Social Work Education and its professional practice within the country should focus on current realities and being application-oriented
Higher education in India is regulated through autonomous bodies such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the Medical Council of India (MCI), and the Bar Council of India (BCI) among others. This allows for a professional outlook and facilitation of research at the macro level.
However, one area that needs a regulatory authority in the form of a national council is Social Work Education. While addressing current social issues, it also needs to consider emerging realities and focus on being application-oriented and generation of skills.
A mechanism to monitor the methodology and evaluation of Social Work Education is required, as there seems to be no coherence in terms of syllabus, teaching practices, field work and evaluation at various levels. This issue has come to the forefront now, as it is being offered as a job-oriented course. However, adequate infrastructural facilities are lacking and there is no adherence to the requisite norms.
The norms of admission also need to be critically reviewed, since students, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, seem to lack the necessary aptitude. A national entrance exam may be the way to bring in students who are genuinely interested in the subject.
The approach to social work education also needs to change. The charity-based approach should be replaced by a socio-economic and developmental approach. The syllabus has to be overhauled by removing outdated concepts and incorporating current and future needs like the emerging rise of civil societies and the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that makes corporates take on the role of service providers in the social sector. With the Human Development Index (HDI) being the benchmark for progress today, the standard of social work education is important to address the different needs of various communities.
The inclusion of disability along with modern rehabilitative systems is essential. Social Work Education should also encompass working with special groups such as adolescents, victims of natural calamities, the elderly, self-help groups, and others. Social legislations have to be reviewed and newer acts must be included, as must topics like human rights, community health, social networking, NGO management, fund raising and communication strategies. The involvement of practising professionals in designing the course, teaching and evaluation will also add value.
Most important is the blend of classroom teaching and practical field work training. The latter aspect is imperative to expose students to varied systems and structures pertaining to the developmental sector.
‘The National Council for Professional Social Work Bill, 1993’, which sought to get a national status for the profession, did not see the light of day. More recently, ‘The National Council of Professional Social Work Practitioners Bill, 2018’ sought to establish a national council of professional social work practitioners to coordinate, develop and regulate professional practice of social work in India. Statutory provisions can exercise a professional authority on the management and implementation of Social Work Education.
The council can not only offer recommendations on various social policies adopted by local, state and central governments, but can also offer consultancy services to private, corporate and government agencies when required. It can also facilitate interaction and networking between professional social work and other allied disciplines like Rural Development, Science and Technology, Welfare and Social Justice, Health and Rehabilitation, Human Resource Development, and Research and Training Councils among others. While such a council may initially seem to take away the autonomy and freedom of individual institutions, it will be in the larger interest of enhancing the professional status of social work and its relevance for the future.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are personal.
The writer has been a senior-level functionary in Developmental Social Work and is on the board of studies in Social Work in many colleges. firstname.lastname@example.org