PolyU’s Service-Learning initiative wins international award
PolyU was honoured to receive the 2020 International Research Award from the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) for its Service-Learning (SL) pedagogy. IARSLCE said the programme was “one of the world’s most impressive and impactful service-learning initiatives in higher education”.
PolyU piloted the programme in the 2011/12 academic year, as a compulsory component for undergraduates, providing students with opportunities to apply their professional knowledge to help those in need and learn from the experience. Through SL projects, PolyU creates positive impacts on the lives of the many beneficiaries. The University has built up long-term SL collaborations with partners in more than 10 countries and regions, including Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mainland China, Myanmar, Rwanda and Vietnam.
The SL programme is facilitated by PolyU’s Service-Learning and Leadership Office (SLLO), which connects teachers and students with community organisations, explores service sites and helps to design innovative projects. It also assesses service risks, supervises students, and conducts research on SL.
Dr Grace Ngai, Head of SLLO, is delighted that the University’s SL efforts have been recognised internationally. “After a decade of hard work, we are thrilled that PolyU is hailed as a leader in the development of best practice in international SL projects. We have created exceptionally high quality and impressive impacts for the participating students as well as for the international community,” she said.
Through SL experiences, students learn to tackle complex issues and come up with viable solutions. Projects have ranged from installing solar panels to generate electricity and setting up water filtration systems, to performing eye examinations and teaching STEM for hundreds of children. This experiential learning pedagogy that integrates community service with academic study and reflection has a strong positive influence on PolyU students’ academic, civic, social, moral and personal development.
Since the launch of the programme, about 25,000 PolyU students have provided 976,000 hours of services to the communities in Hong Kong and overseas.
Dr Stephen Chan, the founding Head of SLLO’s predecessor the Office of Service-Learning, remarked, “We are proud of the development and success of the programme at PolyU, which now offers more than 60 SL subjects taught by 170 teachers from 26 departments to more than 4,000 students each year.”
PolyU also shares its strengths in organizing SL programmes with others in the field. For the benefit of its international collaborators, PolyU has documented and analysed critical factors for continuous improvements to the programme. Moreover, the University has advanced research on SL through actively publishing research papers and editing books on the topic. It also shares its extensive experience through journal articles, conferences, student exchange and training workshops.