A Hong Kong University first: Establishing service-learning as an academic credit-bearing subject

Carol Ma, Alfred Chan

Abstract


Service-learning, where university students are trained to serve or educate the less able for a defined number of voluntary work hours and where the service experience is relevant to the course into which the service is integrated, can be an effective means of community engagement. Many universities in the US have factored in a term for credit-bearing service-learning courses, so that students are oriented to developing a service mentality and nurturing a ‘giving culture’ on campus. In the Asia Pacific region, Lingnan University, with its liberal arts ethos, is the first university in Hong Kong to use service-learning as a vehicle for knowledge transfer between university and community. The first service-learning program was offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences in 2004 as an optional learning experience, and the university is now moving towards making service-learning a graduation requirement that bears academic credits. Service-learning is currently integrated in the majority of disciplines of the university, as part of the undergraduate program.

In addition to detailing the history, development and operation of the service-learning program, this article discusses the lessons learned in the institutionalisation of service-learning, as well as the way forward for service-learning in higher education in Hong Kong.

Keywords: service-learning, knowledge transfer, whole-person education, experiential education, higher education, campus-community partnerships

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