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2013 » Asian Pre-Conference 

Moral meanings of community service learning: An East-West comparison
Posted on Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Monirith Ly


This paper is based on my dissertation (Ly, 2013), an analytical case study sought to understand and build theories from Pańńasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) educators’ visions in supporting and implementing community service learning (CSL), the moral meanings of CSL experiences for the participating undergraduate students, and the CSL experiences that facilitated the volunteers’ moral meaning-making. The study found that PUC educators’ shared purpose was the cultivation of students’ kindness to help needy Cambodian communities. Moreover, PUC CSL volunteers considered community service as an act of kindness instead of civic responsibility, an act of solidarity and connectedness versus community responsibility, and an act of social change through the cultivation of kindness in the hearts of other people rather than structural change. Furthermore, PUC CSL cultivated in volunteers such Buddhist ethics as brahma-vihara (goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity), caga (generosity), amisa-dana (donation), dhamma-dana (sharing knowledge and advice), pańca-sila (the five precepts), and katańńu (gratitude, especially to parents). The Buddhist ethics are contrasted and compared to Kohlberg’s and Gilligan’s ethics of justice and care. The experiences that notably facilitated volunteers’ moral meaning-making were community didactic drama and such symbolic activities as participation in katańńu (parental gratitude) ritual, elderly gratitude ritual, and collaborative cooking. Theater has been used in other parts of the world to educate communities, but the utilization of culturally symbolic processes is new to the service-learning literature.

Complete paper available