With the structural transformation of the global economy from industrial to service economies, the society’s expectations of future leaders have been remarkably changed. Over the years, PolyU has been promoting “Service Leadership” education. In this issue, Prof. Daniel T.L. Shek, Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme), talked about the effectiveness of service leadership education at PolyU.

What is the main goal of Service Leadership education?

The prime goal of Service Leadership education is to nurture holistic development in students. Nowadays, a good report card of a graduate is no longer adequate for employment purpose. In the shift of workforce needs in service economies, holistic development of graduates, including competencies, moral character and caring disposition, is highly demanded.

Service Leadership education provides students with a wide range of opportunities to learn, practise, and reflect their knowledge, values and skills required for the service economies. It helps students not only to successfully transit into workforce, but also to achieve a thriving life with happiness, meaningfulness and social connectedness.

PolyU endeavours to nurture students to be service leaders who possess expert service leadership competencies, moral character and caring disposition through its Service Leadership education.

How does PolyU enhance students’ service leadership ability?

We offer credit-bearing and non-credit bearing programmes. In credit-bearing programme, students will engage in role play, group discussion, debate, drawing and other class activities to learn the values and skills for being service leaders. They will also gain better understanding of service leadership models and related core beliefs, and will recognise the importance of service leadership for their personal development, for the well-being of others, and for the society.

For example, in a Service-Learning subject called “Service Leadership through serving children and families with special needs”, students were required to develop, design and implement service programmes for children and adolescents in related organizations, such as the Society of Boys’ Centre, Heep Hong Society, and Christian Zheng Sheng College. Through the projects, they were able to reflect their service leadership qualities of leadership competence, moral character and caring disposition.

The University has also collaborated with other institutions to offer non-credit bearing programmes. For example, we have partnered with Peking University to organize the Global Youth Leadership Programme and also with Xi’an Jiaotong University to organize the Silk Road Youth Leadership Programme, a short-term training prorgamme on service leadership. Students taking these programmes appreciated the importance of multiple competencies, i.e. emotional intelligence, adversity quotient, and spiritual intelligence, moral character and caring disposition in becoming successful leaders.

How was the effectiveness of Service Leadership education measured?

In order to assess the features of Service Leadership programme at PolyU, we have conducted systematic evaluation strategies, including objective outcome, subjective outcome, and process and qualitative studies on credit-bearing and non-credit bearing programmes.

Triangulation of the results demonstrated that the subjects and programmes have made positive impacts on students. This was evidenced by significant changes in positive youth development, life satisfaction and service leadership qualities. Findings based on qualitative evaluation provided additional evidence that PolyU’s Service Leadership education has been nurturing service leaders, making students more reflective and more aware of the importance of service mindset. As a student pointed out, “This course helps me to know more about myself. Through this course, I could learn more about how to communicate with others and how to show support to others”.

Related academic papers have been published in international refereed journals, including International Journal on Disability and Human Development. A book entitled “Promoting Service Leadership Qualities in University Students” edited by Prof. Shek and Dr Po Chung was also published by Springer in 2015.