CREATING FUTURE-FIT LEADERS: TOWARDS FORMALISING SERVICE LEARNING IN UNIVERSITY PROGRAMMES
Service learning as a form of experiential learning has become a more common component in higher education in South Africa. The aims of service learning (SL) may be briefly stated as engendering a sense of civic responsibility in students prior to their entering the world of employment. SL is, by definition, a mutually beneficial arrangement, during which both parties derive benefit and contribute to the exchange of learning.
SL is a formal component of qualifications and,requires that suitable SL placements in community settings are identified. This necessitates that partnering agreements are concluded, that both the student and community hosts are prepared for the SL and that assessment and feedback occurs.
The Faculty of Management at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa prides itself on educating future-fit leaders. This is accomplished by excellent academic programme offerings, many of which have work integrated learning components that allow students to complement the classroom theory learnt with authentic supervised and assessed workplace experience.
The focus of SL, however, is to ensure that students understand the society that they will be working in and entrenching a sense of civic mindedness. As SL sites are not always readily available and as the universities need to ensure placement opportunities for all students in a programme with a formal SL component, this paper will propose that a phased-in approach to SL in the Faculty is pursued, exploring the notion of working via the international association ENACTUS (previously Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)) to establish linkages that would lead to formalisation of partnership arrangements. ENACTUS describes itself as ‘a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better more sustainable world.’ Participation in ENACTUS is voluntary and is not linked to any formal academic programme credit.
It is anticipated that such an approach will result in a win-win situation both for the ENACTUS students at the University of Johannesburg and then the Faculty of Management specifically as it builds a potential SL partner base. The Faculty offers a wide range of programmes, including Hospitality Management, Tourism, Information Technology, Human Resource Management, various Management programmes, as well as Entrepreneurship. These programmes are well-suited to support the ENACTUS project as it enables students from across disciplines to work and learn - and make a difference to the lives of others.
An ENACTUS-UJ and Faculty of Management partnership will thus be mutually beneficial, serving as a springboard for the introduction of SL in the various academic programmes, thus making this a formal and credit-bearing study component in the Faculty. Communities that benefit from ENACTUS programmes will then have sustained support and move from being recipients of service to partners in the learning process of student.
The paper will explain the concepts community engagement and community service, contrasting these with an overview of the theory of experiential education of which SL is a form. Taking the approach of community engagement, specifically via ENACTUS is proposed as a springboard to more sustained SL in the Faculty of Management at the University of Johannesburg, with mutual reciprocity and benefit to the university, its students and the community.