Consider if schemes sustain altruism

There is no doubt that Singapore is moving towards becoming a more caring society.

Many associate the increase in volunteerism here with the compulsory Community Involvement Programme and Values In Action (VIA) scheme in schools.

But how much of this altruistic spark will be sustained in young people?

There is a tendency among our youth to view their volunteering efforts as being compelled by extrinsic reasons, such as fulfilling school requirements, thereby underestimating the extent to which they are motivated by intrinsic reasons like altruism.

We need to be cognisant of the message we are sending impressionable youngsters. Thus, it is heartening to see that the new VIA scheme places more emphasis on the holistic development of desired values, rather than collecting service hours.

The relationship between rewards and increasing desired behaviours in people is neither direct nor simple.

So far, efforts at sparking interest in volunteering have been successful. The next step would be to consider if the current approach inculcates altruistic values or, instead, creates an environment that threatens their sustainability.

Michelle Ko Shi Min (Miss), 20

Undergraduate Year 2

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Consider if schemes sustain altruism'. Print Edition | Subscribe