Service-Learning in Germany
In Germany service-learning has compared to other European countries not a long tradition. Service-learning activities have first been established by the Freudenberg foundation in 2001 as a pedagogical approach to combine the teaching of specialist knowledge and the transmission of civic, social and democratic values to achieve more participation of the youth in the community and with the aim to establish a learning culture that enables students putting the acquired knowledge, skills and competences to practice. (SCHRÖTEN 2011: 19)
This was first carried out by the implementation of different pilot projects at secondary and primary schools. The following examples may illustrate the point: EmS (Engamenent macht Schule, commitment will encourage others, Saxony-Anhalt), the voluntary initiative FISch (Berlin), the pilot project “learning responsibility” in schools and society which was implemented within the framework of a cooperation between three different foundations in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the pilot project “youth and involved” financed by the Bertelsmann Foundation (SCHRÖTEN 2011: 17-19). Most of the mentioned projects have in common that they support schools in implementing service-learning activities following the quality standards of learning through engagement (cf. SEIFERT, ZENTNER & NAGY 2012), supporting the construction of local networks with community partners, public relations work and to pursue support and supervision measures.
The implementation of Service-learning at German Universities was not taking-place nationwide as for example in the United States but took its starting point at the University of Mannheim followed by other German Universities like the University of Duisburg-Essen, University of Würzburg and Saarland University. (SCHRÖTEN 2011: 19).
The University of Duisburg-Essen pioneered the structured implementation and testing of service-learning programmes starting with an initiative by the Organizational Development Lab. In 2005 UNIAKTIV – the Centre for Societal Learning and Civic Engagement was established by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stark which received a funding by the Mercator Foundation in the years 2006 to 2009. UNIAKTIV is a central institution which acts in close cooperation with the rectorate of the University of Duisburg-Essen, the different departments, central institutions and the agency of voluntary work in the cities of Essen and Duisburg (cf. BARTSCH, GELLERT & MILLER 2009: 68). UNIAKTIV places on the one hand the emphasis on the development and the implementation of own service-learning courses in the optional area of the study programmes and is also trying to make progress on the distribution of the service-learning teaching method in the different departments and organisational units (cf. BARTSCH, GELLERT & MILLER 2009: 69) by offering a comprehensive support of the teaching and administrative staff involved in service-learning activities.
In 2009 the Higher Education Network on Societal Responsibility in Germany has been established which aims to strengthen the civic engagement of students, teaching and administrative staff at higher education institutions in Germany. In addition, the network will seek to promote exchange of expertise and knowledge, to encourage the development of common research and innovation projects, to promote the pedagogical approach of service-learning (Stark, Miller & Rudat 2016) and community-based research (Altenschmidt & Stark 2016). On the other hand, the network contributes to further training activities in the Academy for Societal Responsibility and supports discourses on the ‘university of the future’. Ordinary members can be universities and other higher education institutions, non-profit organizations with supra-regional significance as associate members as well as individual members who commit voluntarily in the area of corporate social responsibility. In 2015 the network was officially formalised by forming an association. The association consists of the management board, the scientific advisory board and the representation of its members (nowadays more than 40 members in the majority of cases institutional members viz. universities and universities of applied sciences). Beyond network membership more than 100 Higher Education Institutions (ie about 25% of all) in Germany feature Service Learning as a pedagogical approach (Backhaus-Maul & Roth 2013). The network has been financially supported by the Mercator Foundation, the Association of German Scientific Foundations (Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft), the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. (cf. HOCHSCHULNETZWERK BILDUNG DURCH VERANTWORTUNG – HTTPS://WWW.BILDUNG-DURCH-VERANTWORTUNG.DE/)