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Webinar 7: Social Work Diploma and Degree Programs

Webinar Summary and Recording

Click here to view the webinar.

On October 23, 2012, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosted its seventh webinar on the topic of Social Work Diploma and Degree Programs. The session began with opening remarks from Amy Bess, Coordinator of the Alliance. She described the webinar as an opportunity to discuss higher level degree programs and the way in which they are preparing the social service workforce to do their jobs, ensuring that classroom learning is culturally relevant and aligned with work settings and contexts.

The first presentation was given by Dr. Tatsuru Akimoto, the President of the Asian and Pacific Association for Social Work Education, Vice President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work and Director of the Asian Center for Welfare in Societies at the Japan College of Social Work. Dr. Akimoto described the various international social work organizations and their roles, including the International Association of Schools of Social Work, the International Federation of Social Workers, the International Council on Social Welfare and the International Consortium for Social Development, as well as regional bodies for social work education, such as the Asian and Pacific Association for Social Work Education (APASWE). APASWE, representing a very broad and diverse range of countries in the region, promotes people’s wellbeing through better social work education; exchanges information, experience, know-how, ideas, research and resources; and acts as a voice for social work  educators and researchers to the outside world. He noted the challenges facing social workers in various countries and the difficulties of motivating people to join the profession and to retain workers, given poor working conditions that persist in many countries in the region. He also noted that nations that offer financial assistance to students studying social work and that have better work conditions tend to attract more students to the profession.

In the second presentation, Dr. Rebecca Davis, professor of social work and Director of the Center for International Social Work at Rutgers University, presented on bridging the local - global divide through social work education and practice. She provided an overview of global definitions and concepts common to the social work profession and focused on ways in which social work education and practice can help students to localize global values, concepts and standards. She highlighted practical approaches for teaching social workers how to translate global principles into local, culturally relevant practice, citing several examples related to field education. For example, field education can serve to strengthen the roles and skills of supervisors since field supervisors are often required to take part in training in supervision skills through the university. Dr. Davis also mentioned the importance of field supervisors being brought in to team teach with faculty, bringing the field into the classroom. 

Dr. Janestic Twikirize, Lecturer in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at Makerere University, Uganda, provided details about a recent study undertaken in four countries in East Africa to assess the role of social work in poverty reduction and the realisation of the millennium Development Goals. A key component of the study was the appraisal of the extent to which social work education and training is indigenised in order to prepare social workers for contextualized and culturally relevant practice. The level to which Western-based social work is harmonized with indigenous approaches and culturally relevant knowledge and practices was particularly addressed. A total of 1,831 respondents, including social work practitioners, students, educators and policy makers in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda were involved in the study. She reviewed the outcomes of the study and provided information on the profile of educators and where they obtained their social work training, the use of locally published materials and local knowledge systems in teaching and research (such as traditional leadership structures, clan systems, ways of helping, conflict resolution) and the level of engagement in local research and integration of local culture in curriculum. She emphasized the importance of appreciating the knowledge of people providing indigenous ways of helping and discussed strategies to increase documentation of indigenous models to make them part of the body of knowledge for social work. She also discussed methods of having students report on field education experiences in the classroom, in order to integrate into classroom learning the field-level experience of applying their learning in different cultural contexts.

Each of the three presentations was followed by a brief question and answer session moderated by Jim McCaffery of CapacityPlus. Many questions centered around the importance of field education, the various ways in which it is structured and supported in different countries, ways that field practice can be linked to the classroom and ideas for enhancing the supervision provided by students’ field supervisors and university-based field instructors.

This and other webinars, funded by PEPFAR and implemented under the auspices of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance by USAID partner CapacityPlus, will continue throughout the year.