Enrichment Programme Preview: International Service Learning Elective (ISLE)

by Lim Jingzhou (15A01B)

Do you believe that a good intention is all it takes to do good?

Do you believe that attempting to do good is unlikely to result in doing harm?

Do you believe in serving to learn, and learning to serve?

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If the above three questions have raised some curiosity and interest in you, then read on. If not, ISLE is probably not the right enrichment programme for you.

Now, that was blunt, wasn’t it? It is, however, important that you understand what ISLE aims to achieve. We hope to bring you to explore the world – the reality and, sometimes, harshness of life. We hope to ask you the questions that leave you pondering whether you are happy, sad or angry. We hope to inspire you to learn about serving communities, and for you to grow in the process.

Doing good, as much as we would like to believe it to be, is unfortunately not as simple as it looks. Good intentions, while fundamental to all good acts, are not all it takes to do good. As honorable and admirable our good intentions are, they need to be supported by considerable thought, planning, and competent execution, before they translate into doing good while minimizing the potential harm along the way.

This is what ISLE is about – a service-learning journey to explore how to better serve through a range of questions like:

  1. What are some of the difficulties we face when serving? What is the significance of such difficulties, and what are the potential consequences?
  2. Are we doing more harm, or more good?
  3. What is a sustainable and effective project? How do we do it?

In summary, ISLE is simply an experience to serve and learn, a place for raw experiences and moral dilemmas, and perhaps most importantly, the discovery of our personal values and beliefs. It is to learn to be a better person to serve better, and to serve as well as possible in the midst of this process.

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If all this has struck a chord in you, interested you, and made you feel like you want to be a better person, then I invite you to read on.

The definition of service-learning: “a method under which students or participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of a community; is coordinated with an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher education, or community service program, and with the community; and helps foster civic responsibility; and that is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students, or the educational components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled; and provides structured time for the students or participants to reflect on the service experience.”

 As formal and serious as it sounds, it is important to consider the proper definition of service-learning, as we are the International Service-Learning Elective, after all. The official description of ISLE is a learning journey that involves critical reflection of local and regional issues, with students looking at topics such as community engagement, active citizenry and cultural diversity. The learning gained will in turn enhance the students’ ability to design, develop and manage effective and meaningful service projects for the communities. It prepares students for a deeper engagement with local communities in Singapore and overseas communities in the ASEAN region. On a more cheerful note, it’s all about serving, learning, trying to do something for the people around us, our community and making using of this opportunity to learn. Combined with the fun and friends along the way, you can certainly expect lots of good times ahead!

Frequently-Asked Questions:

Q: When does it occur?

  • Protected Time – Mondays, 0750-0930
  • Local Service Learning Projects. The duration of local service should extend from Mid Term 2 to the end of Term 1 of 2015. It should aim to address a chosen issue/community similar to the year-end overseas project. The local S-L project should be a continuous project till the end of term 1 2015 upon the team’s return from overseas.
  • Team bonding Sessions and Activities
  • Fundraising & Advocacy Activities
  • Trip Preparation
  • 3-5 days during June holidays for Reconnaissance Trip
  • 10-12 days during the November/December holidays

Q: What are the Course Requirements?

  • Minimum of 80% attendance for ISLE recognition
  • Absence allowed only for official school events & prior consent
  • Team & individual journals/assignments
  • Fully involved in preparation for actual trip from Early November-Mid December 2014

Q: Are there pre-requisites?

No, you just need to have a heart to serve, and an open mind to learn. Good attitude, passion and reasonable commitment together with appropriate responsibility are all you need!

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Q: How do I join?

There will be a signup phase for enrichment programmes, during which you will have to answer some questions as part of a written selection test, and subsequently an interview. Don’t fret, it’s not that stressful and difficult, plus your seniors have done it before! (Refer to pre-requisites and commitment)

Q: How is ISLE different from other service programmes?

We focus on not just service, but service-learning. Serving combined with learning, because they complement each other to bring out the best in each. Also, ISLE offers the opportunity for you to go through the entire process of a service-learning project, from the idea generation of what to do (through needs assessment), to the planning process to the final execution; instead of the usual element of service participation. This grants students more freedom, flexibility and autonomy to explore, learn and bring out their potential!  

Q: Can I cope?

ISLE is not an extremely heavy commitment; many of your seniors have managed well balancing between academics, double CCAs etcetera. It is all about time management – and where you believe your interests and passions lie. As the cliché goes, ‘If it is important to you, you will find a way to do it.’

Q: What will I do?

Project Planning, Fundraising, Advocacy, Direct Service (Local and Overseas), Finance, Administration, Logistics, Lesson Planning, Welfare (Team-bonding). Of course, this list is not exhaustive and you don’t do all of the above. Just a sneak peek into what’s up, and with the variety of fields – definitely something you will find interest and be comfortable with.

Q: What are my chances of being accepted?

The chances are as high as you make them to be – by ensuring that you’ve made sufficient consideration about the priorities and commitments you want to embark on in your JC life, and the amount of passion you have for service.

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