International Christian University (ICU) is the leading liberal arts college in Japan with approximately 2800 students and 152 full-time faculty members with the distinctive feature of 40% of faculty coming from overseas and 30% being female professors. Its founding philosophy was supranational and derived from deep reflection on World War II.Footnote 35 Democratic ideals have formulated ICU’s unique organizational culture reflected in the respect for individuals, their freedom to develop, their rights in society, and students’ rights to open participation and interaction in all classroom activities. ICU also enjoys an international and intercultural outlook of the student population with 10% being international students and 25% being returnees from abroad (i.e. Japanese students who spent their childhood overseas).
ICU is the pioneer of introducing a Service-Learning Program in Japan. The service-learning course was introduced in 1999 for the first time in Japan. As shown in Table 7.1, ICU followed five phases of development. It established the Service-Learning Center in 2002 and initiated the Service-Learning Asia Network (SLAN) with 8 universities and 1 non-profit organization in Asia including representation from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. International service-learning is a form of experiential education that integrates community-led service activities, academic instruction, and intentional reflection in an international or cross-cultural setting.Footnote 36
In this section, we illustrate two recent studies carried out by the coordinators at the Service-Learning Center of ICU to examine the characteristics of learning outcomes in light of the existing literatures and their challenges.
Japan Summer Service-Learning (JSSL) in Pursuit of Stakeholders’ Reciprocity
After working with SLAN partners for two decades, ICU, together with the Center for Community Engagement of Middlebury College, one of our US partner institutions, developed an inbound service-learning program called the Japan Summer Service-Learning (JSSL) in 2016 to enhance reciprocity in partnership and to overcome the linear development model and savior complex mentality. JSSL is a four-week, community connected, cohort program in the summer tailored for incoming students from the SLAN partner universities, Middlebury College, and ICU. The participating students deepen their understanding of Japanese society through serving together in the local communities both in the urban and rural areas. In 2018, a total of 14 students participated: 6 students from SLAN partner universities (2 students each from Silliman University, the Philippines, Union Christian College, India, Assumption University, Thailand), 4 from Middlebury College, and 4 from ICU.
To explore and examine how the JSSL program has functioned to improve reciprocity, we applied the SOFAR model.Footnote 37 Reciprocity does not take place just between the two entities such as the partner university and ICU, but it can take place in various forms, such as between the students and the beneficiary, community organizations, between the practitioners of institutions and the staff of receiving organizations. The SOFAR model delineated the structure of relationships in sub-sets and it is useful to articulate mutual relationships between the five stakeholders. It is a structural framework for relationships among the five constituencies, namely Students, Organizations in the community, Faculty, Administrators on campus, Residents in the community.Footnote 38 It demonstrates a total of ten dyadic relationships between the five constituencies.
With the SOFAR model, we examined (1) how the JSSL program has contributed to building reciprocity among the stakeholders, and (2) what type of evaluation the program needs for further development to ensure reciprocity. We used qualitative data which reflects the voices of the participants and partner institutions. These data include (1) evaluations from student participants of JSSL, (2) semi-structured interviews with the JSSL coordinator, and (3) written reports submitted by ICU students after JSSL for 3 credits. By applying JSSL into the SOFAR model, we found three types of relationships with students as below to be more prominent in the JSSL program.
Students and Administrators (Dyad Numbered as 1)
Although the role of administrators is to coordinate the program, the relationship between students and administrators tends to become more than “communication with each other”Footnote 39 as the program proceeds. For example, one of the participants commented:
I received so much hospitality from people around us, including SLC (Service-Learning Center) staffs….Those experiences brought me to a completely different world from what I had seen a month ago, made us able to have a connection with community people, and made me open minded.
Multicultural interaction enriches communication and generates multiple perspectives. The interaction between Asian students and Middlebury staffs also enables students to learn reflections from a different perspective in their rich experiences.
Community Organizations and Students (Dyad Numbered as 9)
During summer, JSSL participants have service activities in both Mitaka city, Tokyo and Tenryu village, Nagano Prefecture. In Mitaka, students can design their activities for about three weeks. In the past programs, they engaged in community service activities at several institutions such as agricultural associations, nursing homes for the elderly, and elementary schools. Tenryu village is a rural and mountainous village where the elderly accounts for more than 60% of the population. The relationship with the local population was initiated by ICU students who did a community service-learning in the village in summer 2015. After their service activity, they thought a way to maintain their relationship and started the JSSL program together. This is an example of coordinating or joint planning with student and community organizations.
Furthermore, a few students’ comments showed their appreciation to have inter-generational and various exchanges that are rare in daily life as follows:
I was able to have a multi-generational exchange.
I had such a good experience with JSSL program, for example, volunteering at facility for elderly people and elementary school in Mitaka and staying Tenryu village.
Cooperating with not only JSSL members but also community people was the most meaningful.
Students and Community Residents (Dyad Numbered as 6)
For both ICU and visiting students, the interaction with the Tenryu village host community through home visits and homestays was one of the memorable activities of the participants. During their stay in the village, they learned to communicate with each other better despite their linguistic and cultural differences. They also had an opportunity to listen to the elder residents’ narrative of the history of the village or story of World War II. These experiences indicate that they reached a deep level of communication with each other, although their interaction might remain at a transactional level. One student commented:
The most meaningful aspect of the programme, according to me, is the opportunity extended to us to experience the community rural life by interacting with the people belonging to several communities. This interaction helped understand several things including the fact that linguistic and cultural differences are not any barrier to human love and interaction. The love extended to us from those people helped me understand the importance of caring for others and the need to be more compassionate…the chance to interact with people freely proved to be the most meaningful aspect of the program unto me.
