours students spend on service.
Ministry official Chong Ting-hsien (鐘定先) said that while service opportunities provided by schools encourage students to engage and think through the work they undertake, there is no way to ensure that students go through a similar process for work outside of schools, which can also count toward the requirement.
“The reason for implementing the 12-year national education program was to reduce the importance of grades” ministry official Yang Kuo-lung (楊國隆) said. “Starting to quantify service learning by providing grades would result in chaos.”
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