Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
22 March, 2018

Why is service learning vital?

Why is service learning vital? All of us learn by participating in something bigger than ourselves, in something which transcends us. Service learning blends experiential learning with community service. But it is only vital if done properly!

Service learning will play fundamental role in the curriculum at Nord Anglia International School Dublin. In this blog post, Paul Crute, our principal, explores the importance of service learning and explains how to do it right.

All of us learn by participating in something bigger than ourselves, in something which transcends us.


Service learning blends experiential learning with community service. For this reason, service learning will permeate the day-to-day ethos of Nord Anglia International School Dublin and will be given primacy. Each section of the school will have a Charities Committee, chaired and run by pupils, which promotes, charts and monitors service learning on a local, national and global level. The school will be involved internationally with other schools and relief agencies. Nord Anglia Education has its own philanthropic outreach arm, known as NordStar, and a centre in Tanzania which facilitates service learning.


Why is Service Learning vital?


It is only vital if done properly! The psychology of giving is as complex as the relationship between the giver and the receiver; the helper and the helped. Many school websites show pictures from developing countries, with pupils giving gifts to inhabitants of impoverished villages who line up gratefully and faithfully to receive them.

One is tempted to ask who profits most from this situation? The giver or the receiver? Why couldn’t the givers simply donate their air fares that took them to the place of need rather than go there in person? Wouldn’t the receivers receive more? After all, to have engaged in international relief work is a powerful CV addition for any older student; it can certainly help win that career-defining internship. The motives and determination of pupils selected for overseas relief work are examined carefully.


The lure must be pure


The answer lies in laying out precisely what we want to achieve from service learning. How did the students earn the air fare to get there? Did the parents, who could afford to do so, simply sign a cheque, or did the pupils put themselves out hugely to raise the air fare themselves? Clearly, the latter is important to foster the achievement involving sacrifice that is so necessary in the learning experience. The visit and the human contact is literally ‘where the magic happens’! We are not just seeking a good holiday experience, original photo snaps, a tan and some excellent CV fodder! Service learning, done properly, should be inspirationally transformational and should leave a lifelong resonance that stirs the participant sufficiently to lead, and to exhort future similar social action.

In education, the emotions need to be engaged, and service learning does just that… in spades! If you were to interview the adults or children in relief centres about whether they would prefer to receive a big parcel one morning in the post, rather than smaller gifts combined with the two-week presence of senior students and accompanying staff, they would reply -- resoundingly, and in unison -- that they would infinitely prefer the latter.


The lifelong friendships forged and the resultant ongoing  relationships have an exponential and unquantifiable yield that a single arrival of a parcel cannot achieve. The experience is uplifting and humbling for both the giver and the receiver. Students then realise that it is possible to be extremely happy in the poorest of circumstances and that happiness is not a function of socio-economic status.

How many adults know this? How many multi-millionaires give away most of their fortune to worthy causes later in life? Why? Communities in need are uplifted by the lifelong relationships fostered. Cultures are shared -- and a problem shared is a problem halved. Life is never the same again; for good reason!

Service learning begins with everything we know about positivity, smiling, civility, helpfulness, courtesy and politeness on a daily basis, wherever we are. This makes many small changes in our own and other people’s lives. If we are extremely lucky, an overseas relief-work opportunity hits us full-force with the altruism, compassion and empathy bug, which is hopefully long-lasting.

The issues involved in service learning will be linked to the school’s Positive Psychology, and Dr Martin Seligman’s ‘Flourish’ principles and the six pillars of sustained wellbeing will be infused throughout Nord Anglia International School Dublin. These pillars constitute the science of learned wellbeing, of ‘happiness’, and service learning underpins this.


Paul Crute