Should community work be compulsory for schools in Singapore?
Singapore’s education system has been adamant in cultivating the spirit of service amongst students by implementing Community Involvement Programmes and Service Learning Programmes as part of their curriculum. Volunteerism makes community work meaningful and purposeful, hence, introducing it as mandatory for students raises debates of whether altruism should be enforced or graded. This paper will discuss the implementation of compulsory community service for students in Singapore. I will then explain how, although community service programmes are essential in developing civic responsibility in adolescence by exposing them to volunteerism, making it compulsory as part of their curriculum will bring upon negative effects that will outweigh the benefits.
The Community Involvement Programme was launched in 1997 which introduces students to the notion of volunteerism and community service, in hopes of building their civic responsibility. It is a requirement for primary, secondary and junior college students, to fulfil a minimum number of hours in community service as part of the curriculum. The programme placed heavy restrictions on the students’ choice of community work activities, which led to unwilling students resenting the programme. This may foster negative feelings of exploitation and lower enthusiasm for voluntary participation (Smith & Warbutton, 2003). Studies by National University of Singapore, shows that only four in ten respondents felt that the programme was useful in providing them community service exposure and, a similar amount felt that the activities they participated in lacked the quintessence of community service (Lin, 2010). Furthermore, quality of help given by un-willing students are sub-par as it is performed out of obligation, rather than sincerely from the heart.
On a tertiary level, schools have contrasting views on enforcing community service. It is a requirement for Singapore Management University students and law students of National University of Singapore to meet 80 hours of community service in order to graduate, while other publicly funded universities and polytechnics are against it (Wong, 2016). Alternatively, they prefer to encourage students to do community work by providing opportunities and funding. The absolute worry at the tertiary level is that the students’ motivation for community work and service learning initiatives are not originated from p...