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Service-Learning: The BZSE experience 

By Hon Mao De (School of Humanities & Social Sciences)

In June 2016, a group of 35 students from the Diploma in Business & Social Enterprise (BZSE) embarked on a four-week long overseas immersion programme to Hong Kong, in partnership with Lingnan University, which is renowned for their Service-Learning programmes.

This programme, which started in 2014, aims to provide students with opportunities to engage with topics such as global citizenship and service-learning in an overseas environment.  The learning experience that students go through would include visits to community organisations and social enterprises, having guest speakers from the social sector to contextualise the community service environment in Hong Kong for the BZSE students and to be part of a local service-learning project.  These experiences enable students to gain greater insights into the community service and social enterprise sector beyond Singapore, and develop a stronger global perspective in their field. 

In line with NP’s signature pedagogy of Service-Learning, BZSE students were required to work with various community partners in Hong Kong to plan and implement service-learning projects under the module Project Management facilitated by Lingnan University.  These projects ranged from creating fun opportunities for local students to practise English, partnering with the social enterprise Diamond Cab to conduct activities for wheelchair-bound elderly and raising health awareness among local elementary students. Through these service-learning projects, students learn to apply their knowledge of project management skills, learn more about various local social issues and serve the communities at the same time.

(Left: Student overseeing local youths conducting a game with the elderly. Middle: (Student conducting an activity to help primary school students practise English Right: Students engaging global primary students in activities to encourage healthy living.)

In addition, students also deepened their knowledge on global citizenship, active aging and the flourishing social entrepreneurship scene in Hong Kong through different learning opportunities like lectures, field trips and activities.  Students also visited several local social enterprises, such as Diamond Cab, Fantastic Kitchen, New Life Farm, Life Journey Experience Centre, Yan Oi Tong and WeDo Global to increase their awareness of the different types of possible options for a sustainable social enterprise. 

Impact of Service-Learning

Recounting her experience, Seko Miku, one of the participating students serving the wheelchair-bound elderly, said, “Through this trip, it deepened my understanding about service-learning and it is no longer just a term but an experience. If I will have a choice to go back again, I will go in a heartbeat.”

Many of the students who have been impacted by the experiences and the people that they have met through this Service-learning trip share this sentiment.  The following are a series of reflections by the students, which reveal how they have changed the way they think of Service-Learning and how they have slowly developed a key trait of an NP graduate – that of a “big-hearted person”.

 Service-learning truly is to serve to learn and learn to serve. I started this project with the mentality that I am helping this group of people, giving them a platform to practice English while having a fun day out. But I left learning so much from them. ~ Xuan Ting

I would say this serving-learning experience definitely moulded me into a person who feels more about things now and a real student with a heart for social enterprises. This trip really showed me why we should care about our society instead of being the self-centered individual. Making a change in our society when you know that there are more people out there who needs our help. ~ Zi Qian

The trip has taught us many things but what really stood out the most is that we have to be really open about things around us as the world is so big and it will never cease to amaze us. Therefore, we should step out of our comfort zone and try out new things. ~ Shi En

You learn about so many things. There are challenges but also rewards such as new friendships, responsibility, perseverance, a sense of achievement, satisfaction, new skill sets like people skills, communication skills, service-learning skills and I could go on forever. ~ Cennic