Some 40 percent of national universities across Japan are giving credits to students for their volunteer work in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.
While the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology notified universities in April that they can recognize students’ volunteer work as part of their courses, the measures have not been fully utilized apparently because the March 11 disaster took place at the end of the 2010 academic year.
The poll has found that while universities located in areas that have suffered extensive quake damage in the past recognize students’ volunteer activities as credits, some other universities regard it inappropriate to give such credits to students’ gratuitous acts.
The survey, conducted in September and October, covered 86 national universities, of which 83 replied except for Saitama University, Tokyo University of the Arts and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
A total of 32 universities — including Iwate University, Tohoku University and Fukushima University, which suffered severe damage by the March 11 quake disaster — answered that they are giving credits to students’ volunteer work in disaster-hit areas. Other universities affected by past quakes also extend such benefits to their students, including Kobe University and Hyogo University of Teacher Education, which were affected by the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, as well as Niigata University, Nagaoka University of Technology, and Joetsu University of Education, which were affected by the 2004 Chuetsu Earthquake and the 2007 Chuetsu-oki Earthquake.
Most of these universities give students one or two credits for 30 to 60 hours in total of volunteer activities, accompanied by a pre-volunteer lecture and post-volunteer reports.
Some 72 percent of the schools that grant credits to students’ volunteer work said they expect educational benefits through such activities. Nagaoka University of Technology said their credit-giving is aimed at nurturing voluntary and positive attitudes among students, while the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, said it seeks to raise students’ awareness about the principle of social cooperation as members of society.
Five universities cited their support for reconstruction efforts as a reason for recognizing volunteer credits. “Supporting students’ participation in volunteer activities can lead to much-needed help for disaster-stricken areas,” said Fukushima University, while the University of Tokyo said, “It is a responsibility for a comprehensive public university to support reconstruction efforts.”
Among the 51 universities that do not give credits for students’ voluntary work, 13 schools cited their resistance to linking non-compensatory, volunteer activities to academic credits. “We are uncomfortable giving credits to students’ voluntary acts,” said the Miyagi University of Education.
(Mainichi Japan) November 7, 2011