Overhauling social work education

Colleges are seen to have started SW courses not with the objective of producing social workers to deal with social problems professionally but with the objective of making money from maximum admissions.

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The development of Professional Social Work (SW) education in Nepal is in its ‘youth’ stage. It has completed 17 years since its inception in 1996. Like any adolescent, SW education in Nepal is experiencing complex issues and challenges.

Many social work graduates drop out prior to their Masters in Social Work while over 1,000 students from more than 34 colleges under four different universities graduate each year in Nepal. But not even one-tenth of these graduates opt for Master’s degrees. Many argue that having insufficient institutions to pursue Master’s degree program in Nepal is the primary reason behind such a huge dropout rate. Others add that the low quality of the available Master’s-level SW education is the key reason for such withdrawal.

I think the problems lie within the colleges offering Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. There’s a crisis in the philosophical, pedagogical and administrative understanding of SW education. Philosophical relates to “why should a college start a social work education and how should it orient its students who want to pursue this discipline.”

Usually, colleges are seen to have started SW courses not with the objective of producing social workers to deal with social problems professionally but with the objective of making money from maximum admissions. Similarly, students also have big dreams of getting handsome salary and beautiful jobs immediately after their graduation. The misconception starts from this point.

Pedagogical raises the questions on “the teaching methodology of the colleges.” SW education, like other technical disciplines, focuses on building three major components in students: knowledge, skills and values. SW education, being a multi-disciplinary subject, derives its knowledge from older disciplines like sociology, anthropology, economics, philosophy, etc.

To translate this multifaceted knowledge into SW practices requires a broad understanding of skills, and while applying these skills, there are values and ethical considerations to which social workers must subscribe to.

But SW colleges are failing to satisfy students’ requirements in all three components.Also, it is also important to know who is running the management, what is the academic background of the faculty members, who prepares the syllabus, etc. Sadly, in most SW colleges, the presence of academic social workers into the college management, faculty and program development is very minimal. Individuals from other disciplines, mainly sociology, economics, management, are running SW colleges.

These are the principal reasons for the maximum dropouts and it can only be corrected by fulfilling the philosophical, pedagogical and administrative components.

Another popular issue among Nepali SW graduates is regarding the recognition as professionals. There is an emerging thought that SW graduates should be awarded with professional ‘license’ by government entities like the Social Welfare Council (SWC). Another thought is that I/NGOs, service sectors like hospitals and schools must reserve job seats for these SW license holders.

Recognition of any individual or profession depends on performance. The recognition of social work is associated with the services it delivers to the target groups. While delivering the services, three components usually shape the action: knowledge, skills and values.

It’s time, therefore, to do some homework and address the loopholes in the SW education system. Let us transform the college system to bring back hope in the professional social work education in Nepal.

source:PRASAD KHAREL,KANCHAN(2013),"Overhauling social work education", republica,3 April 2013
The writer is a graduate of Social Work and is pursuing his Masters degree in Development Studies (MDevs) at Kathmandu University

2013-04-03 | EducateNepal


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