Why do we volunteer? Many people say it’s for a good cause or to give back to the community. Many people don’t realise, however, the distinction between volunteering of their own accord or for somebody else. Would you still volunteer if there was no ‘S’ in CAS?
I have heard of people who dislike having to do the CAS or the Duke of Edinburgh program, both of which require service work, because they think it is a waste of time; they don’t feel fulfilled and don’t find a sense of purpose from these programs. But, schools like to make volunteering compulsory because they foster important life skills for students. For example, volunteering can help students socialise and promote teamwork. However, making volunteering compulsory completely misses the point of volunteering.
By making students do community service in order to get their IB diploma, or by students doing it for the sake of looking good for university, it makes the act of volunteering gradually less meaningful. Additionally, there is a Reactance Theory, which states that the loss of freedom in choosing an activity can cause negative reactions. Nobody likes being told by their parents to do their homework, to eat vegetables, or to behave well. As a consequence, students made to volunteer might start to associate volunteering with negative memories. This possible life-long implication can affect a student’s personality and outlooks on life. A study at Samford University in Alabama found that students who were forced to volunteer did significantly less regular volunteer work in their last year of high school than those who were given the choice. Consequently, universities who accept students thinking they are a dedicated volunteer may find that the student never actually indulges in any volunteerism in their college life.
Therefore, I think schools should focus on making volunteering activities available to students, as well as ensuring it appears as an attractive, non-time-consuming arrangement, instead of making it mandatory. Allowing students to be independent, empathising with them, and entrusting them with the responsibility to lead will help them feel self-motivated to volunteer and cultivate their personal skills.