Let us learn to better serve
The pedagogy of service learning
It is a narrow inter-connection between learning and the service to the community. To learn generates and sustains the capacity to make oneself useful to oneself and to others, and the service rendered generates the learning. These are the ideas delivered by the International Seminary , put forward by the Congregation for Catholic Education and by the University LUMSA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Italy, at the prestigious See of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican.
The Seminary has favoured the knowledge of the proposed pedagogy through service learning, an approach which leads the students towards service to the community, and it was the occasion/opportunity to present the School of Higher Education ‘’To Educate at the meeting and at the solidarity’’, supported by LUMSA and the EC Congregation, led by Professor Italo Florin.
The intense day’s work permitted a wide debate on the problems linked to ‘Service Learning’, thanks to the participation of experts who came from diverse groups of people( church, universities, schools, professional associations).
The frequent speeches of Saint Peter, in the first years of the Pontificat, have been revisited numerous times in the course of works. In fact, Pope Francis likes to repeat that ‘’ the world can only change if education changes’’ and that ‘’in order to educate, one needs the village and not circuses’’ And besides, the constant invitation to make a gift of his own life and to organise’’ new forms of education to function in different situations and realities.’’
The counciliar document ’’ Gravissimum Educationis’’, as the Secretary of the Congregation, Mons. Zani, has remarked, already a half-century ago, in his introduction, declared that’’ education favours the opening of man to the world’’.
Service learning develops the culture of the service and, consequently, a dynamic interaction between school and the world of voluntary help, with a reciprocal enrichment and a support, sharing the values of the free and interdependence. It is linked to learning in school which thanks to the practical dimension of the service, can be understood in depth, mastered in an adopted manner and widely developed.
In fact, in this end, disciplined learning creates social engagement, validates motivation, gratification, competence, responsibility, and thus is a motor for active citizenship.
The act of making the learning a service and of the service a learning is not only a programme of ad hoc initiatives. It is a pedagogy, a methodology and also, a philosophy and a particular method of being a school, a living school, welcoming and competent, open to its district, the school world of thought and deed, to the conscious act, a real space of life in which one learns by doing and by mobilising to resolve the problems of reality. It is not an episode or an extra temporary self-gratifying initiative but an important daily way of behaving which characterises the reality of school.
Service Learning, although not entering into the cadre of specific pedagogies, is a pedagogical approach, equally efficient for the realisation of inclusive courses. In fact, by separating itself from the types of programme exclusively dedicated to helping, it gives students who have specific educational needs by giving them active subjects which are an aid to the others, the culture of solidarity and welcome, without forgetting ‘operational capacity’.
It is characterised by cooperative learning, by taking into account, by reciprocity, by the recognition and the development of personal competences, by the outside school cooperation, by a planning which values voluntary help and the common good.
The Service welcomes the participation of young people, but also a beneficial interaction between the teachers and the students, between the different generations and diverse competences, going beyond the rigour of doing and being, caused by the narrowness of institutions and schools.
It is necessary, however, as has rightly defined Professor Berlinguer, to develop fully student?- my interpretation- autonomy, to bypass the closed school which is locked in by organisation and learning controlled by the timetable. It is necessary to change the global organisation of education in order to give time in school flexibility and unity. It is necessary to develop the internal and external resources at school, to be competent and courageous; to recognise and legitimise the experience of the volunteer.
The experiences of Service Learning are numerous around the world, to such an extent that certain Ministries of Education( Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Holland, Spain, Switzerland…)have adopted some specific programmes.
The School of High Education at LUMSA is in the process of putting into practice specific initiatives in education and exchange in order to help educational institutions which wish to develop Service Learning projects.