Calls For Volunteering to Be Embedded in All Schools
Wednesday, 15th November 2017 at 9:24 am
Volunteering can improve educational outcomes for young people and should be embedded in the Australian curriculum, according to an educational review submission from the nation’s peak volunteering body.
Volunteering Australia recently made a submission to the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, which is led by David Gonski AC.
Gonski said the review would examine evidence and make recommendations on how school funding can improve student outcomes and school performance.
“The review will gather a wide range of evidence and insights to provide advice on the most effective and efficient use of funding to improve school performance and student achievement, and to prepare students for a lifetime of opportunity in a rapidly changing world,” Gonski said.
“The review panel invites teachers, schools, parents, students, education experts, stakeholders across the education system and all other interested parties to put forward ideas on the reforms that are needed to drive improved student outcomes. The submission process is the primary form of consultation for the review.”
Volunteering Australia’s submission looked at how educational outcomes could be improved through volunteering, which it said many young people were engaged with.
“According to the 2016 Census, 3.6 million people or 19 per cent of the population aged 15 years and over are engaged in voluntary work through an organisation or group. This is a 1.2 per cent increase from the 2011 Census results, where 17.8 per cent of people responded they were engaged in voluntary work,” the submission said.
The submission referenced Mission Australia’s 2016 Concept of Community report, which surveyed 21,049 young people aged between 15 to 19 years and found that volunteering was useful to overcoming barriers to participation.
“The report recommends a broad range of ‘social, cultural and volunteering and mentoring activities at school or within the(ir) local communities’ to overcome young people’s barriers to participation.”
Volunteering Australia said that one of their own projects to get volunteering into the Australian curriculum had been found to be beneficial for student wellbeing.
“Following on from its 2013 research, Volunteering ACT partnered with Volunteering Australia to undertake a project to align volunteering with the Australian curriculum. The project produced resources [for school teachers] to show how principles and practices in volunteering can be embedded into everyday classroom activity,” the submission said.
“These findings are supported by Associate Professor of the University of Canberra Dr Thomas Nielsen, who stated that, ‘Of all the strategies I have observed in the implementation of values education, the single most transformational strategy is when students are allowed opportunities to be something for others – to give’.
“Giving to others makes for meaningful happiness… and there is now a body of evidence showing that service to others is a strong predictor of increased mental and physical health into adulthood and reduced adolescent depression and suicide risk.”
However, Volunteering Australia said a majority of schools surveyed for its 2013 research did not offer structured volunteering programs to students, despite 76 per cent showing an interest in implementing this.
They found resourcing was the biggest barrier to a structured volunteering program for young people being established and maintained in schools.
Young people noted that their biggest barrier to volunteering was after school commitments.
“Students suggested that they wanted their school to facilitate volunteer opportunities for them. Awareness of opportunities and initial engagement with volunteer involving organisations were noted as further barriers for young people,” the submission said.
“[But] research undertaken in 2016 found that volunteer involving organisations generally lack resources, both human and financial, and this can inhibit their ability to engage volunteers.
“Nationally, 86 per cent of volunteer involving organisations need more volunteers. Young people are a growing pool of prospective volunteers, but can be hindered in their efforts to participate with the difficulty [of] finding a volunteering role or engaging with an organisation.”
Volunteering Australia said as a result of volunteering, there was increased participation in society from vulnerable or at-risk groups, “such as those from low socio-economic backgrounds… Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander [people] or people with disability”.
They called for the implementation of volunteering resources in all Australian schools, and also for governments to: “Resource both schools and volunteer involving organisations with information, tools, and training to create and manage structured volunteering programs for young people.”
Public submissions for the review are now closed. The final report and recommendations will be provided to the federal government by March 2018.