Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Professor Chris Hackett


Two phenomena are of interest in this study. One is youth service, in particular, the acts of volunteering by young adults. The second concerns the learning of service, with specific reference to mandatory school service. The aim of the study is to explore to what extent and in what ways young people believe that their sense of civic responsibility and propensity to serve was influenced by their experience of service at school. To achieve this aim, a qualitative study was conducted on a group of post-school youth in Singapore who had participated in mandatory community service while at school, and had continued to serve beyond school.

A phenomenological approach was adopted to capture the essence of these young people’s perceptions of their service experience at school and how they interpreted the relationship between their past school service experience and subsequent adult volunteering. Data for this study were collected from interviews and participants’ reflective journals then analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).

Several key insights emerged from the data, the most significant of which was that students in hindsight believed that there was value in having required service. The majority felt that their school service experience introduced them to the idea of serving and provided them a platform for subsequent volunteering. Although most participants endorsed the principle of mandating service, they believed ultimately, it was the quality of the service programmes and their implementation that mattered. While school service might have played a role in shaping their sense of service, the participants pointed out there were many reasons why they volunteer apart from their past service experience as students.

The findings can potentially be significant to educators in Singapore where very little is known about how mandatory school service can contribute to the development of the ethic of care and commitment to service. A more comprehensive picture of the role and relevance of service experience in the lives of students can help educators be more insightful and reflective of their own professional practice. In addition, the ii study may

shed light on how students’ sense of civic responsibility develops over time. Information on the longer-term impacts of school service experience on students may provide educators with a better sense of its value and effectiveness as an approach to inculcate civic consciousness.

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