Service: Collaborative and reciprocal engagement with the community in response to an authentic need
The aim of the “Service” strand is for students to understand their capacity to make a meaningful contribution to their community and society. Through service, students develop and apply personal and social skills in real-life situations involving decision-making, problem-solving, initiative, responsibility, and accountability for their actions. Service is often seen as one of the most transforming elements of CAS by promoting students’ self-awareness, offering diverse occasions for interactions and experiences and opportunities for international-mindedness. Use of the CAS stages in developing a service experience is recommended for best practice.
Service within CAS benefits all involved: students learn as they identify and address authentic community needs, and the community benefits through reciprocal collaboration. Service fosters development of abilities, attitudes and values in accordance with the IB mission statement and the IB learner profile. As such, CAS service experiences are unpaid.
When defining “community”, consideration must be made to situation and culture. The community may be the school; however, it is recommended that service experiences extend beyond the school to local, national and/or international communities. Community involvement includes collaboration with others, as students investigate the need, plan and implement their idea for service.
CAS coordinators should always consider the advantage of students conducting service locally. Local interactions allow for developing relationships, observing and participating in sustained change, and meeting challenges through collaboration. From the local context, students can extend their thinking and knowledge to understanding global issues. Students can also extend local service to global impact through partnerships with CAS students in other cities and towns, countries and continents. Technology affords opportunities for networking, sharing of initiatives, partnerships and impact.
As with all CAS experiences, students reflect purposefully on their engagement with service, and may be guided to look for moments of personal significance or inspiration as a call for reflection.
Four types of service action
It is recommended that students engage with different types of service within their CAS programme. These types of action are as follows.
- Direct service: Student interaction involves people, the environment or animals. For example, this can appear as one-on-one tutoring, developing a garden in partnership with refugees, or working in an animal shelter.
- Indirect service: Though students do not see the recipients of indirect service, they have verified their actions will benefit the community or environment. For example, this can appear as re-designing a non-profit organization’s website, writing original picture books to teach a language, or nurturing tree seedlings for planting.
- Advocacy: Students speak on behalf of a cause or concern to promote action on an issue of public interest. For example, this may appear as initiating an awareness campaign on hunger, performing a play on replacing bullying with respect, or creating a video on sustainable water solutions.
- Research: Students collect information through varied sources, analyse data, and report on a topic of importance to influence policy or practice. For example, they may conduct environmental surveys to influence their school, contribute to a study of animal migration, compile effective means to reduce litter in public spaces, or conduct social research by interviewing people on topics such as homelessness, unemployment or isolation.
Approaches to service
- Ongoing service: When investigating a need that leads to a plan of action implemented over time, students develop perseverance and commitment. They observe how their ideas and actions build on the contributions of others to effect change. Their reflections may show deeper awareness and knowledge of social issues.
- School-based service: While students are encouraged to participate in meaningful service that benefits the community outside school, there may well be appropriate service opportunities within the school setting. In all cases an authentic need must be verified that will be met through student action. Service needs met at a school may prepare students for further action within the larger community; for example, by tutoring within the school, students may then be better prepared to tutor at a community centre.
- Community-based service: Participating in service within the local community advances student awareness and understanding of social issues and solutions. However, single incidents of engagement with individuals in a service context can lack depth and meaning. When possible, interactions involving people in a service context best occur with a regularity that builds and sustains relationships for the mutual benefit of all. For example, rather than a single service experience at a retirement facility, students can decide to establish regular visits when they realize their efforts are valued and have reciprocal impact.
- Immediate need service: In response to a disaster, students often want to move towards immediate action. Typically they quickly attempt to assess the need and devise a planned response. Later, the students can be reminded and encouraged to further investigate the issue to better understand underlying causes. This provides greater context even if the service action has already taken place. With increased knowledge, students may commit to ongoing assistance, for example, such as joining with prevention or community resilience initiatives regarding an environmental issue.
- Fundraising: The preferred approach is for students to initially develop their understanding of the organization they choose to support and the issues being addressed. Students can draw from their interests, skills and talents to plan the method and manner of fundraising. Ideally, students directly communicate with the organization and establish accountability for funds raised. Sharing the rationale for the fundraising educates others and advocates the chosen cause. Students can also be asked to consider other ways to augment their contribution through direct, advocacy, or research service.
- International service: Students are encouraged to participate locally in service before considering service opportunities outside their country. When participating in international service, students must understand the background and the circumstances of an identified and authenticated need to support their involvement. When direct communication with an overseas community is not possible, students could cooperate with an outside agency to provide an appropriate service. Students do benefit from serving in an international context when able to make clear links to parallel issues in their local environs and they understand the consequences of their service. Schools must ensure that commercial providers, if used, act in accordance with the aims of the IB mission statement and CAS requirements. Additionally, schools must undertake risk assessment to ensure the safety of students.
- Volunteerism: Students often volunteer in service experiences organized by other students, the school or an external group. In such cases, students benefit from prior knowledge of the context and the service need. Being informed and prepared increases the likelihood that the students’ contribution will have personal meaning and value. Utilizing the CAS stages prior to volunteering is highly recommended.
- Service arising from the curriculum: Teachers plan units with service learning opportunities in mind, students may or may not respond and act. For example, while studying freshwater ecology in environmental systems and society, students decide to monitor and improve a local water system.
Information on these pages is from the Diploma Programme Creativity, activity, service guide. International Baccalaureate Organization. 2015. Print.