Introduction : service-learning in Asia

Jun XING, Hok Ka, Carol MA

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsForeword / Postscript

4 Citations (Scopus)


Four years ago in 2006, when Jun was working for the United Board of Christian Higher Education in Asia (United Board), he visited International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo, where he learned about the inspiring story of an ICU-NJU (Nanjing University) service-learning project. In January of 2005, a group of ICU students went to Nanjing University and participated in a service-learning program, sponsored by the Amity Foundation, where ICU and NJU students jointly produced a new play called Zouba! (Let's Go). The play portrays a group of students from Japan and China, trying courageously to move beyond history and start a painful, but meaningful journey of reconciliation. Despite its high political risks and initial tension, the joint performance in both Tokyo and Nanjing in the following year turned out to be a resounding success and made a huge splash in the news media. Here is a quote from a Japanese student participant reported on NPR's "Morning Edition, " on January 27, 2007: "That first night we all went to dinner, " she (Michiyo Oi, who wrote much of the script) recalls. "We sat around talking, and I figured they must be wondering what we were thinking. Each of us introduced ourselves, and when my turn came, I started to talk about the war, about what a shame it was that we did such terrible things. The air froze. Until then we were all laughing. The moment I mentioned the war, everyone went pale. The Chinese students looked at me as if they couldn't believe the way I'd brought this up." As we all know, because of historical reasons, Chinese and Japanese are very much divided about that particular period of history. The Nanjing massacre, or what the late historian Iris Chang called the "Rape of Nanjing, " has been a focal point of contention between these two countries. It has become a taboo topic for politicians and diplomats from both sides. It was the service-learning project that brought students together and the joint theatrical production became the ice-breaker that allowed students to openly share their emotions and exchange ideas. It was such a powerful and profound learning experience for both the Chinese and Japanese students that the ICU Foundation in New York is planning to make a documentary about the student experience. Having invested his life in cross-cultural and international studies for over two decades, Jun was greatly inspired by the story and just witnessed the tremendous potential of international service-learning at its best. Indeed, connecting academic study with community service through structured reflection, service-learning is now widely recognized in the world as a movement that is transforming education. As an instructional philosophy and pedagogy, service-learning has become a major force in Asia. Between 2006 and 2007, on behalf of the United Board Jun traveled to over a dozen university campuses in several countries and witnessed how service-learning was recognized and celebrated for its pedagogical values across the region. Indeed, many leading universities and colleges across Asia had established service-learning centers or programs, supporting a dedicated core of faculty and serving an increasingly larger student population. Lingnan University, for example, was the first to set up the Office of Service-Learning (OSL) on campus. Clearly echoing Lingnan's long-standing motto "Education for Service, " OSL is devoted to fostering student-centered learning and whole-person development model.1 Between 2006 and 2009, over 1, 000 Lingnan students from various disciplines, such as social sciences, business and arts have participated in the three core programs in service-learning, including the Lingnan Healthcare Program (LHCP), the Lingnan Community Care Program (LCCP), and the Lingnan Service-Learning Evaluation Program (LS-LEP). These participants were required to fulfill a service-learning practicum with at least 30 hours of service and complete a subject-related project in a semester. So far Lingnan students have served over 100 organizations (government, non-profit, schools, and corporate firms) and registered 70, 000 service hours for the needy, elderly, youth, patients, and single-parent families. In addition, over 80 students have joined international service-learning programs, sponsored by OSL and engaged in service-learning activities in Yunnan, Beijing, Taipei, Guangzhou and several cities in the United States. For another example, under the auspices of the Singapore International Foundation, over a five-year period (2000-05), the Youth Expedition Project sent over 12, 000 students on service-learning assignments across Southeast Asia, China and India.2 In the meantime, the CBI (communitybased instruction) program at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) partnered with 100 local service agencies and conducted several hundred service-learning projects in Hong Kong and elsewhere.3 What is more, in Taiwan, over half (86 out of 146) of its universities and colleges have incorporated service-learning into their core curriculum.4 The Ministry of Education in Taipei plans to add service-learning into its annual regular accreditation process. In a sense, service-learning has come of age in Asia and its place in the Asian academy has been secured. However, despite these accomplishments, there are few scholarly publications on Asian-based practices and contexts of service-learning. Most of the written works on service-learning so far are monographs, teaching anthologies or guidebooks published in the United States, including series and booklets coming from the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE), International Partnership for Service-Learning (IPSL) and Campus Compact. The 21-volume set 'Service-Learning in the Disciplines', published by AAHE, is a good example of this increasing body of literature. Although these are seminal works that have made significant contributions to the development of servicelearning in Asia, we see the urgent need of a book that explores specifically local or indigenous practices of service-learning in Asian societies. This anthology is a modest attempt to help fill that gap by focusing on service-learning in the Asian contexts, both reflective of international trends but also distinctive in its own local and regional characteristics, given the tremendous diversity within Asian societies. As disparate as they may seem in length, cultures (a true mosaic), disciplines (from social work to business) and institutions (public, private or Christian by nature), the essays in the collection coalesce around three major thematic foci and contribute to the overall objectives of the publication together.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationService-Learning in Asia: Curricular Models and Practices
PublisherHong Kong University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9789888028467
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010


Dive into the research topics of 'Introduction : service-learning in Asia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this