«Each one can make his or her contribution to the common good, even if he or she is young or ‘poor’ or ‘special,’ » admitted an expert from CLAYSS, the Latin American Center for Learning and Solidarity, during an online meeting as part of the partner project “A month of service learning at UCU».
The project started with the international online conference: «Service Learning: Why is it worthwhile making education socially-oriented?», which gathered some 200 educators and civil partners from various regions of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Catholic University is the first in Ukraine to introduce service learning, on the model of leading universities of the world. This approach is one of the strategic areas for development of the university as part of UCU Strategy-2025, «A university that serves».
Service learning is known throughout the world as an innovative educational approach, the goal of which is to increase the civic activism of students and teachers and also create positive social changes in the process of education. This kind of approach fosters the development of team work, leadership, critical thinking, and inclusive education. It also ensures the implementing of the UN’s sustainable development goals, in particular, overcoming poverty and hunger, quality education, good health, gender equality, dignified work, responsible consumerism, etc.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia Borys Gudziak, President of UCU, opened the online conference: «The service learning course is a joint decision of the whole university. Over the next five years we hope that the whole community will proceed like pilgrims, serving one another and the wider society».
Luz Avruj, an invited expert in service leaning, training coordinator for CLAYSS, explained why service learning is important: «In Argentina, the country I’m from, 18% of people live on the edge of poverty. I ask myself: Is service learning possible in these conditions? Is this similar to the situation in Ukraine? I want to assure you that, in such conditions, service learning is not only possible but necessary. Each one can make his or her contribution to the common good, even if he or she is young or ‘poor’ or ‘special,’ and so it is very good to involve students in this».
An expert in service learning, Alejandra Herrero, president of the Argentine CLAYSS team, admitted: «If we want to change the administrative system in our country, we have to involve in this project active students and their leaders. Service learning is innovative. It goes from a culture of isolated work to teamwork. This is about dialogue, not only within the institution but in the community. This improves understanding and solving problems in those areas where it’s needed».
A panel discussion was part of the online conference. UCU experts took part: Senior Vice-Rector Taras Dobko; graduate of the UCU Law School Iryna Kania; a student of UCU’s Clinical Psychology Program on the Basis of Psychodynamic Therapy and the founder and manager of the Psychological Counsel Consultation Center, Tetiana Tymkiv; the project coordinator of the Lviv Education Foundation, Anastasia Dyshkant; Assistant Professor of the UCU Department of Pedagogy and Social Work, coordinator of the pilot service learning project at UCU Iryna Krynytska.
In the words of UCU Senior Vice-Rector Taras Dobko, a community that serves needs to be a distinguishing characteristic of the university’s new strategy: «When we studied this theme, we understood that the service learning method could help us become the best educational environment for our students, the best educational and academic space for teachers and a partner for the Church and the community», – emphasized Taras Dobko.