Collaboration for Understanding

Speaker: Neil Woods
Institution: International School Manila, Philippines

Intercultural Learning helps students to understand and shape a world where everyone can flourish. Service Learning and Community Engagement (SL and CE) provide unique opportunities for students to learn about themselves, their peers and their host community's culture, through authentic experiences. International School Manila (ISM), with over 2200 students, 80 nationalities and a deep commitment to SL and CE, has developed a number of key programs and approaches worthy of discussion. The presentation will outline the key elements that make them effective and sustainable with examples from ISM.

  1. Integration, Opportunity and Diversity: We have found that SL and CE is best achieved when it is interwoven into the fabric of school life. This means dedicated programmes, as well as including service partners in school events such as concerts, fairs, plays, cultural celebrations and sporting events. We encourage students to direct their service learning experience and discover their own areas of interest. Therefore, ISM works with many groups including underserved communities, orphanages, livelihood projects, recycling projects, educational programmes, house building and community development. All HS organizations (led by students) are either directly involved in service learning, supporting a partner or contributing to whole school efforts. Each grade level is assigned a service partner for the four years of High School and Service Clubs offer direct service learning experience with an NGO. These efforts form ISM's on-going Saturday Service Programme running throughout the year. For longer immersion, the school runs a four day programme called ICARE with over 30 partners. ICARE groups are carefully organised to be diverse by culture, gender and age and form some of the most powerful and transformative high school experiences.
  2. NGOs and Community Leaders Livelihood programmes help NGOs reduce their reliance on donations and provide skills training and employment. ISM supports five groups to sell their products throughout the school year and in the school shop. Products include recycled materials from ISM's waste. These partners are also part of the Saturday Service and/or the ICARE programme and offer real learning experiences for subjects such as Business, Economics, Geography and EE topics. They often run workshops on how they produce the products. Furthermore, all community leaders are invited to share their experiences, cultural knowledge and challenges. In addition the school operates two funds based upon an NGO framework: the Disaster Relief Fund and the Sustainability Fund. Throughout the year, and at times of crisis, the school generates funds as well as receiving donations from partner schools, parents and alumni. The Disaster Relief Fund is used for immediate response (this can be in the Philippines or around the world). The Sustainability Fund is used for long-term projects that build capacity, self-reliance and resilience. Both funds include students and NGO leaders in the decision-making process.

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