Research Director: Service-Learning Empowers Communities

Research Director: Service-Learning Empowers Communities

Dr. Enrique G. Oracion, Director of the Research and Development Center, was the lone resource person from the Philippines at the International Symposium and Student Exhibition conducted late last month at Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

He presented on “The Importance of Service-Learning Network for Improving the Role of Higher Education in Community Empowerment” to an audience of around 80 faculty and students, most of whom coming from academic institutions in Indonesia.

The presentation discussed experiences of the service-learning program in Silliman in building linkages with Asian and American universities since it was established in 2001. He shared how the program gradually hosted a growing number of foreign students since 2006, and how it inspired the institutionalization of service-learning and the eventual establishment of the Institute of Service-Learning, formerly Service-Learning Center.

Himself among the individuals behind the successful promotion of service-learning on campus and among the University’s partner schools in Asia, Dr. Oracion concluded that service-learning has allowed for foreign and local students to connect communities. The process takes on a higher level when the results of processed experiences become best practices featured in conferences, publications and related professional engagements.

Dr. Oracion said the empowerment of communities is derived from an experience of having been able to assist students, whom they may have perceived to be elites at the start, in learning about life from a different perspective. He said recognition by the students of the inherent value of the local culture and practice imparted develops within the communities a sense of importance and enhanced self-esteem.

With service-learning as a teaching pedagogy that provides practical grounding to lessons learned in the classroom, students draw out from the community their own issues and ideas. This process of being heard and becoming a source of knowledge, Dr. Oracion said, allows for the community to achieve a certain level of satisfaction and a sense of power or control.