As such, we could identify the multilevel stakeholder relationships and their reciprocity. It was confirmed that JSSL contains good relationship with three dyads. It became apparent that ICU fosters students’ learning and well-being and maintains relationships well with community organizations for the sake of running the program smoothly.
For the rest of seven dyads, however, there were not much data available to confirm. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there exists a good relationship between faculty and administrators (dyad numbered 10) and community organizers and community residents (dyad numbered 3) as it would have been impossible to carry out the successful JSSL program without such relationships. Nevertheless, much has to be done to improve reciprocity with community organizers and faculty.
Two distinctive observations stood out beyond the existing framework. First, as JSSL had internationally mixed groups with various cultural backgrounds, students appreciated the opportunity to learn from different perspectives of the service activities. The multicultural reciprocal learning among the student groups generated in JSSL added a new reciprocity to the service-learning program framework. For instance, one student deepened their insight on localism by associating with community residents and other students from overseas:
Advancement of globalization made our world borderless, which made our intercultural exchange possible with abundant merits through such networks. However, its downside is the lost concept of localization…. Coexisting with nature, respect for culture and tradition, spirit of mutual support are missing yet critical elements for us. Linking with people, community, and local network may reduce inequality and co-create equal and peaceful society in the future.
Others simply appreciate the new discovery of what was otherwise taken for granted:
By looking at the reaction when foreign students face Japanese culture which was new to them I was made to think of it (such as “why” and “how come”). This cannot be experienced without participating in the JSSL program.
For me, it (the most meaningful aspect of JSSL) was definitely working in a multi-cultural environment. It was incredibly beneficial for me to have this experience. I feel like I have much more confidence with working –very closely- with people from all around the world. I learned how to communicate with strangers, how to be a better listener, and I learned how to think beyond my own perspective.
Second, students repeatedly mentioned their learning experiences about themselves through interactions with other students and local community residents, and being in a different environment. Revisiting a concept of self is not highlighted in the SOFAR model, but is reported in other service-learning programs in Asia.Footnote 40 One student reflected on his/her own being:
My overall experience with service learning was a life-changing experience. It gave me a new perspective not just in service-learning but with the different perspective in life. It gave me the appreciation of living life in an orderly manner and being conscious with other people just by observing the Japanese people’s lifestyle. It gave me the chance of gaining self-independence by just living away from our home. I have also learned the importance of being active in helping and not to be apathetic in activities in the community…and the importance of living a much simpler life. I will never forget all of these moments that I had.
Another student shifted his/her initial expectation from exploring a new country to exploring oneself:
My experiences at the JSSL had been the most valuable experience to me as an individual as well as a societal being. My initial thoughts about the program was that I could explore a foreign country for the first time, learn about its culture and get to know a whole lot of people from various walk of life. But looking back now at the end of the program, I feel that this was more than just exploring a new country; it was exploring myself and opening myself to a whole lot of new perspectives.
While JSSL has enhanced reciprocity, engagement, connection to the local community, and inclusivity and participation at the multicultural levels, reciprocity with and engagement of community organizers and faculty seem to be overlooked at least from the students’ learning process and reflection. Furthermore, critical perspective on and structural analysis of social inequality and problems are missing from their reflection.
Learning Outcome of International Service-Learning
Kuronuma made research on the characteristics of ICU’s service-learning using the Eyler and Giles Indicator model.Footnote 41 The aim of the research was to compare the program characteristics and outcomes of service-learning between the US and Japanese universities and to extract distinctive outcome indicators of ICU’s international service-learning programs.
Qualitative text analysis was made on 60 students’ papers from the first three phases of ICU’s development of international service-learning outlined in Table 7.1 (i.e. between 1996 and 2008). Those reports were broken down into 205 written description data for coding.
From the results of qualitative text analysis of students’ papers, there appeared some distinctive learning outcomes of ICU that are different from Eylers and Giles’ indicator. They include students’ career choices and deep consideration of what the service is. In the primary phase (1996–1998), the influence of service-learning on students’ career choice was more apparent than in other phases because the course was offered as an “internship” closely linked with career development. Deep consideration of meaning of service was more evident in the second and third phases. In the second phase, service-learning became the university-wide curriculum that included introduction to service-learning, preparation, and reflection courses. In the second and third phases, service-learning courses focused on the definition and moral reasoning of service and learning processes. As a matter of fact, it was between these two phases when ICU published the first three volumes of the monograph entitled The Service-Learning Studies Series to explore an academic and institutional identity of service-learning. In these series, there was much discussion of the connection between service-learning and Christian philosophy, experiential learning pedagogies, and whole-personal development.Footnote 42
In contrast, the element that was commonly found in service-learning practices in the United States but not in ICU was citizenship. While citizenship is a major and critical outcome of service-learning in American higher education, it was less prominent in ICU. ICU’s approach to service-learning focused on students’ whole-personal development with Christian philosophy and there was comparatively less discussion or inquiry of social justice, social change, or democracy. Again, critical perspectives of service-learning that emerged in the international sphere in the late 2000s did not appear in any curricular intent, students’ reports, or faculty-led monographs.
Overall findings show that ICU’s service-learning in the first three phases focused on the content and operation of service activities, their quality improvement as pedagogy, and diversification of programs to create more opportunities for students to serve others. Such characteristics influenced the outcome to nurture “personal development,” “perspective transformation,” “interpersonal development,” “avoiding stereotyping,” “tolerance,” and so on. While ICU distinctively shows the characteristics of deep conceptions of the meaning of doing service for others, “others” for or with whom we serve was vaguely defined. Positionality of students remained unquestioned and the programs did not clearly address social inequality or social justice issues.