Social Work- A global Profession? : Case of Nepal

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Social Work today is truly an international profession. In this blog I discuss the evolution of social work in the south Asia region briefly and particularly in Nepal. Imparting social work education and training in Nepal and the South Asia is a challenging task due to the ongoing political instability, multi cultural issues and lack of social work educators in addition to the lack of government recognition for the social work profession in the region. Although Social Work is striving to become an international profession we need to be aware that:

‘the universality of social work does not mean that the pattern of social work’s organisation, roles, and fields of service; modes of educational preparation; or degree of social recognition are uniform throughout the world…..Yet there are impressive commonalities in the profession’s roles and functions (Hokenstad, Khinduka, and Midgley, 1992:181).

Social work as an applied academic subject, shares common aims with other degrees offered at Universities in terms of approaches and methods of teaching and learning. It also presents a range of unique opportunities for innovation, challenges for students and academics and potential tensions in practice. The creation of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) the two global bodies in 1928 and 1929, respectively is a crucial step in making Social Work a global profession today. Competence based training (Pietroni, 1995; Lymbery, 2003), practice based training, and training based competency; Evidence based practice, practice based evidence are some of the models for social work education and training.

Development of Social Work education in Kathmandu Valley: (1996- 2005 and 2012)

Unfortunately it took many decades to initiate a school of social work in conflict stricken land locked countries like Nepal. The first degree program in social work was available in Nepal only in 1996. Till 2005 it was the only program in the country struggling to train social workers. No wonder why social work education has not been initiated by the university authorities. Nepal only entered its first democratic era in 1951 and as a result the development of higher education gained some momentum. In 1952, Nepal had only two colleges but three years later, the number had increased to 14; a total of 915 students and 86 teachers attended. The situation changed after 1990 democracy as several government and private colleges were established. Currently there are five universities serving the higher education needs of about 150,000 Nepalese students

A group of young scholars from Nepal and India came together in 2004 and felt the need for trained social work professionals who can make a difference to the country that is going through severe conflict, transitions and costing human lives. The group is drawn from different disciplines including social work pooled some resources, came to some common vision and approached the Purbanchal University to seek a permission to affiliate a college which will provide quality and affordable social work education to the students who are motivated, see social work not only as a career option but as a passion! The university extended its support and the team worked over a year to prepare the BSW and MSW syllabus for the University. Consequently Kadambari Memorial College secured affiliation in 2005 and the first batch of 22 students graduated with Bachelors in Social Work (BSW) degree in 2008. The St Xavier’s college secured affiliation and offered MSW for the first time in 2006. There was a lot of struggle for getting the right human resources, securing right field work placements and in meeting the aspirations and needs of the Nepalese society. In addition to these training opportunities the Tribhuvan University has approved a course on Social Work and the students of B.A can now choose social work as one of the two main courses in their Bachelor courses. By 2011 about 20 affiliated colleges of Tribhuvan University have introduced course often without the required human resources. All of these colleges are located in Kathmandu and studying social work is becoming a popular option for many students by 2012. At the same time there are immense challenges. For example in the UK, the General Social Care Council (GSCC), grants approval to universities to deliver the social work degree in accordance with a set of national occupational standards. In the USA the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits the social work programs. However in many countries (for example India, Nepal, Malaysia) there is no such accreditation body exists as of today only meant for Social Work education. In the absence of a specialized body with monitoring powers there is risk of running incoherence in the social work curricula of universities and teaching standards. We also need to ask are enough qualified social work educators are available in Nepal in line with the growing number of departments and are they able to respond to the rapidly changing teaching and learning environment to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills to meet both their individual needs and those of society, employers, and professional associations? Certainly social work education in Nepal and South Asia is at a critical juncture that must be addressed if the profession of social work in this region is to thrive, let alone survive. We welcome your comments and suggestions to join hands with us in strengthening social work in the global south.

Position: Sr.lecturer, University Sains Malaysia & founding Director of Nepal school of Social Work

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